Bangkok To Siem Reap by Land

Bangkok To Siem Reap by Land

The trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap is a classic backpacker trip full of tribal history and stories that defy belief.  The border crossing has long been know as a landmine field of scams and the road from Poipet to Siem Reap is infamous for bus sized pot holes and violently aggressive taxi drivers looking to make a buck at every opportunity, including extorting passengers for gas money, extra fare to go to their original destination and so forth.  Today, much of that has improved.

The biggest change is in the infrastructure.  The road from Poipet to Siem Reap is now fully paved and in great condition.  Gone are the days of horror stories and 12 hour trips.  It’s now a modern paved highway that can be done in 1.5 hours with no stops.

The second change is the strong arm of the Poipet bus station.  According to many sources, the bus station and taxi fares are kept artificially high by a travel monopoly.  This may very well be true but the result is a safe and clear path from Poipet to Siem Reap is now possible, if at an inflated price of $48/taxi (note that a taxi takes 4 people).

Lastly, the border guards in Cambodia do not seem to be as profiteering as in the past.

All this is not to say there aren’t scams to watch out for.  But it’s gotten much better.

Here’s how we crossed.

Get to the Northern Bus Station in Bangkok

Whatever you do, Do NOT book a ticket on one of the many Bangkok – Siem Reap private transports advertised by travel agents and guesthouses in Khao San Road. You will be asking for trouble and will likely be left at the border with no onward transport or be subjected to many of the scams you read on the web.  Take a bus from the northern bus station in Bangkok.  If you’re staying in the Kao San Road area like most backpackers, take the #3 bus which ends at the bus station.  The fare to the station is around 15 THB.

Bus to Aranyaprathet

Once at the bus station, go inside the terminal and approach stall #22.  It will be clearly marked as the government bus destined to Aranyaprathet.  The one trick here is that the first government bus leaves at 9:30 am which is quite late really.  If you have missed this bus, ask where the private bus stall is (I believe it was stall #30) and take a private bus.  Ours left at 6:30 am.  We took the first class bus for about 200 THB.  You’ll get a cup of drinking water but nothing else.

The bus trip to Aranyaprathet will take about 5 hours or so.  You will likely be stopped a couple of times by the police and military for some random spot checks of your passport.  Nothing particularly alarming here but you might have to flash your foreign passport at them.

Arriving at Aranyaprathet

Once you arrive at Aranyaprathet, you will NOT be dropped off at the border.  Instead, you’ll be at the north end of a market and will be delivered into the hands of waiting tuk tuk drivers.  They will ask for 70 THB a person to take you to the border.  Ignore them and walk away, flag down other tuk tuk drivers that will inevitably approach you.   We got 3 people to the border for 40 THB total (not per person).  A good tip is to always walk at least 50 to 100 metres away from where you a dropped off before arranging tuk tuk, taxis, etc.  Those that are waiting for you are there for a reason.

We didn’t experience this ourselves but a number of tuk tuk drivers will drop you off somewhere in the market where someone will pretend to be from the border.  The real border will have a blue sign that says “passport control” and will lead you down a laneway split between Thai and other foreigners.

Bangkok to Siem Reap, Border crossing, siem reap border, cambodia border, thailand border

Approaching the Cambodia border from Thai side. Credit: SoloFlightED.com

 

You’ll enter the Thai exit border control.  If you are being sold ANYTHING before you get a stamp from the Thai border patrol, you are being ripped off.  Lock up your wallet until you have cleared the Thai exit border patrol.  Leaving Thailand costs nothing but you will need to have your exit card fully filled out.

Cambodia Entry

Once you have had your passport stamped, exit and head towards the main gate.  On the right side across the street is the Cambodia visa office.  Inside the office it will have a sign indicating that a tourist visa costs of $20 USD.  If you have a passport photo, you will give them it now.  If you don’t have one, don’t worry.   They will photocopy your passport photo for an extra 200 THB.  You’ll be asked to sit down for a few minutes while they prepare the visa.

After you have your visa and paid your $20 USD (don’t pay for your visa in THB as the exchange rate is terrible), you are done paying for entry costs.  Do not listen to anyone that tells you to pay for any further entry costs.   Walk down the road where you’ll need to get your passport stamped and have your photo and finger prints taken.  This is standard.

Shuttle to Bus Station

Once you have your stamp, you have some choice.  You can try and move around and find a taxi or you can take the free shuttle to the bus station.  We took the bus station option.  The shuttle will take you to a simple booth where you will be offered either a mini van, taxi or bus.  By this point, we had picked up a group of about 11 people so we opted for a mini van.  The price per person ended up being about $10 USD.  The trip into town on the mini van will take about 2.5 hours and will include some kind of lunch stop off, where if you’re hungry, you can buy a decent meal at somewhat inflated costs.

The bus station had officially posted costs: $9/person for bus, $48/taxi that holds 4, no official minibus rate was posted.  You may be able to arrange a better rate with a taxi by walking away from the border and negotiating with a taxi driver.  Once you’re at the tourist bus station, you’re pretty much stuck with one of the options on offer.

Arriving in Siem Reap

When you arrive in Siem Reap, you’ll need to pick up a tuk tuk to your hotel.  The minibus folks said that the transport to our hotel by tuk tuk was included in our minibus fare.  We got the free ride although I’m not sure if everyone did.  The real prize that the tuk tuk drivers are looking for is to secure some future day trips with you to see Angkor Wat.  Use this as leverage if you need.

The tuk tuk driver will also likely try to take you to a guesthouse (even if you tell them you’ve already booked accommodations) as ours did in order to try and get a commission.  Refuse to get out of your tuk tuk till they take you to your actual accommodations.  If you don’t have accommodations prearranged (highly recommended) beware that you will probably pay for the tuk tuk driver’s commission through your bill at the guesthouse.

Tips

Here are some points to keep in mind while making the trip.

  1. Leave Bangkok EARLY.  If you follow only one tip, this is it.  We got up at 4am to start our trip.  You lose a lot of leverage once the light goes down.  The trip is long.  Don’t risk getting into Siem Reap after dark.  Get up EARLY and you’ll be OK.
  2. Once at the border, do NOT pay a cent until you have passed through the Thai border control.  Anyone that tells you to open your wallet for any reason (money exchange, express visa, anything) is scamming you.  Find the blue sign and get to the Thai border patrol.
  3. Make friends with other travelers on your bus.  Ask them if they are going to Siem Reap and see if they might be interested in a shared taxi.
  4. Do not take the Khao San Road bus scams.  The government or private buses at the north bus station are cheap and effective.
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14 Comments

  1. I am enjoying yur blog. Vanessa passed on the URL to me. We were in Siem Reap about a month ago. Enjoy your stay. We certainly dii.

    Rudy.

    Reply
    • Glad you’re enjoying reading about our adventures. Siem Reap has been wonderful so far. Angkor Wat is amazing!

      Please say hi to Vanessa for me :)

      Reply
    • Mark and Stefy,

      Hope you enjoy Cambodia. It’s really a fantastic place. Hope you have some time in Siem Reap since it does take time to take it all in. Thanks for the feedback. Would love to hear how your experience is.

      Reply
  2. Great adivces!! I’m looking now for next August holidays in Cambodia, we only can travel in August due to our work. we usually split the period in 1 part trip and 1 part still at the sea, so I’m evaluating Sihanoukville, but I’m also seeing Phu Quoc…..must make up my mind, any hints?

    Reply
    • We haven’t actually been to either so to be honest, I won’t give advice here. BUT, a fellow traveler, Alex, has some useful content you might find helpful if going to Sihanoukville. Also, I would suggest having a look at her post on Koh Rong which looks amazing.

      Reply
  3. Thanks for this post! I’m leaving for South East Asia in a couple of weeks and the prospect of going from Bangkok to Siem Reap by land was making me nervous. This was really helpful!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment. Happy to share our experience. Hope you enjoy Cambodia. We loved it.

      Reply
  4. hi
    are there flights from siam reap to trat in eastern thailand ???
    any expierences so far ?
    thanx

    Reply
    • Hello,

      I’m honestly not sure about the flights as we never flew. In general, you can fly from SR but it will be a lot more expensive and not very valuable experience. I would strongly suggest an overland adventure instead. You’ll experience a lot more and save money too. Have fun.

      Reply
  5. Thank you for the very informative and practical information! Two follow up questions:
    1) Where does the luggage go on the buses to the border? Any concern with the backpack being lifted, like on some other Thai buses?
    2) How did you make the trip back to Bangkok- just reverse the same journey or are there any additional lessons learned and/or suggestions for the best way back?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hello Grigory,

      Thanks for the comment. The luggage goes below the bus. We never had anything stolen in Asia (or any other bus around the world for that matter) but we do lock our bug bags every time we travel. As for the reverse, we spent two months going through Vietnam and Laos and then through the north of Thailand back to Bangkok so we never did the reverse route. But it would be doable in reverse for sure. I would suggest talking to your hostel host (we stayed at Oral D’Angkor anD would trust them to give accurate advice). Also, they were supper friendly helpful people who run a great hostel.

      Have fun!

      Reply
    • Thanks for this blog! I’m leaving for Thai next week and I very much want to go from Bangkok to Siem Reap by land, but the thing is that I’m going with my daughter who is 12 years old and pretty much worries me the security around there. Do you think it’ll be safe for us to cross the border just like you did, or will be better to do it by plane?
      Please advise me…One more question. where does the luggage go on the tuk tuk, is there enough space for 2 large backpack?
      Thank you!

      Reply
      • Hello Ambar. Thanks for the comment. The security is much improved. I would not worry about a 12 year old. If you have read the post and pay attention, the trip is now relatively easy. Go for it. As for luggage in a tuk tuk, we usually just put it on our laps or sometimes on the back if there is a rack. To avoid problems however, always lock your bags and do not hand them over to a secondary person who might offer to put your bag on their lap. That’s a classic way to lose either an item or the whole bag.

        Lock them up and keep them on your lap is easiest. Also, to help, try and pack light. This helps decrease worries on theft and also on troubles on tuk tuk rides.

        Enjoy the trip!

        Reply

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