After a great time in Laos, it was time to move onto Bangkok in order to sort out our visas for Myanmar and to enquire about an Indian Visa. If you are short on time and have the money, you can easily catch a flight to Bangkok. There is an option of a sleeper bus but I sometimes find these quite uncomfortable. What we decided to do was catch the train from Thanaleng Train Station in Vientiane (the only train station on Laos) to Nong Khai Station, then a sleeper train to Bangkok.
There are a couple of different ways to do this. We organised it at our hostel, paying 250000 Kip (£25) for a lift to the station, a train from Thanaleng to Nong Khai in Thailand, then a sleeper train from Nong Khai to Bangkok. The other option is to make your own way to Thanaleng Station via Tuk Tuk or taxi, then purchase your ticket at the train station. There is NOT an ATM at the station and the ticket costs a total of 758 Bhat (£19), but doesn’t include a lift to the station. You can only pay in Thai Bhat so by the time you’ve changed up Kip to Bhat and made your own way there, you have pretty much paid £25. Once you have picked up your tickets, you have to go and get your passport stamped out of Laos. This costs 10000 Kip (£1) and the immigration point is opposite the ticket window, all very simple. If you choose to organise the ticket through your hostel, the chances are you will arrive at the station at 15:30. The train leaves at 17:30 so there is plenty of waiting around. Probably the only benefit of organising it yourself is that you can arrive at the train station in your own time, leaving you more time to explore Vientiane.
As I said the train leaves Thanaleng Station at 17:30, crosses the river and you jump off the train at 17:40 in Thailand. If you sit at the front of the train you will be first off and first through immigration. Most nationalities now get a 30 day free visa (some get less, Australians only get 15 days). The security guards will usher you towards the visa window, where you are quickly stamped into the country. We were through immigration at 17:45. The sleeper train leaves Nong Khai at 19:10, arriving in Bangkok around 06:00. The train was already waiting at the station, (the train number will be on the ticket) so you can either get straight on, or go and find some food. There is some lovely street food a cross the road serving some great Pad Thai, I had forgotten how good that was!! If you do not have any Thai Bhat there are 2 cash machines at Nong Khai Station, both charging 200 Bhat (£5) for cash withdrawals. I thought that was expensive but in my 5 days in Bangkok I haven’t found anywhere that doesn’t charge 200 Bhat.
At 19:10 on the dot the train chugs away from the station, so it’s time to settle in and get comfortable. Around 20:10 the train hostess comes round and makes up your bed, so you can lay down and relax for the night. I had a bottom bunk in a quiet part of the train, with no kids running around, so I fell asleep at 20:30. I woke briefly a couple of times in the night but all in all had a great nights sleep. At 05:30 I was awoken by the train hostess, so she could unmake the beds on our approach to Bangkok’s Hua Lumphong Station. All in all it was not a bad trip, one of the best on a sleeper train I’ve had and I would recommend it to anyone.