Crossing Thai-Cambodian border by foot was a unique experience!
After spending 12 days in northern Thailand me and my boyfriend decided to head towards Cambodia to spend a few days in Siem Reap. Slightly concerned and perplexed on how it would go, but too curious not to give it a try.
Departing from Bangkok bus terminal at around 10.30 am, without nothing booked in advance, we were determined to reach Aranyaprathet before night fall!
Ready to spend the night there, the last city closest to the Cambodian border. 5 and half hours on a 12 seat minibus at a very low price (220 bath) is what you need to get there. The view outside the window wasn’t the best, mostly dried out fields and landscapes, which is pretty normal in may cuz it’s dry season. Most of the entertainment came from the crazy driving of our short mustachio thai driver. Of course also from the rest of the companions (only locals) traveling with us, who where very curious about seeing some westerners on the minibus.
Around 15.30 we arrived to Aranyaprathet bus station, walked to the hotel, one of the best of our “holiday” and got some well deserved rest, chilling poolside!
GOING TO THE BORDER
The next day we woke up quite early, got our backpacks and left the hotel for the border! A lot of bad stories floated around the web about the crossing but still our confidence was pretty high.
Not far from the border you can find Rong Kluea market, one of the biggest markets in Thailand, many sellers and buyers come here to stock up clothes and all sorts of merchandise, you can even rent a small electric golf car to visit the market, it’s paradise for shopping lovers. That was tempting, but focused on our goal to cross nothing could have distracted us! First of all we decided to change the thai currency in to us dollars, in one of the small banks not far from customs, cause strangely in Cambodia that’s what they use, they have a local currency but it’s used mostly when they give you change that’s inferior to 1 dollar.
When you’re around the border it’s always good to keep you’re eyes open. Scams are always ready to happen, people will try to give you fake visa or try to help you but don’t trust theme. It’s pretty easy to find the way, there are signs in english, should’t be a problem. Once you’re inside (upstairs for foreign passports) just get you’re stamp and cross. You’re almost there all you need to do is head to the Cambodian customs to get you’re visa in a small office.
The visa costs 30 us dollars (you can also use bath) so be sure to have those on you before you get there with you’re passport, a passport photo and you will need to fill up the custom form in the office. Don’t worrie to much about the photo, if you don’t have it they’ll ask you an extra 5 dollars which is basically a bribe. If you got all the documentation they’ll probably ask an extra 100 bath, which is also a bribe. You’ll see the official sign on the top of the office that says 30 dollars per visa, but the guard will show you a different sign written by pen on paper that says 30 dollars plus 100 bath, best thing to do is pay the bribe and get trough with out arguing.
Ok so this one is done and it’s time to head to the second office where you’ll get the visa stamped and fill another custom declaration so you can freely get in Cambodia.
The whole process took us about 30 minutes not bad if i think about all the stories i read about hours of lines! The feeling i got while i was crossing was really peculiar, you can see all kinds of things here trucks full of goods, bicycle overloaded with anything you can imagine, cars, buses, motorbikes and all kinds of animals.
It’s very dirty, stinky, dusty, plastic dumped everywhere, people begging for money, people selling fruit, scammers, kids and not many westerners.
Once you’re in Poipet you’ll have to catch a bus to reach the bus station (the government shuttle bus is free and will take you to the bus station). Once there you got three options to Siem Reap:
catch a bus that takes 4 hours for 9 dollars,
take a minivan that takes 3 hours and costs 10 dollars but you’ll have to wait until it’s full to depart (fits 10/12 people)
get a taxi that takes 2 and half hours for 12 dollars per person and fits 4. If you’re just a couple just got to pay for an extra person to depart (36 dollars total).
Cambodia it’s a beautiful country but because of tourism the prices are going up a lot trying to make money off tourists and the use of dollars isn’t really an advantage for us. Personally we actually spent more money for 2 days in Cambodia than for 12 in Thailand!