Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thailand – Cambodia Crossing the Border by Land: I dare you!

13 – 21 August 2010

Travel Mate/s
Atrie & Mik

13/Aug/2010 Jakarta (Indonesia) – Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
14/Aug/2010 Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) – Chiang Mai (Thailand)
15/Aug/2010 Chiang Mai – Overnight in train to Bangkok
16/Aug/2010 Bangkok (Thailand) – Siam Reap (Cambodia)
17/Aug/2010 Siam Reap
18/Aug/2010 Siam Reap (Cambodia) – Bangkok (Thailand)
19/Aug/2010 Bangkok City Sightseeing
20/Aug/2010 Bangkok – Ayutthaya – Bangkok
21/Aug/2010 Bangkok (Thailand) – Jakarta (Indonesia)

Travel Notes

Back to year 2010, as part of my Thailand trip, I had a chance to insert a short trip to Siam Reap, Cambodia to see the majestic Angkor Wat.

The easiest and most comfortable way going to Cambodia from Thailand would be by Air. BUT at that moment (and might be until now), the airline cost from Bangkok to Siam Reap is high. One way ticket can cost me USD 200 more or less for only 1 hour of flight duration. This happenned due to the monopoly of Bangkok Airways (through Siam Reap Airlines as its affiliated) for the route.

Considering fact above, as budget traveller then we see crossing the Thai – Cambodia border by Land would be our only option.

There are numbers of overland crossing between Thailand and Cambodia. The most popular one would be Aranyaprathet (Thailand) – Poipet (Cambodia). It is true that this route is also popular because of the massive and coordinated tourist scam and tout. Scary huh? But before we go to that story, let’s review the route and several of insider tips from me (*which hopefully could help lighten the day ^_^ ).

So overall route would be:
Bangkok (Thailand) – Aranyaprathet (Thailand) – the frontier – Poipet (Cambodia) – Siam Reap (Cambodia)

Bangkok to Aranyaprathet
We can take train or bus from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet (Thai people usually said Aranyaprathet as Aran, do not confuse). I chose Bus rather than train considering Bus is more flexible. Bus departs every 30 minutes compare than only 2 reliable train run daily from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet. And also for the fact that bus is faster 1 – 2 hours than the train (believe it or not).

Train depart from Hua Lampong train station in Bangkok while Bus will be depart from Bangkok Northern Bus Station (Mochit station).

(Mochit Bus Station - similar like airport right? My country airport I guess)

At the Mochit Station, you will see a lot of ticket window. Ticket windows for Bangkok – Aranyaprathet are on the ground floor inside the terminal. Ticket window with red letters are for 2nd class busses while ticket window with blue letters are for 1st class busses. Ticket windows that sell ticket to Aran would be:
Ticket window 23 – 25 : nicer bus and less stop thus they will be faster (government owned)
Ticket window 30 – 31 : older bus with more stops (private company)

Bus with route: Bangkok – Ongkharak – Aranyaprathet (like mine) is faster than Bus with route: Bangkok – Aranyaprathet.

By the way, interesting fact that the bus situation is created similar like airline. They have steward that will distribute snacks and assist you. We will not be able to see the bus driver, since they have a door like cockpit. Very interesting idea :) So do not worry, it will be quite comfy thus you can fall asleep in your 4 hours journey.

Approaching the frontier, there will be military checkpoint, a thai army officer jumps on the bus and randomly check identification papers. But it is an usual thing.

(bus cockpit and snacks)

Aranyaprathet to the frontier
Arrived in Aran, the bus usually stop at the Aran terminal where a lot of tuk-tuk and motorcycle taxi waiting. This is the point when I need to raise my awareness into maximum. Scam and tout will began try to get you.

But anyway, there will be no other option, you will have to take one of the tuk-tuk.
What they might do would be taking you (like they were taking us) to the fake Cambodian Consulates. They asked us about our paper, our visas and other. But remember, we are still in Thailand, we do not need to show them anything. Be sure and be firm. They will tried to ask you to paid overprice visa, for any condition always say that you already have the visa. Do not give them your passport/paper/document. Ask the tuk-tuk driver to go to the frontier consistently and be persistent.

Good news that I heard nowadays lot of bus will drop you exactly in the frontier thus you will not need to experience what I experience with the tuk-tuk scam.

At the frontier
Cross the frontier by Land meaning that we need to walk from Thailand to Cambodia side. And I am sure you will notice the gap between these two neighbouring countries. After getting my passport stamps out of Thailand and leaving the a nice Thailand immigration building, I walk pass the dirty road full of lot of casinos in right and left side of the road. Do not trust anyone in this short road, even for a children beggar. Be alert of your belonging. Just walk, straight, pay no attention for anyone who came near you or try to talk to you. And believe me, once you walk out from the Thailand immigration building, there will be always someone (a tout for sure) will try to talk to you. They will follow you until you reach Cambodia immigration building. And they will wait for you after you leave the building.

Writing this thing down, really bring back all of those memories. Chaotic and tense. Gave me those little bit of chills back.

Considering all of those scams scenarios, I prefer to have my E-Visa rather than VOA.
Other important thing would be: Do not exchange your USD to Cambodia currency. USD is acceptable for the transaction in Cambodia.

After leaving the Cambodia immigration building (even though during my trip it looks like temporary building), touts will wait outside. When I said touts, I mean everyone, even guys wearing shirt with government tourism badge!

Poipet – Siam ReapI read in several travel discussion that we can try to walk then search for our own taxi to escape from the tout, but it is too chaotic at the moment thus we decide to take the freebus (as part of their scam scenario). The bus brought us to the international terminal (which is nowhere) then leave us the option to choose whatever they provide which is shared taxi (camry) or bus. Choose TAXI. You can buy the shared taxi for the backseat or the frontseat only. Backseat is for about 40 – 45 USD. But keep in mind that if you buy only the backseat, the driver will offer the frontseat to other person.

Be sure you state to the driver to bring you to your hotel, since a lot of time happened they will bring the guest to their guesthouse thus they can get commission. They will do anything, including said that your booked guesthouse is closed. So it is important that you will need to reach Siam Reap before afternoon (before 4 PM), thus it is still light and you have the power to refuse their suggestion for whatever it takes.

Our driver take us into their affiliated tuk-tuk terminal instead of our booked guesthouse. They will try to ask your pasport (again: said NO, you do not have any obligation to show them your passport). Then they will offer free tuk-tuk for your Angkor Wat tour. It is ok, just be sure you agree on the reasonable price first.

I have time to do preliminary research related this trip and come into conclusion that there is no way we can escape of this scam and tout scenarios, since it is very organized. My advice would be just choose the best and safest way. It is important to know the fair price first before your trip.

Yes Poipet will not be a pleasant introduction to Cambodia. Poipet to Siam Reap will take about 3 hours of journey by taxi. Be positive that what happened in Poipet also not representing the rest of Cambodian people. Wait for my next posting about my trip in Angkor Wat :)

(the frontier)

The way back from Siam Reap to Bangkok will be a lot easier, since we do not need to face the scams or touts for the Thailand immigration.


Bus: Bangkok to Aran (THB 207 -> USD 6.8)
Tuk-tuk: Aran to Poipet (THB 60 for 3 person; THB 20 per person -> USD 0.65 per person)
Taxi: Poipet to Siam Reap (USD 45 for 3 person; USD 15 per person)
Taxi: Siam Reap to Poipet (USD 40 for 3 person; USD 13.5 per person )
Bus: Aran to Bangkok (THB 207 -> USD 6.8)

Personal Notes

Ok to be honest, yes it is scary and stressful at the moment. Eventhough we are a group consist of three adults – 2 cute girls and a man – who done a thorough research about the condition, the do’s and the dont’s, but facing the real one is a different thing.

There are a lot of moments of tense happened.
Our journey from Poipet to Siam Reap is one of them. After taking the freebus, we took a taxi offer by the tout (of course with reasonable price for us which is 45 USD). We have said the address, ensure the tout said to the driver. Then the first thing we asked to the driver would be re-state our destination and booked guesthouse address; the driver only said NO without even looking to our booking address. Oooppsss! And during the journey, suddenly he picked up other who sit at the front. It was scary, heard them talking in Cambodian. Worst scenario already crossed my mind that time for any possibilities. If you could imagine my situation. The three of us at the backseat only can stare each other tried not to panic. I did pray to God for whatever they talked about in the frontseat, I hope it is a good thing. During our journey, our driver never talked to us. He stop the car anytime – to eat, to go to the toilet, to buy gasoline and even to wash the car. But anyway, at the end I found that he can not talk English. And looking in his eyes that I could sense he is a good guy and yes he is :)

The other thing would be the scam tuk-tuk in Aran – Poipet frontier. During our way back from Siam Reap to Bangkok, after gain our Thailand visa in frontier, we took a tuk-tuk with an old man as driver. He even brought us to the fake military camp where you could see guy with army uniform complete with gun (I do not know whether the gun is real or not). They tried to scare us thus we hand over our paper. But we manage to survive. So the most important lesson would be: DO NOT EVER GIVE YOUR PASSPORT. I could not imagine what would be our story if that moment we scared/panic and gave them our passport. Thanks to God we are not, but it was hell like scary moment :)

My insider tips would be:
1. Be Brave
2. Be Alert & Calm
3. Clear your mind
4. Be Confidence when you are right
5. Be positive and know when you need to smile or not ^_^
6. Always Pray :)


  1. Thanks dee for the "cute girl" statement :D

    Gak nyangka kita bisa galak sama orang yg memegang tembakan hehe
    Kalo mau nipu pinter dikit dong, moso tentara udah keriput, cari orang yg lebih meyakinkan dong kalo mau pura2 jadi tentara ahaha


  2. No prob Atrie, cause we are cute gals ;)
    Sbnernya g jg ga tau ya knp qta berani, klo dipikirin skrg aja serem liat lelaki bersenapan hahaha...
    Qta panik, pemberani apa sudah hilang akal ya waktu itu :) Lo tapi yg paling berani kaya nya hehe