How to Survive an Overnight Train

I’m not sure why but I’ve always wanted to ride on an overnight train. Something about it seems so nostalgic, so classy, so old school. Nope, not at all. But it was an experience, that’s for sure.
There are three options to get from one end of Thailand to the other. Bus, plane or train. Not being in any sort of time crunch but wanting something more comfortable than a bus, we opted for the overnight train that would take us from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Boarding at 6:10 pm and arriving at 8:30 am we were in for a long night. But the experience of an overnight train and the price tag of around $30 each trumped any discomfort in our mind. But being on a train for that long can be…well, long. Here are some things that kept me from losing my mind.

overnight train thailand
overnight train thailand
inside overnight train in thailand

As always with traveling, have a sense of humor.
Sure, it’s not fun to try and get dressed on a moving train inside of a claustrophobic bathroom with a pee stained floor. Or to sleep on the top bunk where the only thing keeping you from falling onto the floor is two vertically strapped seat belts. But these just add to your stories to tell when you arrive back home. Or it adds to your reasons for never doing it again. Up to you.

toilet in overnight train, thailand
The bathroom. Aka changing area. Notice the hole goes straight to the tracks.

Get to know your neighbors.
This is by far one of my favorite parts about traveling. You are constantly surrounded by people from all over the world. On this trip alone we met people from Germany, China, and England to name a few. (one guy even offered us his apartment if we’re ever in Germany, hopefully the offer still stands when we make it over to that part of the world!) Start a conversation, get to know those traveling around you. It not only makes the time go by faster but you also get to know so much more about so many different cultures.
Also, on a safety note, getting to know who’s around you can help you judge how safe your belongings are if you decide to leave them in order to walk around. Of course, use your best judgment and precautions but this worked for us.
TIP: if you’re traveling alone, these are great for protecting your bag while you’re sleeping or away from your pack.

3. Dress in layers. We paid a few extra dollars for the air conditioned cabin and I can tell you with certainty that they used those dollars well. When we got on, we were scrambling to put on all the layers we could find. But as soon as the beds were set up and the curtain was closed, we were roasting.

beds in overnight train in thailand
The seats rearranged to make top and bottom bunks. Please notice the seat belts that acted as guard rails. I feel safe…

Bring snacks
There is a food car on the train but as you can imagine, it’s way overpriced for what you get. We ended up getting snacks before we boarded then split one meal from the dining car which ended up being the perfect amount.

overnight train thailand

Bring ear plugs and an eye mask
Trains are noisy. Duh. And when you don’t have a cabin to yourself, you fall victim to hearing everyone’s conversations around you in addition to all the expected noise and clatter of the train itself. Also, the main lights of the train stay on all night. And while there are curtains blocking off your bed, the top bunk still gets a steady stream of light in, making it look like daytime.

sleeping in overnight train thailand
Our bottom bunk where hubs slept

All in all, the trip seemed to go by faster than we anticipated (thank God) and we were kept occupied by card games and books when we weren’t sleeping. After trying it once, I would definitely do it again (first class private cabin please! and at still under $50 a person, I say it would be well worth it) as it’s a cheap, safe and comfortable way to see the county.

 

  • http://clothesandcreativity.blogspot.in/ Clothes and Creativity

    Thanks for the link to this post, Chelsea! :)
    I think we are used to traveling in overnight trains and going by your photos, looks like we’ll have a good journey! :)

    • http://clothesandcreativity.blogspot.in/ Clothes and Creativity

      Did I mention we are Indians, and the Indian Railway System is one of the largest. Hence, the experience in train-journey. Just wanted to know what the whole train experience is like in Thailand!

      • http://lostintravelsblog.com/ Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

        Then you should be all set! We road the trains while in India and while it was so confusing trying to get our tickets, it was a great experience the entire time!

  • Amber English

    This is my first time to read this post Chelsea! Thanks for all of the extra tips :) Jared and I are planning our trip to Thailand, and everything you write about is 1000x more helpful than any other blog I’ve come across :-)

    • http://lostintravelsblog.com/ Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      Ah! I’m so glad! Let me know if you have any other questions!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15983583040104271749 Joy

    I am literally reading all your Thailand archives and living vicariously through them!

    And I love overnight trains. To be fair though, the only times I’ve ever taken them was:
    1) Middle school camps, so we basically got the whole carriage/car to ourselves and we were allowed to run around and do whatever as long as we stayed where we were and
    2) My senior trip… and once again, our graduating class had the whole car to ourselves so we did whatever we wanted and didn’t have to worry about anyone stealing our belongings!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11520465374105359641 Mallorie Owens

    Love the second picture! And you are too cute. Newest follower! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13187265846570274210 themosbysinchina

    Great list! And great pictures!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17129888915834337702 Meg Hodson

    Visiting from the GFC Hop. Now following via GFC.

    I’m hosting a Bloglovin’ Blog Hop tomorrow, so be sure to come by and link up!

    Happy Kids, Inc
    http://www.happykidsincblog.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18272446201835946704 Kristin

    would be awesome to expeirence and say you did!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 lost in travels

      I agree! That was a big pull for us to do it!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03650259915484312321 emi

    you’re so cute! trains are the best, i miss traveling on the train in europe. thanks for the tips!
    xo welltraveledwife.com

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 lost in travels

      I would love to travel on the rail system in Europe! We really want to do a Europe trip after we move back home and use the train as much as we can!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12090735810562146009 M and L

    Wow, that sounds.. interesting. I’ve always wanted to ride an overnight train. It would seem magical, but I might need to reconsider lol. I wish prices were that cheap here. I’d ride a train everywhere!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 lost in travels

      Haha, it was, but I’m so glad that we did it! I wish that the train was more accessible to other parts of the country in the states. I would ride it all the time too!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07177081269343759076 Treasure Tromp

    this looks fantastic! I would LOVE to do an overnight train sometime.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 lost in travels

      I would highly recommend it! A little uncomfortable but totally worth it!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15602794470283962696 Ashley R

    I took an overnight train from Paris to Rome once and it was a *terrible* experience for so many reasons. haha. I will have to blog about it sometime, but this post made me laugh because I feel you. Those cabins don’t look too shabby though!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 lost in travels

      Oh no! Well at least it gave you lots of stories to tell afterward : )

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08300509693671365389 Sam M

    Those cabins are nice! We did an overnight train in China and did the cheaper trains since we were super poor and it was really really tight. I bet being there around Chinese New Year had a lot to do with tickets being sold out. There are a lot of Chinese Thai and Chinese Cambodians that celebrate the new year. I wanted to go to Chaing Mai when we lived in Cambodia, but we just never had the time. I hope you got to pet some tigers.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 lost in travels

      I think that’s what it was because all of our neighbors were Chinese and said that they were on holiday at the time, along with a lot of the Chinese Thai’s being on vacation as well. We want to go to Cambodia sometime this year too, I’ve heard it’s beautiful! And yes, we got to pet some tigers, I’ll be posting on it soon!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04870163281625663576 Kim @ Two Martini Lunch

    I am so glad I found you (which I did from the whatever, whenever hop). My husband and I and our two boys just moved to Thailand from the states. We are currently in Phuket but heading up to Bangkok this weekend. I enjoyed reading your train story as we are planning a trip to Chiang Mai next month. We aren’t exactly sure where we are settling yet, we find out at the end of the month but we are enjoying our time exploring. Nice to meet you and I can’t wait to read more.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 lost in travels

      Hey! I’m so glad you stopped by! How awesome that you’re living in Thailand! It’s by far my favorite country that we have visited! You are going to LOVE Chiang Mai! If you have any questions or want suggests please email me, I would love to help! What are you guys doing in Thailand?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07238434752028472905 Jenna

    I so feel you on the overnight train thing. I rode one when I was in India and it was pretty hectic. I woke up to strange men staring at me and I had my backpack in a death grip because I was afraid someone would steal it. But, it was an experience and one that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Something to add to my list of travel tales :) First class does sound pretty incredible though!

    xxx
    Jenna

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 lost in travels

      Hahaha! I would be so freaked out if I woke up to that! I think if we do an overnight train again without an individual cabin, I’m going to get one of those pack protectors so I can sleep easier. I love the travel stories that we collect along the way : )

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10282427768935973822 erica @ to the sea

    Haha I rode the overnight from Luxembourg to London… No bed or anything. And smoking was allowed on the train, of course. Brutal.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 lost in travels

      Oh no! I can’t imagine going overnight with no bed! Although ours weren’t the most comfortable things (I kept waking up in fear that I would roll off the top bunk) I’m glad we got to stretch out!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08071911396888159743 rachel.debruin

    I’ve taken this exact train far too many times, the last of which was with the pleasure of a complete carfull of drunk Polish men yelling and singing the whole way. My experiences were NEVER on time. 14 very quickly turns to 18…20… Oh Thailand!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 lost in travels

      Oh man! I can’t imagine! Luckily we had very quiet neighbors, except for one overly giggly four year old but that’s a whole lot cuter than a bunch of drunk guys : )

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03092640227303901791 Lauren Roerick Miller

    I have always wanted to ride on a sleeper train! What a cool adventure. Whether it was comfortable or not, it looks like a great experience.

    Lauren
    http://www.millermemoires.com

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 lost in travels

      You should! It was interesting but so well worth it!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17858369352707356245 LeeAnn Hilker

    What a great post! Thanks for the helpful information !!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03722151613020971107 Ashley

    This is really a great list! I will bookmark it for my next backpacking trip. Thx.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 lost in travels

      I’m so glad you liked it!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07894832851934334471 Rachel

    All of those pictures look so familiar! I once rode an overnight train from Malaysia to Chiang Mai with a whole bunch of friends….those bunks and the bathrooms don’t look like they’ve changed a bit!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 lost in travels

      Haha! They’re pretty old! It was definitely an experience I’m glad we did!