1. Plan Ahead
Planning ahead when you take the train is crucial. Trains are late more than they are on time, so make sure that you will be arriving at your destination a few hours earlier than you need to be. Tickets must be bought at the station or over the phone. At the central station in Bangkok, there is a special office for foreigners to buy tickets in English. However, you can probably buy tickets at the regular booths just as easily. Long distance trains need a reservation 1-60 days in advance, and short distance third class trains don’t. You simply buy your ticket an hour in advance, and hop on. You will have to show your passport to buy the tickets for both types of trains.
2. Spend time offline
Five, ten, or even twenty hours on a train is a long time. There are no outlets, so consider spending some time unplugged or bring a backup charger for your electronics. Bring something to read, playing cards, or a journal. Or, look out the window!
3. Bring soap and toilet paper
Train bathrooms are not as bad as you are probably expecting, but they are also nothing to rave about. If you’re a germaphobe, bring some soap or hand sanitizer and toilet paper to make the experience a little easier. The train has running water, which is completely safe to use, but they never seem to have soap. On really long train trips, simple things like baby wipes and dry shampoo can replace showers in the short term. Baby powder works great as DIY dry shampoo.
4. Travel third class
Don’t let the name scare you off. On short distance and local trains, third class is the best way to travel. Third class is a fun experience – you can stick your head out the window, eat food that vendors sell on board, interact with locals, and save a lot of money. Because these cars are easily accessed, it is common sense to keep your luggage near you at all times. Theft isn’t common, but it is always a good idea to be cautious. Third class isn’t any noisier than the other classes; generally people talk quietly and the only other sounds are the ones made by the train.