Getting to Ayutthaya cheaply by train for less than $1

An Ordinary train in Bangkok
Public transit is by far the best way to get the local flavor of any country. Thailand’s rail system is no exception.

We decided to take a day trip to see the ruins of the old Siamese Empire in Ayutthaya. A minibus trip from Mo-Chi would run us about $30 in addition to the cost of getting to Mo-Chi. Organized tours ran closer to $60 each with the convenience of departing from the hotel. Or we could take the train for ฿15 each way (~45¢). We took the train.

Ahead of time we read a mixed bag of reviews. Some praised its price and efficiency. Others complained it was notoriously late. We experienced both.

There are four different types of trains on this line. Each with different classes of service. The faster the service, the more it will cost. We ended up using an Ordinary train for our trip.

  • Special Express - fastest service with only first and second-class (฿345) cars.
  • Express - more stops with first, second (฿245) and third-class (฿165) cars.
  • Rapid - not often used on this route, make most stops with first, second (฿65) and third-class (฿45) cars.
  • Ordinary - slowest service stopping at all stations. Only third-class (฿15) available.

Bangkok Hua Lamphong Railway Station ticket counter
At one point Thai Railways didn't sell third-class tickets to foreigners, but they have opened it up to allow everyone to save money.

After reviewing the schedule, we decided the 9:25am Ordinary train. It was supposed to take only 30 minutes longer than the Special Express and worked best for our schedule.

Trains to Ayutthaya depart from the Bangkok Hua Lamphong Railway Station. Advice from anyone not behind the ticket counter should be viewed suspiciously. Those who appeared to be rail staff walking through the station were pleasant, helpful and provided accurate information without pushing upsells.

It's recommended to purchase long distance sleepers in advance, but short trips, like to Ayutthaya, can be purchased the same day. It didn't seem like they ever sold-out of third-class tickets.

We decided to purchase a one-way ticket in Bangkok so we weren't locked into returning on an Ordinary train in the event of a delay. These trains travel long distances and early delays are tough to recover.

Platform signage in English and Thai
We were directed to our train platform and settled into our third class seats for the 16-stop trip. The Ordinary train was old and didn’t have air-conditioning, but it was clean by Thai standards and departed on-time.

A few minutes in, I noticed we were traveling slowly and quickly fell behind schedule. It gave us the benefit of being able to take pictures, but that got old as we started to leave Bangkok behind.

The schedule appeared to pad for some delays. At Bang Sue Junction, the third station, the train was scheduled for an 18 minute stop, but we sat for more than 30 minutes. Staff started making announcements in Thai over the loudspeaker, but nobody moved and we couldn’t understand so we just sat there. Finally, someone made an announcement in broken English explaining the train had broken down and we needed to get off to take a different train.

That got my attention and many tourist followed us off the train.
A gap in the door offered a welcomed breeze

Railway staff on the platform directed us to the ticket window where an employee explained we could use our ticket to take a Special Express train arriving in a few minutes. We then repeated the information to several tourist groups behind us.

Almost an hour after arriving at Bang Sue, the Special Express train arrived and everyone packed on.

It was standing room only in this non-air conditioned car and with this many people it got hot quickly. Tara was lucky and found a seat. I stood for the remaining hour. One of the doors of the train was broken and provided much needed ventilation.

Even after the delay, we arrived only about 45 minutes late. We still had plenty of time to explore the ruins. Once we got our bearings we went across the street to the river, took the ferry to the other side and walked a few kilometers to the ruins. A 7-Eleven along the way is a great place to stop for water or other supplies you may need.

After a long day, we returned to the station early to take the 6:48pm Ordinary train back to Bangkok.

Before purchasing the ticket, I made sure it was on-time. The ticket agent said it was and we went to the platform to wait.

One-way rail ticket to Ayutthaya
Soon, the 6:06pm Special Express arrived late. Staff went throughout the platform making announcements in Thai and English. We noticed they made a point to talk to tourist to make sure they got on the right train. We were among the few who were holding tickets for the cheaper Ordinary train and were instructed to wait.

About 10 minutes later staff walked the platform making announcements in multiple languages in anticipation of our train.

This time the train arrived on the opposite platform. Unlike most Western stations there is no designated area to cross the tracks. Instead everyone seems to cross where they like. We just followed station staff and then waited further down the platform, away from the cluster, in hopes of getting a seat. It didn't work.

The train arrived crowded and all the seats were taken. As we made our way toward Bangkok the crowd thinned and we were able to snag a seat within a few stops.

Thankfully, the trip was uneventful and we arrived at Hua Lamphong a few minutes early.
Getting to Ayutthaya cheaply by train for less than $1 Getting to Ayutthaya cheaply by train for less than $1 Reviewed by Brandon on November 21, 2017 Rating: 5

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