Page 1 of 22 (July 2010 - )
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updated February 3, 2011
Midnight airport arrival (February 2011):
Once in BKK the plan was to wait for an 8am bus that would take us to Rongklua Market that is next to the border crossing and a few kilometers from the town of Aranyaprathet. But, I had downloaded some information from http://www.talesofasia.com and http://seat61.com/cambodia.htm and talesofasia indicated there was a 3:30am bus from the Northern Bus Terminal a.k.a. Morchit Bus Terminal.
So instead of the 8-hour wait at the airport we opted to take a taxi from the airport to Morchit Bus Terminal for the 3 1/2 hour wait. The taxi to Morchit costs 390 baht ($13) + road toll fees of 80 baht ($2.70) and took about 1/2 hour. We waited at the bus terminal for the window (#31) to open, while waiting we started to see a line form. After awhile the line was getting longer and so we looked to find out they were waiting for the same ticket window to open. Luckily we ended up getting in line as I think we got the last three seats on the bus at a cost of 212 baht ($7.10) each as I would not want to stand for the 4-5 hour bus ride. No issues with the bus ride and it took about 4 1/2 hours to get to the border market. The border had recently opened (7am) and there were no crowds trying to get through at this time.
As soon as we stepped off the bus the touts started hounding us for rides to the border crossing. We probably paid too much but we took two tuk-tuk's (small covered trailer pulled by a motorcycle) to the crossing at 50 baht ($1.70) each. If there is a next time it is worth no more than 20 baht as on the return trip it was only 80 baht for the 6km to Aranyaprathet. We were dropped of near a table with a couple of people I assumed wanted to assist us in crossing the border, we did not wait around to find out. According to the tales of Asia website this could have been a scam to have you pay for paperwork you do not really need, but the people did not really push anything on us. Since we arrived early there was not much for crowds trying to cross the border. The hardest part of the border crossing was trying to figure out where you needed to go. We found the building on the Thailand side to get through to the Cambodia side. Again, on the Cambodia side we were looking for the Visa on Arrival office as Mendy and Weston needed visas’. I was able to purchase an e-visa online (http://www.mfaic.gov.kh/evisa) that costs $5 more than the $20 visa on arrival. The e-visa was not really needed as there were no lines but if it was busy it might have saved a lot of time. After the visa on arrival office we needed to find the immigration window to get the passports stamped, again a little confusing to find as there does not seem to be any visible signs to follow.
Once through the crossing we had a young gentleman approach us saying he was with the tourist center and was there to help with transportation to the transit building. Since I thought I read something about this and a free bus to the transit center we had him help us. Sure enough, got on a free bus to a big transit center where you can catch a taxi/van/bus to Siem Reap. Not sure how much all the options cost but the taxi costs $12 per person. Actually a taxi costs $48 ($12 x 4 people), so with three of us it was $16 each. Note that the taxi's will take you to guest houses that they deal with, since we already had a hotel in mind we told them to take us there, they were not liking that but our ride did get us to the hotel we wanted in about two hours.
The return to Bangkok: We met with Mr. Narong (our tuk-tuk driver) at about 5:20am, and he lined up a taxi driver for us for the ride to the border. The direction from Siem Reap to Poipet (border town) is not regulated like Poipet-Siem Reap was and the taxi was $25. The taxi drove a little fast for comfort but we made the border in less than two hours. Again, it was a little confusing getting through the border but we made it through and took a tuk-tuk from the Thai side of the border to Aranyaprathet for 80 baht ($2.70). We timed it perfect as we unloaded from the tuk-tuk, bought our tickets at 207 baht each ($6.90) and the bus was there ready to go. The bus was 5 baht cheaper as we left from town and not the border market. After a little more than five hours (traffic toward Bangkok slowed us down) we reached a bus terminal. We had no idea what terminal this was and the only thing we knew was we were going to head toward Khao San Road. As we unloaded from the bus we had taxi drivers jumping at us for a ride and one had us following him out to his car. He wanted 850 baht (over $28) to get to Khao San Road, as we did not know where we were we did not know if that was good or not. But, after talking between ourselves and Weston mentioning he did not like how forceful the taxi driver was he said we did not want the ride and went back to the bus station. At the station we now see the metered taxi line and asked how much, the metered taxi ended up costing less than 100 baht (just over $3) so $25 less than the non-metered taxi. After about 1/2 hour we were being dropped off at Khao San Road. If you need to get to the airport from Khao San Road there are express buses that go directly to the airport for 130-150 Baht ($4-$5) and takes about 45 minutes. I would guess a taxi would run around 400 Baht ($13) but that is just a guess.
The whole thing pretty much sucked (January 2011):
So, we just got back from Cambodia. The border crossing set such a bad bit that it almost ruined the entire trip. There was conflicting advice in the LP about using the ITT tourist bus ("government backed" but "avoid") and taking a taxi ("potential for scam"). We decided to suck it up and take the bus. Right. The bus runs the same scams as the taxi drivers.
Visit the Apple store! (December 2010):
Hey just wanted to share my experience with the Cambodian border. Don't have much time so it'll be short and sweet. Take the train from Bangkok to Aranyapathet. 48 baht, 4 or 5 hours. Trains in Thailand are great and the countryside is gorgeous. Leave in the early morning, not the afternoon, so you can get to the border mid-day and not have to stay in Aranyapathet which is actually okay.
Near the main square in that city is where the big green trucks leave from. Get a ride to the border for 20 baht, have soup at the shop before leaving. Ignore EVERYONE once at the border. Walk into the Thai border control, right side for foreigners. Unless a big Korean tour comes in, it's okay. Even then I advise against the E Visa.
Leave Thailand. Walk to the big Visa on Arrival office which is on the right. It wasn't busy when I was there. Pay 20 US dollars, no more. Just say no if asked for
Walk and keep walking. Ignore everyone, and I'd say even the free tourist bus. I don't know where that goes but it's probably not a good place.
Keep walking. Get sunburn. Dodge mangy mean dogs. Do not try to communicate with anyone. Most people in Poipet who speak any english are trying to screw you.
Once the town fades away and the road becomes a highway wait for and flag down a small Toyota pick up loaded with people. Pay no more than 3 us dollars for a ride to Sisaphon. Find a new truck at the parking lot there. Pay no more tha 3 us dollars. The locals pay 10000 riel, about 2.5 dollars. Buy and drink an iced coffee out of a plastic bag. Wait 2 hours until the truck is full and don't fall off the pickup truck. Cambodia is gorgeous.
Visit both Apple stores in Siem Reap. Volunteer to teach English.
It's easy (December 2010):
I just wanted to let you know your site was an absolute necesity for crossing the border at Poipet. I did it about 11AM Dec 6, and had no trouble getting through. If it helps, here is some info I learned that could help others as well:
-Tuk tuks and motorbike taxis from Aranyaprathet will try to drop you at the "Cambodian consulate" where you can get a visa for the low price of $40. I refused to get off and told them to take me to the border and they obliged. More than a few folks in Siem Reap while I was there admitted to falling for this one.
Overall the crossing was less shady than expected. After crossing to Poipet, folks with ID badges that said Cambodian tourist assistance (or something) were pointing where to go and saying to check the signs and not pay more than $20 for the visa. I naturally ignored anyone that spoke to me, but in hindsight it seemed like legitimate assistance! There were still touts asking if I had a visa yet, but they kept pretty clear.
Once again, thanks for your site and keeping it up to date. I'm so glad I didn't fork out for a flight!
Avoidance (December 2010):
Left the Mo Chit station on the express bus to Aran. Posted time was 5:45, it left closer to 6:00. Went inside station and bought a ticket at window #24, I think it was. About a four hour drive to Aran. One novelty is that they actually dropped us at the border instead of into the throngs of tuk tuk drivers like I was expecting. I'm not sure if this is new policy or a one time affair. Just stayed on until the last stop.
Border is about a 250 meter walk. You will be greeted by touts as soon as you exit the bus, and they will try to take you to a scam visa agency. Best strategy here is to tell them you have an e-visa, whether or not you do, and that will probably quiet them down. And don't give your passport to anyone except the gov't officials processing it. If you need to be told this, you probably should steer clear of Cambodia.
Take a couple of turns to the border and fill out a form and get stamped out of Thailand. If you were motivated enough to take the early bus, there probably won't be a line (I went on a Thursday, have heard Sundays are busy). From there, walk down the street a hundred meters and cross to the other (right) side of the street. The visa center for Cambodia is clearly marked. Note: Bring a $20 bill, exact change, for your visa. Getting change, paying in baht, etc... could end up being a problem, i.e. costing you more. Also, a 100 baht baksheesh is pretty standard, pay or fight the good fight if you want, I paid...
There will be official taxi drivers at the visa place salivating over your arrival. You will then be escorted by said taxi tout to the Cambodian stamp-in office. More forms, more lines... As soon as you exit the visa inspection office, the carnage begins. The ten or so taxi touts are going to do everything in their power to throw you directly on the shuttle bus to the transportation center. As soon as you board that bus, there is no turning back. You are either going to be paying $45-$60 for a taxi, or waiting who-knows-how-long for a bus. I had paired up with two travelers (pretty easy, plenty of ones and twos making the trip) so the three of us were looking to share a taxi to SR. What I would recommend doing, is tell the touts that you are going to have a look around Poipet, and go get something to eat. They will tell you basically anything they can to get you on the shuttlebus, but if you just keep walking (they will try to physically get in your way), you will reach the second, less touty touts. These are the shared Camrys running independently. They were parked literally thirty meters down the road.
The system they have set up, is they have a police officer standing with them and guarding/preventing a huge tout melée (which I would personally love to witness). These guys will get you to SR for about $30-$35 dollars depending on your bargaining skills. Note: always pay on arrival. The funny thing is, after agreeing on a fare, the driver literally kicked back five bucks to the police officer watching out for them. Ahhh, Cambodia.
Another note: be specific that you want to be dropped off at your hotel. They will invariably try to deliver you to the tuk-touts once you get to SR. If you were specific about him delivering you to your hotel, you can call him on it when he tries to pull this on you. Taxi ride takes about two hours, with your taxi driver driving directly over the center stripe with his hand permanently affixed to the horn. Once you get into SR, make the driver take you where you want to go. If not, he will kick you out with the tuk tuks and they will invariably take you to wherever will give them a kickback.
Arrived in SR around 1:00. Note, if you want to visit Angkor the next day, you are allowed to purchase your ticket after 5 PM on the preceding afternoon and take in the sunset for no added fee, if you're into that sort of thing. Things in Cambodia change with the wind, so be prepared to improvise and keep in mind that a fair majority of Scambodians see you as a walking ATM and will try to withdraw as much as they can. So be a little weary, but first and foremost do everything you can to enjoy the country and people as much as possible. It is a unique, challenging and ultimately rewarding experience.
Tuk-tuk avoidance (November 2010):
-Took the #3 bus from Samsan Rd in Thewit right to the Northern Bus station (8 B each) at about 7:30am. Got to the station at about 8:30am, so don't be in a hurry if you take this route, it's rush hour after all. This lets you out in the market stalls, so you may have to ask someone to point you to the actual terminal (basically through the stalls and keep to the left and you'll see the modern terminal building.
Went to window 30 because they had a bus going to Rongklua market, 212 B. The bus left about 9 am. It was comfortable, good air-con, they gave us some water. Stopped at a 7-11 once for fuel, and to pick up/drop off people, and at the checkpoints, where they ignored us, the only two westerners. Bus stopped at Arayanprathet station briefly but then went right to the market, arriving about 13:15 (4h15m). The bus driver pointed us to the border, about 50m away, and thus we avoided all the problems with tuk-tuks from the bus station (and the additional cost). We did end up waiting in line to leave Thailand with the KSR bus crowd but we hate getting up too early and we were prepared to wait.
-We had e-visas, so after getting stamped out of Thailand we didn't even look for the Cambodian visa office. I'd definitely recommend getting the e-visa, it's fast and simple. You print it out and staple it in your passport yourself. We went right to the line to get the Cambodia entry stamp, lined up again with the KSR crowd.
-By about 2:45pm we were finished everything. We waited for some people we had met in the line to share transportation. Since there were five adults we decided from the size of the taxis available that it would be too crowded for a 2+ hour ride, so we took the shuttle bus to the 'pitpit' terminal (the one about 6 km from town) to take a bus. At this time of day there were enough people (the bus was almost full when we got there so we knew it would leave soon) so we got the bus for $9 each, and it left about 3:15pm.
-Be warned that they will outright lie about where this bus will stop (but there is a way around this scam, see below). It won't stop at the town bus station on the East side of Siem Reap like they say, but at a bus compound near the airport. Here they try to get you to take tuk-tuks the rest of the way, at $3 per person. We said no thanks, we'll walk, even though it was getting dark by then, so the five of us slid open the iron gate enclosing the compound and walked up the lane to Airport Rd. The looks on their faces when we just left was priceless. After we left we heard them slam the iron gate shut (as if to discourage any more rebellion). A few tk-ktuk drivers followed us, but gave up when we kept walking towards town (turn right where the lane meets the highway). There is a wide sidewalk on the north side of the road, and lighting, and frequent airport hotels, so it wasn't isolated. You'd have to decide for yourselves if you felt comfortable doing the same, but we didn't feel unsafe at any point. We walked for a bit and then approached some independent tuk-tuk drivers hanging around an airport. Since there was five of us we needed two tu-ktuks, which we got for $4 total (so a bit less than $1 per person), and they took us right to our pre-booked guest house (Golden Takeo on Wat Bo Rd.) without touting or taking us elsewhere. So it ended up costing about $10 each from Poipet, which seems to be a bit less than what taxis have been costing according to recent reports, and it was more comfortable for five people than squeezing into a taxi, and I really enjoyed the astonished looks of the touts when we walked out of the bus compound.
-Cost summary (per person):
-Note that in the Thailand exit line we met a couple of girls who had taken the KSR bus, and when they wouldn't go for any of the 'visa services' mentioned elsewhere on this site, they were told they were on their own to get the rest of the way. I didn't see them again to find out what happened in the end but it made me glad I didn't take a KSR bus, as per the advice here.
-Note, make sure you get stamped out of Cambodia when you leave. A guy in line with us hadn't been stamped out on a previous visit, so after waiting in line for the entry stamp, he had to go wait in line for an exit stamp, then wait in line again for an entry stamp, and for all I know he's still in line.
Visa gangs! (October 2010):
Thai-Cambodia border in Aranyaprathet is the worst border crossing you can imagine! I was robbed on the Thai side by visa gangs. They ask you to show your passport and then take it and start asking you money. This place you must avoid at all cost there is no signs to give information or any authority to guide you whatsoever and looks like there is no government authority in both sides its all controlled by the mafia and gangs who will at all cost try to offer their services to get visa for you and take as much money they can. After 10 years of going to Thailand and see a border like this never again.
A few points (October 2010):
1. Visa. We (myself, Thai/British wife and her Thai sister) got our visas at the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok. Whilst their web site says it takes up to 3/4 days, we got ours in 20 minutes!! Don't ask how except to say it always helps if you have a Thai handling such matters for you.
2. We travelled to the border by taxi. I wanted to go by bus from Mo Chit but my wife refused. I petulantly let her pay the taxi so not sure how much it cost but it was quick (3 hours), comfortable and easy.
3. Having our visas already stamped in our passports we skipped the "Visa-on-arrival" office and went straight to Passport Control. We were through quickly, the longest delay was getting stamped out of Thailand as the queues were very long.
4. The rest of the journey was the familiar rip-off; exchanging money at the border for useless reals which my wife fell for; government" taxi ( cost $40 for "back-seat"); driver who spoke only Khmer (between the 3 of us we spoke fluent English, Thai, French and Japanese - all to no avail - all we could get from him was "Don't know") ; drop off at tuk-tuk stand- $2 ride and frantic urging to go to a different hotel. (When I said we were going to our hotel and not his and we'd already booked and paid, he had the cheek to say they owned 2 hotels and ours was the worser one!!)
5. Hotel was fantastic - arranged tuk tuk for Angkhor for $9 first day and $15 second day and taxi back to Seam Reap for $27
6. Taxis back to Bangkok are advertised at 1,900 baht, but we booked one and were charged 1,800 baht and were delivered to my sister-in-law's front door in 3 hours.
I would always go the same way in future (until air fares become sensible) preferring the convenience of the taxi option. Don't know how to avoid the hassle at Poipet. Ideally one would get the taxis bringing people to the border which stop at the border traffic island but not sure how to do this other than wait in hope at the traffic island.
Everyone's in on the scam and one more reason not to take buses between Poipet and Siem Reap, take a taxi! (October 2010):
I'll start from the conclusion - DONT take the shuttle bus from the Cambodian border to the "bus station". TAKE A TAXI straight from the border!
My story : after more than a year of travelling in Asia and scam ridden India, I thought I had seen them all, and pride myself in being able to avoid the most cunning scam and tout, and gracefully without losing my nerve or offending anyone. But the travel today from Bangkok to Siem Reap was beyond my capabilities! And this despite checking beforehand this forum extensively, and reading every word about it in the Lonely Planet - the scammers seem to be one step ahead.
Here goes, at first everything smooth - Woke up early, hoping to get to Siem Reap before it was dark. Bangkok (6:30 AM) - metered Taxi to Mo Chit bus station - 100 baht. Bus to Cambodian border (7:15 AM) - 202 Bhat. Bus was almost 5 hours until I got to the Cambodian border. Should noted that opposed to what I read here before, the bus got straight to the border (100-200 meters from it) - no need for another Tuk Tuk. [Ed. note: yes, a few buses now go all the way to the border and not just the Aran bus station.]
Kept on walking straight ignoring all the touts and restaurants offering Cambodian visa service ( which I didn't have ). Got to Thai immigration no problem. Passed to Cambodian side, things are pretty chaotic and dusty. After a minute or two in which I had to ignore the touts, found the Visa on Arrival building, which is on the right ( and has an obscure sign in front ). Inside the guy asked me for 20 dollars and 100 baht for the Visa. I knew about the 100 baht bakshish beforehand and had no problem paying it, but after giving him 20 dollars he didn't ask for it again, maybe because his officer got into the room. Anyway he was pissed and nasty, and refused to give me directions where to go afterwards. Got out of the Visa on Arrival building, walked 200 meters to customs/immigration, waited in line 20 minutes until someone told me I have to fill out a form, filled it out and waited another 20 minutes - 13:00 PM and i'm in Cambodia.
From here the problem starts - I was immediately scavengered by the touts, and wanted to get to the free shuttle bus to the bus station. But surprisingly - the touts goal was to get me on the free shuttle to the bus station, which seemed to have a legit goverment sign above it. This seemed strange - so I decided to walk the 1 km to the bus station ( according to my 2008 Lonely Planet ), but after asking a few people on the way who were saying that it moved ( later confirmed by someone with the 2010 Lonely Planet ) , I turned back, waiting to see what other tourists would do, as I was the only one there, and anyway the touts were saying that the bus would only leave once more people came.
Finally a group of about 20 westerners passed customs - Out of them three decided the "free shuttle" was dodgy and headed on independently to find a taxi. I had about 10 seconds to decide if I should join them, but both curiosity, and the fact that the other 17 tourists went on the bus convinced me to get on the bus as well. BIG MISTAKE! after this - the scam is so organized, that there is no turning back!
The free shuttle, drove about 20 minutes out of town took us to a big building in the middle of nowhere with a goverment looking sign saying "International tourist bus station" - which seemed comforting, but then again why were all this touts in with us on the bus, what was in it for them? The bus station was deserted until we came, and came to life with us. There was only one ticket counter, selling bus tickets for 9$ per person, and Taxi's for 15 $ per person. The ticket would be WAY overpriced in local standards, from the Lonely Planet it seems a local wouldn't pay more than 3-4$, but the main problem was there was only one bus, leaving at 3 PM. There is no turning back as the "bus station" is in the middle of nowhere, so you're left with no options. So me and the other westerners waited for two hours - meanwhile you're stranded, with only 2 places selling overpriced food and drinks to the stranded tourists.
3 PM came, and more and more tourists trickling to the bus station with the free shuttle - but unfortunately too much for one bus - So we had to wait another hour until the second bus got full - So we finally left at 4 PM. By the way - the bus station had about 30 Cambodian people lingering about - all of them pretty nasty to tourists and not answering any questions, some of them the touts outside the Cambodian border who hopped on the ride, and lots of them with tags saying they are from tourist agencies. 4 of them got with us on the bus to Siem Reap. Enough money for everyone!
The bus drove for an hour and half, and with only 40 kilometers to go, i.e. around 25 minutes ride, stopped in some restaurant. The guy said 30-40 minutes, "Last chance to eat or drink", with most tourists not knowing how ridiculous that was since they had no idea where they were. Needless to say - the restaurant had only english menu, and only english prices - double what they should be. It was obvious the restuarant existed solely as a part of this scam. After 40 minutes, everyone obviously finished "eating and drinking", and there we were 60 tourists waiting for the tout from the border to finish his feast - The restuarant owners seemed very happy, and kept on giving him more and more food. At this point some European guy lost his calm, and started yelling at the guy that we want to leave. After reading so many times how it's important not to lose face in Southeast Asia, I knew this wasn't taken kindly and wouldn't be productive, but then again - who can blame him? On the bright side, I walked around town a bit ( but not too much since I was worried the bus would leave ) - and got a chance to see a Cambodia which definitely isn't seen in Siem Reap, with kids waving hello from their bicycle.
6:00 PM - it's already dark, we finally leave the restuarant. We get to the "bus station" at Siem Reap - some dark empty ****hole a few kilometers outside town. Before getting there, the main tout got everyone's attention on the bus and explained how we should buy tuk tuk tickets with him, and tried to convice us to go to his guesthouse - yet another proof of scamminess. Outside of the bus - lots of tuk tuk drivers, and nothing else. They actually closed the gate to the bus station, so until people started buying "tickets" for the WAY overpriced tuk tuk's, they didn't open the gate. You had no choice - nowhere to go, kilometers to town. So the 1 $ tuk tuk ride ended up costing 3 $. Of course all the Tuk tuk drivers immediately start up conversation with everyone trying to convince them to take them the day after to the temples.
7:30 PM - i finally leave the Siem Reap "bus station" - ( which existed only for this Scam bus ) - told the tuk tuk driver to take me to my guesthouse, said I had reservation, made sure he knew the guesthouse name and kindly refused any more offers with him. Of course - He took me to another guesthouse, with a guy there claiming my guesthouse is closed, and smiling at my Tuk tuk driver. The guesthouse they brought me wasn't to my type, so I had to walk a bit more until I found a nice guesthouse, and finally laid in bed just before 8 PM.
So that's how what should have been a 7-8 hour trip became a 14 hour one. The main conclusion - There is a big scam, well co-ordinated, catching almost all of the tourists, and leaving even the smartest with no options of escape. From this everyone profits - from the multitude of touts at the border, to the restuarants at the bus station, to the taxi drivers at the bus station, to the restuarant on the way, to the tuk tuk drivers in Siem Reap. And it's not even so much the money which is annoying, it IS only a few dollars for each person for the overpriced bus ticket, and the food drink on the way ( which you have to buy since it takes so long ). It's the wasted time ( more than 4 hours ) , and the disgust from all the lies. There still remains a question how private tour operators took over the "goverment bus station", though i'm sure some how or the other, someone's getting a VERY nice bribe for it. A scam getting dollars from most of the tourists going to one of the most touristed places on earth = big $$$$.
The only way to avoid it - get out of the border, find a taxi to take you, bargain hard - and you shouldn't pay more than 40$ for a 4 people taxi ride ( if you're alone, wait a few minutes, westerners trickle by steadely ) that will get you to Siem Reap 5 hours earlier. Hope this helps, and that the scams will be one step behind instead of one step ahead!
Don't stay at the guesthouse they take you to (October 2010):
I just returned from Cambodia and want to tell about a new scam there on the Poipet border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia. As soon as I gone through all immigration process and got my passport stamped and few seemingly "Cambodian officials" asked me to go on their bus,and that they will take me to the central bus station for free on the bus that was waiting on the Cambodian side.
As soon as I got on the bus I felt that something was wrong, they took us to some station that didn't look like a local bus station at all, and also they tried to convince us to trade money from dollar to riel with a fake exchange rate like 1USD to 4000 riel when real rate is 1USD to 4250 riel. Eventually we bought a ticked for 9USD to Siem Reap and as soon as we got to town they didn't drop us at central station as promised but at some guest house outside Siem Reap.
They even got a British tout waiting for us there in order to convince us to pick their guesthouse. They even told us about a free tuk tuk to town every time we would like to go to eat at centre of Siem Reap, all the "offical" staff that followed us from Poipet disappeard as soon as we took a room. Later we found out that free tuk tuk thing was a lie also.
The guest house itself seemed nice at first, but soon after those creepy guys with tattoos started to show up and its become not very nice place to be. It was very hard to get out of there without getting questioned by guest house staff each time we tried to go out. They had us book tuk tuk driver for Angkor tamples. My recommendation is to be careful in Cambodia and dont believe espically to tuk tuk driver and when you're at the border be very careful not to fall into one of these scam that is told in this site.
Scam Bus 2010 (September 2010):
We took the direct service from Bangkok to Siem Reap and even bought the ticket on Kao San Road. The price was 300Baht and it was reasonable. The first question the driver asks you is whether you have the Cambodian Visa. We didn't have one so we immediately got offered a great price of 1200Baht (which now is $40, $1 is roughly 30Baht), visa on the spot and all that. Knowing that the Cambodian Visa was supposed to be $20 we politely turned the offer down and got in the minivan with other backpackers.
After a 3hr ride, around 15 minutes away from the actual border the van stopped at some restaurant, the driver got out and said that we were now going to have a break of 1.5hrs. No reason why. So we got out sat by the big table and none of us ordered any food. Now a different guy came up to us asking about the Cambodian visa, telling us that it is difficult to get it on the border and when we kept turning his offer down claiming that we know the price because some of our friends had crossed the Vietnamese-Cambodian border two weeks before, desperate to get some money off us he even claimed that getting the visa on the Vietnamese border is cheaper than on the Thai one. DO NOT listen to that, this is a total scam, the try to play on your fear.
About 15 minutes into our 1.5-hr break and nobody gets the visa, nobody orders any food at the restaurant so the driver gets up and with a very annoyed voice says that "Now we go". So we go, the van takes us to the border, the real one and this is when the scam starts.
We get off and are greeted with some "Tour operator" whose job is to take us first through the border, then to the bus to Siem Reap and it all looks like part of our deal from Bangkok because the driver tells us to follow the "operator" and tells us that it's all included. Right before Thai immigration the operator gathers us all around him and starts to talk about Cambodia and how things work over there. Some of the stuff is actually true but the biggest bulshit he tries to sell you is that it's good for us to withdraw Thai Baht now, take it over the border and then change it to the Cambodian Riel because the commision is lower than on the US dollar and that there are no ATMs in Cambodia, practically no banks and that Siem Reap is a really small place and if you want to change some money over there the guesthouse will have to charge some outrageous commision.
And I swear to God in a minute you can see queues to the ATMs and everything around looks like a total set up. ATMs only, some people pushing/pulling some stuff, someone shouting and the bank doesn't even have the exchange rate displayed on its window so to find out how much the Cambodian Riel is you have to take a number and wait to be served. So of course nobody can be bothered to do so.
Before we clear Thai immigration our tour operator explains those who don't have the Cambodian visa (so us and a German bloke) where to get it, how to get it, and ... how to avoid the bribe!!! Amazing, but it works! We don't pay anything extra, no 100Baht more for some stupid express service as the Immigration guys try to convince us, everything goes smoothly. So we clear Cambodian immigration and ever so happy that we avoided the scam we get shoved into a free shuttle bus that takes us to the famous International Bus Terminal where a bus to Siem Reap is already waiting for us. Of course before we get on the bus we exchange our Thai Baht that we withdrew on the Thai side. And of course we lose 25% but this is not the scam I have in mind.
Yeah, we lost the 25%, we probably should have done better research on crossing the border but the scam lies in withdrawing Thai Baht and in the exchange rate in Thailand (strangely enough). What happens is that $1 us worth 30Baht (roughly) and 1$ in Cambodia even if you get the fare exchange rate is actually 40Baht. So you get the Cambodian Riel, you arrive in the country and...all the prices are in USD and if you want to pay in Riel they charge you whatever rate they want (most places it's 4000Riel for 1$ but sometimes, like the temples of Angkor, they charge as much as 4350Riel) and because of course you don't have any USD with you, you want to get rid of the Riel so you pay (nearly 20% more than in Thailand) and cry.
The conclusion is: get the USD in Thailand (for a much better rate than in Cambodia), never change it to the Riel (even in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh or whatever), always pay in USD and you got yourself a much cheaper trip in Cambodia. We calculated that it works out nearly the same if you come from Vietnam. As for the transport deal from Kao San road? Actually, if you don't listen to the guide's bollocks about the money and all that, it's a really good deal. We got through the border fine, got on the bus and arrived in Siem Reap. If I was to do this trip again, I would still buy it from the agency from on Kao San for 300Baht but at the border I would dissapear behind the corner pretending I was withdrawing Thai Baht, I would take the "tour operator"'s advice on how to avoid the bribe when getting the Cambodian visa, I would get to the International Bus Station with him and would say I have already exchanged my Thai Baht but he must have not seen it. Then I would get shoved into the bus with other equally clever and savvy travellers and would be taken directly to Siem Reap smiling with my fellow backpackers and thinking how this time we took THEM for a ride. I hope this is going to be YOUR bus!
$64 cabs? Ouch! (August 2010):
We had lots of trouble finding Mochit Bus Station from Mochit Monorail station (even knowing the way coming back, it took 30 min to walk, not just 15 as tales of Asia says). We went to buy our tickets a day early (because of having trouble getting government bus tickets earlier that week - National Holiday?), so the next morning, we took a cab for 145 baht from Siam Square via the express way - very fair price.
The bus was 212 Baht. Although we got tickets for 7 am, it did not leave until 7:30 am. We got off at Arranyapratet shortly before noon, and got the Tuk-Tuk for 80 baht. We were the only people to get off, and later saw some Koreans from the bus at the border again, so we assume there is now a border market option on the government bus. However, we are not sure whether they ran into the visa scam, or where the bus drops off travelers. Our tuk-tuk took us direct to the border.
Getting across was smooth (we did pay the extra 100 baht on top of the 20 $ visa fee after our quiet protest did not work), but after immigration in Poipet we ran into the free shuttle bus guys. We couldn't remember from your site whether there was an option to get to Siem Reap outside the taxi/bus monopoly, so after consulting with some other travelers, we took the ride.
The entire taxi fee (64 $) seemed steep for 2, but within less than an hour, we found some other people to fill a minibus for 10 $ a pop. The problem at the bus station is that they make you pay in advance for the minibus ticket, so there is no way of withholding the money and despite assurances that they would drop us at our hotel, of course we ran into the Tuk-Tuk scam. The minibus also 'had to' stop again at a restaurant on the way. We didn't eat, and weren't hassled.
In Siem Reap, the mini-bus stopped at Kao Sam guesthouse. It gets good reviews on Hostelbookers, but I wonder whether it is because it surpasses people's expectation after being hassled into staying there... We had booked a hostel close by and knew we could get there on foot, so we just walked away ignoring the tout's protests (Tuk-tuk free, you just hire us tomorrow...).
Over all, it was much smoother than we expected, and we feel like we got away okay, compared to other people we talked to who had paid 1200 baht for their visa and were still waiting at the bus station when we left.
Take the bus from Ekamai (August 2010):
We have read the tales of asia page about the trip to Siem Reap over and over again. You can say we were well prepared. No one was going to fool us out of extra money or whatever.
Our hotel in Bangkok was in the Sukhumvit area and we were making preparations to take an early morning taxi to Mochit bus station, because we wanted to be at the border way ahead of the Kao San bus loads.
After mentioning this to one of the guys at our hotel he told me he had family in Aranya Prathet and he never took the bus from Mochit, but always went there through Ekamai bus station.
Ekamai is close to Sukhumvit and only a few stops with the skytrain. Because we wanted to be sure that we are on the bus, as it leaves only twice a day, we went the evening before to the station to find out that the booth for Aranya was closed, but one of the women working there assured us that the next morning we would be able to buy a ticket and that the bus would leave at 6:30. We decided to give it a chance bearing in mind that we always could hop on the skytrain to Mochit and still be on time at the border. Next day we arrived the booth was closed, but opened as soon as they found out that we needed the Aranya booth. 200 Bath per ticket and we left at 6:45, with only 4 passengers on board of the old aircon bus. At 9:30 we made a stop at Sa Kaew for about ten minutes.
During our stop a bus to Aranya from Mochit stopped by and we were told to hop over and continue to the border with that bus. We spoke some French guys and they had left over an hour earlier then we did to arrive at the same time in Aranya. From Sa Kaew it is roughly 30-45 minutes to the border.
We were well prepared to handle the touts coming to talk us out of our money with the visa scam and all, but you can imagine our suprise being delivered only 50 meters from the border office. No tuktuk hassle, nothing at all just straight for the border.
Yes, we paid the border official the 100 Baht bribe money, because we couldn't care less. In fact not one of the tourists there, about 15 in total, made a point out of the 100 bat scam.
On the Cambodian side we were welcomed by a Cambodian guy who claimed working for the government and wanted us as smoothly as possible through customs and on our way to Siem Reap.
He guided us to the free bus and although plenty taxis were available not one of the touts tried to get us in theirs. Free bus brought us to some sort of station and there you could by tickets for either bus or taxi. Don't recall what bus price was, but taxi was $12 if you managed to get 4 people in. All the others took the bus which left two hours later, but we decided to take a taxi with the two of us for $40. Only restriction was that because normal price for filled taxi is $48 our driver was allowed to pick up people on the way to Siem Reap and that was what he did, but that was not a problem at all because it only took five more minutes.
We asked the goverment guy, who was a really nice guy by the way, will the taxi bring us to our hotel (pre-booked) and he told us no, we will be dropped at the edge of town and from there a tuktuk will bring us to the hotel. No extra charge. We were feeling a little bit reluctant, because of what we read on Tales of Asia, never to pay upfront, but we did it anyway. And it all worked out exactly the way he told us.
All in all, lunch included in Poipet we arrived in Siem Reap a little before two in the afternoon.
So, our advise to people staying in the Sukhumvit area is to take the Ekamai bus station. You can stay longer in bed and the trip is considerably shorter.
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Reports Page 1 (Jul 2010 - )
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