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How to Travel From Singapore to Chiang-Mai, Thailand by Train

Night scene in Penang
Night scene in Penang.

An unbroken rail line runs from Singapore through the entire length of Peninsular Malaysia and most of Thailand up to Chiang-Mai in the north, around 2,200 kilometers (1,375 miles).The journey is not difficult, with ample opportunities to break your journey into comfortable sections. Booking trains is straightforward, and a rail pass gives you up to six weeks of unlimited rail travel in Thailand and Malaysia for around $100. The trains rattle and shake along at a sedate pace, giving you plenty of time to stare out of the window and relax and chat with your neighbors.

The opposite is the Eastern & Oriental Express. The green-liveried carriages with private compartments and dining cars are right out of Agatha Christie. The train stops at Penang and Kanchanaburi, among other places, allowing passengers to get off and spend the morning exploring. The trip from Singapore to Bangkok takes three full days and costs about $1,447. Bangkok to Chiang-Mai takes two days and costs about $936.

Rail Passes

KTM Rail Passes are available for overseas tourists at railway ticket agents and major railway stations including Singapore, KL and Penang. They are good for unlimited rail travel in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, though you may have to pay supplement charges on some trains, for example for sleeper cars.

Second class
Adults: $35, $55, $70 for respectively 5, 10, 15 days. Children under 14 : $18, $28, $35 for respectively 5, 10, 15 days
First class
Adults: $55 and $120 for respectively 10 and 30 days. Children under 14: $28 and $60 for respectively 10 and 30 days. If you are under 30 and hold an ISIC, YIEE or YH card then you can get an Explorer pass for Malaysia and Singapore (but not Thailand) for seven days unlimited second class travel for $32.


During the run up to and for the duration of major holidays in Thailand train bookings will be very heavy and reservations may be impossible to get. Third class is often jam-packed and you may even find floor space impossible to get.

Booking at least the day before is highly recommended and essential on some more popular routes like the International Express and Bangkok to Chiang-Mai, both of which are often full.

Tickets can be booked up to a month in advance in both Malaysia and Thailand. Tickets for Malaysian trains can be bought on-line (see websites). You can either print out the ticket yourself or pick it up once you are in Malaysia.

In Georgetown, there is a ticket office off the causeway leading to the ferry so there is no need to actually cross over to Butterworth. It’s open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., though during Ramadan, the hours can be erratic.

In Bangkok, most travel agents have heard of trains and can get you a ticket at the same price as at the station. If you must do it yourself, there is a large advance booking office in Hualamphong station to the right of the platforms. It’s busy but the staff is helpful. Open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Main Station Addresses

Singapore Railway Station: Keppel Road just to the southeast of China Town.
• Kuala Lumpur Station (old station): Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin.
• KL Sentral (new station): Jalan Travers
• Hualamphong Station (Bangkok): Rama IV Road NR Krung Kasem Road.


Eastern & Oriental Express:
Malaysian Railways (KTM):
Malaysian Tourism Board (railpass info):
Malaysia & Singapore & Thailand (railpass info): and
To pre-order tickets for trains in Thailand: and
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