11th April 2015

Bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap & Poipet Border Crossing Scams

One of the easiest ways to travel from Thailand to Cambodia is taking the bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap.

Getting a direct Bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap is definitely one of the easiest ways to cross the border between Thailand and Cambodia. It’s a long day of travel but it’s a comfortable journey, relatively cheap, and is a great carbon-conscious alternative to flying or taking a taxi.

There are a number of companies who provide this service, many of which are based out of backpacker hubs like Khao San Road and will probably overcharge you for the journey, or may not take you the entire way. To avoid being scammed, make sure you purchase your bus tickets directly from Mo Chit Bus Terminal in Bangkok.

This post will help you understand what to expect on the bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap, and how to avoid being overcharged when you cross the Poipet border through a number of scams you will probably encounter.

Quick information:

  • Departure time from Mo Chit Bus Terminal, Bangkok: 8am
  • Arrival time in Siem Reap: 4:30pm
  • Duration of time spent at border crossing: 1.5 hours
  • Ticket Cost: 750THB
  • Number of scams to be aware of: 3
  • Cambodian Visa Cost: $30USD

What to take with you:

  • 2 x passport photos
  • your passport
  • your luggage
  • a pen
  • an assertive attitude!


How to take the bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap – Thailand to Cambodia via Poipet Border

1. Buying your bus ticket

I recommend buying your ticket in person from Mo Chit bus terminal in Bangkok. Tickets for the next few days were already sold out so buy them as soon as you can. My ticket cost 750B.

2. Travelling to the Poipet border

Arrive at the station at least half an hour early for your bus just in case registration and boarding takes forever. You can store your luggage in the storage compartment. My bus departed at 8am.

The coach was comfortable and was air conditioned. We were introduced to the lady working on the bus as a waitress/ helper (let’s call her Linda). Linda served us a small breakfast shortly after leaving the bus station, it was a couple of pastries and an orange juice.

At around 12:25, we were each handed a laminated card (pictured) and Linda told us to wear it while we crossed the border. This would help her identify us when we got back on the bus.

The $40USD “Express Visa” Service

This was the view out of the bus window when we pulled into the lay-by. That’s a bus from Bangkok to Phnom Penh on the right, and the main road on the left.

We turned left off the main road, into a sort of lay-by with a few shops and pulled over. I took a photo of the view (see below) at 12.30pm. Enter scam #1. A man got on the bus and introduced himself (let’s call him Ken). Ken advised us that we would need a visa in order to enter Cambodia. He explained he could sort our visa for us for 1300B (roughly $40). I declined, as the visa is available at the border itself for 30$.

Ken wasn’t pushy and didn’t try to force anyone into using his service, he simply stated it would be easier and faster than getting a visa on arrival at the border. Most people on the bus were aware that a visa could be bought for cheaper at the border; of the 50 or so passengers, only four used Ken’s service. Ken got off the bus with the four passports, we waited around for another 10 minutes before driving 1km or so up the road, where a different man handed the passports back to Linda, and we carried on our journey towards the border.

3. Crossing the Poipet Border on foot

We arrived at the Poipet border at 1pm. Passengers disembark while you’re still in Thailand to go through immigration and get their visa. The bus drives along the road and meets you on the Cambodian side of the border.

This is the most confusing part of the crossing so pay attention! There are essentially three steps to navigating the Poipet border crossing:

This took about 1.5 hours.

Getting your Thailand Departure Stamp

When you get off the bus you’ll see the Thai border gate which is a beautiful white Wat-style building. To the left of it is the pedestrian route which you will follow on foot. The Thai immigration building is just after the gate.

Inside the Immigration Building you will be asked for your Departure Card in order to get your stamp. When I was there I didn’t have my card and there weren’t any floating around on nearby tables. I asked a member of staff for one and filled it in while I queued. The queue took about 15 mins.

The Thai Border Gate
The Thai Immigration Building – where you receive your Departure Stamp from Thailand
Follow the signs towards Cambodia/Exit

Upon leaving the building follow the signs ‘to Cambodia’/ Exit. You’ll see the Cambodian Wat-style border in the distance as you approach Cambodia (below left).

It’s worth mentioning this small marquee labelled Quarantine (below right), which is on your right as you approach the Cambodian border gate. I was handed a form to fill in about my health and was told to continue on, taking the form with me. I’m not sure whether it’s necessary to fill in the form as nobody requested to see it after I left the Quarantine tent, but that’s that.

Leaving the the Thai Immigration building, you’ll spot the Angkor-Wat style Cambodian Border Gate
You’ll pass a Quarantine tent on your right

2. Getting the Cambodian Visa

After passing the Quarantine tent, there are signs directing you to continue on the left side of the Angkor Wat-style Cambodian border gate if you already have your visa or if you have an e-visa.

If you need a visa on arrival, like I did, you have to cross over to the right side of the gate, where there is a small building with yellow writing, called the ‘The Office of International Border Check Point of Poipet’.

The office was small and there were a few Cambodian officials standing around. Here you have to fill in a simple Visa Application Form. It’s best to take 2 passport photos with you, to avoid having to pay a “fine”.

The Cambodian Border Gate

The “Processing Fee”

Scam #2 is the cost of the Cambodian visa. The official sign above the counter reads: ‘Tourist Visa: $30, Business Visa: $35’. On the desk, there is a handwritten sign that says ‘Tourist Visa: $30 + 100 Baht’. This additional 100 Baht is a scam – it’s a tip that staff will pocket. I questionned it and was told it was a processing fee. I said I didn’t have any Thai Baht left, and was told I could pay $3USD instead. I explained I only had $30 for the visa and was asked to leave the queue.

I stood to the side and waited for about 10 minutes. A different Cambodian official came over and took my passport, handed it to a different member of staff behind the counter and processed the visa. So it seems that many people pay the extra 100B / 3$ simply to make things easier and quicker, but mine was still processed, I just had to wait a bit longer.

3. Getting your Cambodian Arrival Stamp

After getting your visa, you still need to be stamped into Cambodia, so you must go through immigration. The queue was long, it probably took around 45 minutes, but the queue on the right split into two queues further up so this is definitely the one to be in! You’ll have your fingerprints taken when you have your passport stamped.

The 200THB “Express Visa” Service

When I left the Visa office, the bus was parked before the Cambodian Immigration building. I boarded the bus, happy I’d got my visa and thinking I was all done. Luckily I quickly realised I hadn’t yet got my Cambodian Arrival Stamp and hurried back off the bus to get it. Scam #3 was the same as Scam #1 – Linda said she could do an “express service”, this time for 200 baht, because the queue in the Immigration building would be too long and the bus may not wait. However, I had seen others from our bus behind me and there were only a couple of other people who were already back on the bus, so I refused and went into the Cambodian Immigration building anyway.

I think the bus driver purposefully parks the bus BEFORE you reach the immigration office, making you forget about getting your stamp and therefore paying the “express service” fee to avoid “delaying the other passengers”.

4. Travelling from Poipet border to Siem Reap

Linda counted everyone to check no-one had been left behind – despite her previous threat of leaving without me! We left Poipet just before 2:30pm and were served a simple lunch. The rest of the journey was quite pleasant, and we arrived in Siem Reap just after 4:30pm.

We stopped at a tourist office in Siem Reap and the luggage in the hold was put in the reception area of the office. Upon collecting my luggage I was offered a “free tuk tuk” to any hotel or hostel but declined – I wasn’t sure whether this was going to be scam #4!

Arriving in Siem Reap, my first port of call was the famous Angkor Wat!

Tips to avoid the scams at Poipet Border:


Essential Travel Tips

Flights

I always use Skyscanner to search for the best deals on flights when I travel. Bangkok and Siem Reap both have international airports. Whilst flying between the two may save you money and time, it’s not a very eco-friendly option. I encourage you to travel overland where possible.

Accommodation

I book most of my hostels, hotels and other accommodation through booking.com as it’s a great price-comparison site and there is just so much choice! I also like Airbnb for longer stays. If you haven’t signed up with Airbnb already, you can use this link to get £34 off your first visit!

Travel Insurance

I never travel without insurance as there have been many occasions I’ve needed it! From being pickpocketed to having a motorcycle accident, you never know what’s around the corner. I use World Nomads which is a flexible option you can extend or even take out a policy whilst abroad.

Travel Essentials

My tech essentials when I travel are my Canon 80D camera with 18-135mm lens, and my iPhone X. I generally use Lonely Planet Guidebooks when I travel.

Sustainability

I always take some essentials when I travel which lessens my plastic use and carbon footprint when I travel. Make sure you pack a Reusable Water Bottle, a metal straw and a reusable tote bag.

Tours

I always try to understand more about the destination I’m visiting by going on a local walking tour. You can browse lots of options on Get Your Guide.

Have you taken the bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap? Did you experience any of these scams at the Poipet Border?

Thanks for reading and happy travels!

Abbi x

Please note: all information provided here is correct at the time of writing regarding our journey on 3rd March 2015. Information may have changed since this post was published.

This post contains affiliate links which help to run this site.

Enjoyed this post? Save it for later

6 responses to “Bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap & Poipet Border Crossing Scams”

  1. Henzir Abmehal says:

    On Christmas 2015, the border officials didn’t ask for the “processing fee” anymore – maybe because of the anti-corruption crackdown by the government.

    Instead, the staff at the quarantine booth had invened another innovative scam : they asked us to fill out the visa application forms. Then they told us that the tourist visa would be 40 $ now, and that we had to pay them. At first I believed them … they were government officials in uniform … so they must be honest [ joke ] ! But later, after they had returned our passports with the visa ( with a written price tag of 30 $ ! ) I realised I had been scammed by uniformed officials :-0

    I wasn’t willing to give in, and warned all people arriving at the quarantine booth that the visa costs actually 30 $ and not 40. I did that for a while, much to the dislike of the quaratine staff.

    Then I went to the visa office just behind the quaratine booth and complained to a cop about the scam. His only answer : “I don’t know, I don’t know.” Then I went to a high ranking police officer ( decorated like a general ) and complained. Within minutes I had my money back ! And that officer gave me a “thumbs up” and a smile …

    • Thanks for your comment Henzir! Looks like they’re always searching for a way to make a few extra dollars. I’m glad you were able to get your money back!

      • Onera says:

        I I can understand. They did not win a genetic lottery by being born in a Western country amongst the most privileged ethnicity (Caucasians). They worked hard in the environment they were born to become immigration officer and want few bucks from lucky people who won the genetic lottery. I don’t these scams. Are you going to complain when you buy an overpriced beer in a bar? Probably not

  2. Just experienced gettig the 100 baht scam. We fell for it! Quite frustrating.

    • Oh no! At least 100 Baht isn’t that much money I suppose – and you’ll be prepared for it next time! Hope the rest of your trip is scam-free!

    • Onera says:

      Always remember that you won a genetic lottery by being born in a Western country amongst the most privileged ethnicity whose ancestors lotted these countries for over a century to create a solid foundation for you. And complain in beer bars when they over charge you for a beer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Content is protected