How to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap: Overland border crossing

by | Jan 6, 2015 | Bangkok, Cambodia, Latest Posts, Thailand

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An overland border crossing between Bangkok and Siem Reap is the cheapest option on the well travelled backpacker journey between Thailand and Cambodia. It’s an adventure that involves taxis, trains, tuk tuks and buses with some scams and bribes thrown in for good measure but it’s a convenient, inexpensive and fun experience that still gives us a giggle!

With flights coming in at around US $200 per person we opted for the overland adventure and managed to travel from our hotel in Bangkok to Siem Reap for less than US $35 per person with a lot of laughs and scam avoiding along the way!  Here’s our step by step guide to making the journey across the border so you can do the same!

When planning your travel remember there are a number of direct buses from Bangkok to Siem Reap that cost around $30 and it’s possible to fly directly between the two cities also.

Bangkok to Siem Reap border crossing ©thewholeworldisaplayground

1 | MRT to Hualamphong Station

The MRT Subway and BTS Skytrains are a quick and cheap way to travel in Bangkok. Take the MRT to Hualamphong Railway Station where the train departs for Aranyaprathet close to the Thailand/Cambodia border. If you’re on a BTS line, Asok is the changeover station for the MRT. Taxis are also a relatively cheap transport option in Bangkok as long as the fare is metered.

Tip: Our taxi driver offered us an ‘excellent’ fixed price fare to Hualamphong of 300 Baht. We insisted on the meter being switched on, as is standard for taxi rides in Bangkok, and the actual fare was around 75 Baht. Meters, meters, meters!

Cost: MRT tickets cost between 16 Baht to 40 Baht and BTS tickets cost between 16 and 40 Baht depending on location.

2 | Hualamphong Station

Tickets are available from the ticket office in Hualamphong Station. There are separate windows for advance tickets and same day travel. A reservation is not required for the Aranyaprathet train so just turn up on the day and buy a ticket.

Cost: The train fare is 48 baht

Bangkok to Siem Reap border crossing ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Where to stay in Bangkok

We’ve spent over two months in Bangkok and have had the opportunity to sample some amazing hotels across the city. Our favourites include:

  • Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel: Our personal favourite hotel in Bangkok and is a real treat. It’s close to some amazing rooftop bars and shopping centres – Check prices here
  • Riva Surya: great value and the river views are superb – Check prices here
  • Cubic Hostel: is an awesome choice and the perfect option for travelers who love the social side of travel – Check prices here
  • Aldephi forty nine: is fab value and perfectly located to hop on off the BTS Skytrain – Check prices here

Click here for the best Bangkok hotel prices

 

3| The Train Journey to Aranyaprathet

Two trains depart daily from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet. The first at, 5:55am, arrives at 11:35am and the second, at 1:05pm, arrives at 5:35pm. We opted for the early morning train given the journey to Siem Reap takes around 12 hours in total. The border reportedly closes at 10pm so the later train is also a possibility and will result in a midnight arrival in Siem Reap if you can secure an onward bus or taxi.

Tip: The train takes between 4 and 6 hours so bring some snacks (also available from vendors passing through the carriages) and reading material for the journey. The views are also pretty awesome and help the time pass. Trains run on Thai time so expect some delays!

Life along the tracks:

Bangkok to Siem Reap border crossing ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Amusing ourselves on the train!Bangkok to Siem Reap border crossing ©thewholeworldisaplayground

4| Tuk Tuks at Aranyaprathet

Aranyaprathet is 6km from the Cambodia border and, after departing the train, it’s a quick 10 minute tuk tuk ride to the border crossing.

If you don’t have an e-visa, it’s highly likely the tuk tuk driver will try to drop you off at a travel agency marked ‘Visa Center’ which sells overpriced visas (around $35). Don’t buy your visa here and also insist on being dropped off at the official border. The drivers don’t want passengers to make a fuss and alert other travellers to the situation so they should drop you off at the real border pretty smartly!

Tip: Negotiate the tuk tuk fare and ensure your driver drops you off at the actual border. The official Cambodia visa office is located after the Thai border exit so if you haven’t exited Thailand and received an exit stamp don’t buy your visa from here!

Cost: The tuk tuk ride costs 80 to 100 Baht (after negotiations!)

Bangkok to Siem Reap border crossing ©thewholeworldisaplayground

5 | Exit Thailand

There are two queues at the Thailand border exit, one for Thais and one for tourists. An official stamps passports on exit from the country.

Tip: Be sure to join the correct line. The Thai line can be very long at weekends or on holidays and there’s no point hanging around at the back of the wrong line!

6 | Walk across the border and enter Cambodia

It’s a short walk across the Friendship Bridge and under the ‘Welcome to Cambodia’ sign!

If you haven’t bought a Cambodia e-visa in advance, now’s the time to get a Cambodia visa.

Cambodia visas are available on the border for US $20 in the visa office after walking across the bridge. The price is a fixed $20 despite handwritten signs requesting extra baht or dollars hanging above the visa counter. If you fancy the straightforward option, pay the extra money as it won’t break the bank and refusing may mean a little extra waiting time. An additional $1 is payable if a photograph is not presented.

After purchasing the visa, proceed to the immigration office, fill out the form and wait in the line. It’s a tiny room with no air conditioning and we waited in line for around 45 minutes.

Tip: The official visa fee is $20 so you can insist on paying only that amount. When asked for the additional cash we said ‘no, $20 fee only’ and managed to make it through to the other side (although we did receive some ominous white ticks on the cover of our passport but I think they were just playing mind games with us as we passed through with everyone else!)

Bangkok to Siem Reap border crossing ©thewholeworldisaplayground

7| Free bus to the Passenger Terminal

After exiting the immigration building you’ll be ushered towards the free bus to the Popiet Tourist Passenger International Terminal about 10 minutes away from the border. Transport out of Popiet is controlled by a transport association who operate the free bus and subsequent onward buses and taxis to Siem Reap.

It’s still possible to get a non association taxi directly from the border and it’s likely you’ll be approached by someone offering a ride and undercutting the official rates. The taxis are parked about 1km from the border. If you do choose this option, never pay up front.

Tip: At this point we were highly suspicious of anyone suggesting we should follow them or take any kind of transport but the free bus is legitimate if you wish to take the onward tourist bus, shared van or taxi to Siem Reap. The bus is located at the large roundabout close to the border.

8| Bus, shared van or taxi to Siem Reap

At the station, the transport choices are a bus or minivan for $9 or $10 or a 4 seater taxi for $48. The buses only leave when full so you might be in for a bit of a wait. The journey time is around 2.5 hours. We opted for a taxi to avoid having to wait around for the bus to depart.

Tip: Don’t pay for taxis in advance or you might find yourself dropped off half way to Siem Reap (especially with the non association taxis)! The guys at the depot will always insist a bus is leaving soon but it won’t leave until the seats are full so you could be in for a wait.  A taxi for 4 works out at a similar price!

Book Siem Reap hotels here

9| Tuk Tuk to Siem Reap Accommodation

Why do I need a tuk tuk when I hired a taxi I hear you ask?! There’s one final little quirk in the Bangkok to Siem Reap journey!

Despite insisting he knows where your accommodation is for the last 100 odd miles, as soon as you get close to Siem Reap the driver will suddenly forget or insist that taxis are not allowed into the city. As if by magic a waiting tuk tuk will offer their services for free. Of course it’s free because you’ve already paid for the official service to deliver you to your door, right?! The drivers are after commission from either delivering you to a guesthouse or by securing a booking for a temple tour during your stay.

Tip: We insisted we weren’t paying any additional money or booking any tours which did result in a bit of a temper tantrum when we got to the hotel and followed through with our promise! It’s been a long day so you might want to throw the driver a few dollars to keep the peace!

Bangkok to Siem Reap border crossing ©thewholeworldisaplayground

 

Where to stay in Siem Reap, the hotels we love:

Click here for the best Siem Reap hotel prices

10| Relax!

You’ve made it to Siem Reap and it’s been a long journey. There’s only one thing for it: POOL TIME!

Bangkok to Siem Reap border crossing ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Train or Bus?

It might not be the quickest way to the border and the seats may be a little hard but the train is our winner! We’re train kind of people and the $1.50 fare didn’t hurt!

We loved the idea of experiencing a Thai train journey in an open air carriage while the countryside rolls by. On a long journey it’s great to be able to wander around and trains are awesome for some people watching as the carriage was always bustling with new arrivals, other travellers and vendors selling local snacks.

If you’re after an easier option there are a number of direct buses from Bangkok to Siem Reap and cost around $30. While it takes the hassle out of finding transport, you’re still likely to come across the long running visa scams at the border! We opted for the train as we like a little adventure and prefer to do things on our own schedule but it’s a great option!

Gorgeous train views:

Bangkok to Siem Reap border crossing ©thewholeworldisaplayground

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23 Comments

  1. Helpful post and very detailed. This is worth bookmarking for future reference. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Thanks Vanessa, it hasn’t failed me yet!

      Reply
  2. Great report and very useful!

    Only thing…. Our underground train is the MRT, not MTR. The MTR is in Hong Kong!

    Happy travels

    Reply
    • Thanks Bangkokian! A little slip up from our Hong Kong days. Glad you like the post!

      Reply
  3. Hi Elaine,

    This is very helpful. Thank you for the post.

    I will be travelling there on Oct by the way. and I wanted to take the train and experience it but maybe by Bus back to Bangkok. What do you thinks?

    Reply
    • Hi Ace

      Sounds like a great idea if you’d like to experience the train and bus. I believe there are direct bus services that operate Bangkok to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Bangkok which might be a good option for you!

      Have fun and safe travels!
      Elaine

      Reply
      • Yeah and it cost 500 baht from Bangkok to siem reap . But before the border we were requested to get off and pay for another 100 baht of the application form in going out to the border. You will wait longer, so bring with you a lot of patience he he he. It’s just 5 mins and 2 days ! Ha ha just kidding . 2 hours is the most! Pinoy here @

        Reply
        • Haha Rolly, sounds familiar!!

          Reply
  4. Great help, very good insight for the journey, thank you!

    Reply
    • Thanks Ami, glad it is useful for you!

      Reply
  5. Thank you so much Elaine & Dave, for blogging all the information! I’m flying by next week I hope this will help me. I’m little paranoid about the scammers though.

    Cheers 😀
    Bharat

    Reply
    • Hope you have a good trip Bharat! The scams are fine as long as you’re aware of them, we found it all quite good fun in the end!

      Elaine

      Reply
    • How did it go???

      Reply
  6. Hi
    This is very helpful. Thank you for the post.

    Reply
  7. Hey guys, there are approximately 30 different companies offering direct bus from BKK to SR. Or you can get a taxi for 50 usd to take you from bangkok to siem reap (usually with a boot full of things to be delivered to some restaurant or company here), less if you share.

    Also, flights with Air Asia or Thai Smile are around 70 usd to SR.

    Just for reference 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks for the info Ken, I’ve updated to reflect your comments 🙂 We were keen to do some train travel in Asia and opted for the overland train option and I don’t think there was a direct bus at that time. I guess a lot of the border crossing advice applies either way 🙂

      Reply
  8. Hi! First, your blog is so informative! Thank you so much 🙂 I would just like to ask some help, my boyfriend and I will be traveling from Bangkok to Siem Reap soon and I am planning to take the minivan in Victory monument at lunch time as we will do some shopping in Chatuchak Market in the morning. Most of the blogs say that it would take 4 to 5 hours. Is that reliable? From Poipet to Siem Reap, can you please suggest the most affordable way yet the fastest to get to Siem Reap downtown. Taxi maybe too expensive as we are only 2 persons. Will appreciate your reply. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Liz

      Thanks for the comment! We took to the train so not sure how long the bus takes from Victory Monument but it’s slightly faster than the train as far as I remember. I know there direct buses now that will take you form Bangkok to Siem Reap so maybe that would be an option? We took a taxi form the border to Siem Reap – there are also minibuses that are less expensive, you just have to wait until they fill up to depart.

      Happy Travels!
      Elaine

      Reply
  9. hi for the taxi, is it 48 per person? thanks 🙂

    Reply
  10. Hello guys. I really appreciate your post, super helpful. Though I was wondering whether it is possible to make this train journey the other way around: from Siem Reap to Bangkok.
    Thank you so much

    Reply
    • Hi William, reverse should apply if you want to go the opposite way.

      Hope that helps

      Elaine

      Reply
  11. Thanks Elaine, so much info given on your blog, will be copying this route as well next week and goodluck to us. hehehehe

    Reply
    • Hope it was a successful trip Ivan!

      Elaine

      Reply

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