On Saturday & Sundays only Thailand's State Railway service has a daily return train that leaves Bangkok's Hua Lamphong station. It stops off at Nakon Pathom, Kanchanaburi, River Kwai Bridge station, & Nam Tok.
The train then returns to Hua Lamphong.
It's meant to be a Thai family excursion day out, but there's nothing stopping a tourist from taking this good value day trip either!
Normally there are no daily trains from Bangkok's Hua Lamphong to kanchanaburi or The Bridge over the River Kwai. Trains normally depart twice a day from Bangkok's somewhat hard to reach smaller train station in Thonburi known as Bangkok Noi.
Did you know?
The Bridge over the River Kwai is actually the Bridge over the Mae Khlung!
Pierre Boulle, who wrote the famous book, never actually visited the location. So when the movie hit became a blockbuster and thousands of tourists flocked to the famous location the Thai's decided to rename the entire river!
Today the river is officially called Kwae Yai.
You can book in advance from Hua Lamphong station. Or on the day. Tickets cost 130 bhat for a return ticket. You cannot get a refund for this ticket. It is a second class carriage with fans. Not so difficult.
The following is the official timetable. Sometimes they are handed out, more often they are not. Please be aware that this train is often late in arriving at various stations so always ask the conductors how long you have at each stop to be sure. Their English is weak but they are used to pointing at their watches!
06.30: The train departs promptly at 6.30 am on Saturday & Sunday's usually from platform 11 at Hua Lamphong.
07.40 (approx): Arrive at Nakon Pathom (Phra Pathommachedi). This is a 40 minute stop so you can visit the impressive Chedi temple (just follow the crowd or leave the train, take the first left, then first right, you should see the temple up ahead. Go straight through the market street, across a bridge and keep going straight. There's no charge into the temple.
09.27: Arrive Kanchanaburi. Don't get off here as the train does not stop for long at all. Sometimes only one minute! You'll get a chance to visit here later.
09.35: Arrive Bridge Over River Kwai. You get 20-25 minutes here to cross the bridge by foot. It's usually quite crowded with tours and day trippers. But if you make it to the other end you can descend down and look up at the bridge from below which is quite impressive.
10.00: Depart the River Kwai Bridge. You'll know cross the famous bridge via train. About 30 minutes later and you'll cross over the impressive Wampo Viaduct which will be on your left. As you pass through the rock walls to your right you might catch a glimpse of the Golden Buddha in Krasae Cave, Sai Yok.
11.30: Arrive Nam Tok. Do wait until the train pulls out of Nam Tok and moves just a little further up to the end of the line by the waterfall at Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi. Do take a note of the time or arrival here as usually it's well past 11.30. Ask the conductor when you will be leaving here.
14.25: Depart Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi. You'll basically be on a non-stop trip back to Kanchanaburi with the aqueduct and buddha being the major highlights again.
15.53: Arrive Kanchanaburi. If the train is on time you should have 1 hour to visit the War Cemetery in Kanchanaburi. Do ask the train conductor when the train will be departing to confirm. A quick visit the cemetery is possible with only 20 minutes. But under that and you'll be pushing it.
To visit the cemetery simply walk straight out of the station until you get to the main road. Turn left and walk about 7 minutes until you see the cemetery across the road on your left. Take care crossing this road as it's quite busy. It might be easier for some to cross in front of the train station. There is no charge for entering the war cemetery.
16.53: Depart Kanchanaburi - if you ordered food earlier it will be served up on this last part of the journey (see the tips section below)
19.25: Arrive Bangkok Hua Lamphong Station. Don't expect to arrive on time!
There are a few coffee shops and cafes open at 06.15 at Hua Lamphong. Otherwise there's a 7-11 outside the station.
The train is a third class train with no air-conditioning. Only fans and open windows. Stock up on some water it can get warm on board. The seats may or may not have padding depending on the coach.
When you stop at Nakon Pathom and visit the temple you'll pass through a market. Fruits and snacks here are quite cheap and worth stocking up on. Sharing fruit or snacks on the train is a great way to break the ice with the locals!
The conductors will hand out menus (in Thai) along the way. They usually only do this for Thai people. If you want to order your dinner this is when you should grab a menu, point at a photo and pay. Dinner is usually brought on your way back to Bangkok.
There's a hoard of drink sellers and souvenir stalls at the Bridge over river Kwai. While you won't have time to go shopping it's a good place to pick up a cold beverage.
At Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi there are many food stalls for lunch when you arrive. However they are a little over priced and basic. For better food walk to the left of the train and look down at the main road below. There's a row of restaurants and a 7-11 there which offer better goods.
The waterfall is usually quite crowded. Whereas the water source is less so though much less impressive and about 1km away.
If you can wait, there's a free clean toilet past the waterfall. Just by where the train stops they charge 5 bhat
Finally, it doesn't take much to work out but you can use this weekend train to Kanchanaburi rather than take the daily train from Thonburi Bangkok Noi station which can be awkward to get to. At 130 bhat it's only 30 bhat dearer and you can work in a nice day trip too!
What happens if you want go from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi during a weekday? You'll need to leave from Bangkok's other railway station known as Thornburi where there are two trains a day to Kanchanaburi.
How to reach Thornburi Railway station?
Taking a taxi to Thornburi railway station is probably the easiest way to catch the early departing train.
Otherwise you can take public transport by using the following route. Take the BTS (Skytrain) to Saphan Kwai station. Then take a Chao Express Boat (the orange boats) to Thornburi Train Station (Pier 11) where you can then walk to the railway. Otherwise go to Tha Wang Lang pier and take a short taxi to Thornburi.
Thornburi Railway station to Kanchanaburi timetable
Kanchanaburi to Thornburi Railway station timetable
Please not that both weekend and weekday trains to Kanchanaburi are 3rd class only and cannot be booked online. They rarely sell out.