I always love to travel with train in foreign countries. It means a lot if you are trying to understand the local culture, see the real life and nature happening around the rails… The train travel experience you will be through in far east is definetly a dfferent experience compared to one in continental Europe.
Although the train travel is not fast and very comfortable in the far east, I strongly suggest you to experience it. Especially the overnight train travel will be a clever one, as you will be able to sleep through the way and save the accomodation cost. Train travel between Bangkok Central Station and Phuket is such a lengthy one.
The train will not drop you at Phuket, the terminal station for those traveling to Phuket, Phi Phi Island, Koh Samui will be Surat Thani station. From there you can easily find shuttles that will take you to those destinations, just on the exit door of the Surat Thani station, in the morning. The train departs close to midnight and arrives at Surat Thani, late morning.
Probably one of the first questions that will come to mind if you are a first time train traveler in Thailand, is about the comfort level of different classes. 1st and 2nd classes both offer sleeping beds. The difference between the two is, in 1st class you have the A/C while in 2nd class you will have the “FAN” in the ceiling. Honestly, there is not much difference between the two other than that. So if the time of your visit to Thailand is not in a very hot season, FAN simply will be enough also considering this will be a night trip.
Perhaps the more important thing you should care about is not the distinction between 1st and 2nd classes: its the difference between lower and upper beds. Railway cars are not very comfy in Thaland, you will not be sitting in a private compartment. This means that you travel in an open car together with everyone. When it gets close to sleeping time (that can be very early indeed) people will start calling the guy who will setup the beds. The seats you sit and travel on will actually become the “lower beds”! So, if you are not an early sleeper, I suggest you to book a Lower Seat Bed, so that you wont be forced to go to bed when the other guy in the lower bed wants to sleep. There is no other place on the train that you can sit or spend time, so eventually you will have to go to bed if there is no available seat left for you to sit in the car.
The beds are surprisingly comfortable and you can get a good night sleep. There are also some personal light close to the bed, so you can also read.
Cars are in general old but clean, but as this is south east, be prepared to meet with some bugs around!