Getting the train from Bangkok to Trang in Southern Thailand is a great way to get the Trang Islands. Sleeper trains depart Bangkok every evening, arriving in Trang at a reasonable hour in the morning. From the train station you can then get minivans to the pier for boats to the islands.
There are two trains that leave Bangkok every evening to Trang, with the second train continuing to Kantang:
Train #83 to Trang
17:05 Departs Hua Lamphong, Bangkok
08:05 Arrive Trang
Travel Time: 15h.
Train #167 to Kantang
18:30 Departs Hua Lamphong, Bangkok
10:31 Arrive Trang
11:20 Arrive Kantang, Trang
Travel Time: 16h 1m (to Trang).
I booked my ticket at 12go Asia, who book the tickets manually for a small commission. They have an office opposite the station so you pick the ticket up there before you leave.
I decided to go to Trang a few days before I left, so beds were already limited. I couldn’t get the day I wanted, and the next available day only had an upper bunk in the fan section. Not my preferred option but I figured I would take it and provide a review.
I also was trying to get the first train, but in the end it doesn’t matter so much as the minivans leave Trang at 11, after the second train.
The train from Bangkok departs from the historic Hua Lamphong station. This station is in it’s last year of operation as next year the main station will be moving to Bang Sue Grand Station.
I was in Bangkok visiting the Bang Sue construction site as part of my coverage of future Southeast Asia railways. The new station resembles a mega station in China, and eventually it will have trains arriving there from Kunming. It will be a change of pace from the old world atmosphere of Hua Lamphong. I would recommend taking a train trip from Bangkok soon, if only to experience this station before it goes. (The station will be preserved, just not as a working station.)
As Trang was not the last station make sure you look for the Kan Tang train.
They usually let you on half and hour before the train departs so you can wait onboard.
Carriage and seat numbers are clearly marked on each train.
My usual advice when travelling on public transport in Thailand is to wear jeans (or elephant pants if you must) as the air conditioning is set as if it was transporting fresh produce. In this case the fan carriage was still so warm after being outside all day, and I was wishing I had shorts on.
For a comparison I walked up to the air conditioned compartment, and it was definitely jeans weather in here. Oh well, I saved a few dollars I suppose.
Another feature of the fan carriage is they only have squat toilets, so you may need to visit the air conditioned carriage if you need a seat.
I also checked out the 2nd Class Fan seats carriage, and I was glad to have a bed for the night.
When the train departs the seats haven’t been converted into beds yet. After departing Bangkok the carriage attendant comes through and converts the seats to beds. It’s an amazing spectacle to watch how efficiently they set up the mattress, add the sheets and pillow cases, and hang the curtains.
All of the bedding is stored in the upper bunk, making the process faster.
The upper bunk has no window and there is less space than the lower bunk. You also have this gap in the curtain where the light comes in (the lights are left on all night).
The upper bunk is also cheaper, so if you are doing it on the cheap then that is a consideration when booking. I was looking on enviously at the bunk opposite below. They had their window open, letting in a breeze as we travelled through the Thai countryside.
This train had the older style carriages built before the age of travellers with mobile devices that need charging every day, so there are no power outlets. New carriages are being rolled out and are now operating to Chiang Mai and Nong Khai, and they have power outlets.
The compartments here have a personal reading light, but I was reading on my Kindle Paperwhite, which has its own backlight.
By the middle of the night the carriage had radiated the last of it stored heat and was at a comfortable temperature. When it’s like this I prefer the fan option. I don’t usually sleep on moving vehicles so I resign myself to a night of reading. I like getting the overnight train as it’s like a reading holiday for me. In the end though I surprised myself by getting some sleep.
This train is also a popular option for travel to Surat Thani. It’s scheduled to arrive in Surat Thani at 6:25, and from there you can get the minivan+ferry combinations to Koh Samui and Koh Pha Nagan. Also at Surat Thani many food and drink vendors will get onboard selling various meals and snacks. There was no onboard snack cart on this train, so come prepared with your own food.
After Surat Thani the beds are packed up and converted back to seats. The train stops along the way at small towns, with the next major stop being Thungsong Junction Station. From here the train diverges from the main line to the Kantang branch line.
And arriving at Trang. This train continues to Kantang, so make sure you get off here. Even though Kantang is closer to the sea there are more transport options from Trang to the islands.
Trang Railway Station is in the town centre, which makes a nice change from the stations that are outside the city centre. I chose to stay here a day and have a look around as I like exploring provincial cities. There are a bunch of hotels near the station, and I stayed at Myfriend Hotel.
Opposite the station there are several travel agents catering to backpackers getting off the train. They were advertising departures for 9am and 11am (after each train) but when I visited they only had departures for 11am. The minivan+boat combo ticket from Trang to the Khuan Tung Ku pier for Koh Kradan was 450 THB ($14.11 USD). It takes about 45 minutes to get to the pier, and another 45 minutes to Koh Kradan (via Koh Muk), so allow about 2 hours for this connection.
If you get the earlier train that would give you a couple of hours to wander around Trang city while leaving your bags at the booking agent.
From Trang there are connections to the main Trang islands; Koh Kradan, Ko Ngai, Ko Muk, Ko Libon, and Ko Sukorn.
There are of course flights from Bangkok to Trang which would make more sense if you are limited for time. From Trang Airport there are also minivans waiting to transport you to the pier. If you have time though and you want a bit of a different travel experience from getting on another 737/A320 jet somewhere, then consider the overnight train to Trang.
After the train, minivan and boat, I arrived at Koh Kradan. Definitely worth the train trip.
Up next is my review of Koh Kradan, and for more rail ideas check out the Southeast Asia railways page.
Book train tickets from Bangkok to Trang
Book train tickets from Bangkok to Trang.