Thailand – Third class trains tips


Third class carriage on the Bangkok-Surat Thani train

So you’re going to Thailand? Nice. But since you received less money than expected from Mummy, you’re crying about your budget? No worries! Southeast Asia is already a cheap and easy part of the world, with a lot of backpackers who already explored all the ways to spend practically nothing while travelling there.

If you’re into having the best stories to tell when you’ll come back home, then think twice about your way of moving in the Land of Smiles. The 3rd class train is less than half the price of the 2nd class seated and the bus. And at the end, you will end up at the same station!

1 – The booking
You cannot buy tickets through a tour agency or online, only at official railway stations. The good new is, the 3rd class wagon is not often sold-out, and you will easily be able to buy a ticket for the train only a few hours before departure. Be sure to ask (and repeat) at the ticket counter that you want a 3rd class ticket, because these people will think that you’re not crazy enough, as a foreigner, to travel in this class of transportation and might tell you that the train is full if there’s no 2nd class ticket available. For the price, count approximately 220B (7USD) for a 10-hour ride.

2 – What to prepare?
Not a lot actually! There are always, at each stop, sellers who enter the wagon to propose cold drinks, noodle soups, ready-to-swallow Thai food, random snacks… who cost practically nothing and taste good. Take some water though, at least 1,5 liters. Because that would still be cheaper to buy it at the 7-Eleven than during the ride. And y’know… Thai weather is quite warm. Stay healthy.
If you’re a girl, then you might want to bring your own toilet paper roll. There are bum-guns in the train toilets (you know, the small shower head), and you might be lucky to find some TP but that’s not always the case. The toilets are just what you can expect from train toilets: think smelly squat toilets.
Save some battery on your iPod, because the doors are kept open during the trip and you can sit on the stairs. During an overnight train, watching the sunset from there is quite nice!

3 – I will travel alone, does that sucks?
Absolutely not! Thai people, especially in areas who doesn’t include a lot of tourists (so are 3rd class train carriages) will be curious about you and your travel. You won’t stay alone longer, as if you’re smily enough and can easily get on with body language, some people will be happy to talk to you and might even give you some food. If you’re a smoker, then the smoking area between each carriage is a good way to meet people as well.

4 – I have my MacBook and some cameras with me, I don’t want to be robbed…
Well, leave your worries behind you. Contrarily as what most people think, the cheapest doesn’t always mean the most dangerous. And in cheap Thai trains, if you use your common traveller’s sense, then you’re safe. I mean, just keep your wallet, passport and stuff on you at all times. If you put your bag above your head, and sleep during the night – no worries! Don’t take (too much) photos of the people of the carriage though, it’s respect and some people might not want to be in your Facebook photo album.

5 – You said sleep?
Yup, sleeping might not be an easy thing to deal with the first time you travel on this kind of transportation. but take a jacket, put something on your eyes, feel safe… and you might sleep fine! The lights won’t go out by night, and the windows will usually stay open. So with the wind and mosquitos, you better have to cover yourself a little bit.

As like everytime you will be surrounded by locals only, use your body language skills to create discussion with people. If you’re a native English speaker, cut off all the “useless” words that you think people won’t understand. Learn how to speak Thaiglish, “Where you go?” instead of “Where are you going?”, “What time in Bangkok?” instead of “What time do we arrive?”, this kind of stuff. Also, as like every Thai trains, it’s a common thing to not respect the schedule. Expect a delay up to 3 hours in average.

And most importantly, have fun!


Sleeping in airports – better than what you could think



Enjoying the armless seats in Helsinki Vantaa airport

During a past trip, I realised that I had to spend a night in one of the most expensive European capitals, Helsinki, during a layover. After thinking about a few solutions to save some money, I remembered about a website I saw some days ago – Sleeping in Airports.

Everything is in the name, this website got quite a big community behind it, full of cheap (or not) guys who were stuck at some point in airports around the whole world. This leaded to a huge database full of tips, reviews, comments and informations related to all the airports in the world. They even have a small section regarding funky places to sleep such as police boxes, train stations, or even ATM rooms.

Back to Helsinki then. After a few minutes checking this amazing website, my friend and me saw that the Finnish capital airport was one of the best European ones. And when I mean one of the best ones, I mean that there was free WiFi, drinking water, showers, not-too-cold air-con, armless seats to lay down on and even arcade games turned on all night long.
Following the reviews, we found out that the best spot to sleep was between the two main terminals, and so we did. 8 hours of baby sleep on an airport – that was something to add on my checklist. They even turned off the lights during the night, and we both felt safe (most airports got CCTV, so that helps a lot).
Landing late in the evening in Helsinki, we even had the time to leave the airside to buy some stuff in the small convenience shop and for a cig, then came back in the other side of the check-in counters to sleep peacefully.

A few months ago, I had to go to Bangkok. I booked a train in the morning and didn’t want to spend 10 or 15 bucks for a hostel night there. So instead, I did the same as before – I checked Sleeping in Airports. And guess what? Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport is one of the best Asian ones. Let’s go!

Even if it was not as comfortable as its Finnish brother, mostly because of the let’s-put-the-aircon-full-level-please-all-get-sick-and-cold-people temperature, I have to say that I slept surprisingly well. And it was in the landside area, so I didn’t even need any boarding pass or so. Now I know what some people could think – is it socially acceptable to sleep on a public area like this? Well, first of all – screw the socially acceptable principle. Secondly, compared to sleeping in the streets, you’re in a safe place, who got showers, relatively clean toilets, with less noise and less dirt than a Asian capital street. For the tips part:

  • Bring a blanket or towel
    I always do this kind of small travels with a microfiber towel, who is light and can act as a cushion or blanket.
  • Buy your water before
    Obviously, the prices in the airports are always a little more lovely for your wallet. Be sure to buy your water for the night before coming.
  • Take a jacket and put your valuables between your jacket and shirt
    Everybody got a certain way to protect valuables, but this is mine. Even if it’s an airport with security guards and cameras, it’s always better to stay safe at all times.
  • Get your informations on how to leave the airport before going to sleep
    …because there’ll be probably more people to ask for informations on the evening than in the early morning. Plus, it’s easier to ask for those when you’re still full of energy rather than when you just woke up and want to get the hell out of this place.
  • If you don’t know where exactly to sleep, do a little walk around the airport and watch for the locals
    In most airports, you will anyway see some of them sleeping in the evening or during the night. In some places where you’ll only find armrest-equipped seats, try to watch for the other people sleeping positions to get some ideas on how to fall asleep better. There’s always a way.

    Of course, it’s not as comfortable as your bed at home. But you’ll probably have way more stories to tell!