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Cambodia is an interesting country. It’s not as famous as Thailand as a destination for tourists, but it still attracts several million visitors a year. Most of the country is rural and raw. In contrast, the main cities are designed around foreigners. Oddly enough, the main currency of Cambodia is the American dollar.
There were definitely some things I didn’t like about Cambodia, and the trouble with how to visit Cambodia from Bangkok is at the top of the list. I thought I’d better pass on the knowledge I learned to others so they don’t get caught up in the border scams or spending crazy amounts of money traveling there from Bangkok.
The way my friend and I left Bangkok was by train. It was by far the cheapest option and left at 6 AM. Would I recommend it? Definitely not. There are no windows and in the cool month of October it was 35-40° the whole way. Dust and other items blew in from the fields. At times we would stop for over half an hour, waiting on the tracks for unknown reasons. The trip took a total of over 7 hours. The final stop of the train is still about 10 km away from the border, requiring a ride in a tuk-tuk for another 50 baht each.
There are many alternatives, including planes, charter buses and taxis. The best is a casino bus. These leave from the south side of Lumphini Park at 6 and 9 AM, and possibly other times. The advantages of this bus are a faster service (4-5 hours) from a more central departure spot right to the border (a block away from the Thai immigration office) and a cheaper price than other buses to Cambodia. The disadvantages are…lacking.
Getting across the border is very simple as long as you do one thing. Ignore EVERYONE on the streets. Don’t even acknowledge their existence. If they get insistent in your face, brush them off with a language other than English if you know one, or just make up a few words. There is a huge probability they simply want to involve you in a scam. They will try to sell you a visa at a crazy price, offer absurd rides, etc. Don’t even say “no” as then they will think you speak English. Just walk away. Better yet, put your headphones in and smile blissfully!
The correct way to get through is once you get to the border, go to the Thai immigration office on the left side of the street and get your passport stamped out of Thailand. Walk out of the office and make a left over the Friendship Bridge, past all the casinos between borders (gambling is illegal in Thailand) and up to the huge arch over the street providing the entrance to the Kingdom of Cambodia. Hopefully you purchased your e-Visa online (three days in advance) for $37 and have a print-out with you. Otherwise, head to the very official, governmental-looking building to the right of the arch to get your visa. Then continue on another 150 meters to the small, narrow blue building on the right side of the road to get stamped into Cambodia.
The next step is very important. As soon as you leave the Cambodian immigration office and enter Poipet, you will be accosted by dozens of people trying to get you onto a bus or into a taxi for three times the price you should pay. The “free” shuttle will just take you a bus stop outside the city. There you will be forced to hire a taxi for crazy prices since there are no buses to Siem Reap from Poipet except around 6 AM. Instead, just walk less than a kilometer into town and find a guest house where they can call a taxi for you. You should be able to get one for $10 per person. Ours was $20 for two people, all the way to Siem Reap.
This advice comes from a creepy experience when a taxi driver walked with us for over ten minutes trying to get us to ride with him, and when we finally tried to get assistance from a police officer to get him to back off, he then followed us in his taxi for nearly a kilometer into town. We finally took refuge in a guesthouse to get away from him, where we located the great taxi deal.
Getting back to Bangkok from Siem Reap is even simpler. You can get a mini bus with a local bus company either to Poipet for $5 or all the way to Bangkok for $9. I don’t remember the name of the company but you can purchase a ticket from the mini-markets in town and the bus will pick you up from your guesthouse and drop you off right at the border, not several km away at the bus station like the big companies will. Instead of getting a ticket all the way to Bangkok, I’d recommend buying a ticket to Poipet and then paying an additional $1.50 for a casino bus to Bangkok for two reasons. The bus is more comfortable than the mini van, and you won’t have to wait for all the same passengers to get through the border, or have them wait for you if you want to get a meal or something.
You’ll have to decide if visiting Cambodia is worth it. You might be visiting for a border run to extend your stay in Thailand. You can read my post on Angkor Wat and see if that’s a place you would want to visit while there. I’d recommend it. Cambodia can be pretty expensive, but if you’re going to pay for the visa you might want to stay longer and make the most of it. I’m sure I’ll be back someday to visit more cities and get better tips for you. Or you can send me some tips of your own!