We researched all our options and making our way overland to Cambodia from Thailand was cheaper for us than flying. We actually did this journey over 2 days as we were coming straight from Koh Samui, but for this article I will make Bangkok our starting point.
We arrived at Bangkok airport at 9am in the morning. There are several options for getting to the border town of Aryanthapet from Bangkok including a 5am local train that leaves from Hualumphong train station and an 8am and 9 am bus leaving from Ekkami Bus terminal however we were too late to catch any of these transfers.
There are other buses leaving every hour from Morchit (Northern) bus terminal and we were to make our way there to connect with one of these buses. The journey would take 6 hours and the price was around $9 per person.
As we came out of the Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok we went to hail a taxi from the the 4th floor at departures. If you are heading to this airport and wish to take a taxi to your destination you will mostly likely head to the arrival taxi counter to book a ride. The prices at the taxi stands are exorbitant to say the least as they have set prices. If you are after a local taxi that uses it’s meter head to departures and grab a taxi as it is dropping off passengers to the airport.
We were lucky and found one straight away as we exited the airport. We asked the taxi driver to please take us to Morchit bus terminal where we would catch a bus to the border. On route to the bus station the driver of the taxi asked if we wanted him to take us all the way to the border. The ride in the taxi would take about 3 1/2-4 hours and we could stop wherever we liked. At this point the time was nearly 10:30am and we knew that the bus ride could take 6 hours or more. The Poipet border crossing from Thailand to Cambodia is also notorious for scams and we knew we would be more susceptible as it got closer to the border closing time of 8pm.
He offered us a fair price of 3500 Baht. (We had been told that a fair price was between 3,000 and 4,000 Baht) In the end we decided that we would go with the taxi to the border. Luckily for us it was a 7 seater taxi and with our bags taking up one seat we were all fairly comfortable.
The journey to the border took 4 1/2 hours as we stopped for lunch and to visit the largest reclining buddha in the world (according to our taxi driver.) . We were happy with our choice of transport and made it to the border around 3pm.
The border crossing was fairly straight forward. We exited Thailand through their border control and crossed over into Cambodia. We headed to the immigration office only to be told that because we had our E-Visa’s (purchased online for $30 USD each) we should head straight to the processing line. The processing visa line was a small tin shed with about 5 booths with officers processing passports. There was quite a line when we arrived and all up took us around 1 hour and 30 minutes to clear customs.
We have since met other travellers who have children and they told us that children don’t need visa’s? A travelling family who crossed over after us and bought their visa’s on arrival said they only bought one each for the adults and they refused to pay for the children saying that they were free. Of course the border officials said that kids have to pay and all the official websites also say that children are only free if they are on the same passports as their parents but if you could save $30 USD per child you could turn up and give it a go. They did say they had to pay the officials 1000 baht though to let them go through without visa’s for the kids.
As we crossed over into Poipet there is a free shuttle bus that takes people to a bus station about 4 km out of town. We had read that it was a government run initiative so we got on the bus. In hindsight I would not have boarded this bus. The bus terminal they take you to has a couple of big buses leaving to Siem Reap but they don’t leave till the bus is full and the mini buses were all done for the day by the time we arrived at almost 5pm.
The ride to Siem Reap is only meant to take 2 1/2-3 hours but we had to wait until the bus was full to begin our journey. We ended up leaving at around 6pm. If you are visiting this bus station do not change any money. We got royally ripped off when we exchanged our Baht for Riel, as we were told that you can’t use Baht in Cambodia. However we saw people still using baht to pay for drinks and food till we got to Siem Reap but if you can get a few USD’s before you go to Cambodia this would be recommended.
USD dollars are dispensed from all of the ATM’s in Cambodia and is the currency everything will be quoted in.
We stopped en route to Siem Reap for dinner at a dingy restaurant in the middle of nowhere and the food was terrible. The kids were starving and it had been a very long day but at least the plain steamed rice was edible albeit very expensive.
We finally rolled into Siem Reap at 9:45pm, exhausted but happy to be in a new country and excited to explore a new place. The bus company drop you about 4km from the city centre (another scam for visitors) and then all the tuk tuk drivers descend. The prices are very high but at that time of night with no idea where we were it’s best to pay the due and chalk it up to experience. To give you an idea of the price we paid $8 USD to get to our hotel about 4 km away, and we paid $15 USD for a tuk tuk driver all day to drive us around all the temples at Angkor Wat.
We finally arrived at our hotel around 10:15pm. The day hadn’t gone too bad and the kids were real troopers. We shudder to think what time we would have arrived if we had gone the public bus route to the Arayanthapet border as the taxi saved us at least 2-3 hours in travelling time.
It was a big day and if we had to do it again we would make sure we were on the 5am local train or catch a taxi straight to the border leaving around 8am.