We did our train tour of Southern Thailand over 4 days on Sprinter Train #43 which runs from Bangkok to Surat Thani.
Train #43 to Surat Thai
Sprinter Train #43 runs down daily southbound from Bangkok along Thailand’s Southern Railway Line. The Southern Line runs a distance of 1,144 KM from Bangkok to Sungai Kolok in the far South of Thailand. Surat Thani Train Station, the final stop for Train #43, is situated about half way down the Southern line, 633.11 km to be precise. This article is an account of a recent trip we made on Train #43 from Bangkok to Surat Thani. We did the journey over a number of days stopping along the way to visit major towns on route before rejoining the same train the following day to continue the journey towards Surat Thani.
Fastest Train on Thailand’s Southern Line
Its a long journey from Bangkok to Surat Thani and the quickest way to travel from Bangkok to Surat Thani is to take Sprinter Train #43, departing at 08:05 and scheduled to complete the journey in 8 hours 40 minutes at 16:45.
This is 3 hours 33 minutes quicker than the slowest train service from Bangkok to Surat Thani, Train #173 which departs from Bangkok at 17:35 and arrives 12 hours 13 minutes later in Surat Thani at 05:48.
About Train #43
Train #43 is a Sprinter Train. Sprinter Trains in Thailand are different to other train services:
- Seat Types: Sprinter trains are three carriage trains with a single seat type, which is 2nd Class Air-Conditioned Seats.
- Meals Included: Sprinter trains in Thailand have no restaurant car, instead you are served food and drink to your seat and this is included in the ticket price.
- Fast: Sprinter trains are the quickest type of train service in Thailand. For travel between Bangkok and Chiang Mai Sprinter Train #7 completes the journey 1 hour 55 minutes faster than any other train. For travel between Bangkok and Nong Khai Sprinter Train #75 is 1 hour 25 minutes quicker than the next fastest train.
- Carriage Layout: There are two seats either side of a narrow central aisle. Luggage need to be stored on the overhead racks. Each carriage has a single exit with two toilets positioned near the exit.
Sprinter Trains in Thailand
Train #43, like other Sprinter Trains in Thailand, is comfortable. It has soft reclining seats with aeroplane style chair back fold down trays. The train is also fully air-conditioned throughout.
The only downside of this train, and other Sprinter Trains in Thailand, is that it can be a struggle getting lots of luggage up and the aisle particularly if your seat is positioned some way back on the train away from the exit. If you have only a single large bag there is no problem getting on and off a Sprinter Train in Thailand, however, if you are travelling as a family and one person is carrying two or more large bags (in this case me) be prepared for some amount of struggle getting your luggage on and off a Sprinter Train.
Travel by Day vs Travel at Night on Thai Trains
A lot of people who travel from Bangkok from Surat Thani choose to take an overnight train. There are clear benefits to overnight travel, particularly the cost saving on a hotel room for the night and that by travelling overnight you can spend the day visiting the local attractions. However, there are also benefits to choosing to travel during the day on the journey from Bangkok to Surat Thani:
- Scenery: If you travel by day on Sprinter Train #43 you get to see things on route. You see very little of the Southern Thai Countryside if you travel during the night.
- More Relaxing: It is less much tiring to travel by day and stay is a proper bed when you arrive. You can sleep on Thai trains but most people find that their sleep is broken by noise and anxiety about waking up in time to get off at their stop.
If you are constrained for time travelling from Bangkok to Surat Thani, or you are in a hurry to get to wonderful beaches and relaxed atmosphere of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, then an overnight train makes sense. However, if you have the time then do yourself a favour, relax, and take the day time train. Travelling by day is a different experience to travelling by night on trains in Thailand.
Joys of Slow Travel
Every time I have previously travelled by train from Bangkok to Surat Thani I have taken the train direct. This time I decided to break the journey into four parts on Train #43 on consecutive days:
- Bangkok to Hua Hin
- Hua Hin to Prachuap Khiri Khan
- Prachuap Khiri Khan to Chumphon
- Chumphon to Surat Thani
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Best Train for a Tour of Southern Thailand
Using Train #43 for each leg of the journey I was able to travel each leg of the journey during daylight hours with time to check into a hotel near the train station, go to some great restaurants and explore each destination before travelling onward the next day. Using Train #43 you get exactly 24 hours in each place as by taking the same train each day, the time you arrive on the one day is the exact same time you leave on the next day. 24 hours was enough time in each place and the short 1 to 3 hour journeys on the train each day were not tiring at all. Thailand Trains Tip: If you are going to travel in this way travel light and the most tiring part of the journey is carrying your bags to and from the trains.
Bangkok to Hua Hin
The first leg of the train journey, from Bangkok to Hua Hin, is the only one which requires an early start as the train departs at 08:05. We over estimated the amount of time we needed to get from hotel in Bangkok, the ibis Bangkok Siam, to Bangkok Train Station and ended up arriving at 07:20 which was way too early. The journey to Hua Hin took 3 hours 21 minutes passing through the suburbs of Bangkok and on through increasingly rural countryside until reaching the built up areas around Cha Am and Hua Hin, well known for the tall hotel buildings lining the long sandy coast line.
Hua Hin Train Station itself short walk from the cluster of hotels and restaurants near Hua Hin Night Market making Hua Hin an ideal place to stop and break up the long rail journey from Bangkok to Surat Thani.
About Hua Hin
Hua Hin is a popular holiday destination for older foreign visitors and families. Hua Hin is a fairly relaxed seaside resort town and not as commercially oriented as Phuket and Koh Samui. The town centre itself is small and pretty with fish restaurants built on wooden piers along the Nares Damri Road, and a lively Night Market Area near to the train station.
This is a great place to spend a day visiting some of the nearby attractions such as the giant monk statue at Huay Mongkol Temple and the wild monkeys of Wat Khao Takiap, and then in the evening going out to eat seafood, either at the famous (and slightly too expensive) seafront restaurants or at the much better value for money seafood restaurants in the Night Market such as Duang Jai Seafood.
For our night in Hua Hin we stayed at the Chaba Chalet, which is pleasant small hotel only 300 metres from the train station. It is an easy walk from Hua Hin Train Station to the Chaba Chalet and straight forward to locate as the hotel is on a main road. Chaba Chalet is budget hotel with mid-range facilities. We paid 900 THB per night for a large room with air-conditioning and satellite TV.
The room price also included a basic breakfast. Chaba Chalet is a very laid back hotel with a large ground floor restaurant and bar serving very cheap food and drink. The restaurant overlooks the lively street in front of the hotel. The room was quiet at night and the bed comfortable. In the morning after breakfast we relaxed in the room watching films before heading the short distance back to the train station to rejoin Train #43 to continue our journey South.
Hua Hin to Prachuap Khiri Khan
Train #43 is scheduled to depart daily from Hua Hin at 11:29. Make sure you arrive in good time if you plan to catch Train #43. Train #43 tends to be very punctual and at no stage during our several days travelling on the various stages of the route followed by Train #43 was it ever more than 5 minutes late. If you turn up late then you are very likely to miss your departure.
The journey from Hua Hin to Prachuap Khiri Khan is very quick by Thai train standards taking only 59 minutes to travel the 80 km between Hua Hin and Prachuap Khiri Khan. If you want to travel direct from Bangkok to Prachuap Khiri Khan, without stopping on the way in Hua Hin, the journey on Train #43 takes 4 hours 23 minutes.
About Prachuap Khiri Khan
Prachuap Khiri Khan Train Station has been remodelled to look like Hua Hin Train Station, but that is where the similarity between these two close by seaside towns ended. In the early days of domestic tourism for wealthier Thai people, including the Thai Royal Family, Hua Hin and Prachuap Khiri Khan were on an equal footing in terms of popularity. However, whilst Hua Hin developed into a mass tourism destination Prachuap Khiri Khan did not.
Prachuap Khiri Khan does have a steady stream tourists visiting although the majority of these are Thai people. Prachuap Khiri Khan is a small and easily accessible town with a city centre train station, wide quiet streets, great hotels and restaurants, a fantastic wide bay with sandy beach a short way out of town, all overlooked by a mountain top temple inhabited by wild monkeys. In the evening do what we did, and most other overnight visitors to Prachuap Khiri Khan do, and go to eat at the inexpensive seafood restaurants, such as Ploensamut and Lung Mug-Paa Lord, clustered along the seafront road in the centre of town.
Prachuap Grand Hotel
For our night in Prachuap Khiri Khan we stayed at the Prachuap Grand Hotel, which is without a doubt one of my favourite hotels in Thailand and worth every penny of the 1,650 THB we paid to stay there for a night. This hotel is little further from the train station in Prachuap Khiri Khan than the one we stayed in Hua Hin, a pleasant walk of 500 metres. The Prachuap Grand Hotel is, as the name suggests, a fairly large hotel with sizeable lobby and very large restaurant where we eat a decent buffet breakfast (included in the room price) before setting off the next day.
What impressed me most about this hotel was not the immaculate and nicely furnished rooms, or the excellent service, but rather the view from the balcony of our room. The Prachuap Grand Hotel is one the tallest buildings in the town and if you are staying on one of the higher floors you get a great view of bay and Khao Chong Krachok, which is the mountain with the temple on top. When we stayed kept the sliding doors to the balcony of our room open and enjoyed the cooling sea breezes, instead of turning on the air-conditioning.
Prachuap Khiri Khan to Chumphon
Train #43 departs from Chumphon at 12:29 for a 2 hour 7 minute journey to Chumphon. Travelling direct from Bangkok to Chumphon (without stoping along the way) the journey takes 6 hours 21 minutes.
We did not enjoy this leg of the journey very much because our young daughter (only 11 months old at the time) had decided that after 3 days on trains she had enough of train travel. This said, it is a relatively short journey and if you are not attempting to travel with very young children you will find that by the time you have eaten, and read a few pages of a book, you have all of a sudden arrived at Chumphon. Chumphon Train Station is at the edge of this medium sized town and one the best places to stay are within a 1 km radius of the train station.
Chumphon is not itself a place where people tend to go on holiday. Most foreign visitors who stay here do so because they are travelling to and from Koh Tao and they need to stay the night to make a travel connection the following day. The hotel and restaurant businesses catering to foreign tourists are set up for this passing trade, and are poorly developed as a consequence.
The big attractions of Chumphon are the colourful local culture and the authentic Southern Thai food. My main reason for coming Chumphon was to eat Moo Kling Kling (a Southern Thai style dry curry) and other classic Southern Thai dishes at the street stalls which line the Krumluang Chumphon Road. The Krumluang Chumphon Road runs in a straight line from the approach road to Chumphon Train Station directly through the centre of Chumphon Town down to the Euro Boutique Hotel where we stayed. The food stalls on the Krumluang Chumphon Road in Chumphon are probably the best, and the cheapest, places to eat Southern Thai food.
Euro Boutique Hotel
The Euro Boutique Hotel is 850 metres walk from Chumphon Train Station and we took a Tuk-Tuk there from the station for 100 THB because our bags and child were a bit too heavy to comfortably carry, and the climate was starting get noticeably hotter as we travelled South. The Euro Boutique Hotel is very cheap at 590 THB for room only. Our room had air-conditioning, a balcony, a fridge, and satellite TV with few English language channels. We paid an extra 120 THB to upgrade our room booking to include breakfast. We recommend that if you stay you go for the buffet breakfast which although basic is not bad, and served in roof top room with panoramic view of Chumphon. The hotel scene in Chumphon is poorly developed and the Euro Boutique Hotel is one of the better options, if not the best, for a stay overnight in Chumphon town.
Travel To Koh Tao
You can travel direct from Chumphon Train Station to Koh Tao.
There is a service which departs from the train station at 05:00 and arrives in Koh Tao at 09:30. Booking in advance is recommended. From Bangkok do not need to go all the way to Surat Thani to catch a ferry to Koh Tao and will be travelling for 4 to 6 hours longer than you need to.
Chumphon to Surat Thani
Train #43 departs from Chumphon at 14:43 for a journey of 2 hours and 2 minutes to Surat Thani. We spent the time between checking out of the hotel and boarding the train having lunch and walking around the town. There is a useful left luggage service at Chumphon Train Station which charged us 40 THB per suitcase for the day.
Surat Thani Train Station, our last stop on the railway line, is 14 km outside Surat Thani town. We took a taxi to our downtown hotel, the Diamond Plaza Hotel. The taxi journey took around 2o minutes and cost 140 THB which is a fixed price advertised at the taxi rank by the station. Before we had our daughter we used to do this journey by the Orange Public Bus for an 18 THB journey lasting around 45 minutes into Surat Thani town.
About Surat Thani
As a tourist destination Surat Thani is better developed than Chumphon and there is more to see and do, and much better hotels to stay at. We recommend a visit to the highly entertaining Night Market in Surat Thani. Surat Thani can be quite a lively place in the evening, particularly along the riverside near the Night Boat Pier, with lots of travellers passing through the own on the way to, or from, the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
When we stayed my wife opted to stay in the room at the excellent Diamond Plaza Hotel whilst I went on a motorbike taxi for an early evening trip to the Night Market (an 80 THB journey) before we had dinner together at the popular Khai Mook restaurant, which is the restaurant in the lobby of the Diamond Plaza Hotel.
Diamond Plaza Hotel
By far and away the best hotel in Surat Thani. The Diamond Plaza Hotel is located slightly outside the town centre near two major shopping centres but 5.6 km from the Night Market. This hotel is popular with well to do Thai travellers and is very much the place to stay in Surat Thani if you can afford it, and from only 900 THB a night it is within the budget of most Western holiday makers.
The room are very large, nicely furnished and they have views over the city and surrounding countryside. The service is great and the facilities, like the restaurant, room service, swimming pool and fitness centres are the best of any of the hotels in Surat Thani.
Travel to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan
You can easily travel either directly from the train station, or from Surat Thani town centre, to variety of different destinations in South Thailand including the islands of the Samui Archipelago. Click on the link below for more information about travel from Surat Thani:
- Guide to Travel from Surat Thani Railway Station to Koh Samui
- Guide to Travel from Surat Thani Railway Station to Koh Phangan
- Guide to Travel from Surat Thani Railway Station to Koh Tao
- Guide to Travel from Surat Thani to Krabi
- Guide to Travel from Surat Thani to Phuket
- Guide to Travel from Surat Thani to Koh Lanta
- Guide to Travel from Surat Thani to Koh Phi Phi
- Guide to Travel from Surat Thani to Khao Sok National Park