The afternoon train from Nam Tok & the Bridge on the River Kwai to Bangkok waits to leave Kanchanaburi.
 

Bangkok to the Bridge on the River Kwai by train:  Two daily trains link Bangkok's Thonburi station with Kanchanburi & the Bridge on the River Kwai.  Train times here.

  3rd class seats on the train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, The Bridge on the River Kwai & Nam Tok...
 

The third class seats on these trains are not crowded.  Vendors sell drinks, fruit, food & beer, it's a very pleasant way to travel.

  The train from Bangkok has arrived at Kanchanaburi station
 

Above, the train from Bangkok arrives at Kanchanaburi.  Most travellers use Kanchanaburi as their base to explore the area, so alight here to find a hotel.  If you're only doing a day trip, stay on board as the train will stop at River Kwae Bridge station a few minutes after leaving Kanchanburi...  

  You can walk across the Bridge on the River Kwai - but look out for trains..!
 

The Bridge on the River Kwai, seen from the Kanchanburi end.  All trains call at River Kwae Bridge station, located about 200 yards before the bridge, a few minutes after leaving Kanchanaburi.  The Bridge is now surrounded by cafes, restaurants, souvenir stalls etc.  You can walk over the bridge, even though it's still used by 3 trains each way every day.

  The Bridge on the River Kwai, from the Kan'buri (Bangkok) end
 

The Bridge On the River Kwai, in the afternoon sun from the Kanchanaburi side.  The curved spans are 1943 originals, the 2 straight spans replaced ones damaged by US bombs in 1945.

  The Bridge on the River Kwai...
 

Another view of the Bridge from the Kanchanaburi side.

  Tourists walking across the Bridge on the River Kwai...
 

Tourists walking across the Bridge. River Kwai Bridge station is in the far background, just before the bridge.

  Scenery along the River Kwai between Kanchanaburi and Nam Tok
 

Take the train from Kanchanaburi on to Nam Tok:  The trains run beyond River Kwai Bridge station as far as Nam Tok, crossing the Bridge itself (see video) and later the equally impressive Wampo Viaduct on the way.  This is a view of the Kwae Noi, soon after crossing the infamous Bridge on the way to Nam Tok...

  A train from Nam Tok to River Kwai Bridge, Kanchanaburi & Bangkok calls at Thamkrasae Bridge station
 

The train calls at Thamkrasae Bridge station, just before the Wampo Viaduct...

  The 12:55 from Nam Tok to River Kwai Bridge, Kanchanburi & Bangkok passes over the Wampo Viaduct along the River Kwai...
 

Crossing the Wampo Viaduct:  The train slows right down and carefully crosses the creaking Wampo Viaduct alongside the River Kwae Noi.  The scenery is fabulous.  See video...

  Konyu Cutting, nicknamed Hellfire Pass and now a memorial...
 

Hellfire Pass:  The operational railway ends at Nam Tok, but about 18km further (80km from Kanchanaburi) on the disused section is Konyu Cutting, aka Hellfire Pass, with its excellent museum...

  Scenery from the Hellfire Pass-Compressor Cutting death railway walk
 

The Death Railway:  The Australian government has cleared 7km of the old track bed north from Hellfire pass to Compressor Cutting.  Few tourists take the time to walk it, but try and do so, as it's both a moving experience and a pleasant walk through peaceful shady jungle.  This is the view across the Kwai valley...

Visiting Kanchanaburi, the Bridge on the River Kwai & Hellfire Pass...

During World War 2, the Japanese used Allied prisoners of war to build a railway from Thailand to Burma so they could supply their army without the dangers of sending supplies by sea.  Many prisoners died under appalling conditions during its construction, and the line became known as the 'Death Railway'.  It was immortalised in David Lean's 1957 film 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' which centres around one of the line's main engineering feats, the bridge across the Kwae Yai river just north of Kanchanburi.  Although the film was shot in Sri Lanka, the Bridge on the River Kwai really exists, and still carries regular passenger trains from Bangkok as far as Nam Tok.  For anyone interested in 20th century history, a visit to Kanchanaburi and the infamous Death Railway is a must.

This page gives all the necessary information for train travel from Bangkok to Kanchanburi, the Bridge on the River Kwai & Nam Tok, along with an overview of what there is to see in the area, including the Bridge Over the River Kwai, the Wampo (Wang Po) Viaduct and the museum at Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting).  You can see the Bridge on the River Kwai as a day trip from Bangkok using the morning train out and afternoon train back, but it's better to make it a 2 or 3 day trip as there's a lot more to see than just the Bridge.  For example, you could take the morning passenger train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi on day 1, stay a night or two in Kanchanaburi, then take the afternoon train back on day 2 or 3, so you can visit Hellfire Pass (less well known than the Bridge, but not be missed) and travel the Death Railway through fantastic scenery over the dramatic Wampo Viaduct as far as its current terminus at Nam Tok.

Visiting the Death Railway...

  How to get there

  What to see around Kanchanburi

  The Bridge on the River Kwai

  The Wampo (Wang Po) Viaduct

  Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting)

  Suggested itineraries

Train travel in Southeast Asia...

  Train travel in Thailand including Bangkok-Singapore

  Train travel in Malaysia including Singapore-Bangkok

  Train travel in Vietnam including Hanoi-Beijing

  Travel in Cambodia including Bangkok-Phnom Penh-Saigon

  Interactive map of train, bus & ferry routes in Southeast Asia

Sponsored links...

How to get thereSlow Train to the River Kwai...

From Bangkok:  Something isn't quite right about taking a tour bus to see the Death Railway and Bridge on the River Kwai.  It's far more appropriate (and more fun!) to take the train from Bangkok to Kanchanburi and the Bridge on the River Kwai, using the Death railway itself.  Two trains a day leave Bangkok Thonburi station (also known as Bangkok Noi) on the West side of the river in Bangkok, for Kanchanaburi then River Kwai Bridge station (on the Bangkok side of the Bridge a few minutes beyond Kanchanaburi), then crossing the Bridge itself & running alongside the scenic River Kwae over the Wampo Viaduct to Nam Tok.  The fare is only 100 baht (2 or $3).

The trains are 3rd class only, but don't let this put you off as they are clean and comfortable, see the photo above right.  In fact, sitting next to an open window whilst clickety-clacking through the Thai countryside is easily the most pleasant way to reach Kanchanaburi.  There's no buffet car, but vendors walk up and down the train selling soft drinks, beer, and pre-packed fruit and food.  The slices of Pomelo are lovely, not too sweet and not too sour.  At weekends there's also a tourist day excursion train.

From Singapore, Malaysia or Southern Thailand:  You can travel to Kanchanaburi & the River Kwai Bridge without going all the way into Bangkok and out again.  Express trains from Penang, Hat Yai, Surat Thani & Hua Hin all stop at Nakhon Pathom, 64 km southwest of Bangkok, where you can change onto the local trains to Kanchanburi (the actual junction between the Death Railway and the Bangkok-Singapore main line is at Nong Pladuk, but express trains don't stop there).  See the  Malaysia page for train times between Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang & Nakon Pathom or the Thailand page for trains from Hat Yai, Surat Thani & Hua Hin to Nakon Pathom.  Just remember the trains from the South can be 20 to 40 minutes late or more, so don't plan any tight connections.  Map of train routes in Southeast Asia.

 Bangkok ► Kanchanaburi & River Kwai

km

Train number:

485

257

259

0

Bangkok Thonburi (Noi) depart

-

07:50

13:55

64 km

Nakhon Pathom depart

-

09:02

15:03

82 km

Nong Pladuk junction

04:35

09:22

15:22

133 km

Kanchanaburi arrive

05:52

10:25

16:24

133km

Kanchanburi depart

06:07

10:35

16:26

138 km

River Kwae Bridge

06:15

10:44

16:33

-

Thamkrasae Bridge

07:38

11:53

17:51

-

Wang Po

07:49

12:06

18:01

210 km

Nam Tok arrive

08:20

12:35

18:30

The Bridge on the River Kwai is just beyond River Kwae Bridge station towards Thamkrasae;

The Wampo (Wang Po) Viaduct is between Thamkrasae Bridge & Wang Po.

Tourist coach attached River Kwae - Nam Tok, 300 baht:  For 300 baht you can travel in a special foreign tourist car attached to train 257/258 between River Kwae Bridge and Nam Tok.  Billed as the Trans-River Kwai Death Railway it's exactly the same as the regular 100 baht cars, but you get a seat cushion, small boxed snack, water and a certificate.  You buy tickets from a special booth at the opposite end of the platform from the regular ticket office, next to the Tourist Police booth.  Operated by Train Travel Tour Co Ltd, a subsidiary of the State Railways of Thailand.

Weekend excursion train:  On Saturdays, Sundays & holidays there's also an excursion railcar from Bangkok to River Kwai Bridge, Nam Tok & Kanchanaburi, details here.

 River Kwai & Kanchanaburi ► Bangkok  

Train number:

260

258

486

Nam Tok depart

05:20

12:55

15:30

Wang Po

05:46

13:23

15:58

Thamkrasae Bridge

05:57

13:36

16:10

River Kwae Bridge

07:12

14:38

17:31

Kanchanaburi arrive

07:17

14:45

17:37

Kanchanaburi depart

07:19

14:48

17:41

Nong Pladuk junction

08:31

16:01

18:50

Nakhon Pathom (for trains to South) arrive

09:19

16:35

-

Bangkok Thonburi (Noi) station arrive

10:25

17:40

-

 Fares

Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is 100 baht (2 or $3) each way.

Bangkok to Nam Tok is also 100 baht (2 or $3) each way.

Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok is also 100 baht (2 or $3) each way.

No reservation necessary, just turn up, buy a ticket, hop on.

The luxury option: Eastern & Oriental Express...

There's one other way to visit the Bridge on the River Kwai, and it's the luxury option.  The superb Eastern & Oriental Express cruise train links Singapore with Bangkok up to 3 times each month, and it makes a detour to the Bridge on the River Kwai on the way, with time to get off and visit the bridge.  A Singapore-Bangkok journey costs around 1,200 per person for 3 days, 2 nights, all meals & afternoon tea.  For this luxury option, see www.orient-expresstrains.com or browse inclusive tours incorporating this train at www.railbookers.com.

What to see around Kanchanaburi...

The Burma-Siam Death Railway...

The Death Railway starts at Nong Pladuk, a junction on the Bangkok to Singapore main line some 80km west of Bangkok.  The line heads northwest to Kanchanburi, over the Bridge on the River Kwai, along the Kwae Noi ('Little Kwai') and over the Wampo Viaduct to Nam Tok, the current terminus for passenger trains.  From Nam Tok, the disused track bed heads on to Konyu Cutting ('Hellfire Pass') and through the Three Pagodas Pass into Burma (Myanmar) and onwards to Moulmein.  The Japanese used Thai forced labour to construct the section from Nong Pla Duk to Kanchanaburi, and Allied prisoners of war for the section from Kanchanaburi onwards to Burma.  The line was completed in 1943, and like all the railways in Burma and Thailand, it was built to the metre gauge, much narrower than European standard gauge.  Passenger trains still run from Bangkok to Nam Tok, but the section from Nam Tok to Moulmein is disused and the track has been lifted.

The Bridge on the River Kwai...

Or is it?  There is a slight technical problem with the Bridge on the River Kwai:  It crosses a river all right, but not the River Kwai.  Pierre Boulle, who wrote the original book, had never been there.  He knew that the 'death railway' ran parallel to the River Kwae for many miles, and assumed that it was the Kwae which it crossed just North of Kanchanaburi.  He was wrong - It actually crosses the Mae Khlung.  When David Lean's blockbuster came out, this gave the Thais something of a problem.  Thousands of tourists flocked to see the Bridge on the River Kwai, and they hadn't got one, all they had was a bridge over the Mae Khlung.  So, with admirable lateral thinking, they renamed the river.  Since 1960, the Mae Khlung has been known as the Kwae Yai ('Big Kwae') north of the confluence with the Kwae Noi ('Little Kwae'), including the bit under the infamous Bridge.

The Bridge on the River Kwai is about 5 km from the centre of Kanchanaburi.  By all means wait for one of the three daily passenger trains, all of which call at the River Kwae Bridge station, but it's best to take a cycle rickshaw.  The Bridge is now surrounded on the Kanchanaburi side by a museum, cafes, shops and a couple of steam locomotives on static display.  You're free to walk across the bridge on the wooden planks, but remember to stand aside for the passenger trains when one comes along.  If this sounds foolhardy, remember that there is a 10 km/h speed restriction for trains across the bridge, and they all hoot like mad.

There were actually two bridges here, both built by prisoners of war - The first (wooden) bridge was completed in February 1943, superseded a few months later by the steel bridge which you see today.  The curved steel bridge spans are original, and were brought from Java by the Japanese.  However, the two straight-sided spans come from Japan, and were installed after the war to replace spans destroyed by allied bombing in 1945.

Wampo Viaduct (Wang Po)...

Make sure you ride the train between Kanchanaburi (or River Kwae Bridge station) and the current terminus of the operational railway at Nam Tok.  As well as crossing the famous Bridge on the River Kwai, the train runs along the beautifully scenic River Kwae, passing at slow speed over the impressive Wampo Viaduct (sometimes written Wang Po), also built by prisoners of war.  The viaduct consists of wooden trestles alongside the river, nestling against the cliff side.

Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting)...

Another must-see is Hellfire Pass, or to give it its proper name, Konyu Cutting.  This is located about 80km (50 miles) north of Kanchanaburi, on the disused section of line beyond Nam Tok.  Here, the Australian government has cleared about 7km of the old track-bed as a memorial to the 13,000 allied prisoners and 80,000 Asian labourers who died building the railway.  The site includes the Hellfire Pass itself (Konyu Cutting, dubbed 'Hellfire Pass' by the PoWs for the way the worksite looked at night by torchlight, and pictured right).  A taxi and driver for half-day from Kanchanaburi will cost about 35, and you can ask the driver to drop you at Nam Tok on the way back, to return to Kanchanaburi or Bangkok by the 12:55 or 15:15 train.  There are one-day organised tours from Kanchanaburi, but these typically get only 30 minutes at Hellfire Pass, only enough to see the pass itself.  If you go independently, you can walk past the locations of 'Three Tier Bridge' & the 'Pack of Cards' bridge to Compressor Cutting, 7 km northwest of the visitor centre.  The peaceful walk through the warm shady jungle along the disused track-bed, past small cuttings and dips where the wooden viaducts used to be, is a very moving experience.  One  report suggests you can't now walk all 7km, but you can certainly walk much of it.

Suggested itineraries...

You could spend weeks exploring this beautiful area, but most people have limited time so here are idea on how to incorporate Kanchanaburi & the Bridge on the River Kwai into your trip to Thailand.

Watch the Video:  Crossing the Bridge on the River Kwai...

Watch the Video:  Crossing the Wampo Viaduct...

Read more about the Death Railway, Hellfire Pass & the Bridge on the River Kwai...

To learn more about the history of the Burma-Siam Death Railway and the Bridge on the River Kwai, 'River Kwai Railway' by Clifford Kinvig is highly recommended.  If you haven't read it already, Eric Lomax's The Railway Man is amazing, the true story of his experience on the Death Railway and his reconciliation with the Japanese interpreter who tortured him.  It's now a major film with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, but although the film is excellent I'd say it struggles to achieve the same power as Eric Lomax's book.

You can buy them online at Amazon.co.uk

'The River Kwai Railway' by Clifford Kinvig - click to buy online   'The Railwayman' by Eric Lomax - buy online..!

Now watch the film:  www.railwaymanmovie.co.uk


Special tourist railcar on Saturdays, Sundays & holidays

  The weekend excusion railcar crosses the Bridge on the River Kwai
 

Weekend excursion railcar:  The weekend excursion train from Bangkok crosses the Bridge on the River Kwai...

In addition to these regular daily passenger trains, there is a special tourist railcar for day trippers on Saturdays, Sundays & holidays.  It has 3rd class non-air-con seats, although some seats have more padding than others as they were originally classified 2nd class.  As you can imagine from the amazingly cheap price, it's mainly aimed at Thai tourists and day trippers rather than rich westerners, but anyone can use it, either for the whole itinerary or as a useful extra early train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi & the Bridge on the River Kwai.  The itinerary looks like this (please double check exact times locally - you'll be given a photocopied sheet showing the itinerary after you board):

06.30 depart Bangkok Hualamphong station, Saturdays & Sundays only.

07:40 arrive Nakon Pathom, 40 minute stop to visit the great Chedi (cone-shaped temple).

09.27 arrive Kanchanaburi, very short stop.

09.35 arrive River Kwai Bridge station & stop for 25 minutes.

10.00 depart River Kwai Bridge station, cross the Bridge & head along the River Kwae via the impressive Wampo Viaduct.

11.30 arrive Nam Tok station. 

11:30 arrive Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi.  This is the only train to run beyond Nam Tok to the end of the operational line.  Time to see the scenic waterfall.

14:25 leave Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi.

14.25 leave Nam Tok station heading back south.

15.53 arrive at Kanchanaburi station and stop for 60 minutes for a visit to the war graves.

16.53 leave Kanchanaburi.

19.25 arrive back in Bangkok Hualamphong station.

The round trip fare is 120 baht 3rd class non-air-con, reservation required before departure although it's reported that in practice you can just get on and pay on the train.  You may well find plenty of seats available between Bangkok and Kanchanaburi & River Kwae Bridge station, but all seats fully-booked from River Kwae onwards.  For information, see www.railway.co.th/home/Default.asp?lenguage=Eng and look for the Sai Yoke Noi Waterfall trip under 'Travel by Train'.  If you've limited time, this might be a good option, though you won't get to see Hellfire Pass & its museum.


Recommended guidebooks

Lonely Planet Thailand - click to buy onlineRough Guide to Thailand - click to buy onlineRough Guide to Southeast Asia - click to buy onlineLonely Planet South-East Asia on a Shoestring - click to buy online

You should take a good guidebook. Easily the best guidebooks for independent travel are the Lonely Planets and Rough Guides.  Both have stacks of practical information plus historical and cultural background.  You won't regret buying one of these guides!

Click the images to buy online at Amazon.co.uk


Travel insurance...

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash (up to a limit) and belongings.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you're resident in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you're resident in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on calls & mobile data...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, so consider getting a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone which can cut call & data costs by up to 90%.  At the time of writing, www.roamsure.com claims a definite 25% saving within the EU and up to 90% saving in the rest of the world.  Incoming calls are free in 73 countries, including the USA, Australia, South Africa and EU.  There's no contract or commitment, and at time I write this Roamsure is offering a global SIM card for free when you buy 20 of call credit.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you buy airtime from Roamsure.


Back to train travel in Thailand page

Back to home page