The Night Train: Bangkok to Malaysia

I have taken on this journey, from Bangkok to Malaysia, four times now over the past few years. The first time was over 5 years ago, and the route hasn’t changed much since then, or at least until recently. In mid-2015 the Malaysia KMT railways upgraded to electrical lines, meaning the connection at the border has changed. While the train from Bangkok previously continued through onto the Malaysian lines, this is no longer the case, and tickets can only be purchased as far a Padang Besar on the Thai / Malay border. So this post has been updated to show this new route. Note, it is now trickier than before but the basics to the journey, as well as the stations and ticketing offices en route, are shown exact in the video below. This is the full route from Bangkok to Malaysia by Train and forwarding to Penang island.


Where to Buy Tickets?

For travel from Bangkok to Malaysia it is best to book in advance, either at Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong train station, or through online agents such as thailandtrainticket.com where tickets can be reserved for collection. Pre-booking is also best during holiday periods, and weekends, where I’ve found myself left behind in Bangkok in the past. There is only one journey daily from Bangkok to Malaysia by train and I would always go for the lower berth. Then, given the lower berth tickets are fully booked on reservation, it’s still worth checking at the ticket office on the day of travel. It is possible to pay the difference for last-minute cancellations. Anyway, here are the basic details of the journey from Bangkok to Malaysia by train:

Bangkok to Padang Besar: Departs 14:45 – Arrives 07:55 (once daily)
Train Class: Second Class Air-con Sleeper
Ticket Price: Upper Berth – 870 baht | Lower Berth – 960 baht
Official Website and Scheduleshttp://www.railway.co.th/

Bangkok to Malaysia by Train Padang Besar Penang Butterworth Bangkok to Malaysia by Train Padang Besar Penang Butterworth  Bangkok to Malaysia by Train Padang Besar Penang Butterworth


Hua Lamphong Train Station (Bangkok)

Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Train Station is easily found by taxi or using the MRT Underground also to the Hua Lamphong stop (Follow Exit 2). The station has a large waiting area, many ticketing booths, snack shops and a cheap coupon operated food court. Train announcements are made on loud speakers, in Thai, but pretty much everyone working there will speak basic English. If you don’t understand what’s going on just check your train number and wait at the platform area. If staying in the nearby hotel area here.

Hua Lamphong, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train Padang Besar Penang ButterworthHua Lamphong, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station PenangTrain Station Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang


Day Time Seating

The sleeper beds are hidden away during the day and individual seating is in their place. Given the seats are also meant for just two passengers, the upper berth and lower berth beds, this means there is plenty of room and comfort. Each seat also has space underneath to hide larger baggage, such as backpacks, suitcases and whatnot, and if you plan on sleeping early, it is possible to ask the on-board steward to set-up the sleeper beds at anytime. He’s normally lazing around the cars somewhere during day times.

Day Seating, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train Padang Besar Penang Butterworth Food Hawkers, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang Daytime Seating, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang Big Seats, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang


Eating and Restaurant Car

The train has a restaurant car named ‘Bogie Gourmet’ which has a list of set menus available either at the restaurant car itself or delivered to your seat where a small table will be set up. Dinner sets are all priced between 150 Baht and under 220 baht and generally consist of three small mains and some fruit. But they honestly don’t feel like value for money. I tend to just bring along my own snacks, or buy the cheap meals peddled by hawkers along the way. At almost every stop the hawkers will do a run through the cart with their own local fairs e.g. Kai Tod Haad Yai (Hai Yai Fried Chicken) so you get a taste of different regions along the way. Prices vary with hawkers from around 20 Baht, to 50 Baht meals. Note, alcohol is now banned onboard trains in Thailand, but it’s easy to sneak on your own.

Eating On-Board, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train Padang Besar Penang Butterworth Restaurant Menu, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang Restaurant Car, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang Set Meals, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang


The Night Time Sleeper Beds

When needed, ask the train steward to set up your sleeper beds, or just wait your turn. This should be around or just after sunset. Here one bed will be pulled down from the roof, while the second is made from the seating below. Both top and bottom berths have curtain rails for privacy. If unable to get the lower berth I would honestly wait for a train where they are available (if not in a hurry). Not only does the lower berth have enough space to fit two people, but it also has a window to watch the night go by. The sunset, evening and night views are worth the journey alone. I find it surprisingly easy to sleep given the sound of rickety rails, hooting horns and movement on board. The upper berth, on the other hand, feels cramped, claustrophobic, and it also gets cold being close to the air-con.

Monks on a Train, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train Padang Besar Penang Butterworth Sleeper beds, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang  Sleeping Berths, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang


Bathroom and Washroom Facilities

At the end of each passenger car there is an open washroom and toilet. The washroom provides sinks, mirrors, tissues, soap etc. and there’s always plenty time to freshen up. Note the toilets maybe different in each car where one may have a squat toilet (pictured), while another has a western style toilet. If you grab the short straw just walk to the next car and use theirs. The toilets don’t stink as much as expected and get cleaned periodically throughout the journey.

Hat Yai Train Station, Singapore to Bangkok Overland Island Hopping Wash Facilities, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang Passenger Cars, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang Squat Toilets, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang


Stopover at Hat Yai Junction

If you fail to find tickets from Bangkok, straight through to Malaysia, I would suggest checking for tickets to Hat Yai (or even Pedang Basar). This is due to the bottom route often being booked up by Malaysian holiday makers who often travel up this short distance to Hat Yai across the border. I have been in a similar situation when travelling the during Chinese New Year and tickets were fully booked for days. Instead I bought tickets to Hat Yai, stayed a night in the city, then took a normal train down the next day. I could probably have travelled the same day but a night in Hat Yai is always worthwhile. Otherwise, if travelling the full journey, in the morning, at roughly 08.00am, the sleeper beds will be put away around the same time as arriving to Hat Yai. The stop here normally lasts around 30 minutes for the restaurant car and engine car both to decouple. The engine car is then replaced (or at least this was what happened before the Malaysia line upgrade).

Hat Yai Junction, Singapore to Bangkok Overland Island Hopping  Chinese New Year, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train Padang Besar Penang Butterworth  Hat Yai Fried Chicken, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train Padang Besar Penang Butterworth


Border Crossing at Padang Besar

This is where things have changed, where normally at the Malaysia border of Padang Besar, the train would stop and wait as the passengers go through passport control and immigration, before continuing on into Malaysia. This is no longer the situation where you now have to buy tickets and board a new train on the Malaysian side of the border. So be sure to take all your belongings. The crossing is a relatively simple out / in border crossing. Stamp out of Thailand and stamp into Malaysia where VISA on arrival is given to many nations free of charge. On one occasion (when I ended up in Hat Yai, I did overstay my VISA a day in Thailand and was given a small fine of 500 Baht (below right). It was relatively painless.

Backpackers Travel, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train Padang Besar Penang Butterworth Visa on Arrival, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang Malaysia Border, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang Overstay Fine, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train Padang Besar Penang Butterworth


Padang Besar to Penang (via Butterworth)

This route is the route I almost always follow (and it is all highlighted in the video at the top). From Padang Besar the cheapest and easiest option would be the KMT Komuter trains (around 11 RM to Butterworth) which really aren’t too uncomfortable, but waiting for the faster ETS option (pictured below) means a long long wait. The faster ETS option is also more than double the price (29 RM). From Butterworth Station is is an easy 5 minute walk to find the pier for Georgetown (Penang). Note, ATMs are not easy to find on arrival so you may want to exchange money on the train between Hat Yai and Padang Besar, where hawkers offer decent exchange rates. The boat to Penang costs only 1.2 RM and the journey takes roughly 20mins. On arrival I suggest just crossing the road and following Chulia Street to the main tourist stretch of Georgetown (Chulia hotel List). There are taxis but don’t expect them to use meters and opt to pay a fixed price of no more than 15RM throughout the nearby Georgetown area.

KTM ETS Train, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train Padang Besar Penang Butterworth Butterworth Station, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang Penang Ferry, Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang Penang Boat. Bangkok to Malaysia by Train, Butterworth Station Penang

34 Comments

  • Hey Allan did you know if the exchange booth at the railway station is open on weekends, I am having trouble getting places here in Bangkok to take my thai baht and convert it into Ringgitt

    • Hi Penny. I can’t be sure but I would guess yes. It is a very cheap trip to Penang on the boat from Butterworth so if you can get small change you can find better exchanges in the town. Also on our last trip we found locals boarding on to offer money exchange on the train after crossing the border offering the same rates. Hope this helps 🙂 A

  • Hi Allan this was a good piece of information. please let me know if there is an option for booking online tickets from BKK to KUL. Thanks in Advance

  • Mr. Allan, sounds interesting to travel though need more info for ticket purchase/booking. I want to travel from bangkok to kuala lumpor then singapore. Any advise?kindly pm me.

    • Hi Sunny. I’m in Penang now travvelling the opposite direction tomorrow. Re that website they have to send it to a given address / hotel in Bangkok by mail. I left it too late (needs 4 days) unfortunately so the other option was to pick-it up at their office. In the end I went straight to the Hua Lamphong train station to buy the ticket. It was Chinese New Year so all the trains were booked up at the time and I could only make it as far as Hat Yai. Here you can then switch to normal seats for the remained of the journey (or stay a night as I did). Airasia can be similar price and I’ve actually flown for cheaper before. Hope this helps. A.

  • Hi Allan,

    First of all thank you for your website, very useful!! I wanted to ask you, how many days it takes to renew your thai visa in Penang?

    Thanks again!

    • It will be two days. You drop in the passport before midday the first day then pick it up again at 2pm the day following. The times are similar when using the agents on Chulia street only drop off should be earlier. Best of luck. A.

  • Hi Allan, great website – I have just 1 question: Is there a restaurant car all the way from Bangkok to Malaysia? Cheers Marianne, Denmark

    • Hi Marianne. Yes the restaurant car will decouple at the border. You can also order food to the seats and a quick table is set up. There may also be a restaurant car on the Malaysia side, but the food will change. A

  • Hi Allan
    Thanks so much for all this info, was feeling pretty lost until a minute ago hahaha.

    My girlfriend and I are South Africans teaching in Rayong and need to do our first non b visa run, this over night train option looks amazing but I did notice you posted the info back on 2013… in your opinion is it still a good option for us now?

    Many thanks for all the awesomeness info.
    Steve

    • Hey Steve. Definitely, it’s still a good option. I live out near the borders of Cambodia / Laos right now and continue to go to Malaysia for my VISA runs. Always stop at Penang for the food. Last time I travelled was this year in March and will be back again in coming months. A.

      • Oh fantastic that’s great to hear. One of the previous teachers at our school told me a horror story of a 36 hour train ride from Hatyai to Bangkok, that was a bit of a scare.

        Thanks again for your help, been a life saver, money saver, sanity saver… the list goes on. Will be sure to let you know how our trip pans out.

        Steve.

  • Hi there again Allan

    I’m struggling to buy my ticket all the way from rayong. I do not have a thai bank account or credit card to buy online with… do you know of an agency that accepts payments at 7/11?

    • Hi Ken. You will have to wait until you’ve crossed the border. I did the same last week. More or less take a train to Padang Besar then, once through immigration, take a left along the platform and the ticketing office is on the left. I have included an image of my ticket. Trains leave Padang Besar at 15:40 and arrive in Bangkok at 10:30 the following morning. 960Baht for lower berth. I arrived to the border by the faster EMT but forgot about the one hour time difference between countries. It was a long wait and there’s not really anywhere with aircon at the station.Anyway, best of luck. A https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/51615b606f0dee58e2a3b8c7588ac641c7f5e6fc79f4c6fc5ae4db9ebb4ccae4.jpg

    • Hi Lee. I really am not certain. It maybe best to check their terms and conditions etc. But my guess is both. I think you will only be able to make a reservation through that company. Then you will need to pick up the actual train tickets at Butterworth station, and then again with the Thai ticket at the border. You will therefore need a printout of the reservation to show at each. It’s probably best just to print the confirmation letter to be safe. Or at least have a screen grab.

      • I had a quick look myself and found as below. This is similar with a couple of companies where, more or less, they just buy your tickets in advance then you have to pick them up at their offices. It goes guarantee a seat but it also means a lot of dicking around. It’s honestly, for most people, easier just calling at the train station.

        How are train tickets delivered?
        Thailand’s State Railway does not accept e-tickets (yet), therefore your ticket (the boarding pass) will be printed and you need to pick it up at our offices (parcel office at Chiang Mai inside the train station, reception desk of the Bosshotel opposite the railway station in Chiang Mai or at our counter in the DOB Building opposite Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong railway station). Or if you selected the shipping option you can collect your boarding passes at the parcel office of your departure station.

  • Hey Allan, thank you so much for sharing this. I was kinda lost as to how to get from Bangkok to Butterworth and was already confused by all the information online till I watched your video. Super helpful! Now I finally understood that once you reach the Malaysian Border of Padang Besar, you still have to take a train to get to Butterworth. I thought it’s just waiting on the other side once you cross the Thai-Malaysian border. 🙂 Please correct me if I’m wrong though.

    I’m planning to do this route soon – Bangkok to Penang via train then ferry – and will definitely reference your site in case I need more information about the border crossing. Again, thanks Allan!

    • Glad I was of help 🙂 Yup from Padang Besar it is still a further 150km to Butterworth. Originally the train continued straight through the border, but this changed so I had to update here to show the new process. Hope you enjoy the travels 🙂 A

  • Planning on doing this same trip in March, but just informed that the rail is down in Prachuap Khiri Khan, so need to make alternate plans. Is there any other way other than fly?. Also if the rail is open, can we book 1st class cabins?
    Thank you

    • The trains should be fine by then and first class cabins are normally the last to be booked. Otherwise there should be similar busses from Bangkok’s southern bus terminal. But long haul busses are not fun at all. I only use them out of desperation. Best of luck 🙂

  • Hi there! thanks for the writing the article it really helped me make my choice. I actually need to do the the Penang visa run as fast as possible and just get a 15 day stamp back into Thailand so I can catch my flight in a week or so afterwards. Would it be possible for me to do this in one run: i.e. get the train from Hua Lamphong to Padang Besar and then get the next possible train back again from there a few hours later? Or would I have to go to Penang and spend a day there? Any information would be really appreciated as I have work here I can’t miss and Im on a very tight budget at the moment.

    Also if there is a cheaper option to do this 15 day stamp run that avoids any visa entry fees (I.e.: Cambodia) that would be greatly appreciated – I’ve basically blown all my cash and am living off the baht I have now until I get paid – they day I land back home :/

  • Hi Allen, Yes I have already extended in Bangkok so this is as far as I know my only option. Thanks for sharing the route and the quick reply.

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