To travel from Chaing Mai to destinations in the south of Thailand by train, there is no need to travel all the way to Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok.
Instead, you can take a Chiang Mai to Bang Sue Train (located 20 - 25 minutes ride northeast of the city centre), then from Bang Sue Junction Railway Station, you can connect to the State Railways of Thailand's Southern Line for trains to places like Hua Hin, Chumphon (for boats to Ko Tao), Surat Thani (for boats to Koh Smaui and Koh Phangan, as well as bus transfers to Phuket, Krabi, Phi Phi islands on the west coast), Hat Yai and in to Malaysia.
Bang Sue station is also fairly close to Mo Chit Bus Station if you are planning to connect to a bus or minivan service from there.
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Rap = Rapid
Ex. = Express
Sp. Ex. = Special Express
Sp. Ex. DRC = Special Express Diesel Railcar - (Sprinter Train)
Ticket prices for these trains depends on a number of factors:
Class of travel.
Air-conditioned or fan cooled carriages.
There are set fees for each type of train and A/C added to the basic fare.
So, if you want to travel cheaply, take a slower Rapid service, in a fan cooled carriage.
Advance booking is always highly recommended for all long distance train journeys in Thailand.
You can book tickets on this route up to 90 days in advance from any SRT station.