Kanchanaburi is west of Bangkok on the Nam Tok railway line, separate from the main north and south lines. This line formed what was part of the Death Railway, which connected Thailand to Burma by rail. There has been proposals to connect Thailand and Myanmar by rail via this route, but for now it remains as just a plan.
For travellers visiting Kanchanaburi that means there is a bit of a backtrack to continue north or south. If you have already been to Bangkok and want to avoid backtracking, the quickest way south is by a chartered taxi, which takes about 3 hours to cover the 200km journey. Kanchanaburi to Hua Hin by minivan is the cheapest option and takes about 4 hours.
I have travelled by minivan in Thailand a number of times and I try to avoid it whenever possible. The minivans tend to be cramped, with more seats added than was originally intended by the manufacturer.
The other option is to go from Kanchanaburi to Hua Hin by train. The bad news is that the trip by train takes 6 hours and 16 minutes and it involves a change of trains. The good news is that it’s more comfortable, and you get to see one of the great sights of Thailand as a bonus.
These are the two trains to get from Kanchanaburi to Hua Hin in the shortest time.
Train 260 (towards Thonburi)
9:19 Nakhon Pathom
Train 261 (towards Hua Hin)
10:48 Nakhon Pathom
13:35 Hua Hin
Trains in Thailand run at odd hours of the day due to north-south trains sharing the same line, so this time table isn’t replicable at other times of the day.
The 7:19 train at Kanchanaburi is going from Nam Tok to Thonburi station in Bangkok. It’s all 3rd class seating with no reservations required. There are a combination of padded and wooden seats, so check the carriage for the softer seats.
You could technically change at Nong Pladuk Junction, which is the junction where southern and western trains diverge. There is less to do in Nong Pladuk and you would be waiting even longer (it’s 20 minutes from Nakhon Pathom). Fast trains don’t stop here either, so if you are looking to get a train further south then you still need to change at Nakhon Pathom.
There is a wait of 1 hour and 27 minutes at Nakhon Pathom, which would normally be a boring stop.
Luckily for you, the Nakhon Pathom train station is in the town, so you have time to have a look around. As soon as you exit the station look straight down the road and you will see the Phra Pathom Chedi, which at 120.5 metres is the tallest stupa in the world.
It takes about 10 minutes to walk from the station, so there is plenty of time to have a look.
Between the station and the stupa there is a market, so this is a good chance to have an early lunch, especially as there is no food service on the trains. I met a lovely lady by the bridge selling grilled chicken and sticky rice.
Next to the train line there is a cafe with wifi so you can sit there while waiting for the train. If you exit the station just turn right on the road that follows the train and you will find Nomu Cafe.
Nakhon Pathom to Hua Hin
Trains are usually late in Thailand but you should still be at the station on time. Today the train was 10 minutes late.
The train to Hua Hin is a 3rd Class “Ordinary Train”, and it is indeed very ordinary. It looks like an old metro train, with hard seats and straps for standing-room passengers. It’s also very cheap, with tickets costing 33 baht ($1 USD) from Nakhon Pathom to Hua Hin.
As with the Kanchanaburi train, check the other carriages to see if there are cushioned seats.
I’ve never seen anyone sit on a train roof in Thailand. I wonder if that was a thing like it is in some other countries.
Hua Hin is also close enough to the centre of town and the beach to be walkable. It’s also one of the most beautiful train stations in Southeast Asia, so it beats arriving in a dusty minivan carpark.
So if you are not in a hurry I would recommend the train over a minivan trip. It’s a more spacious and comfortable ride, the slow trains are a bit of an adventure, and you get the bonus of visiting an impressive landmark of Thailand.
For both trains you buy tickets at the station on the day of travel (there are no reserved seats).
For longer train trips you can book Thailand train tickets here.
If you just want to get to Hua Hin in a hurry then book minivan tickets here.
For more rail travel inspiration visit the guide to train travel in Southeast Asia.