The Aranyaprathet-Poipet Border is one of the most (if not the most) notorious borders in Southeast Asia. You will hear a lot of negative things about it from guide books, online forums and even the occasional blog posts. I have crossed this border many times and it’s been a hit and miss, so far. There were times everything went smoothly, while other times the proverbial shit hit the fan. One thing is certain, though: you have to be on your guard and aware of your surroundings, and you have to make those brain cells work fast whenever you are crossing this border. You’ll know why in a few minutes.
Why Choose the Bangkok Siem Reap Direct Bus?
There are quite a few options you can choose from when traveling overland from Bangkok to Siem Reap, but taking the Bangkok Siem Reap direct bus would probably be the most convenient. When I say direct bus, it means that you don’t have to transfer vehicles when you arrive at the Aranyaprathet-Poipet Border. The bus will cross the border with you, so you won’t have to waste time figuring out how to haul your ass from Poipet to Siem Reap. Also, you don’t need to tow your spinal cord-rearranging backpacks from Thailand to Cambodia; you can leave them inside the bus. Trust me; that is a huge plus considering how long the queues are at both the Thai and Khmer immigration offices.
The process is simple: get off the bus, cross the border and get your passport stamped on both countries, hop back inside the vehicle and continue on with your journey to Siem Reap. But since we are talking about convenience here, expect to pay a few more dollars for this one compared to other transportation options. Then again, you won’t have to deal with border scammers so the extra cost is worth it, to be frank.
Where to Buy Tickets for the Bangkok Siem Reap Direct Bus
You can buy tickets at Mochit Bus Terminal. Go there and look for The Transport Co. ticketing booth. You won’t have problems locating it because it’s smacked right in front of the terminal’s waiting area. The Transport Co.’s ticketing booth is just below the huge screen where they flash the current date and time, and some Thai letters I have no idea what they mean. This bus company’s staff is very efficient. They make sure that you have the correct bus number, seats, and date and time of departure before they print out your tickets. They will ask you and confirm your reservation countless of times, so be patient and don’t lose your temper if they seem excessively repetitive with their questions. They’re just doing their jobs as best as they can, after all.
You will be asked to hand out your passport for identification purposes. If you’re traveling with other people, they will usually ask for just one of your passports. You can go there on the day you intend to leave, but I highly suggest that you book your seat at least a day in advance. The Bangkok Siem Reap direct bus is fast becoming a popular option among travelers who want to go to Cambodia from Thailand, so there might be some days when all their scheduled trips will be full. Also, buying your tickets in advance allows you to choose where you want to sit if that’s something that is important to you.
As of January 2017, the Bangkok-Siem Reap direct bus ticket is still priced at 750BHT (around 27USD) per person.
Crossing the Aranyaprathet-Poipet Border via Direct Bus
The Bangkok-Siem Reap direct bus makes two trips daily―the first is at 8:00 and the last one is at 9:00 in the morning. Make sure you’re at your assigned platform at least 20 to 30 minutes before your scheduled departure. The bus driver and conductor will try and wait for all passengers, but they typically won’t stick around Mochit for more than 15 minutes after their departure time has passed. And c’mon, be considerate and respect other people’s time.
Before the bus leaves Mochit, the conductor will hand out a bottle of water and a box containing snacks like bread and cookies for each passenger. So if you weren’t able to get breakfast because you hastily made your way to the bus terminal, it’s fine. If you want to eat something heavier, Mochit has restaurants and convenience stores circling their waiting area so looking for food and drinks won’t be a problem.
The trip from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet will take around 3 to 4 hours depending on your driver’s death wishes. You will typically arrive there by lunch time. However, there won’t be any stopover for lunch anymore because The Transport Co.’s office in Aranyaprathet will provide all passengers with food (usually rice meals) that they can eat inside the bus.
The bus company can take care of the visa-on-arrival application for you. Last time I crossed the border, their rate is like 10USD to 15USD more expensive if you apply visa-on-arrival by yourself. You can definitely get a visa on your own once you arrive at the border if that’s how you want to do it. It’s a painless process anyway and your single-entry visa will be valid for 30 days. At the border, the visa will cost you around 30USD. Remember, however, that there might be days when processing the visa will take a while. Remember as well that the bus will only wait for all passengers for a max of 2 hours. If you’re not inside the bus after 2 hours upon arrival at the Aranyaprathet-Poipet Border, they will leave you and you will have to figure out how to get your lovely behind to Siem Reap by your lonesome.
Another thing you should take note of: if you’re a citizen of and hold a passport from an ASEAN-member nation (yes that includes us Filipinos and our extremely Third World maroon passport) you can enter Cambodia without a visa for the first 21 days. If any of the Khmer immigration officials insist that you need to get a visa, stand your ground and tell them politely and calmly that you do not need a visa. If they try to extort money from you, firmly say no. Anyway, they’re not pushy unlike immigration officials in Laos and Vietnam. If you firmly say no, they won’t push the subject and won’t inconvenience you anymore to enter their country. But make sure your passport has Cambodia’s entry stamp before you leave the immigration official’s window, otherwise you will have big problems when you finally leave the country.
Arriving at Nattakan in Siem Reap
After everyone has gotten back inside the bus, your journey to Siem Reap will resume. It will take another 3 to 4 hours to get to Siem Reap from Poipet. As of January 2017, Transport Co. (they’re called Nattakan in Cambodia) now has their own office and terminal. They will no longer drop you off beside the KFC branch at Sivatha Road. Don’t worry; Nattakan has tuktuk drivers who can bring you to your hotel or to the city center for free. But of course they will offer their services and try to convince you to hire them for your Angkor Archaeological Park tour. If you haven’t made any prior arrangement for that one, it’s okay to get their services. Just negotiate the price and make sure it won’t go over $20 per day. If your tuktuk driver is Pisit, trust me, do yourself a favor and hire him. You won’t regret it. He’s a reliable and punctual driver, plus he’s extremely knowledgeable of the Angkor Archaeological Park.
You can also book your tickets going back to Bangkok at Nattakan’s office if you have plans of returning to Thailand via the direct bus. The direct bus ticket for Siem Reap-Bangkok is priced at $28. I guess the extra dollar is for the transport to and from the Nattakan office? I highly recommend that you book your tickets when you arrive in Siem Reap because they will assign a tuktuk driver who will pick you up at your accommodation and drive you to Nattakan’s terminal on your day of departure. And again, that is at no extra cost. They obviously have thought of everything you might need.
Basically that’s a rundown of how the direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap looks like and the things you need to take note of if you do decide to go with this option. Welcome to Siem Reap. Now a new adventure awaits you.