Common Problems encountered on Train Trips
As with any mode of travel, there may be a few things that disagree with individual
travelers. Listed below are some common problems and suggestions on how to deal
The sun - There's nothing really you can do about the afternoon sun if you are unlucky enough to be seated on the 'sunny side of the train'. The heat radiating into the windows is intense. You can always rig a shade if you have a sarong handy, but it can get rather sauna-like in the afternoon. Some of the trains have a 'Metal Blind' that can be pulled down, but the sun heats up the metal and makes it worse.
Baggage storage - It's wise to arrive at the station a bit early, as there is limited baggage storage aboard the trains. No one likes to hoist large bags onto upper baggage racks, but you may have no choice if you arrive minutes before departure. Additionally, it can be dangerous if a large bag falls off an upper rack. Another thing to consider is securing your bag. Even the most skillfully packed backpacks tend not to be very stable in the upright position, so it's wise to buckle it to the upright posts of the rack with one of the side straps on the backpack. Who wants to spend the whole trip picking their backpack up out of the aisle after it falls over?
Communication Breakdowns - Most staff on trains seem to speak marginal English, and most travellers know it's important to try and speak slowly and clearly. Many times it helps to have a simple phrasebook. Even if the book doesn't have the word(s) in 'Western writing', you can always 'point' to the Thai word for the staff to read. Thai language is difficlt for most 'Short-term' foreigner travellers to pronounce, and the staff on Thai Railways Trains may not understand your best attempts to speak Thai. If everything you try fails, it helps to have a small notebook and pen to 'Draw' a picture. In addition, there is usually a helpful Thai passenger nearby with enough English Skills to help you.
Water - Most train and bus stations I've seen in Thailand only sell the more expensive bottled water, so if you're on a budget, pick up some of the cheap (white plastic bottle) bottled water from a shop outside of the station. You may not have the time once you get into the station. Be sure to bring plenty of water aboard long trips, as the water sold on trains certainly won't be cheap.
Going 'Stir-Crazy' - There usually isn';t enough time in
any station stop for the passengers to go out and walk around the platform.
It may not be possible to find out the train schedule to check if any station
stops are longer. Your only other choice is to walk up and down the train or
do 'chin-ups' hanging from the upper baggage racks.
The Lights - The lights are kept on full strength all night. Passengers in the Upper bunks on 'Sleeper Carriages' may find it hard to sleep . Passengers who have booked an 'upper bunk' should bring along something to shield their eyes form the light like a 'sleeping mask'. The curtains that are hung up for privacy do not block the ceiling light.
'Fake' Officials inside Rail Stations - Avoid the 'touts' wearing very 'official-looking' badges who may offer to help you find a hotel. These 'Fake' Officials may point to their 'Badge', ask you where you're going, and give you false train information. They will try to steer you to their colleague's bus or hotel services at inflated prices. Only talk to the people working at the 'Information Desk' in the Train Stations. .
Other 'Disruptive' Passengers - As with any form of public transportation, occasionally an individual passenger may not respectful of another passengers' 'personal space'. If there is a rowdy or even drunk passenger who is making your trip stressful, try to get the attention of the train staff. The Police regularly patrol the train, and they'll be able to help you.
Faulty Carriage Equipment - The toilet doors in some of the carriages
may 'stick'. If you get 'locked inside' a toilet stall, try shouting or banging
on the door until someone outside the stall hears you and comes to your rescue. The
toilet is not really a desirable place to ride out the trip.