Bangkok to Kanchanaburi By Train: How To Visit the Bridge on the River Kwai

Travelling from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi by train was easily one of my favourite experiences in Thailand. It’s as much a part of visiting the town as crossing the iconic Bridge on the River Kwai, exploring the Jeath War Museum or perhaps making a pilgrimage to the Hellfire Pass museum.

Read on for my comprehensive guide to visiting Kanchanaburi from Bangkok, including train, bus and minibus information, how to book tickets as well as day tours and hotel recommendations. There are a LOT of things to do in Kanchanaburi and the surrounding area which makes it a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.

 

Bangkok to Kanchanaburi By Train: How To Visit the Bridge on the River Kwai


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Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi is a town in a province of the same name in the west of Thailand, approximately 135 kilometres from Bangkok. It’s famous for a number of significant historical sights including the infamous Death Railway and the Bridge on the River Kwai (Kwae as it’s actually known). The area is a must visit for anyone with an interest in WW2 but there is plenty here for everyone – from temples and night markets to waterfalls and national parks. Below are just some of the awesome sights you can check out in and around Kanchanaburi:

  • Bridge on the River Kwai
  • JEATH War Museum
  • Allied War Cemetery
  • Nam Tok
  • Hellfire Pass Memorial and Museum
  • Wampo Viaduct
  • Erawan National Park
  • Sai Yok National Park
A bridge on the River Kwai and floating buildings
Bridge on the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi

How to Visit Kanchanaburi from Bangkok

Kanchanaburi is one of the most popular day trips from Bangkok. So it makes sense that there are a number of ways to get there from the Thai capital. For me, the most interesting way of visiting Kanchanaburi is by taking a train from Bangkok’s Thonburi train station. The station, which is also sometimes referred to as Bangkok Noi is well connected to the rest of the city by public transport. However, it’s also possible to travel to Kanchanaburi using a special tourist train service, public buses or as part of an organised tour.

A station building next to train tracks with an official signalling a passing train
A station on the Bangkok-Kanchanaburi route

Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Train Times

The unhurried train journey through Bangkok suburbs and peaceful countryside is probably the most authentic and fun way to reach Kanchanaburi. Scheduled trains depart Thonburi station in Bangkok for Kanchanaburi twice a day, seven days a week. A one way ticket costs 100 baht (£2.50) and there is no special rate for buying a return ticket.

07:50 

07:50 train from Bangkok Thonburi is scheduled to arrive in Kanchanaburi at 10:25. It then continues to the River Kwai Bridge stop, arriving at 10:44. If you want to continue to Nam Tok (for the Hellfire Pass), stay on and you will arrive at 12:30

13:55

13:55 train from Bangkok Thonburi is scheduled to arrive in Kanchanaburi at 16:24, River Kwai Bridge at 16:33 and Nam Tok at 18:30.

Bear in mind that all times are approximate and are subject to delays. So just sit back and enjoy the ride!

A train crossing a bridge on the way from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi
A train crossing the Bridge on the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi to Bangkok Train Times

There are, again, two trains that leave Kanchanaburi for Bangkok Thonburi station.

07:19

07:19 train departs Kanchanaburi station and arrives at Thonburi at 10:25. If you are travelling from River Kwai Bridge, it leaves at 07:12. The train leaves Nam Tok at 05:20

14:48

14:48 train departs Kanchanaburi station and arrives at Thonburi at 17:40. If you are travelling from River Kwai Bridge, it leaves at 14:40. The train leaves Nam Tok at 12:55.

People waiting to board the Kanchanaburi-Bangkok train
Waiting to board the train at Kanchanaburi

Getting to Thonburi Train Station in Bangkok, Thailand

While most trains in the capital leave from Hua Lamphong station, the Bangkok-Kanchanaburi train departs Thonburi station in the west of the city. Don’t make the mistake of heading to the main train station. Luckily Thonburi is fairly easy to get to.

First, take the BTS train to Saphan Taksin (S6) stop on the Silom Line. You want to be travelling in the direction of Bang Wa. Interchange at Siam if you need to. Once you get to Saphan Taksin, take Exit 1 and head towards the pier and the river. For more information on the BTS, including maps, fare types and service information, visit the official BTS website.

Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to either Wang Lang (N10) or Thonburi Railway (N11) stop. Last time I checked all coloured flag boats stop at either stop but the Orange Flag boats are most frequent. Either pay at the pier or once you get on board. The cost is no more than 14 baht.

Once off the boat, either take a taxi to the station or walk for about 15 mins. If you are taking the morning train, factor in traffic when travelling by taxi. We made it to the train with literally seconds to spare!

Alternatively, you could just take the taxi from your accommodation in Bangkok.

A train on a platform at Thonburi station
Thonburi station in Bangkok

Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Train Information and Tips

  • The train doesn’t leave from Bangkok’s main Hua Lamphong station instead departing from Bangkok Thonburi. Bangkok Thonburi (also known as Bangkok Noi) is on the west side of the Chao Phraya river so bear that in mind when setting off. For details on how to get to Thonburi station, see below.
  • A one way ticket costs 100 baht (£2.50). This ticket is valid for the entire journey to Nam Tok. The price is the same regardless of where you get off. It’s not possible to get a return fare and the ticket back to Bangkok will cost the same amount.
  • It is advisable to get to the station at least 15 minutes before departure so you have time to get a ticket and to allow for any delays due to traffic or public transport. We got to the station just seconds before the train started moving so was a lot tighter than we would have liked.
  • All seats on the train are officially 3rd Class but they are a lot better than that tag suggests. The carriages are clean and the seats are comfortable. While there are no fans or air con, it’s possible to fully open the windows which will help keep you cool even on the hottest days. I loved sticking my head out of the window and watching the countryside roll gently by.
  • Vendors move throughout the train selling snacks, drinks and fresh fruit. While it’s still advisable to bring food with you, you definitely won’t go hungry if you forgot to hit a 7/11 before getting on!
  • Toilets are hole-in-the-ground (or should it be train?) style but are surprisingly clean and can be found at the end of most carriages.
  • The train makes quite a few stops at small stations, giving you a great insight into local life outside of Bangkok. I am generally fascinated by people at train stations!
  • While plenty of tourists use the train to visit Kanchanaburi and beyond, the majority of passengers are Thai. It’s a great opportunity to engage with locals!

Related post: For more information on how to get around Bangkok, check out my Bangkok:Ultimate Travel Guide – Part 3: Essential Info

Passengers travelling from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi by train
Inside of the train

Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Tourist Train – Weekends and Holidays Only

In addition to the normal train, there is a special tourist train service that departs from Bangkok Hua Lamphong station on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. This essentially serves as a cheap Kanchanaburi day trip as the ticket includes return train travel and time to see Kanchanaburi, the River Kwae Bridge, Nam Tok and some other sights.

This train is handy as it departs from the main train station and so is a bit easier to get to. You also don’t need to plan as much as you only have limited free time at each stop. However, it’s a good option to squeeze in a few sights into one (admittedly, very long) day. It’s also the earliest train you can take to Kanchanaburi so, in theory, you can incorporate it into your wider itinerary. For example, you could arrive at River Kwai Bridge an hour before the standard train and decide to linger in Kanchanaburi for the day before taking the standard train home.

Below is the official itinerary for the weekend tourist train. As is usually the case in Thailand, times below are approximate and are subject to change. Do ask staff at the stations and on the train if you are unsure how much time you have at each stop.

  • 06:30 – the train departs Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong station. The station is on the Bangkok Metro Rapid Transit (MRT) line but trains don’t start running till 6am so make sure you check that you can get there in time. Alternatively, standard taxis and Grab will easily get you to the station around the clock.
  • 07:40 – Train arrives at Nakhon Pathom. You will have an opportunity to visit the 19th century Phra Pathommachedi temple which boasts the tallest stupa in Thailand. You will have around 40 minutes to explore the temple and grab some food from a market stall.
  • 09:27 – Train arrives in Kanchanaburi. It only stops for a few minutes, but you will get an opportunity to have a look around later
  • 09:35 – Arrive at River Kwai Bridge station and stop for about 20-25 minutes. You can get off and walk across the iconic bridge, take photos and check out the nearby market stalls. Some of the best views of the bridge are from the nearby JEATH War Museum but there isn’t really enough time to check it out properly.
  • 10:00 – Depart River Kwai Bridge station and cross the bridge by train. It moves super slowly and you can even high five people below as you pass. The train now continues through countryside and the Khwae Noi river before crossing the breathtaking Wampo Viaduct on the left hand side.
  • 11:30 – Train arrives in Nam Tok. Don’t get off here and instead wait until the train continues to the Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi waterfall a little further along the line. While Nam Tok is the gateway to Erawan and Sai Yok National Parks, you will not have enough time to explore. Equally, while the Hellfire Pass – a memorial built to commemorate those who died building the Death Railway – is an unmissable and moving experience – you are probably not going to have time to do it justice. You do have an option of skipping the return journey and catching a bus back to Kanchanaburi from Hellfire Pass under your own steam. Obviously, if you are just here on a day trip, this isn’t really a viable option.
  • 14:25 – Train is scheduled to leave Nam Tok to head back towards Bangkok. Do check with the train staff when you first arrive so that you don’t miss the train!
  • 15:53 – Arrive in Kanchanaburi. You will now have about an hour to explore. The only viable thing is to see the Allied War Cemetery, a short walk from the station. It’s another moving experience. To get to the cemetery, head straight out of the station and towards a busy main road. Turn left and walk a few minutes until you see the entrance.
  • 16:53 – Depart Kanchnaburi for a non-stop journey to Bangkok.
  • 19:25 – Arrive at Bangkok Hua Lamphong station.

Price: This tourist train service costs 120 baht return in a 3rd class non air conditioned carriage or 240 baht return in a 2nd class carriage with air con.

How to book: The tickets for this train cannot be booked online. You will need to book in person at Hua Lamphong station (ideally in advance). This trip is popular and can sell out so try and book them a day or two before. If you don’t have time, make sure to arrive at the station as early as you can as you should be able to find a seat and grab a ticket on board.

A train travelling through countryside
A view of the countryside from the side of the train

Bangkok to Kanchanaburi By Bus

While the train is definitely the more scenic way to get to Kanchanaburi, it’s also possible to get there by bus from Bangkok.

Minibuses leave from Mo Chit (Northern) Bus Terminal on the hour throughout the day (04:00 am – 18:00 pm) and cost around 120 baht one way. There are also a couple of regular buses – 12pm and 13:30 departures if you want a little more leg room. Allow between four and five hours with traffic.

Minibuses also leave the Sai Tai Mai (Southern) Bus Terminal every 30 minutes from 04:00 – 20:00 for 120 baht. Regular buses depart every 20 minutes from 04:00-20:00 and cost 110 baht. The journey takes around three to four hours depending on traffic.

Kanchanaburi bus station is a bit further away from the sights, lying 2 kilometres away from Kanchanaburi railway station. You will want to get a taxi to the River Kwai Bridge from there.

Passengers on the bus from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi
You can get from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi by public bus

Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Day Trip/Tour

If you don’t fancy making the trip from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi under your own steam (pun intended), it’s possible to join one of the main day trips that can be organised in Bangkok. Many travel agencies in the city have day tours that take in the key sights in Kanchanaburi and may include other activities such as visiting waterfalls, caves or taking a river cruise. You can usually arrange tours via your accommodation too – handy if you just want a hotel pickup in the morning! Bear in mind that this will be significantly pricier than visiting Kanchanaburi by train or bus.

Hotels in Kanchanaburi

There are plenty of accommodation options in Kanchanaburi to suit all budgets. Stamp Hostel is in a great location, halfway between Kanchanaburi station and the River Kwai Bridge and has mixed dorms, free Wi-Fi and a great social vibe.

Chez Bure, located in a modern building with bright, comfortable rooms is on a quiet side street just a short walk from all the action. The owner is super friendly and helpful while the buffet breakfast is one of the best I’ve had in Thailand. Art in the lobby and rooms is also a nice touch.

If you are after luxury, Away Kanchanaburi Dheva Mantra Resort & Spa overlooks the river, has five restaurants and outdoor swimming pool.

Credit: Booking. com – Chez Bure, Kanchanaburi

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