I love long bus rides! Unlike most people, I actually even find it fun and enjoyable most of the time. Just give me a decent working airconditioned bus, a window seat, a small blankie, and a good playlist, and you won’t hear any whining from me. (READ: Tips For Long Bus Rides and Overland Journey) My original plan of transit from Bangkok to Siem Reap was to take the train. However, the train station was all the way on the other side of the town while the bus terminal was only two stops away. In the end, I chose convenience and took the bus instead. I’ve heard of straight trips from Bangkok to Cambodia, and I pictured it would have been similar to the convenience of the tourist bus trips offered to cross borders in Vietnam and Cambodia. But the journey I embarked on was quite the more adventurous one, meaning I’d have to literally cross borders on my own and find my way between four different cities.
I’ll try to simplify this guide as good as I can. I didn’t take as much pictures because well, let’s just say this really wasn’t one of the best days of my travels. So I’ll just get straight to the point and spare you with my unnecessary blabbers about my personal experience. I’m going to divide this guide into four parts, as we’ll be covering four different cities in this journey. But don’t let that intimidate you, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. It’s actually pretty easy, as long as you know where you’re going and you what you’re doing. And that is exactly why I wanted to write this guide– to make it easier and simpler for you!
Part 1: Bangkok
From Bangkok, you’re going to need to get yourself to the city right at the border of Thailand and Cambodia called Aranyaprathet. There are buses in Bangkok that will be able to take you here. You can go from Morchit Terminal, Ekkamai or Eastern Terminal, and even from Suvarnhabhumi Airport Transport Centre. Bus rides cost roughly 250 baht, and the trip to Aranyaprathet would take at least 4 hours. There are different schedules for the bus trips and it’s best to confirm once you’re in Thailand already. You don’t necessarily have to book in advance since there are a lot of bus trips on a daily basis. Just get an idea how often the buses run and perhaps figure out the daily schedule to avoid being in transit at the terminal for too many hours.
Part 2: Aranyaprathet
The bus will drop you off at the border city, Aranyaprathet. It’s a provincial town and there isn’t much to be found here. Most of the tourists here are usually in transit to Cambodia. I was under the impression that I’ll be needing to take a tuk-tuk to the immigration but an expat there told me I didn’t need a ride after all. So just walk a little bit into the direction where most of the tourists are heading until you reach the Thai immigration building. You’ll get cleared and have your passport stamped and then voila, you’re done with the Thai side of this trip. Once you get stamped out and exit the building, you’ll start getting approached by touts to get your Cambodia visa. Ignore them. Many are known to be scammers so just keep walking until you step out of Thailand.
Part 3: Poipet
Once you’re past the in-between zone, don’t keep your guards down just yet as many other touts and potential scammers will be following you. They’re generally known to be very pushy and would try to sell you a fake visa. But keep walking and you’ll eventually reach the actual Cambodian immigration just a few meters away from the Thai one. It’s a small building, almost an unrecognizable checkpoint. A visa cost $30 and you must have a passport photo ready with you. The line can take anywhere from 10 minutes to literally hours.
Because of my Filipino passport, I’m allowed entry with no visa in Cambodia so I headed straight to the immigration booth. It was hot and very humid and there was already a line at this point. I waited about 20-30 minutes until I got stamped and the Cambodia custom officers are very nice and welcoming. Once you get out, there will be taxis waiting to take you to the van terminal. Ignore them and take the government shuttle instead. It actually went very smoothly for me. I had a chat with the organizer as I waited and I was told that the Cambodian government is really doing their best to enhance the smoothness and convenience of their tourism. The shuttle will take you directly to the terminal and from there, you’ll have a few choices to get to Siem Reap. Originally, I was going to take a taxi with a Korean and a Japanese who approached me to share a cab. A cab would cost at least $30, but when we reached the terminal, there is a van that’s almost filled up. I’m not sure how much I paid for the van but it couldn’t be more than 200 baht. You can also take a bus from there to Siem Reap if that’s more your preference.
The ride from Poipet to Siem Reap was a bit dreadful for me. It took over 2 hours, and it was at the hottest time of the day. But it was definitely something to be welcomed to Cambodia by seeing the provincial side of it first. Majority of the way getting there is generally by dirt roads. Cambodia is…brown. Really brown. But I think this is what makes the country even more charming. It’s unpretentious and it’s simply authentic.
Part 4: Siem Reap
Upon reaching Siem Reap, there will be a bunch of tuk-tuks waiting to take you to your hotel. Depending how far it is, it can take anywhere between $2-5. Remember, US dollars are highly used here so you don’t need to exchange them to riels. Stick with your dollars instead.
See, I told you it isn’t as complicated as it sounds! To summarize this in 7 easy steps, this is all you have to do to get to Siem Reap from Bangkok;
1.) Bus/Train from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet.
2.) Thai Immigration– stamp out
3.) In between zone– do not talk to touts.
4.) Poipet– Cambodia– visa and stamp
5.) Shuttle bus to terminal
6.) Van, taxi, or bus to Siem Reap
7.) Tuk-tuk to your hotel