Review: Second Class Train from Bangkok to Hat Yai by Thai Railway

After I took the first-class train from Nong Khai to Bangkok, I decided to take the train again when I left the capital city to Hat Yai. It had been a while since I wanted to stop by Hat Yai in Thailand, so I was quite excited to stop by the city before returning to Malaysia.

Hat Yai is a city in Thailand that is more well-known for Malaysian visitors than the rest. Located in Songkhla province, it’s situated only a few hours by car from Penang. It’s also notable for a higher population of Malay-Muslim and Chinese-Thai citizens than the other cities in Thailand. Long story short, if there’s any city in Thailand that I could relate to my roots, that would be Hat Yai.

Apart from the train, there are also some sleeper bus services available from Bangkok to Hat Yai that you can book through Bookaway. In fact, it was also one of the options when I planned out to leave Bangkok since my first booking was canceled as the ticket to Hat Yai was sold out on my first attempt.

Why I Took the Train from Bangkok to Hat Yai

The only downside of the sleeper bus is the departure time since it departs from Bangkok at night. With my condition that wasn’t 100% fit at the time, I’d prefer to rest properly whether it’s on the train or on the bed.

If I took the bus to Hat Yai, it only meant that I would have to check-out from Livotel Hotel Kaset Nawamin while waiting for the departure time until late at night. That, unless if I paid extra for late check-out, which isn’t preferable. In the end, I decided to just delay my departure to leave Bangkok and stay for an extra day at Livotel Hotel so that I could book the train to Hat Yai for the next day.

I booked the train ticket through Bookaway. And even though we could reserve the ticket online, since Bookaway is yet to be directly affiliated with Thai Railway, we still need to be responsible for getting the physical ticket from some tour agent that is the partner of Bookaway in Bangkok.

So when I decided to extend my stay in Bangkok for one more day, I took the time to go to Khao San Road in the afternoon to get mine.

Where to Get the Train Ticket in Bangkok

Once my train ticket was confirmed by Bookaway, they sent me an e-mail to notify me that it was mandatory to exchange the e-voucher for a valid train ticket at the Thai Sriram office at Chakrabongse Road.

If you stay at Sawasdee Bangkok Inn or any other accommodation around Khao San Road, you shouldn’t worry too much as Chakrabongse Road is actually around the area.

When I arrived, I wasn’t sure if I got the correct address since it looked like it was closed from the outside. But I got a chance to knock on one of the closed counters. The guy who opened the counter for me told me that I could wait for 15-30 minutes since the guy responsible for my ticket was currently on his break time.

I left for a bit to get some Thai tea and returned when the guy was already at the office. Of course, the first thing he did was assume I’m Filipino because he went all “Mabuhay” to me. I answered only for me to explain that I’m actually Indonesian, but I got it. LOL.

And then after that, he was like… “I thought you’re Filipino because your name is Maria.”

Wow, creep. And then he explained that I was the only person booking the train ticket to Hat Yai for the next day, so he remembered my name and then he gave me the ticket while explaining the procedure of departure from Hua Lamphong to the train station in Hat Yai.

The Train Ticket Price from Bangkok to Hat Yai

Honestly, I only spent $2.15 USD on the ticket since I got a project with Bookaway that allowed me to get 90% off at the time. However, the ticket price was written on the valid ticket that I exchanged at the Thai Sriram office. Normally, the ticket costs around 835 THB (around $27.05 USD) for the second-class train from Bangkok to Hat Yai.

Thai Railway: Second-Class Train from Bangkok to Hat Yai

Based on the valid ticket that I got, I understood that the journey might take around 16 hours since the train would depart from Bangkok at 3 PM. We’d approximately reach Hat Yai at 7 AM the next day. Well, don’t believe it too much, as I ended up reaching Hat Yai at almost 10 AM, so the journey took almost 20 hours.

While I thought that Hat Yai was the final destination for the train, apparently, it wasn’t the case as the train actually had Sungai Kolok as their last stop. At first, I thought the train would go across the border since Sungai is the Malaysian word for ‘river’, but apparently it’s a town in Thailand close to the Malaysian border.

Like, I have some Thai friends who speak Malay because they’re originally from South Thailand, but knowing that there’s a town in Thailand named after a Malaysian word somewhat still amazed me. LOL.

Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok, Thailand.
Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok, Thailand.

Bangkok Railway Station

The train departs from the main train station in Bangkok, which is known as Hua Lamphong station. It’s quite far from where I stayed, but I made it on time.

Mind you, the pictures I took were before the coronavirus situation, so yes, the train station was super crowded.

It’s the same train station where I arrived in Bangkok from Nong Khai, but since I didn’t get a chance to explore the station the other day, I could see more areas while waiting for my train to depart at the time.

My first impression was that I could tell that the train station is an old building. And as it turned out, it was opened in 1916, and I checked the old pic of the station on Wikipedia and I gotta say, it seems that it hasn’t changed much since the ’70s.

Coming from Indonesia, I was expecting that things might be a bit more expensive at the train station, so I thought that would be the case when I looked for the food court. But guess what? Everything is still affordable, even for the meals.

Unlike the food court and eateries around some train stations in my home country, where they basically increased the price around the area, the shops and the food court at Hua Lamphong actually look quite modest.

I had chicken rice for no more than 50 THB (around $1.60 USD) at the food court, and it was super delicious.

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The Journey from Bangkok to Hat Yai by Thai Railway

For sure, I was expecting the downgrade experience after previously taking the first-class train from Nong Khai. However, I couldn’t imagine the differences between the two before I finally got on the train and saw it for myself.

At first, I was a bit confused since the seat assignments looked a bit all over the place. I learned as we went to turn our seat into some kind of our bunk bed. LOL.

I don’t know if there are first-class or third-class trains for this journey, and neither do I know if the first-class train was similar to the one I took from Nong Khai… But surprisingly, I actually had a somewhat better experience on this train than the first-class train!

The train from Bangkok to Sungai Kolok by Thai Railway.
The train from Bangkok to Sungai Kolok by Thai Railway.

What You Need to Know About Thai Railway’s Second-Class Train

Unlike the first-class train where you would have your own cabin, the second-class train is an open space. Yes, you share your seat with another passenger, but you can set up the bed as soon as the train departs.

The other difference is that sellers can enter the train, so you should expect some random sellers to go back and forth on the aisle to offer what they have when the train stops at a station. As annoying as it sounds, I could assure you that it might do you good, especially when the hunger strikes.

For me, I only brought some biscuits and mineral water from Bangkok. Plus, I didn’t expect that the journey would take almost 20 hours, so the seller’s presence on the train became some kind of blessings in disguise for me. But I understand that it could be a bit disturbing if you didn’t see it coming. If you’re the latter, it’s best to just book the first-class train instead.

However, the way I see it as a solo traveler, if I get a chance to go back to Thailand and book another trip by train, I’d definitely prioritize booking a second-class train more than the first. Why? Because surprisingly, I personally got more privacy with the second-class train than the first.

What I Think About Thai Railway’s Second-Class Train

Honestly, I prefer the second-class train to the first-class!

First of all, you don’t need to worry about having the opposite sex sit next to you. Eventually, what matters is when we set up the bunk bed, we’d sleep separately. We could just close the curtain to get our own space.

And if on the first-class train I complained about how cold it was on the train, that wasn’t the case on the second-class train. I suppose it also had something to do because they provide a curtain to cover our bed, but it wasn’t too cold, and the temperature was just right. The blanket was quite comfortable too.

The only downside is that they don’t come up with electrical sockets. So if you rely on your gadget to keep you entertained, make sure to fully charge your devices before you get on board. Seriously though, I thought I wouldn’t need it since I have two phones, but it became a bit problematic when my phone ran out of battery as I arrived in Hat Yai.

But then again, I didn’t expect the trip to be more than 15 hours, so I miscalculated the length of time I could travel without my phone.

You see, the train stops once in a while at the station, but as long as I waited to hear the announcement when we arrived in Hat Yai, I couldn’t hear the English version of it.

As a traveler, I wanted to make sure that I got off at the right destination, so what I did was at 7 in the morning, I woke up and started asking around and see if we were there yet. Not even close.

I got anxious ever since because the last thing I wanted to do is to get off at Sungai Kolok and have to find another alternative to go back to Hat Yai.

Long story short, I’ve learned the hard way to never rely on the ETA and ETD written on your ticket in Thailand.

My Final Verdict of the Second-Class Train from Bangkok to Hat Yai

If the first-class train is ideal for families traveling together, I would say the second-class train is suitable for solo travelers. It allows you to have privacy the whole trip, and obviously, the ticket costs less than the first-class as well!

And the lavatory is no different than the one I tried on the first-class train from Nong Khai. I suppose they share the lavatory anyway, so really… I’d recommend the second-class trip for anyone who’s planning to travel solo by train in Thailand!

The aisle of the second-class train from Bangkok to Hat Yai.
The aisle of the second-class train from Bangkok to Hat Yai.

(+)

  • Obviously, since it’s the second-class train, the ticket is also cheaper than the first-class train. For a journey taken for almost 20 hours and the ticket only costs around $20 USD, I find it super affordable too!
  • They provide a curtain, a blanket, a pillow and also a shelf for our big bags for every seat. 
  • They don’t have any specific condition where you can only sit with the same sex. My seat number is next to an old man, and no one bats an eye. After a while, we both started preparing our bed. I got the upper bed, and he got the lower one. 
  • The temperature on the train was just right. Not too cold like the one I experienced on the way to Bangkok from Nong Khai. 

(-)

  • No electricity socket available, even though the journey took almost 20 hours on the train. 
  • So many sellers will go in and out for every station where the train stops. 
  • The train is not on-time. 
  • You still gotta exchange the e-voucher for the valid train ticket if you booked through Bookaway.

Remember when I said that having the sellers come and go on the train eventually became a blessing in disguise for me? Well, I overestimated the situation with Hat Yai station. I thought it would be similar to Hua Lamphong station, where I could easily eat at the food court.

The minute I arrived in Hat Yai, I couldn’t even find an ATM machine to withdraw money. I eventually found some outside the station, and there are some restaurants around the station as well. But when I arrived, everything was still closed.

My arrival time in Hat Yai was at 09.25 AM.
My arrival time in Hat Yai was at 09.25 AM.

If there’s anything you should know before taking the train to Hat Yai from Bangkok, it is to bring sufficient food or snacks with you as it’s gonna be a long day. That’s the mistake I did since I only bought some biscuits and water and bought some snacks from the seller passing on the train.

Guess what? I was literally starving when I arrived. When we arrived, it wasn’t even the operational hour for anything so I couldn’t even find a boba shop opened at the time, and I was too tired to look for more.

Even worse, as my phone got off just when I ordered a Grabcar. Lucky for me, I remember the plate and the car arrived not so long after the order was confirmed so I could conveniently go straight to my hotel.

So, have you had any experience of taking a train to travel around Thailand? Or do you have any questions before you book one on your trip? Share in the comment below, and cheerio! 🙂


Disclaimer: 

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