Taking overnight transport can either be super romantic or hell on earth.
The Bangkok Chiang Mai train was both. Read this honest review on the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and decide which category your trip will fall into.
Firstly, congratulations on choosing to visit the more one of the most beautiful and underrated destinations in Thailand. Chiang Mai is simply stunning, and with so many free things to do, is a budget travellers paradise!
If you are looking for ways to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (or the other way around – Chiang Mai to Bangkok) then you have a few options.
Your choice will depend on your time limit, your budget and finally (and this is a biggy) your sense of adventure.
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Getting From Bangkok to Chiang Mai. What Are My Options?
Quickest Way – Bangkok to Chiang Mai Flight
- If you are on a two-week vacation and find yourself stuck for time, take the plane. It will take you approx 1Hr and 10 minutes.
- If you are wise, flexible and use a company like Skyscanner to compare flight prices you should be able to pick up a bargain. We are not wise and like to leave everything until the last minute, therefore this wasn’t an option for us. Plus, I like to put myself and the kid’s through pain. It keeps them on their toes.
- Flights to Chiang Mai are very reasonable if you do a little forward planning. Click here to check out flight prices from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Cheapest Way – Bus
- If you are on a budget then take the bus.
- It will cost you approx $15, and take 11 hours. We had a bad a couple of bad experiences in India with sleeper buses so there was no way I was risking it again in Thailand.
- I have also heard too many stories about theft on the sleeper buses to Chiang Mai. I’ll be honest with you, we don’t tend to listen to hearsay. We have learned over our travels that a lot of travel tips that you hear are utter rubbish, but we had just bought a new drone and I wasn’t going to risk it.
- If you do choose to take the bus click here for prices.
Most Adventurous Way (and no. It’s not on a donkey) – Bangkok To Chiang Mai Train (overnight)
- Tada! If you are the adventurous sort and don’t mind spending $28 and approximately 11 hours travelling, then take the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai overnight. (But first, read this post. So you’ll be prepared).
- There are too many travel blogs out there telling you that taking the train Bangkok to Chiang Mai is nothing but rosy and fun. Now. I don’t want to be a doom and gloomer, heaven forbid, and there is no denying that yes, it’s a wonderful experience to travel overnight by train, but; I just think you need to know some facts.
- Click here to book online tickets with 12GoAsia. They are the only company we use when we are travelling by bus, plane or train in Asia.
We are a family of four backpacking around the world for a year. My kids are 14 and 17 and we have been to Thailand twice on this trip. We have taken the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai train and the Chiang Mai to Bangkok train 4 times.
And I have to say I’m a little bit miffed.
I searched high and low for a travel blog to tell me the exact, honest details on taking the night train Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and still, I only found the glorified look-at-the-lovely-scenery-versions.
So I had to go and find out for myself. And here’s what surprised me.
Here is a quick video of us arriving at Bangkok station – it will give you an idea of how big and quiet it can be so that you don’t have to worry!
The Overnight Train From Bangkok To Chiang Mai Review. 7 Things You Need To Know.
#1: First things first. If you are taking the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai then know that you probably won’t sleep. I’ll get to why later in the post.
#2: Alcohol is banned on the train. And the staff are strict to enforce it. We smuggled rum into a couple of bottles of coke and we were asked three times if we were drinking alcohol. I am a 47-year-old woman travelling with two kids. Hardly a party animal. Just know that they will have their eye on you.
#3: You will need earplugs. The train is quite noisy. I’m not talking rowdy noisy, just noise from the tracks. Don’t do what we did and book the bunks next to the whooshing door. Book in the middle of the train if possible.
#4: It’s either very hot or very cold. We have been both. Be prepared with an extra jumper or a warm sleeping bag.
#5: Bring your own food and snacks. The prices on the train are extortionate and the food looked bland, to say the least. There is a seven eleven outside both Bangkok and Chiang Mai station. Stock up.
#6: The beds are made up (very efficiently may I add) at an early time. We boarded at 6.30pm and within an hour it was bedtime. Know that if you are travelling alone and you are on the top bunk you will be off to bed nice and early so bring a good book.
#7: Because of the air conditioning, it is very dry. The staff very kindly give you a bottle of water when you board but still, it is small and is gone in two gulps. Bring some water.
Why You Probably Won’t Sleep On The Sleeper Train Bangkok To Chiang Mai.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but listen. Unless you have a VERY good eye mask and you manage to book the bottom bunk, then you probably aren’t going to sleep.
Annoyingly every top bunk on the sleeper train is directly under the brightest light imaginable. Think of those bright white lights that they use in hospitals to operate on people and you’ll be on the right track.
These lights stay on. ALL NIGHT.
After the first experience of not sleeping, each of us went out and bought the best eye mask on the market. To be prepared for our imminent journey back from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.
Still. No sleep.
I am not kidding, it is BRIGHT.
The curtain that goes along the top bunk has a three-inch gap meaning that there is no chance of blocking the light.
What I Did to Grab a Few Hours Of Sleep:
I’m not sure what the reasoning is for not turning the lights down, probably security. What I don’ understand is why don’t the top bunks have a blackout curtain fitted?
Because I am not one to moan, I instead put my best thinking head-on.
Here’s what I did.
We always travel with a roll of extra strong black tape. Don’t ask me why; just accept that my husband is a man who should have lived in a cave. That’s all you need to know.
These things will be necessary he said. You can read about all of the other weird things we take travelling in my post: the awesome essential travel checklist.
And he was right.
(It’s not often you’ll hear me say that).
I have a dark red sarong and I taped it along the top of the curtain. It made the inside of the bunk look like an opium den but it blocked some of the light which enabled me to grab an hour or so sleep.
Other Related Posts That You May Enjoy
What To Do When You Arrive At Chiang Mai Station.
One last thing before I go.
Chiang Mai is gorgeous – you are going to love it, but because I love you I couldn’t leave without pointing this out.
When you get off the sleeper train in Chiang Mai you will be bombarded with offers of taxis and Songthaews (the red pick up trucks that are everywhere).
If you are solo travelling then you can probably ignore this next piece of advice, just hop into the red truck with a group of other backpackers and have fun.
But, if there are more than two of you then listen up.
If you are like us and are travelling on a budget you will be well aware of the wonderful transport app Uber. For us taking Uber (or Grab) has saved us hundreds of dollars over the past year. Chiang Mai was no exception.
Apparently, it is illegal for Uber drivers to come into Chiang Mai station, but don’t let this put you off.
Go to the seven eleven over the road (this way the taxi hagglers will leave you alone) and call an Uber or Grab from there.
You will save yourself a couple of dollars and more importantly, you will be in an airconditioned car!
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So that’s it!
I have told you (truthfully) what to be prepared for when you take the Bangkok to Chiang Mai train overnight. As I said, yes, it is an adventure and if you are travelling with little kids then they will no doubt love it.
For those who cherish their sleep, be prepared. Bring a dark sarong, an eye mask (along with some other imperative items for easier travel) and some tape! If you found this post useful, please don’t forget to share it, and drop me a line in the comments if your overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was any different to this!