Bangkok To Siem Reap via Bandit Country

Poipet Travel Blog

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Border market at Aranya Prathet

If you're travelling by road, getting to Cambodia from Bangkok makes for an epic journey. First, you need to get a bus to Aranya Prathet which you can do from most of the main bus stations (Ekkami, Morchit and Southern). From Ekkami they run every 30 mins and cost about 200 baht, the other two stations have a reduced schedule and prices are similar.

The bus takes 5-6 hours and acutally leaves you at Aran, and from here you need to get to Aranya Prathet border market. From here, it's best to look like you know what you're doing, so try not to be futzing about with a lonely planet or standing scratching your head.

You can get a minbus if it happens to be there for 15 baht or a tuk tuk for about 50 baht. It's 7km away. We took the minubus with the locals.  Once you get to the border market you will be surrounded by touts asking if you want a lift to the border.

Welcome to the Kingdom
Ignore them, you're right beside it although that won't be immediately obvious because the market is dense and busy. You're now approaching Cambodia and here the roads end and the mud begins and the begging increases. Your minibus rep or the tuk tuk driver will show you which way to walk. Start walking.

You'll first go through Thai border checkpoint and get stamped out of Thailand.  Now you're in no mans land - walk towards the big arch that says The Kingdom Of Cambodia.  Ignore the guy dressed as a police man who greets you there and asks you to follow him. He will charge you 1400 baht for the visa which should actually cost a lot less, but we'll get back to that.  Walk to the right of the arch to the kiosk that says Visa Service. This is staffed by Cambodian officials.

Cambodian Official: That's $25 sir...
A visa is supposed to cost $20, as the sign above the window says, but nobody ever gets one for $20. They will tell you it's an old sign, or the king is in town, or you can't read and that the visa costs $25.  They might try for more. Argue with them for a while, politely and smiling - just for the craic. When you protest they simply shut the window in your face and there you are stuck in no mans land. They won't open it again until you wave $25 at them. Thirty seconds later you'll have your visa. You aren't even in Cambodia yet, and you've already been scammed for $5 - don't worry, you're not the first.

Once you have the visa, walk onwards into the Kingdom. You'll come to another checkpoint where you have to fill in the same forms again and show your visa to the customs people, and get stamped into the country.

A little bribe goes a long way
Welcome to Cambodia! Now for the second scam. There is a free government bus which takes you 100 yards down the 'road' to Poipet bus station (the roads are too muddy to walk along). This is OK, go with it but make sure you get the government bus and not a taxi or moto at this point. On the bus, you'll be given a lecture about how Cambodia is much better than Thailand. All hail chairman Mao and all that. Then you'll reach Poipet bus station which looks more like a mud wrestling arena. The government dude will tell you to go into the money exchange place and exchange money and will try to tell you this is the only place to change money in all of Cambodia. IGNORE him or youu'll lose a whopping 25% in the exchange rate.
Poipet International Bus Terminal

Ignore everybody else too.

Go into the bus station. You have two choices with a seperate clearly signed window for each - bus or taxi to Siem Reap. Bus is cheaper, but no toilet, windows or AC and takes a lot longer than the taxi and is liable to break down. We took a taxi which took 6 hours in good conditions. The taxi is 600 baht per person (they still use baht here) which is a decent price. Our taxi had two drivers who occupied the drivers seat at the same time for the entire duration, for reasons I'll never understand as neither of them spoke a word of English.

Six hours later you're in Siem Reap, which rises out of the mud so suddenly you'll think you've just fallen asleep.

Our Taxi to Siem Reap
The taxi won't take you to your hotel, assuming you have one booked. Rather you'll get dropped off at a bunch of tuk tuks which will take you there. These are free - before you get in, make sure you let them know you know that or they might try to charge you.

Likely, it is late in the evening and you are tired. But you made it. Congratulations! You can relax a little now because Siem Reap is actually a great place with very friendly people and not at all like the bandit country you've just come through.

I highly recommend Earthwalkers. It's a great little hotel just outside the city center, closer to the temples. The atmosphere is really friendly, there's a nice pool, the rooms are clean with AC and shower and it's cheap as chips.

 

Well done.

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Border market at Aranya Prathet
Border market at Aranya Prathet
Welcome to the Kingdom
Welcome to the Kingdom
Cambodian Official: Thats $25 sir…
Cambodian Official: That's $25 si…
A little bribe goes a long way
A little bribe goes a long way
Poipet International Bus Terminal
Poipet International Bus Terminal
Our Taxi to Siem Reap
Our Taxi to Siem Reap
The main road
The main road
First sight of Cambodia
First sight of Cambodia
Aris: But the sign says $20
Aris: But the sign says $20
The best road in North West Cambod…
The best road in North West Cambo…
Our taxi had TWO drivers
Our taxi had TWO drivers
Pit stop on the highway
Pit stop on the highway
Poipet
photo by: iMush