How do I get from Bangkok to Siem Reap?
(Trip originally taken October, 2010. Updated October, 2012)
Outline of how I cross the Thailand-Cambodia Border (October, 2012)
(See below for the more detailed story of one of my first attempts at this trip)
- Make your way by sky train to Mo Chit or Ekamai Station (the advice continues as if you went to Mo Chit. Ekamai is closer to most everything, but I believe the busses travel to the border less often. I always go to Mo Chit).
- Get off the skytrain towards where all the busses are waiting. None of these is your bus. You need to go to Mo Chit bus station a little ways away. Grab a taxi to get you there. It will cost a couple dollars and take a few minutes.
- Enter the bus station and head to an information booth. Ask them where to buy tickets for Aranyaprathet. There are busses headed out every 30 minutes. The information lady will point you towards the correct ticket stand.
- Buy your ticket (around 217 baht).
- Ride the bus for 5-6 hours. Read a book. Meditate on how a Cambodia Alive! tour makes everything better.
- The bus will drop you off at one of two places (depends on the bus company). Some of the busses drop passengers off a couple kilometers from the border. Take a tuktuk the rest of the way. Otherwise the bus will take you right next to the border.
- You will encounter people who want you to buy your Cambodian visa through them as well as "visa offices" before you leave Thailand. These offices are not official and will overcharge you. Do not buy your Cambodian visa until you have been stamped out of Thailand.
- Pass through Thailand passport control on the left side of the road.
- Walk a couple hundred meters until you see the Cambodian visa office (that is not the official name) on the right near the arch. During this stretch and before you may be approached by people wanting to help you with your bags or beggars wanting to help you with your money. Poipet is a fine place to be suspicious of everyone. Keep your stuff close, and keep the kids far. Pickpocket zone.
- The visa costs USD20. Bring US dollars or they will give you a crappy exchange rate. Bring a passport photo or you will be charged extra. The officials there will also try to charge you an extra 100 baht, which goes into their and their superiors' pockets. Not agreeing to pay this bribe may slow processing of your visa. Or it may not. I've heard both ways. Your choice. USD3.30 to get out of the visa office quickly with no hassle, or free to stand up for your principles and stand up to corruption.
- After you have your visa you will enter Cambodia through passport control on the right side of the road.
- After coming out the other side you will be approached by folks offering ways to get to Siem Reap. There is some type of free bus to a bus station... I have never done that. Seems like the busses leave less often and don't cost less than a shared taxi. And once you get to the bus station, there's no free trip back. Generally I have heard that this is NOT the best way to go.
- After passport control you will also encounter drivers wanting to take you in taxis (Camry's). Whereas in the past, I used to walk a ways up the road to get a cheaper taxi, I don't do that anymore, and I don't know if it works. Right after passport control, you can get a shared taxi to Siem Reap for USD25-35. Grab a couple people from your bus and split the price. Sometimes, you may not find any takers on your bus. In that case crack a beer and wait for more people to share with.
- When you have your group, tell the driver you will not pay the fare until you arrive at your hotel. He may say that he needs gas money. Fair enough, give him some money for gas up front. Pay the balance at your hotel.
- The driver might not know where your hotel is. Siem Reap has millions. Cut him some slack. Have a map and a nearby landmark ready.
- Do Siem Reap.
Some visitors hate Cambodia as soon as they arrive because they have problems at this crossing. Cambodian people are amazing. Don't judge all of Cambodia based on Poipet. It's crap.
My first attempt at the trip (October, 2010)
After reading and reading about "scam busses" and the like I decided to take the most advised route, bus from Bangkok to Aranyapathet at the border, then share a taxi to Siem Reap.
Step 1 get from my guesthouse to Mo Chit station via skytrain. 45 Baht or something. Straight shot. Easy.
Step 2 from Mo Chit skytrain station to Mo Chit bus station. Should be easy. Gotta be around here somewhere. Since I'm a guy, I'm not going to ask for help. Ok, I'm sick of carrying this stupid bag up and down stairs looking for this place. The woman at the skytrain ticket office told me to to take bus 1, or is it 3, maybe 7. Great. I wish I could speak Thai. Then a motodop guy said take some bus with a super long number. Huh? Screw it, I see a taxi. 50 Baht later I am there. It's on the other side of a park next to the skytrain. Sorted.
UPDATE: I still hop a taxi from the train station to the bus station when I do this trip. Without my big bag, motorcycle taxi would be faster and about the same price probably.
Step 3, get the bus to Aranyapathet. The windows selling these tickets are inside of the station. I had just missed the 9:30 bus so i caught the 10am. 217 Baht. Dunno how often they run, but this was pretty convenient. From what I remember this trip was pretty inconsequential. Nothing happened of note. Took like 4 hours.
UPDATE: Busses run every 30 minutes. Cost 227 last week. Closer to 5 hours.
Step 4, get across the border. The bus actually took us all the way to a spot within 100 meters of the border, none of the info online said it would do that. Huh. Cool. We had a few folks offering us express visa services, but by now you should all know that you do that at the border. So we walked to the border, was directed by a Thai guy with some sort of not really, but maybe, official-looking id card, who followed us through the whole process. I didn't care but it bothered some folks I got off the bus with. Cleared immigration in Thailand (along the left side of the street) walked past the casinos, then was directed into the visa office of the right side. I got my "E" visa with no hassle (to clarify, I am talking about a "Class E" visa, a "normal visa," formerly called a "business visa." Unless you are planning on staying in Cambodia a while, just get a tourist visa for USD20. And if you feel the need to pay in Baht, when asking the people who are taking the money how many baht it is, do the math before paying. Just saying). The couple that was wandering with me though was asked for a 100 baht "processing charge" or some such nonsense. You don't have to pay that. They didn't try to get it from me because since I spoke Khmer they knew I wasn't falling for that. So we made it eventually to the other side, and the guy was still following us...
UPDATE: Some busses go all the way to the border. Some stop a few km away. Don't know how to know which are which. Tuk tuk to the border if you have to.
Tourists are still being asked for the 100 baht and the border cops seem ready to make you wait if you don't pay. Up to you whether you want to stand your ground.
Step 5, getting a taxi to Siem Reap. So the guy following me and the couple started to give us advice about where to get a taxi blahblahblah. At this point we decided to relieve him of his services. As he had given us some reasonable help I offered him some baht, which he didn't accept. Fair enough. We had read something about walking down a bit away from the border to get the good, cheap, whatever cab. As we walked we began to be followed again by a car and his tout. Me and the couple decided to stop and have a beer and baguette to decide our next step. While we were drinking, the car waited. he offered $30 which, as far as I know, ain't bad. So when we finished our beers we hopped into his car. Ride was fine. He took us straight to the guesthouse I wanted to go to, and done. Gave him a little tip, he gave us his card, sorted. Easy.
UPDATE: Sometimes when I have done this trip I don't end up meeting people on the bus to travel to Siem Reap with. In these cases I wait around and have a beer just after Cambodian immigration and ask foreigners walking by.
Yes, I know my speaking Khmer helps, but I think it can be like this for you too...
UPDATE: Easy to do in English.