|Crossing the border from Thailand into Cambodia can seem like a harrowing experience for first timers.|
If you read nothing else, here are the top 5 things to remember when taking a bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap over the border of Aranyapathet to Poipet.
1. Don't freak out. You're relatively safe.
2. Give yourself one full day to travel over the border.
3. Expect long waits and many delays. (AKA you are being held hostage at restaurants, gas stations, and fake immigration offices and embassies)
4. Every stop is planned by the Thai bus company so they make more money.
5. Enjoy the ride, because you know everything that will happen in advance if you read this article and did your homework. Make some friends too!
|Our packed mini bus.|
Now, as a person that has walked over the border several different times and some of them on my own, I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about my journey from Bangkok, Thailand into Siem Reap, Cambodia. You can get to Siem Reap from Bangkok by bus, plane, or train. A plane ride will cost you upwards of $400-$500 one way; a pricey ticket for most of us backpackers. So we end up taking the train, or going the Khao San Road mini bus scam route because of its low cost. A measly $10 or 350 Thai Baht at the nearest travel stand seems like a good idea for a one way ticket when your wallet is looking empty. Others head over to Mo Chit bus station to pay a little more money for a government run bus that leaves every morning. The government bus is just as sketchy as the mini bus scams as you will still have to hire your own tuk tuk from Aranyapathet to the border crossing. Although I have heard the government bus will not harrass foreigners too much about their visas trying to make a quick buck. See Jason Stearns article about taking the government bus. But I'm going to share with you my journey of taking the scam artist mini bus straight from Khoa San Road to Siem Reap.
|The Thai countryside on the journey to the Cambodian border.|
|Our bumpy journey to the Poipet border.|
|The fake Cambodia Consulate General on the Thailand side.|
|Strange posters inside the immigration buildings.|
|Inside the Thai immigration office.|
8. Your bus drivers will direct those of you that need a tourist visa to the visa office on the right hand side of the road. It seems very sketchy, but it is indeed where you buy your tourist visa. The visa will cost $25. Bringing American currency is easiest because the immigration officers won't scam you for Thai baht. I literally had an immigration officer that refused to put my passport through the window to get my visa until I paid him a 100 Baht charge. This is also a stupid scam. Alot of people give in, but I refuse to give my money to dirty government officials that are making a buck. How much money do they make a day ripping off people at the border? I refused to directly give money over to such a corrupt government and after 3 minutes the pissed off immigration officer threw my passport under the window for my visa. Then after ten minutes he gave my passport back without my $25 change as I had given them a $50. I demanded the change with a strong voice and he hesitantly returned the money.
|The Cambodian customs office.|
|Boarding the bus at Poipet bus station.|
|Our last bus of the journey to Siem Reap.|