Thailand – Third class trains tips

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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!