By now I have covered this Singapore to Thailand route a whole bunch of times, following various inland and coastal routes, on trains, planes and automobiles. But my favourite will forever be the rail routes where I have travelled the entire way from Singapore to Bangkok by train. At the same time, there isn’t exactly a direct Singapore to Bangkok train, or even a direct train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur either, because of the border crossing. Meaning there will be some stopping and changing along the way. But it’s still a fantastic journey, with some amazing stops along the way, which I highlight in the various stages from Singapore to Thailand by Train.
- Travel from Singapore to Johor Bahru: 1 hour
- Train from Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur: 4 hours
- Train from Kuala Lumpur to Thailand Border (Padang Besar): 6 hours
- Train from Thailand Border to Bangkok: 17 hours
I will also highlight some easy online bookings for each route and train from Singapore to Thailand (through 12go.Asia) as well as the better stopovers for tourists and travellers along the way; including Penang (Butterworth) and Hat Yai. But, to sum it up, the journey from Singapore to Bangkok by train can be done through 4 legs and 2 days – when rushed.
Singapore to Johor Bahru (JB)
Ideally there would be a direct train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur train, however, given the border crossing at Johor Bahru, there will always be a stop with passport control/immigration at Woodlands Train Checkpoint. But there is no direct Singapore Train to JB (Johor Bahru) from the city centre either. As the nearest Singapore MRT station would be Kranji Station where buses (#170 or #178) or a taxi, take you to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint. After a simple border crossing (involving a stamp in and out with most passports) you then need to buy a ticket for the shuttle train from Woodlands Train Checkpoint to Johor Bahru Sentral (JB Sentral). Where a train ticket to jb Sentral (Johor Bahru) is SGD5. The journey takes only 5 minutes.
Johur Bahru to Kuala Lumpur
Again, there is no direct Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur train. Instead there are two trains with a quick stopover and transfer at Gemas Railway Station. So first travelling from JB Sentral to Gemas (KTM Berhad train) takes in and around 4 hours (tickets online here). From Gemas Railway Station, you then need a ticket for the train to KL Sentral in Kuala Lumpur (tickets online here). And this completes the journey from JB to Kuala Lumpur by train, as well the first leg of the journey from Singapore to Thailand by train. Now I would forever recommend a stopover in Kuala Lumpur for those who have never visited, where it’s easy to reach the various tourist areas (KLCC/Bukit Bintang/Chinatown) from the transit hub of KL Sentral (our Kuala Lumpur Guide here). Then the nearby Brickfields area (predominantly Indian/Mamak) is great to poke around during some spare time (KL Sentral hotels here).
Kuala Lumpur to Thai Border
The trains from Kuala Lumpur to Thailand have become a lot more comfortable, efficient, and quicker since the introduction of ETS (Electric Train Service 2015). Where trains leaving KL Sentral to Padang Besar (at the Thai border) now take around 5hrs 30mins. And there are two or three trains scheduled per day (up-to-date timetable and booking here). However, both trains arrive after the daily train departure from the Thai border to Bangkok, meaning an overnight stay is necessary in either Padang Besar or ideally Hat Yai (regular local trains travel between Padang Besar and Hat Yai Junction). Otherwise it’s a relatively simple border crossing (with most western passports) again stamping out of Malaysia, then stamping into Thailand with the completion of a quick form. Here for a more comprehensive guide from Kuala Lumpur to Thailand. Although I personally prefer a stopover in Penang.
Stopover at Penang (Butterworth)
I would personally space out the journey with a night our two in Penang which is easy to reach from Butterworth Station (Kl Sentral to Butterworth here). From here it is an easy 5-minute walk to the ferry, and 20 minutes for the crossing to Penang (full route from shown in the video below). Then from Penang (Butterworth) to Padang Besar and the Thai border (here’s a decent timetable) Komuter trains travel relatively regularly (almost hourly) making it easy to reach the border in good time for onward travel and trains towards Bangkok. However, Komuter trains do take longer (2 hrs) than the alternative ETS (1hr 30mins) and are a bit uncomfortable with subway-like seating. (Note, the ticket above shows my ETS train arriving to the Thai border at 15:15PM). Here for our quick guide to Penang.
Thailand Border to Bangkok
There is just one daily train from Padang Besar to Bangkok, at least when writing this (full timetable here) and this leaves at around 17:00PM (or around an hour later from Hat Yai Junction). Then it arrives when it arrives, as Thai travel times are notoriously unpredictable, and I’ve had trains arriving more than 3 hours later than scheduled). However the journey is scheduled to take 17 hours, meaning an overnight train journey, arriving the following day at around 10:00AM. And there are 2 better options here, where first-class obviously works best, but more so when travelling as a couple, as they are double berth cabins. Then there are the 2nd class sleeper berths, best for solo travellers, and I would infinitely recommend paying extra for the lower berths in 2nd class sleepers which have window views at night. (Note, both beds will be hidden away during daytimes and replaced with seating).
Stopover at Hat Yai
Hat Yai isn’t the most exciting stopover, but it is a convenient base in the south of Thailand for those failing to find onwards tickets, or those just needing a break (Hat Yai hotels here). Although the Bangkok route is rarely fully booked, and it is more likely to be the short distance from Padang Besar to Hat Yai to be busy during Malaysian holidays (e.g. Chinese New Year…) Otherwise Hat Yai is the major hub for travel in southern Thailand, with plenties of onward travel options including buses and minivans to all the southern coastlines and islands in Thailand (e.g. Koh Lipe). Then there’s a decent enough airport for cheap flights in Thailand (although it seems to get this far only to fly). Otherwise most destinations are found further north on the train-line including stops en-route to Bangkok such as Hua Hin (tickets to Hua Hin here).