Crossing land borders terrifies me. I don’t know why. In my early years of travel, I jumped from one country to another by plane. But when you’re backpacking across continental Southeast Asia, it often can’t be helped because it is the easiest, cheapest way, especially for the Bangkok-Siem Reap route.
I’ve already crossed the Thailand-Cambodia border overland three times now. I still remember how nervous I was on my first time doing it. The whole time, I didn’t know where to go, what to do, how to go about the whole thing. The dozens of touts swarming around me on the way into and out of the Immigration building were not helping. I’ve read about the scams that run rampant in the area, and the thought of falling victim to one scared the hell out of me.
If you’re traveling from Bangkok to Siem Reap and you’re a bit nervous, I know the feeling. Hence, I’m sharing with you this step-by-step guide. You have these options: by DIRECT bus, by ordinary bus, or by train.
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
By Direct Bus
You have two bus options. You can travel by bus to Aranyaprathet, the town on the border, then switch to another bus once you’re through with the immigration processes. But you can book a DIRECT bus.
DIRECT BUSES are those that would take you from Bangkok to Siem Reap without switching vehicles in 9 hours. Although you will still need to get off and go through the Immigration counters on your own, you don’t need to bring your luggage with you. You can leave your bags on the bus, go through Immigration, and the same bus will meet you on the other side.
You’ll find AN AWFUL LOT of advertisements for direct buses, but most of them are not really direct. They still switch buses after the border. I even experienced booking a supposedly direct bus but then at the border, we transferred to a much smaller minibus (van). Some of these scammers will squeeze money out of you. There have been reports from other travelers where the bus would make a stop at a travel agency and insist on buying visa from them. The catch: these are overpriced inauthentic visas. (If you’re an ASEAN resident, you don’t need a visa!)
If you want a genuinely hassle-free DIRECT bus, book only with the following companies:
Transport Co. (Nattakan).
Terminal: Morchit (Mo Chit) aka North Terminal
Leaves Bangkok at 8am and 9am.
Fare: THB 750 ($22) if you book at the terminal; THB 870 ($26) if online.
Terminal: Khao San Giant Ibis
Leaves Bangkok at 7:45am
Fare: THB 1091 ($32) is you book online
You can buy tickets at the terminal itself, but there are limited buses per day so you might want to reserve online.
Reserve here: Bangkok-Siem Reap Buses
Here’s the whole process:
- Go to the bus terminal and board your bus.
- Get off at the border. You will be given a badge which you shouldn’t lose because you’ll need it to board the bus on the other side.
- Go through the Immigration processes as quickly as you can. Yes, the bus will wait for you, but be mindful of other people’s time too. You’ll enter the Thai Immigration building first, go through Immigration, emerge on the other side, walk to the Cambodian side, go through their process this time.
- Once done, find your bus. Hop in and you’ll be on your way to Siem Reap’s city center.
If you have questions or need help, do not hesitate to ask the driver. They’re trained to assist you.
By Regular Bus
If the price and schedule of direct buses don’t work for you, you can always take a regular bus to the border town of Aranyaprathet, cross the border, and then take another bus or taxi to Siem Reap.
Warning: Go early because it becomes exponentially difficult to get to Siem Reap when you reach the border at night. The last thing you want is to be trapped in the border. The towns on either side of the border are unpleasant, and there’s really not much to do. There’s nothing there but hotels and casinos.
- In Bangkok, go to Morchit (Mo Chit) aka North Terminal.
- Book a bus to Aranyaprathet. There’s one every hour from 3am to 12nn, and three more buses from noon to 5pm. Fare: THB 205 ($6).
- At Aranyaprathet Bus Stop, take a tuktuk to Rong Khlua border market (Friendship market), where the border gates are located. Fare: 100 baht for tuktuk. Motorbike rides are also available at 60 baht. Do not entertain touts offering express visa or immigration services. Do all the paperwork at the Immigration gates instead.
- Clear Immigration. Once you’re through with Thai Immigration, you’ll emerge in the Cambodian town of Poipet. Cross the short bridge and you’ll reach the Cambodian Immigration on the other side. If you’re an ASEAN resident, you only to fill out a form on both sides of the border to get through. Again, DO NOT entertain touts that will approach you.
- In Poipet, take the FREE shuttle to the transport depot.
- At the transport depot, you may take the government bus (Fare: $10) to Siem Reap. Another option is taking a taxi, which costs $35-55. If you’re traveling alone, you can form a group with other travelers so you could split the cost. The great thing about the taxi is, you can ask the driver to drop you off at your hotel if it’s in the city center.
That’s it! Although it involves a few transfers, it’s actually very easy in practice. A bit tiring, yes, but not that hard to do.
- In Bangkok, go to Hualamphong Station and buy a ticket. Two trains ply this route scheduled at 05:55am and 01:05pm. Try to catch the morning train. Travel time: at least 6 hours. Fare: 48 baht.
- At Aranyaprathet Station, travel to Rong Khlua border market (Friendship market) by tuktuk (THB 100) or motorbike (THB 60).
- Clear Immigration on both sides of the border. You’ll have to walk a little bit in between. DO NOT entertain touts who will approach you.
- In Poipet, take the FREE shuttle to the transport depot.
- At the transport depot, you may take the government bus (Fare: $10) or taxi ($35-55) to Siem Reap. If you’re traveling solo, you can find other travelers to form a group so you could split the cost with them.
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The Golden Gecko Villa
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