We are taking the bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap! There were many options for this route but this one ended up being the cheapest one for us. Crossing the border into the Kingdom of Cambodia from the Thai capital means getting to Poipet first, where you’ll be exiting Thailand and entering Cambodia, and hop on a bus to Siem Reap.
We booked a ticket from one of the tour agencies on Khao San – the backpackers’ area of the capital – (on Chakkabong St- perpendicular to Khao San Road) though highly unrecommended in our research due to many scams but at 150THB per person ($5) from Bangkok to Siem Reap, we figured we would chance it. Most buses go from 250-300THB ($8-$10) .
The train was another option we considered (48THB- less than $2 per person) though it leaves at 5:55am and 1pm:
– The 5:55 am train would mean having to negotiate a taxi ride at 4am, then a tuk tuk ride from Aranyaprathet train station to Poipet border five/six hours later and then pay $9-$10 each for a bus ride from Poipet to Siem Reap.
– The train at 1:30pm means early evening arrival at the border. This may not leave us enough time for Visa processing before the 8pm border closure. Should you already have a visa, and don’t mind arriving in Siem Reap late at night, it could be an option though it still ends up being more expensive than the bus we booked from Khao San.
The mini van left at 8 am from the tour agency in Khao San area. We were told an arrival at the Thai border around noon. Our driver, though we were thankful for arriving on time, drove really fast, ‘à la Asian‘ as we have come to call it in our journey. We are alive. So far, so good.
Here is when the scam start: the driver pulls into what looks like a restaurant. “Need to change bus”, is what he said. Extremely nice and smiling employees arrive, providing us with forms and pens for our visa application and entrance to Cambodia. We filled out the paperwork but intended on doing the visa process ourselves at the border. The official visa fee is US$20+100THB, and we read many scam stories about people charging 1,000THB (>$30) to help you get your visa done or through express processing. The rest of our group filled out the paperwork provided as well and we see a couple of 500THB bills handed over to the employees.
J informs one of the extremely serving and smiling Thai employee our intentions. He ushers him to another man in a closed room, probably so that the other people do not hear that it was a possibility. He comes out five minutes later with the man who was inside, requesting our transfer bus ticket to Siem Reap, as we had to change bus after crossing the border. The man is definitely not as smiley as the others and says a lot of words that do not make a lot of sense, but we get the gist of it: he did not want to give us our bus ticket to Siem Reap.
“You will see man after the border and he will give you ticket then, cannot give you ticket now”, is what he said. What man? Who are we supposed to look for? Where will the bus be? He points to a man in a brown shirt, who is supposedly going to wait for us on the other side, and J goes over to him to ask for a business card since we’re not getting a transfer ticket. We are not sure whether he misunderstood the question or did not want to give us his business card but he ended up providing us with our transfer ticket to Siem Reap – PHEW! Worst case scenario was to pay extra $10 each for a bus to Siem Reap when we should have already paid for it. Always keep your ticket with proof of purchase indicating final destination!
The rest of the group is now back inside that same mini van ( so, this really was just a stop for payment and not a change of bus) and we are, at last, told to walk to the border ourselves. There is no sidewalk so we walk along the road with the rest of the trucks, vans, and motorbikes trying to cross to the neighboring country. Luckily, within minutes we see the border and a multitude of visa processing services, just as we read, which will make you pay more than the US$20 and 100THB. We pass immigration to exit Thailand and cross over to the Visa processing office. We were afraid to have to wait hours before getting our visa but the office was empty except for maybe one or two other travelers. We fill out our visa form (extremely easy), pay the fees, and within five minutes have our passport with visa in hand. WOW! We could not believe how easy and fast this was.
Next step, to enter the country. We pass the many casinos and get to the Cambodian immigration. There are two lines and the wait time was maybe 10 minutes with 5 people ahead of us. So far, everything is going better than expected. Maybe 20m after immigration, to our right, was the free shuttle waiting area which took us to the bus station. Oh, and of course there was no man in a brown shirt waiting for us after immigration.
We take the shuttle, get to the bus station and ask around for our bus time. Basically, if you do the visa processing yourself, do not expect to make the 2pm bus. We were at the bus station by 1:30pm and are told our bus would be here at 3pm.
We wait with other travelers who also crossed the border on their own. Their bus was scheduled to arrive at 4pm but if they paid more, they could get one at 2pm said the man who sold them their tickets. They did not want to pay more, we wouldn’t have wanted to either.
A little less than an hour later, as more travelers have arrived, we saw them boarding a bus for Siem Reap. Not sure whether it was ours or not, but we hopped on and figured the tour guides would tell us to hop out once they saw our tickets…but they didn’t! So, we were on our way to Siem Reap. Again, we were nicely surprised. Triple YAY!
Made it to Siem Reap around 5pm. The bus dropped us near a hostel, 4km away from the town, where tuk tuks were waiting for us and pricing the ride to town at $3. Walking 20meters away from the arrival spot can secure cheaper rides, we got a tuk tuk for $1 ( as always, after negotiations) to Tropical Breeze Guesthouse. (highly recommended on booking.com)
In Cambodia, it is possible to pay in US dollars and Cambodian Riels, the exchange rate is roughly 1USD=4,000KHR.
Welcome to Cambodia!
Did you enter the Kingdom by land too? I am sure you have a story to share, do not hesitate to leave a comment about your experience!