This is a detailed review of how to book & travel by bus from Bangkok Thailand to Siem Reap Cambodia, including the immigration process of crossing the Thai Cambodia border.
I’ve just crossed the Thai Cambodia border overland into Cambodia. After leaving Bangkok in the early hours of the morning, we’ve now arrived in Siem Reap. We took the Thai government bus operated by ‘The Transport Co’ (creative name) that runs direct from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia. It’s the only mode of ground transport where you don’t have to change buses or vans and can leave your bags on the bus when crossing from Thailand to Cambodia. I was worried when I booked our bus tickets because I read so many horror stories and blogs about the Thai Cambodia border; detailing stories of scams, bribes and chaos. These tales of border-induced rage made me so anxious that I almost didn’t book it at all and considered just going somewhere else. Luckily, I swallowed my traveller’s fear and booked two tickets easily online and then enjoyed a very smooth, easy and comfortable trip that I would happily do again!
The day before we left, I went into one of the many local Thai travel agents with their sun-faded, old and worn posters of Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand and I asked how much it would be to book the bus ticket through them. They quoted 2500 Baht for 2 people. This included a pickup from the hotel to the bus departure point at Mo Chit bus terminal.
I politely declined this offer and managed to book online for 870 Baht per person and saved myself ~1000 baht. Booking online means you don’t have to go all the way out to Mo Chit twice! Here’s how to do it…
Book online through 12goAsia below. It’s safe, secure and 12go are Asia’s largest online booking system.
1 . Use the orange booking form below to select your departure date and click ‘find tickets’.
2 . To travel the same bus and company as I did, select the option that says ‘From Morchit to Siem Reap by bus’ operated by ‘Transport Co Intl’. You can select the number of tickets you need at the top of the screen or on checkout.
There are other companies, pickup locations, as well a mini-vans but the Thai Government Bus (Transport Co) is the only bus allowed to wait at the border and the only method of transport where you don’t have to take your bags off the bus at the border and carry them across with you. It’s the same bus all the way to Siem Reap.
- Pay securely online with credit/debit card or with PayPal.
- You need to pickup your ticket at the Transport Company Counter counter (counter 22) 1 hour before the bus departure. The counter opens from 7am, which gives you 2 hours before the usual 9am departure
We got up at 6am and checked out of our hotel, before trying to get a taxi to Mo Chit. First, we passed the ‘taxi mafia’ who were always lingering around our hotel like a pack of hyenas picking up on the scent of tourists on the move. They offered to take us to Cambodia by taxi (God knows how much that would have cost!), then offered the usual inflated 300 Baht. We ignored them and walked 100 metres to the road and flagged down a cab.
The smiling old cab driver got out and told us 200 baht per person… Taxis are never per person and this is just another tactic to get more money. Thai taxi drivers don’t seem to understand that per person rates are for transport where they make money per seat, not for a cab! We said no ‘on the metre’ and went to walk away until he said 200 Baht total. We took him up on this offer. If you can get a cab to go via the meter it should be about 140 Baht from Khoasan Road to Mo Chit, however getting a cab to turn on the meter in Thailand is becoming more and more difficult for tourists.
We arrived at Mo Chit just before 7am after a 25-minute journey. Mo Chit bus terminal is large with a giant 7/11, a local food court (all signs in Thai), a KFC that isn’t open during the morning and a very small drug store.
We waited, watching Thai soap operas which screen on the TVs there before boarding our bus… Very dramatic and lots of crying… Not sure what it was all about!
The bus isn’t too bad at all. The seats are fairly comfortable and recline back (probably too much), it also has a toilet onboard, however, the sign on the door clearly indicates this is for ‘pee only’. There isn’t much room for carry-on luggage, so if you want to take a lot on with you, board early.
Once seated, the staff came down the aisle and gave us a bottle of water, a can of ice coffee and a soft sponge cake. We settled in and waited for the border. I had read so many bad stories about the border that I was dreading the experience and couldn’t relax until we got there.
We stopped once on the way to the border because the bus got a flat tire! However, it was swiftly changed (rather comically) by 3 of the staff and a giant long pole. It only took about 15 minutes and allowed us an opportunity to get off the bus and stretch our legs.
The Border Crossing
An hour out from the border, one of the bus attendants offered everyone a ‘quick visa processing service’ because he ‘works for the government’. The offer is 1300 baht and the reason he gave for using his service was that the ‘police only let the bus stay at the border for one hour’. I had read about this and declined the offer. The bus cannot leave without you and at the border, it waited 1.5 hours which was more than enough time. Everyone was ready to leave after about 45 minutes. Having said this, I was charged 1200 Baht at the border, so if you want to spend an extra 100 Baht for the convenience of having the attendant organise your visa, then you can do that. He was very happy, helpful and informative.
UPDATE: October 2017 – Apparently now the only option is to have the bus attendant organise your visa for you. I’ve had reports that they no longer give you the option of doing it yourself. This isn’t a bad thing. The price is still the same $35 USD and, as I said here previously, I wished that I had just got bus company to do my visa for me and save myself the hassle.
We arrived at the Thai Cambodia border at 2pm. Maybe it was just the day we went on, however crossing the border was one of the easiest and quickest immigration/border experiences I’ve had. Before we got to the drop off point, the bus stopped just before the border to pick up our lunch. We were served a Thai style shrimp with chilli, basil and rice from 7/11 which wasn’t bad, If you’re vegetarian you’ll need to bring your own lunch!
We ate as the bus made its way through traffic to the border. When we arrived, the bus staff were actually very helpful. They explained, in English, where to go and encouraged us to ask them if we have any questions because ‘I am here to help you’. We got off the bus and went through the border as follows:
1. The first stop is Thai immigration to be stamped out of Thailand. This is down the street from where the bus drops you and on the left right next to the large white building with the gold temple spires (below). Just follow everyone else getting off the bus and look for the blue ‘departures’ sign (pictured below). Here you will go up the stairs into Thai immigration. When we arrived it was empty and took about 5 minutes to get through.
2. After clearing Thai immigration, follow the ‘Go to Cambodia’ signs that will lead you back out to the main street. Head towards the elaborate stone gateway that says ‘Kingdom of Cambodia’ then enter the visa building on your right, just next to the gateway. Here the staff will give you a visa form to fill in. You’re meant to take one passport photo with you, however, I forget to get a photo and no one seemed to care at all. Once your form is filled in you then proceed to the visa window. On the day we went through I paid 1200 baht or $35USD for my visa. I’ve read reports of the visa being $30, however, all the signs now say $35 for a tourist visa. I handed the staff my passport, form and money and was told to wait to the side. After 2 minutes someone emerged calling my name and gave me back my passport with the visa inside. Easy.
3. Once you have your visa, proceed to Cambodia immigration. Walk about 100 metres further down the road and enter the Cambodia immigration building on the right-hand side of the road. Here you will be given a short arrival card to fill in. It asks for the vessel, plane or vehicle number… I didn’t know this so I just wrote ‘bus’ and this seemed fine. After you’ve filled the form in, queue up at the windows where you will have your photo taken, fingerprints scanned and passport stamped. This part took us about 5 minutes. Once your passport is stamped that’s it!
The whole crossing took us about 20minutes. The bus will wait for you outside the Casino on the right-hand side of the road. You will actually walk past the bus when you go from the visa building to immigration. It’s very easy as there are only 2 main casinos opposite each other, and only the Thai government bus stops there. Once done we returned to the bus where our smiling attendant told us we had until 3.30pm until we left (the ‘police’ must have been generous on this day), so we headed to the casino next to the bus and in to ‘Chillax Café’ which actually has nice food, cheap drinks and air conditioning.
Arriving in Siem Reap
It took us 3 hours from the border to Siem Reap where we were dropped at the city market. Here the bus company offers free Tuk Tuks to any hotel. This is a free service, however beware that it is a sales pitch for the Tuk Tuk driver to pick you up the next day and take you to Angkor. DO NOT hire one of the ‘free’ Tuk Tuk from the bus company to take you to Angkor. Our driver quoted us $15 USD per person for the ‘short’ day tour of Angkor. The price is not per person. The price for a Tuk Tuk to Angkor is $15 for the day. The driver also took us to the wrong hotel; ‘Angkor Pal’ instead of ‘Angkor Pearl’ and then asked for some money as a deposit so he could ‘get petrol’. Stupidly we gave him some Thai Baht before we realised he had dropped us at the wrong hotel and he had left. He had no phone number so there’s nothing we could do…
After realising we were at the wrong hotel, the friendly staff at the Angkor Pal, called the ‘Angkor Pearl’ and the resident Tuk Tuk driver ‘Ti’ came and picked us up. Ti ended taking us to Angkor from 8.30am to sunset for a total of $15. Again – don’t take the first offer from the ‘free’ Tuk Tuks from the bus! As it turns out, crossing the Thai Cambodia border was the easiest part of our trip!
Siem Reap is an amazing place and the Angkor temples are breathtaking. Stay tuned for my next blog on our visit to Angkor with Ti the Tuk Tuk driver.