Our journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap crossing the Thai-Cambodia border at Poipet.
Today we need to reach the Thai-Cambodia border by train from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet, get the Cambodian Visa in Poipet, and then carry on by bus until Siem Reap.
Our day starts with a run to Bangkok’s main train station of Hua Lampong, because the staff members didn’t wake up (famous thai relaxation) and we were locked behind the gate, inside the guesthouse! Running with your backpack on your shoulders at 5.30am isn’t really the best way to start your day. Still we manage to arrive in time to buy the tickets, spending 48 baths (1.3$ circa) for 300 km, and get on the 5.55 am Bangkok to Aranyaprathet train.
We have two seats in the already crowded second class carriage. What strikes us is the contrast between the simplicity of the means and the extreme organization and strictness: at every stop the ticket inspector walks through the aisles and the passengers, hearing the “tac tac” noise of the validator tool, immediately show their ticket.
Around us people snuggle up barefoot on the seats, sleep or talk. And eat. Always: peddlers passing by every few minutes to sell some snacks are on every train in Thailand, both regular and sleeper train.
It takes almost one hour to leave Bangkok, its outskirts are never ending and the train proceeds very slowly. Getting away from the city, the stations become smaller and around them the fields wider. The journey is quite long, around 6 hours, but it helped us to know a bit closer the culture of these populations, while observing their habits and every day life.
Arrived in Aranyaprathet, the last Thai town before the Cambodia border, the zen mood of the journey is immediately replaced by the chaos of tuk tuk drivers, who try to catch backpackers to be driven to the border, 6 km far. The heat, the weight of the backpacks and the thousands of misleading directions make the arrival to the Thai offices a challenge.
POIPET – THAI/CAMBODIA BORDER
After understanding we have to ask directions to officers only and avoiding locals dodgy invitations (“come with us, the border is around the corner!”), we find the facilities, just going straight on the main road: firstly, we get the exit stamp on our passport on the Thai side, then the Cambodian Visa at the office across the street: the choice is either to pay in dollars (30$ + 100bath commission) or all in baths (1200), give them 2 passport photos, and in 10-15 minutes your Cambodian Visa will be sorted out.
Walking through a big arch, casinos and motorcycles welcome us to Cambodia, we are in the border city of Poipet. Here, they attract Thai people with casinos, since gambling isn’t allowed in Thailand.
A free shuttle van takes us to the main bus station (in the middle of nowhere). From Poipet to Siem Reap the options are two: either taking a taxi for a 2-hour ride (48$ per car) or getting on a bus for 9$ and a 3-4-hour drive, depending on the mood of the driver and on the requests of the other passengers (we had to stop a couple of times at ATMs, banks and restaurant for an early dinner at 4pm).
Prices may vary depending on how many people show at the bus station, from our experience Cambodian people are quite cheeky and often try to overcharge tourists, also due to the fact that they use US dollars as currency along with Cambodian Riel.
There’s always the option to book online to avoid hassle with touts.
Or, a quicker overall alternative, fly from Bangkok to Siem Reap, deals here.
Exhausted, we eventually get to Siem Reap at around 6 pm, we hop on a tuk tuk to reach our nice Garden House Guesthouse, and just rest in our room. Tomorrow we have a full day of adventures and we are already dreaming of the Angkor temples!
WHERE TO STAY:
- Hansa Bangkok House: friendly guesthouse on the riverside, very warm welcome and hospitality.
- At Mind Executive Suites, Bangkok: modern suites, great location close to BTS subway, amazing rooftop swimming pool!
- Garden House Guesthouse, Siem Reap: 8usd/night, good location.
- Onederz Khmer House, Siem Reap: a beautiful house of khmer architecture inspiration, city centre and swimming pool;
- You can pre-book all your accommodation with free cancellation here.
HOW TO GET AROUND:
- Bangkok-Aranyaprathet train: from 50thb/2rd class, 6 hours;
- Poipet-Siem Reap bus: around 9usd/person, 3-4hrs;
- Tuk-tuk, Aranyaprathet-Poipet: 200-300 baht.
- Flights, Bangkok to Siem Reap, look for deals here.
- Thai exit stamp, for free;
- Cambodia Visa: 30usd/person, +100 baht commission. Or 1200 baht altogether.
- Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Even if you trust yourself, you can’t always trust others. Better safe than sorry! Get your quote here.