Page 8 of 22 (January 2007 - June 2007)
Trying to get a non-mafia taxi (June 2007):
I made my first trip to Siem Reap overland from Bangkok on Monday, June 25. Thanks to the advice on your website and reports from other travellers, I had a good idea of what to expect along the way and it went relatively smooth.
Living in the Sukhumvit area in Bangkok, I opted to take one of the casino buses to the border at Aranyaprathet since they leave from Lumphini Park which is pretty close by. I took a taxi from my apartment and arrived in front of the HSBC building on Rama IV road across from Lumphini Park at 4am. There was a double-decker bus across the street and I verified that it was going to Poipet, then hopped on. The bus left at 4:20am and made a couple quick stops in Bangkok, then went straight to the Market at the Aranyaprathet border getting there around 7:20am. I was asked to pay 200 baht for a one-way journey (or 300 baht return).
I followed the crowd of eager Thai gamblers, some them were literally jogging to the immigration building from the bus to be at the head of the line. I appeared to be the only Farang around and went to the foreigner line where I was quickly stamped out of Thailand. I soon found myself at the Cambodia Visa booth and was the only one there; it was now around 7:30am. I filled out a form and handed it to the official at the window with a photo and $20. As expected, he told me the fee is now 1000 baht. I pointed out the sign above the window that clearly says $20 and asked where it says 1000 baht? He replied that the rates have changed and if I insist on paying in US dollars it will be an extra 200 baht. I asked what the extra 200 baht was for and again told him that I think the fee should be only $20 as indicated on the sign. After some more back-and-forth questioning I was surprised when he eventually admitted that he needed the extra baht for himself! He proceeded to give me a long sob story about how difficult it is to survive in Cambodia where he earns only $30 per month, and how this isn't enough to pay his expenses, which he started listing off… food, housing, kids, wife, motorcycle, fuel, etc. He then suggested that I could afford at least an extra 100 baht to help him out, and that he would then process my visa very quickly. I told him sorry, I'm only paying $20. He warned me that if I did it could take a very long time to process my visa. I was pretty frustrated by now, and told him I had lots of time and I can wait, so I left the window and sat down in the waiting area. A short time later a young American couple arrived and applied for their Cambodian visas, then sat down behind me. I learned that they had taken the 3:30am bus from the Mo Chit terminal in Bangkok, and they were also on their way to Siem Reap so we agreed to share a taxi. They told me they had just paid $25 each to the same official for their visa applications, obviously they were not happy about this. A couple minutes later another official came up to the three of us and handed back our passports with new Cambodian visas to each of us at the same time. Next the three of us went through Cambodian immigration without any hassles.
As soon we stepped out of the immigration building and entered Poipet we were swarmed by 4 or 5 guys who I assume were mafia touts, and they quickly ushered us onto the free shuttle bus. We all climbed into the bus, and were then treated to a rehearsed speech from one of the men about how we would soon be taken to the transport depot where we would have the option to choose any taxi or bus we liked. My favourite part of the speech was when he proudly declared, “Cambodia is a free country and you will have the freedom to choose whichever method of transport you like. You all like freedom don't you?” “Of course,” we replied, but I know full well that what he really meant that we were free to choose any taxi as long as it is a mafia-taxi.
They told us it would be a few minutes before the bus would leave, and it didn't look like we'd be moving anytime soon so I suggested to the American couple that we look for the Ly Huot Hotel which I had heard could arrange for a cheaper non-mafia taxi. They agreed so we told the men on the transport bus that we wanted to look around a little instead of waiting for the bus to leave, and we got off the bus. I soon spotted the blue hotel on the right of the traffic circle, and we were closely followed by the mafia touts as we headed that way. Sure enough, there was a taxi parked right in front of the hotel and the driver motioned for us to hop in as he went aside to ‘talk' to the men following us (and slip them a few thousand Riel to bugger off). The driver agreed to take us to Siem Reap for $40, so we jumped in the car and started pulling out. As we were leaving the parking lot, the driver was blocked by 2 or 3 officials (police?), who moved aside after being paid some Riel by the driver. Finally on the main road, we thought we were home free. The driver stopped in front of a store and honked, prompting a lady to run out with a stamped paper that the driver paid for. A short distance later, another official was waiting for us in the middle of the road and motioned for the taxi to turn off the main road. I realized our driver had been caught, and he was guided into the official transport depot where they made us all get out of the car. Officers escorted the driver away and another official told us that we were in an unlicensed taxi, and we would have to change cars. They asked what price we had agreed to and when we told them $40, we were surprised when they said the new taxi would honour the same price. The new taxi stopped at a booth at the exit of the depot to get an official version of the stamped piece of paper that the first driver had paid for, which he would need to give to another officer as we finally exited Poipet. We all felt sorry for our original driver's misfortunes, but we were happy to finally be out of that deplorable town.
It was close to 9am when we finally left Poipet. Our taxi driver seemed pretty speedy and after reading several reports of the terrible bumpy road to Siem Reap, I thought it wasn't too bad at all. We seemed to average 80+ km/h most of the way, I suspect the road may have recently been graded. Along the way we passed what I suspect was a broken down Khao San Bus, with a group of sweaty backpackers huddled outside under the shadow of the bus hiding from the mid-day sun. I did not envy them as I dozed off in the front seat of an air-conditioned taxi. We arrived in Siem Reap shortly after 12 noon, so my total journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap was around 8 hours.
The return trip was much more straightforward. I arranged for a taxi to Poipet with our guesthouse costing just $30, and found 3 others to share it with. We did have a long trip back due to a flat tire and sections with wet muddy road conditions - over 4 hours to the border. Once across the border, we tried to find a casino bus going back to Bangkok but none of them would let us on and all pointed us towards the visa-run buses. We also looked for a taxi but they all insisted on 1800 baht + tolls. So we settled for a tuk-tuk to the bus depot in Aranyaprathet and a first-class bus back to Bangkok, which was also held up by rainstorms. Our total journey time back to Bangkok took over 12 hours from Siem Reap.
Weakening mafia? (June 2007):
These are a variety of reports detailing experiences traveling both independently and on Khao San Road-purchased bus tickets. If you'd like to share your own experiences, please e-mail them to me. There are also sections here devoted to all other overland border crossings as well.
We read the article at length the day before leaving and we decided to stay overnight in Aranyapratet. In the bus we found a freshly landed french girl who was about to attempt the crossing at the late hour of 7pm. Based on your advice: do not cross at night, she stayed with us at the recommended hotel.
Next morning we were the first foreigners at the Visa booth, but the guy just asked for 25 dollars, I pointed out that the signed said 20 USD and that I had researched etc... did not budge. More tourists were starting to queue and the passeports were handed over to the booth... Nothing was happening and all the other tourists were paying 1000Baht without flinching. I swallowed my pride and placed a 1000 baht in my passeport. After 10 minutes at the booth I just wanted to get out of there and confront the next challenge.
We ignored the stalkers and walked down towards the crossing stopping for a dring a 100meters from were the "non mafia" taxi were hanging. To cut a long story short, a cop and a number of taxi-mafia dudes followed us for 30-45 minutes (it was raining heavily and I was trying to organise the transport for myself and 2 ladies).
The non "mafia" price was 35 USD for a whole car. When the police and the tout got involved it went to 40USD for just the backseater for us 3. In the end after the french girl quite comically lost her shoe in the mud (if mud was a commodity Cambodia would be a rich country and Poipet the Capital). "We gave up" and paid 50USD for a good car-driver combo and the expected 3 hours bumpy ride to Siem Reap.
An american guy who calmly took the free transport to the Bus station and randomly teamed up with an Argentinian guy there ended up paying 40USD at the till for a good car-driver combo and the expected 3 hours bumpy ride to Siem Reap.
Flat tires (May 2007):
My friend and I made the journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap on April 29th and it would have been MUCH more difficult without reading (this) site. It took 11 hours total (it would've been only 9, but our taxi between Poipet and Siem Reap got a flat tire). All the information you posted was correct except the first bus to leave from Bangkok was at 4am (not 3:30am). Another thing that I want to suggest to travellers is to make sure that your taxi has a good spare tire. When we got a flat, our spare tire was ALSO flat! It would've made the journey a lot better had we checked this out beforehand. Another thing, I noticed that someone recommended getting a Cambodian visa online before your trip. I would advise against this simply because the two Portuguese guys that we split the taxi with did this and had a lot of problems. The internet system was down at the Cambodian border (which I'm guessing happens fairly regularly), so they couldn't verify the authenticity of the printed out copy of their visas. We ended up waiting an extra half hour or more until they finally (after a lot of begging) let the guys go through.
Khmer New Year (May 2007):
Thank you very much for your in-depth, frank and incredibly useful information about the trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap. You enabled two Aussies who can't speak a word of Thai or Khmer to make the journey in less than 8 hours (by bus and taxi), without any hassles. We crossed the border on April 14, the beginning of the New Year festival.
One thing that we found helpful was getting a Cambodian e-visa before arrival. We got them on http://evisa.mfaic.gov.kh/index.php for US$25 each (just scan in a passport sized photo) and they e-mailed the visa in 24 hours (they say up to 3 days) and we printed out two copies (better to be colour), one for entry and one for exit from Cambodia (although the e-visa website does not say we need one for departure). Having the visas made it easier to get people to leave us alone at the border.
After we'd been through Cambodian immigration at Poipet we passed the people offering the free transport to the bus station and were then approached by what we believe were non-mafia taxi drivers. They approached us on the far side of the traffic circle and offered us a private air-conditioned Camry to Siem Reap with no stops and payment on arrival at our hotel in Siem Reap for US$45. This was what we were prepared to pay so we just took it. The guy drove like he was in the Dakar rally and played chicken with other drivers but the journey from Poipet to Siem Reap took less than 3 hours. A week or so later we met a German couple who had done the same journey as us on 12th April, travelling by train to the border and then by bus from Poipet to Siem Reap. The journey took them 14 hours because they waited forever for a bus at Poipet. They were told this was because it was Khmer new year.
Making it easy (April 2007):
Four of us seniors travelled from Bangkok to Siem Reap and back by road in early April. Being the dry season the road was passable but bone jarring. Staying in Aranyaphraet the night before is highly recommended, which gives you an early morning start across the border. For a little bit of luxury we stayed in the Aran Mermaid Hotel in Aranyaphratet for 950 baht for two which included a set dinner and good breakfast in the morning. The best recommendation I have to avoid the taxi hassles on the Cambodian side is to arrange a taxi from a guesthouse in Siem Reap. Rosy's guesthouse arranged a taxi to come to the border which charged us only $45.00 to Siem Reap. The taxi driver sent a person right to Cambodian customs to help us though the visa process and get us to the taxi stand. The same taxi back to the border was only $30.00. On the way back to Bangkok we caught a mini-bus from the Thai side which was about 100 baht more than a bus, but alot faster! I really recommend the land route because it gives you a much better view of Cambodia than just flying into Siem Reap and out.
There and back (April 2007):
My girlfriend and I did the trip on march 31st and returned on april 2nd. From Pattaya, Thailand, we booked a taxi for 2500 baht to the border crossing area--around 4 hr drive. Getting out of thailand was remarkably easy for us foreigners, while thais were stuck in long, slow lines--I say from when we entered the departure building it only took 5 minutes in the line and less than 5 minutes at the desk to get stamped out--they have "officials" looking for foreigners and helping them through quickly. We crossed the border and headed over to the cambodian visa area--requiring a short form and a passport picture. The sign above the booth said "$20 US" for the visa, yet the man at the booth told us "1000 baht" (around 32$ US at the time) as the price. We kept pointing to the sign above, and he eventually told us he'd do it for 20$ but it'd take him 3 hours...I was ready to crack, and would have given in when he said he'd do it quickly for an extra 200 baht over the $20 US, but my steadfast girlfriend resisted and said "thats fine, as long as it takes"...we gave him the $20 each, and sure enough, we got our passports about 15 minutes later. Ridiculous. A free shuttle then took us down to the Cambodian entry area, where we filled out another form and waited another 10 minutes or so till we could move along. We then went down to a bus area where a large tour-style bus gives a free ride to the transportation depot--I don't know how long they've been doing this bus, but i think it might help tourists to avoid pickpockets, etc. We got off the bus and approached the "taxi mafia" area where we paid 60$ for a cab to Siem reap. The ride took around 3 hrs 20 minutes, was beautiful, the road was in fine shape (lots of detours though), and was extremely bumpy. Dust didn't really slow us down any.
The way back, we paid 40$ for a taxi that was also around 3 hr 10 min, then got to the cambodian exit area at poipet, quickly moved through the line and got stamped out, then did a hot, long, uphill walk to the thai entry area, where again there were "officials" greeting us for our whiteness and guiding us around to the easy and quick way to get in. We got stamped in pretty quickly, and didn't have to get our bags checked at all even though we both had some pretty large ones. We then had some trouble seeing where to get a tuk-tuk to the bus station, so we walked a few hundred meters till we saw one, flagged it down, and paid 80 baht to get to the bus station. The bus station was nice--I almost made the mistake of getting on one of the other buses, but my girlfriend remembered to pick the one at the corner, even though the other, private ones, with copycat colors, try to get tourists into their slower ride. The government bus was hot and stuffy, left half an hour late, and took 4 1/2 hours to get to bangkok (morchit).
The whole way at the border we were helped by very nice, english speaking guides (obviously working for tips) that walked with us the whole way and showed us where to go. Typical of thailand/cambodia, they were nice, made things easier for us, but were clearly just looking for a tip--i gave the guy 5$.
All in all, we didn't think it was too much of an ordeal, but we would have been much worse off if we hadn't read the tales of asia site in advance.
Leaving Poipet (April 2007):
I just wanted to thank you for posting all of the info about getting from Siem Reap to Bangkok. I was able to charter a taxi and do it on my own with a minimum of fuss.
One weird thing though- in Poipet, my driver, who really did seem like a decent person, dropped me at a terminal with a 'free government shuttle' to the border. He said if he took me to the border himself, the cops would stop him. At this little terminal, there was a crappy little currency exchange booth, and the bus, which I was told would be leaving in 15 minutes. I told the person working in the exchange booth (who spoke the best English of anyone at the place) that I didn't want to wait on the free bus, and she signaled a moto driver for me.
I jumped on the moto and went to the border, which was pretty grungy, but I didn't encounter any touts or scammers there, and got through quickly without any hassle or attempts at extortion.
Also, the Thai immigration booth was covered in papers announcing that people needed to show proof on their onward travel out of the country. I didn't have anything on me, but explained that I had a E-ticket on such and such an airline on 11th. This seemed to appease the passport-checker, although he did hand me two sheets of paper explaining the need for proof of onward travel, and said 'next time'. So, I am thinking it might be prudent for travelers to carry a print out of their plane ticket itinerary or just something showing that they intend to Thailand.
More taxi fun (March 2007):
Left Bangkok by train, 3rd class @ 48 Baht which proved economical and a good way to see the scenery. Seats are a bit hard by the time you arrive at the border though. Arrived at 11:30. Caught a motorcycle to the border and headed straight to the Thai exit. Forget about ridding yourself of the touts. Cambodian Visa office was as expected, refused to pay anymore than the 20 US attached to my application and requested by the sign. Told the individual outside the Visa office that the Government of Cambodia required only that and that he had no authority to request anymore than that, and if he did, present the documentation and I would comply. I had my Visa in less than 5 minutes. Surprised myself as I was taking a chance my big mouth was going to get me in trouble. Other people followed suit. Immigration was a piece of cake.
Now, the taxis. Here's how I seee it. I have only ever felt uncompfortable in two places away from home. They were the Kansas City Bus Station at midnight years back, and Poipet on this day. I looked around and did not like what I saw.
So, as one that is obviously at a definite disadvantage wanting to get somewhere, I had pretty much decided that I would pay whatever it took to get out of here. This whole border crossing is set up against you. To fly is 130 US, so a 60 US taxi to keep myself out of difficulty in an area that I had a choice of to avoid knowing the potential problems, is cheap. I don't like being ripped off any more than the next guy, but come on folks, this is not going to break the bank, and hopefully one day there will be an end put to it. There are lots of travellers around at the border wanting to do the same thing, so sharing is easy to arrange and makes it more affordable. I frankly can't get a cab anywhere in North America for 3 hours for that kind of money to drive over a road like that. I might also add that we were stopped at two checkpoints to see the taxi receipt and once was pulled over by the police to check something. Travellers take note, those well dressed Police standing off to the side are not there to look after your interests, they are most of the problem that you are experiencing!!!! They will not help you!!!!
All the fuss at the border is left at the border once you leave Poipet and the rest of the visit in Cambodia is great. I flew back as i figured that I had now done it once, I don't need to see that again.
I cannot emphasize enough to anyone travelling this route, that maybe short of only paying the 20.00 for the Visa, you'll be well advised not to think you will be able to beat the rest of the scams on transportation - that's just the way it is. Keep your wits about you, as everyone is ready to take advantage of you there, and be just as cautious on the Thai side of the border.
"Oh, it's bad" (March 2007):
Oh, it's bad. I came to Aranya by bus by myself, accomplished with bus 3 out of Bangkok to Mo Chit, and a "fast" 207 baht bus to Aranya. Thank the sweet baby Jesus I read accounts and the FAQ and the detailed instructions on talesofasia, as well as the warnings about the escalation of the taxi mafia. I knew to ignore the touts, the guy selling "stamps" for my visa (I didn't have one but he didn't need to know that), and was even overly suspicious of the border officials well in advance of putting foot in Cambodia. I argued with the guy at the window long enough to pay $20 instead of 1000 B (I kept repeating myself until he got the picture, "No, I will pay twenty US dollars like it says on the sign"), but caved in and paid the 100B "acceleration" fee.
After I got my visa, before I proceeded to get my entrance stamp at the queue, I approached a group of three people sitting in the chairs where they have you wait for your visa to be applied to your passport. Two Germans, one Canadian-- I asked them if I could share a taxi with them to Siem Reap. No worries. But a tout had been on them since the Thailand side of the border, and once we all had our stamps, he trailed us, pestering us to get on the free bus.
We elected to walk instead to the intersection where I remembered we should be able to find non-mafia taxis as per your diagram. We did, but the little weasels were on to us. We found a bevy of white sedans, but no drivers would talk to us-- a brutal reversal of the usual situation in SE Asia. We finally cajoled one guy to bargain with us-- we had to haggle in the dust on his boot because he didn't want to be seen actually verbalizing in our presence. He agreed to meet us in ten minutes about 500 m away; when we all tried to sneak away one by one to get in his car, he spooked at a police officer and we lost our ride.
At this point we still thought we could get out for $35-- a bit high, especially for the Germans (who had a guidebook saying $20/taxi), but okay to split among four people. The next hour was spent aimlessly walking around town, trying to find a Camry driver who wasn't in the carpark of the government lot. No one would talk to us except children.
Every 50m, a police officer or a smarmy, sharply-dressed guy was posted to monitor us; we clearly didn't know our way around town and we were the only tourists there for some reason. When we walked by or pointedly ignored them to turn a corner, they'd start talking on their mobiles and zooming around on their motorbikes.
It was 1pm now (we'd crossed the border just before noon), and we decided to decamp and have cold drinks. We rested for an hour-- the police officer and the two guys who'd followed AND spoken to us stayed just next door to watch over us. Periodically, a man would approach us-- they all had ATTA badges, mafia-- to offer us a ride out, which we ignored or disputed. It got heated when the German bloke got involved-- I was torn between anger and fear at the knowledge that we were essentially screwed, it was only a matter of time before we had to acquiesce to whatever price they named.
Finally we did-- $35 for a car, plus some combination of road "taxes" and foreigner "taxes" to total $60. I ended up paying $17 with their inflated baht-to-dollar rate. But at least we got out of Poipet. And I'm finding, as promised, that the rest of Cambodia is nothing like that shithole border town! (I still don't trust police officers, though. And white Camrys make me flinch.)
Expensive taxis (March 2007):
We crossed the border from Aranyaprathet to Poipet on 2/19. It took about 3.5 hrs from Poipet to Siem Reap and the road condition is OK. Now there is a free shuttle from the boarder to the Poipet bus station and we find a taxi there. The board price is USD$60 to Siem Reap and we bargain to USD$55. I strongly suggest to take a taxi if you would like to save some time. Because the road is still bumpy, the bus is got to be slow down when it hits a hole or bump, I think it would take at least 5hrs to get Siem Reap by bus.
"Cambodia not need you now" (February 2007):
All went very smooth to the border and through customs to the free shuttle to the bus station. Upon arrival there was a man in a yellow shirt directing the tourists to the bus ticket office. Determined to find a cheaper and/or more comfortable mode of transport to Siem Reap we kindly told him that we were going to take a look around. He was very sure of himself as he yelled to us "take a look but you'll be back".
Siem Reap- Bangkok- Siem Reap (January 2007):
I traveled to BKK on Wednesday last week from Siem Reap. Pretty straightforward, no hassles. Paid 25US$ for a taxi (2 persons), got it at the Koh Ker Restaurant just over the bridge from the 'Royal Residence' at the first traffic lights. Left SR at 07:30, reached the border at 11:00 with a half hour stop at Kralanh for breakfast. Tuktuk 80 Baht, motorcycle taxi 60 to the Aranyaprathet bus station. Bus to Morchit from 12:30 to 16:45, 207 Baht.
Returned on Friday, took the 12:15 bus from Morchit to Aran, 207 Baht. Arrived Aran about 16:30. Took a tuktuk (60 baht) to the Aran Garden 2 Hotel, air con double room 370 Baht. Checked out the night market, not very big but good Thai street fare.
Next morning, Saturday 27th, took a tuktuk to the border, 70 Baht. The Thai person I was traveling with got some hassles at both Thai immigration (for not having a prearranged visa) and Khmer immigration (charged 1200 Baht for a 30-day tourist visa). Took about an hour for the complete crossing. After entering Cambodia I called the taxi guy who'd taken me to Poipet a few days before and he told me to see a friend at the Ly Huot Hotel just about a third of the way around the roundabout. First asking price was 40US$ for the taxi but agreed to 35US$ immediately. It took two and a half hours to get to SR! The road is well graded and smooth right now but also very dusty.
Gettign a pick-up truck (January 2007):
From Kao San Rd walk to the pier and get on the boat (13BHT) down the river to N3. Walk about 1km to the train station and buy a ticket to Aranyaprathet (48BHT). This was the easiest part of our trip. We did this last minute, the train left 45min later and we had no trouble finding a seat on the train. You do have to be quick though. We opted for the afternoon train as we are in no rush and you have to pay to sleep somewhere so no biggie staying in Aran. Train left at 1:05pm as promised and arrived at 6:00pm. Walked past all the touts and hung a left down the main rd. We walked about 3min and found an information place beside a restaurant/bar. The info place had nice rooms in the back for 200BHT and 250BHT if you bargain a little for one with bathroom attached. Be warned, earplugs are a must as they play music at night at the bar. Great streetfood in town and much friendlier people than Kao San.
Siem Reap to Poipet to Trat (January 2007):
We first shopped around for a bus and got one for $5 per person. But after reading on your site we decided the bus was not the best option.
So we just talked to our hotel staff (Golden Temple) and they arranged a $30 taxi (for two persons) to the border. Hell of a ride, but we got to Poipet in just over 3 hours. However, in Poipet we had our first surprise. We were dropped of at a taxi station. We were told to wait there until a free shuttle bus were to take us to the border crossing. And there was actually a guard sitting there (well he went away for a few minutes to puke) but it felt good anyway. Voila, after about 15 minutes a small, open, bus came and drove us to the border. We followed your advice and didn't accept help from "friendly" men approching, we went straight to the counter. 5 minutes of waiting and we were ready to go! The walking was a bit special, it felt like a "no-mans land". Thai immigration went very smooth. Walking out to the tuk-tuk line and now we got a confused. We were planning on taking a mini-van to Trat, but mini-vans doesn't depart from the bus station they told us, but a mini-van operator can be found nearby the tuk-tuk line so after about 20 minutes we were in a mini-van to Trat!
Thanks. Keep 'em coming. E-mail your story here
Reports Page 8 (Jan 2007 - Jun 2007)
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