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Rail Journey from Singapore to Vientiane

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Singapore will finally have a high-speed railway (HSR) link to Kuala Lumpur! While the railway may not materialise yet until late 2026, the buzz about it is that the direct journey will take a mere 90 minutes from Jurong East to Kuala Lumpur – it beats flying to get there, if you take into account check-in and baggage clearance procedures.

While this railway adds one more mode of travel to Malaysia’s capital, why stop there? Thanks to the Brits who built railways throughout this neck of the woods way back in the 19th century, one can actually travel from Singapore to Vientiane completely by rail.

If you have (a lot of) time, an overland train trip beats the cramped quarters of an aircraft, plus you can watch the scenery, or stretch your legs.

To give you an example of how much this new HSR will change our rail travel experience, take a look at the current method of getting to Vientiane by rail.

From Singapore

With the closure of the famous Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in 2011, rail travel from Singapore effectively begins from Woodlands.

A 5-minute shuttle train service called Shuttle Tebrau takes you from Woodlands CIQ to JB Sentral, from where you hop onto a network of KTM trains that operate throughout Peninsular Malaysia and beyond.

To Bangkok

While not a direct route – it requires multiple transfers – you can take the train all the way from Singapore to Vientiane. Due to the tracks, the only way to travel north is towards Gemas.

From here, it’s another connection to Butterworth (the main station for Penang) before you reach Padang Besar on the border to Thailand. From here, you’ll board Train 36, the International Express (Ekspres Antarabangsa), which takes you to Bangkok on an overnight sleeper service.

As you can see, it takes 3 transfers alone just to get to Bangkok.

To Vientiane

Luckily, the onward journey to Vientiane requires just one train: the Bangkok-Nong Khai railway, which has first- and second-class sleepers on newly-commissioned carriages. The service extends across the Friendship Bridge into Laos at Thanaleng station, just 13km from Vientiane. From here, you can easily take a tuk tuk into town.

The total travel time is over 40 hours – not exactly something you choose to undertake lightly. You can travel halfway around the world in less than that time.

For those interested, here’s the route:

  • Singapore: Woodlands CIQ (Via: Shuttle Tebrau) – 5 minutes → Johor Bahru: JB Sentral
  • Johor Bahru: JB Sentral – (Via: KTM Shuttle train) – 4 hours → Gemas
  • Gemas (Via: ETS train) – 7.5 hours → Padang Besar (border)
  • Padang Besar (Via: Train 46) – 17 hours → Thailand: Bangkok
  • Bangkok: Hualamphong (Via Train 25/26) –  10 hours 45 minutes  → Laos: Nong Khai
  • Nong Khai (Via: Shuttle train) – 15 minutes  → Thanaleng
  • Thanaleng (Via: tuk tuk/bus) – 20 minutes  → Vientiane

From Singapore on HSR

From 2026 (technically 2027) when the HSR between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is operational, the trip from Singapore to Vientiane will naturally be drastically shortened.

This is because the HSR line bypasses JB altogether, and traverses along the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia, starting from Jurong East into Iskandar Puteri over the border.

To travel to Vientiane, the route will then be from Singapore to KL (1.5 hours), followed by KL to Padang Besar (5 hours). At 6.5 hours, it’s half the time it takes currently to get to Padang Besar (11.5 hours), and with less transfers, since you’ll be boarding directly at Jurong East.

So, from 2027, the route to Vientiane would look like this:

  • Singapore: Jurong East (Via: HSR) – 90 minutes → Kuala Lumpur
  • Kuala Lumpur (Via: ETS train) – 5 hours → Padang Besar (border)
  • Padang Besar (Via: Train 46) – 17 hours → Thailand: Bangkok
  • Bangkok: Hualamphong (Via Train 25/26) –  10 hours 45 minutes  → Laos: Nong Khai
  • Nong Khai (Via: Shuttle train) – 15 minutes  → Thanaleng
  • Thanaleng (Via: tuk tuk/bus) – 20 minutes  → Vientiane

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