Taking The Bus From Bangkok to Siem Reap and Learning About The Scam

Taking The Bus From Bangkok, Thailand To Siem Reap, Cambodia

An image of a building on the Thailand border

Taking the bus from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia has become a pretty popular route on the backpacker circuit in southeast Asia. There are direct flights between the two cities, but I see that as cheating and not the real backpacker way (an unnecessary expense). The two cities are only 400 km apart and both hold some of the major attractions in the region. Many people come from Bangkok to Siem Reap just to see Angkor Wat and then go back. We chose to stay in Cambodia for a month though and see more of the country before crossing into Vietnam. We took the bus over in November of 2017 and I wanted to provide some recent insight as to what that journey looks like.

The bus

An image of a bus that drives from Bangkok to CambodiaThere are several ways to book your bus ticket and several different price points you will see. The main deciding factor is the quality of the bus and where you want to leave from. The Ibis bus line is the nicest and its tickets are 750 baht. There is a night bus option but it has you leaving super later and arriving pretty early which can be difficult for hotel check-in/out times. Some of the buses leave from the Mo Chit bus station, which means you have to add the price of a taxi to the cost of your ticket. Other buses leave straight from Khao San Street or close to it. There are many travel agencies in Bangok that book the ticket. You should always shop around before buying. We got our ticket for 500 baht. We talked to someone who paid 600 baht, and someone else who only paid 350 baht. We all ended up on the same bus, though. If you drove straight to Siem Reap from Bangkok it would take about 7 hrs, but with the border control most buses get you there in about 9 hrs. If you book at an agency and take the cheaper bus, it takes about 11 hrs. They make several stops for you to use the bathroom and buy snacks and the ride is comfortable and scenic.

The Border

The border crossing is relatively straight forward. When you arrive at the Thailand side of the border the bus will have everyone get off and go through on foot while it drives through and waits on the other side. You will get stamped out of Thailand, go outside to walk about 200 meters and cross the street to get your visa. THIS IS THE ONLY PLACE YOU SHOULD BUY A VISA. You fill out the visa document and give them a passport photo to attach to it. If you pay in US Dollars it is $30 US Dollars plus 100 baht (for some reason). If you pay in Thai Baht it is 1200 Baht which comes to about $36. If you purchased the E-visa online ahead of time it would’ve cost $30 US plus $7 for a processing fee and a 3 day wait to receive it. So the cheapest way to do it is to have US Dollars and 100 Baht. That way you only end up paying $33. After you pay for your visa you walk outside and enter another building, which is the actual immigration office. Here they apply the visa and stamp your passport. You will get back on the bus which will be parked close by and wait for everyone else.

An image of people crossing the Cambodia Thailand border An image at the border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia

An image of people crossing the Cambodia Thailand border An image of a sign marking the entry into Cambodia

Arriving in Siem Reap

An image of a tuktuk driver in Siem Reap, CambodiaYou will arrive at the bus station after dark around 6 or 7 pm. Most of the hotels in Siem Reap are located around the same area, so only about 6 km from the bus station, maybe less. There will be a bunch of tuktuk drivers waiting at the bus station. Their little pitch is that the bus tells you they include free transport to your hotel from the station, but you basically have to book the tuktuk driver that takes you there for your Angkor Wat tour the following day. If you turn down the tour they will try and charge as much as $5 per person for the ride. It’s late though, and you probably don’t want to walk so see if you can get a better deal. We ended up paying $5 for both of us.

The Scam
An image of a rest stop where tourists are ripped off buying fake visas on their way into Cambodia
The rest stop where we the bus pulls over to scam everybody

There are a couple of scams to look out for on this trip because both countries have corrupt officials in their own way. The main scam we encountered was this: The bus will stop just shy of the border at a rest stop / restaurant and tell all the passengers that this is where you buy the visa. When you get off they have a whole operation of guys walking around with lanyards and clipboards like they are officials and they tell you the visa is $45 US. If you say no or that you want to buy it at the border they basically tell you that it takes too long and the bus will leave without you if you make them wait. They are VERY persistent and will paint a detailed picture for you of how you will be left behind at the border and it’s dangerous and there are no taxis and blah blah blah. All lies. We almost had a riot on our hands though, because the bus company and their accompanying scammers got so mad that a bunch of us had banded together and told them we would be buying our visas at the border from the officials. To punish us they made us sit at the rest stop for 2 hours before we could finally go. Of course once at the border there was no waiting and those of us who bought our visas there were the first ones back on the bus and were never in any danger of being left behind.

A number of other scams did happen to a few people on our bus that we didn’t encounter, such as being told they could only exchange money at the border and getting totally screwed on the exchange rate. The best practice is always just to be skeptical and smart and  don’t be intimidated. Act like you have done it a thousand times. Don’t give your passport to anyone that isn’t a police officer or border official and don’t buy anything that you didn’t plan on buying. After politely declining the visa from the bus drivers and being made to wait so long we had an otherwise trouble free journey. I think with the e-visas becoming more common the scammers will slowly stop having anything to do and maybe the price of the bus ride will just become more expensive.

2 Replies to “Taking The Bus From Bangkok to Siem Reap and Learning About The Scam

  1. At the airport you buy an official taxi voucher from the window and then get the same hard sell of hiring them for your tour the whole way to your hotel. When you get out they tell you they are sorry they picked you up. We hired a tuk tuk in front of our hotel for $16 US for the whole day, and it’s the same sell: lake cruise, dinner, tours etc. “Face” is important there, so never loose your temper. We never saw any Cambodian money, no one took Riel. Loved every minute of it…
    Lyle & Jan

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