I definitely want to book the sleeper train from Bangkok to Chang Mai and www.seat61.com looks really usefull. Has anyone book a ticket through the recommended sites? Are they all trustworthy and reliable? Any experiences with the following agencies would be excellent as i am probably being over cautious but i worry i will get there and have no ticket:
I did the trip both ways about a decade ago. It's a yawn a minute trip. Why don't you fly? AirAsia, 5 times a day and you're there in no time.
I thought it might be nice to experience the train ride and scenary, plus you save a night's accomodation although that doesn't really bother me. Is it that boring then?
Bangkok to Chiang Mai on the overnight sleeper train is an unremarkable trip, but like you say it can save a night's accomodation. If you stay in budget hotels they're not that expensive though, so you're not saving a massive amount of cash.
Flying doesn't actually save you that much time though in my opinion cos the train leaves at round 6pm and you're asleep for most of the journey, whereas if you fly you've got to get there an hour early for check-in and then it takes you up half an hour to disboard and get your luggage and stuff.
If you get the overnight sleeper train you lose a full evening to travel but overall you're not losing that much more actual 'awake' time than you would if you fly.
Also, if you're going to be in Bangkok for a couple of days before you go to Chiang Mai then I would just buy the ticket yourself from the train station, rather than go through an agency.
Thanks Emmett70. I was going to fly initially but thought as i had only landed in Bangkok the day before we would be really tired with jetlag etc so it was a good chance to make our journey whilst catching up with sleep!
I wanted to buy the tickets myself in person but as we are only going to arrive in Bangkok the day before i have read it will be very difficult to get a 1st class or 2nd class sleeper berth. Therefore we are gonna have to use an agency which i am trying to do at the moment. Any idea of a reputable one?
I wouldn't say it would be very difficult to get a train ticket in person the day before, but it would be a risk.
I've never used an agency to buy train tickets so I wouldn't know which one to recommend. Soz.
But you can also buy tickets by e-mail if you contact them 15 days before you wish to travel.
The official website of the State Railway of Thailand has a link to http://www.thairailwayticket.com/ for online booking, so I think this company should be reliable.
When travelling on the overnight sleeper, Chiangmai/Bangkok, be sure to take care of your belongings! I usually use a bicycle lock to thread through my luggage and clip to one of the handrails/luggage rack closest to my bed. I also put my wallet and credit cards etc. inside the pillow case as I think I would wake up if someone tried to steal them. Also take plenty of drinking water, a wet flannel for a strip wash in the loo before arriving, and a roll of toilet paper. There is never any left when you need it most!
When you arrive in Chiangmai, ignore the tuk tuk/taxi drivers who will rush to greet you. They will charge far more to take you to your hotel/guesthouse than you need to pay. When you come out of the station turn right and walk to the main road (about 500 metres) and flag down a passing tuk tuk/taxi.
In my opinion, you should always try to book ahead. Right now, it is not too busy as most high season tourists have gone home. But the trains are popular with locals too and it is very difficult to book the overnight sleeper at certain times of the year e.g. New Year, Songkran, Loy Kratong, and one week either side of all other public and religious holidays.
I disagree that the journey is boring. If you have never done it, it is quite an adventure and you invariably meet interesting people along the way. Of course, you don't see much scenery at night but get up early around 6.30 and watch the sunrise. Oh, and don't believe the estimate arrival time. The trains usually leave on time (so don't be late!) but invariably arrive at least an hour later than the time stated.
Thanks for all the input and advice guys, much appreciated.
I have finally booked my ticket for the train with Charlie Connection Travel & Tour. They responded very quickly to my email and have confirmed my tickets within 24hrs of my payment. They charged the price advertised on the official website plus 250 Baht handling fee which seems a very fair price to me considering there is no way i could chance not getting a sleeper berth on the specific train i wanted.
I have ordered a first class berth so i am assuming there will be a lock on the door which would mean the worry of my belongings being stolen shouldn't be an issue anyway.
Does anyone recommend any good hotels/hostels in Chiang Mai? Looking for something on the cheap side so would be prepared to spend up to £30 (1400-1500Baht) for a room for two.