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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 “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.
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”.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Thanks for reading and happy travels!
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.
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