Seam Reap is the most sought tourist destination in Cambodia among the tourists heading to the Angkor Archaeological Park. Many backpackers who travel to Bangkok, also want to include Seam Reap in their itinerary. But the road trip from Bangkok to Seam Reap is full of tourist scams, visa scams, transport scams, touts and thieves. So, It is always a better idea to keep these factors in mind, while travelling on this route. This post will help you to plan your journey from Bangkok to Seam Reap.
While planning this journey from Bangkok, the most important thing to remember is that don’t buy a package trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap. They sound like a good idea, but are rife with scams. It’s better to suffer putting the trip together by yourself.
Best and Easiest Way:
By Air: This is the best and easiest way to reach Seam Reap from Bangkok provided that you have the plenty of money. Bangkok Airways is the only airlines operating in this sector and their fare is always skyrocketing due to the monopoly they are enjoying. One way fare for this 1 hour 15 minutes journey can cost you about 8000 Thai bath or 250 USD or 15000 INR.
There are five daily flights of Bangkok Airways from Bangkok to Seam Reap.( as per August 2012 Schedule)
Departures From Bangkok– 08.00 AM 11.35 AM 13.40 PM 17.05 PM 18.45 PM
Arrivals at Seam Reap—- 09.10 AM 12.45 PM 14.50 PM 18.15 PM 19.40 PM
Similarly, there are five daily flights from Seam Reap to Bangkok. ( as per August 2012 Schedule)
Departures From Seam Reap– 09.45 AM 13.20 PM 15.25 PM 18.50 PM 20.30 PM
Arrivals at Bangkok ——- 11.00 AM 14.35 PM 16.40 PM 20.05 PM 21.35 PM
Fare for return journey from Seam Reap to Bangkok is generally cheaper by 30-40 USD in comparison to the onward journey fare from Bangkok to Seam Reap.
Seam Reap Airport is located outside the town about 7 kms away. It is the busiest airport of Cambodia in terms of passenger handling, but the terminal is a small one.You can easily navigate here. There are direct flights available for Seam Reap from other destinations also like Seoul, Kualalmpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, Manila, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Yangon, Taipei etc.
Getting in to the town from the airport is quite easy. There is a prepaid taxi booth outside the terminal and a prepaid taxi to the city center can cost you 10 USD. Prepaid tuk-tuk rides for slightly less are also available. If you are only with a single backpack, you can also opt for a moped ride, that cost you about 3 USD. Most hotels offer a free airport pick-up if you’ve booked in advance.
This is also a less time consuming way to reach Seam Reap. There are two segments of this trip- first is in Thailand (From Bangkok to Aranyaprathet Border by bus, by taxi or by train) and second is in Cambodia ( From Poipet Border to Seam Reap by bus or by taxi).
Catching a Bus From Bangkok to Aranyaprathet Border: ( Updated: Aug.5, 2012)
First Class Deluxe and AC buses as well as ordinary buses are available between Bangkok to Aranyaprathet. These buses are generally available at the ground floor of Bangkok’s Northern Bus Station (Mo Chit) and depart at every half hour. This 4-5 hour journey ticket cost may vary from 207 THB ( for first class buses) to 160 THB (ordinary buses). Snack and drinking water may include in a first class ticket price. A VIP bus (big bus) may cost you upto 300 THB.
Some reports said that a VIP bus to Aranyaprathet is available from Khao San Road itself and costs about 350 THB.But this is not yet confirmed and in the light of past scams at Khao San Road, it is advisable to avoid these type of offers. It is always better to catch a government bus from Mo Chit Bus Station.
Last bus from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet leaves the terminal at 18:00 hrs and same is the case for the reverse direction trip.
Buses are also available from Bangkok’s Eastern Bus Station (Ekamai) at every one or two hours to Aranyaprathet. There are no VIP bus from this terminal, but you can a get a good aircon bus that will cost you 200 THB for 5-6 hours journey.
There are twice daily first-class buses from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Aranyaprathet, and in the opposite direction. Times from Suvarnabhumi Airport are 0800 hrs and 1430 hrs with cost just under 200 THB. In the reverse direction, buses to the airport leave Aranyprathet at 08:30 hrs and 12:30 hrs.
These buses goes to the Aranyaprathet bus stand, which is 6 kms away from the border. From the bus stand, you can catch a shared tuk tuk to Rongkleu Market at the border.This will cost you 50-100 THB depending on your bargaining capacity and number of passengers. You can also get a moped ride to the border, which will cost you 25-30 THB.
Catching a taxi from Bangkok: A metered cab from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet should cost you from 2000 THB to 2500 THB plus around 200 THB as toll taxes. It reduces the travel time significantly as it takes 3 hours from Bangkok City and 2 hours from Suvarnbhumi Airport to reach there at Aranyaprathet. If you travel by a cab, it drops you directly at the Rongkleu Market at the border.
The road is in very good condition from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet and traffic is also very less in countryside, so you can hope a memorable road trip on this segment.
Catching a train from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet: I used this mode in my journey
This is the most time-consuming, but the cheapest and most popular way among the backpackers to reach Aranyaphrathet. There are two ordinary trains running daily between Bangkok Hualamphong Railway Station to Aranyaprathet Railway Station. The first train leaves Bangkok at 05:55 AM and arrives at 11.35 AM in Aranyaprathet. Second train leaves Bangkok 13:05 PM and arrives at 17:35 PM in Aranyaprathet. In the reverse direction, these trains leave Aranyaprathet 06:40 AM and 13:55 PM to reach Bangkok at 12:05 PM and 19:55 PM respectively. The train fare is only 48 THB. Please make sure to catch the first train in the morning to reach Seam Reap same day. If you catch the second train, then you will reach Aranyaprathet in the evening and then there may be the chances that you will spend your night at Aranyaprathet only.
Tips: A metered cab from Khao San Road to Hualamphong Railway Station will cost you 52 THB.
Aranyaprathet sation is about 7 kms away from Rongkleu market at the border. There are lot of tuk-tuks available outside the railway station. They drop you at Rongkleu Market in 50-100 THB, depending on your bargaining capacity and the number of passengers. If you are having a single backpack, you can also opt for a moped ride to the border, that costs you around 20-25 THB.
Important Caution.1: When you reach near border, the tuk-tuk driver takes you a building that is so called Consulate of Cambodia. There will be many touts, who insist you to buy a Cambodian Visa. But don’t fall in their trap. If you are having a visa, then totally ignore them and just walk towards the border. If you do not have visa, then also move towards the border. Cambodian Immigration issues a visa on arrival for most nationalities, which cost is 20 USD. Please note that no one on the Thai side can help you get a Cambodian visa, so ignore any ‘assistance’. Telling them you already have a Cambodian visa ends the conversation pretty quickly.
2. While returning from Seam Reap, after crossing the Thai border, there are many touts who offered you a bus service to Khao San Road in Bangkok, but again don’t fall in their trap. Just ignore them and ride a tuk-tuk to Aranyaprathet Bus Stand and from there, catch a government bus to Bangkok or you can catch the train also.
Crossing the Border in a No Men’s Land:
The immigration office in Thailand side is situated just near the Rongkleu market. It opens daily from 08:00 AM to 20:00 PM and there is no time difference between both the countries. Proper sign-boards are there to assist you till immigration counter. Outside the immigration counter, expect long queues and it takes generally one hour to cross the Thai Immigration counter. Do not forget to fill the departure form before standing in the queue for immigration proceedings. These forms are available just outside the Immigration Office.
Tips: Please note that Aranyaprathet Border does not offer a Visa-on-Arrival to an Indian Citizen, while travelling from Seam Reap to Bangkok. (August, 2012 Status). If you are going from Bangkok to Seam Reap and your plan is to re-enter in Thailand through this border, please be sure that you have a valid Thai Visa or a re-entry permit to enter in Thailand. However you can always fly from Seam Reap or Phnom Penh to Bangkok, where you will get a Visa-on-Arrival.
After crossing the Thai immigration, there is about 500 meters of buffer area before reaching to the Cambodia border at Poipet. This zone is the part of Poipet town of Cambodia, but a tourist can remain here for a day without crossing the Cambodian Immigration. Many Cambodian shops , hotels and casinos are situated in this area. Cambodian as well as Thai nationals can visit this zone by using a special permit issued by immigration authorities. This zone is also popular among the backpackers who want to spend a night at the border town.
North of this zone is an average Cambodian town; to the south is a poorer slum area. Both areas have their own markets: clean and airy and dishevelled and stinking, respectively. The latter is likely to be more interesting to an observer. For travellers staying overnight at the border, Poipet represents a cheaper option than the adjacent Thai town, Aranyaprathet, particularly for those heading into Cambodia.
Continue walking towards the Cambodian side and you reach at Poipet border. There are Cambodian Policemen on duty to show you the way to the Cambodian Immigration Counter. Again, expect a long queue there.
From Poipet Border (Cambodia) to Seam Reap: Once you have been stamped with Cambodian Immigration stamp, you officially enter in Cambodia. Walk further from Immigration counter and you reach at a shop cum bus stand that sells cold drinks, biscuits, snacks etc. There are many people waiting for the bus. A person will also approach you to indicate a place to stop, from where you can catch a free government shuttle bus to the bus stand at Poipet. From Poipet bus stand, there is two options to travel further to Seam Reap.
You can catch a bus that costs you 9 USD and takes around 4 hours. There are the ticket counters of 2-3 bus companies at the bus stand. You can buy ticket from any of the counter as per your choice. The bus do not depart immediately. They wait until the every seat of the bus is occupied by a passenger. Sometimes this wait can be over one hour.
The other way is to catch a shared cab/taxi to Seam Reap. It costs you 12 USD and takes around 2 hours. Again they wait until the cab is full of passengers (normally 4)
There is also a money exchange counter, where you can exchange your money for Cambodian Currency. Cambodian Currency is Cambodian Riel, but US Dollar is also a widely accepted currency in Cambodia. Riel value is very low and 1 USD is generally equivalent to 4000 Riels. Try to get at least 50000 Riels because you have to spend a lot of Riels in Cambodia, like a Coconut water there costs 2000 Riels, a cold drink costs 4000 Riels, simple meal can costs 8000 Riels.
An Interesting and Useful Information: I used above described mode of transportation in my journey. But later, when I Googled on the web for some more information, then I realized that this whole route is full of touts, corrupt people and tourist scams . I found these useful information at Wikitravel, so I just want these to share with you:
1. Visa Scam:This one is common. Any tuk-tuk driver from Aranyaprathet will take you to the Cambodian Consulate first. Visas here are overpriced (1000 – 1400 baht vs. $20 if obtained after Thai immigration). Do not waste your time here, just say “have visa” loud and clear (even if you don’t) and he will not persist in trying to scam you.
Even if you make it past the consulate, you’re still in the Visa Tout Zone (see map). A group of “visa officials” with fake laminated badges will have go at sending you back to the consulate for an expensive visa. They are criminals. Ignore them and go to the Thai immigration office, which is to the left of the main road.
Whatever happens, ONLY EVER GET A CAMBODIAN VISA ONCE YOU HAVE BEEN STAMPED OUT OF THAILAND AND HAVE WALKED ACROSS THE BRIDGE TO CAMBODIA.
please arrive early at the border. Arriving early can help, as in the late afternoon a corrupt official knows that a delay could result in missing onward transport, which makes the bribe seem more attractive. Whenever you arrive, be polite, say hello (sue-saw-day) and thank-you (awkunh) in Khmer and you should find no problems. Just be aware that $20 (+100 baht for no photo) is all you need to pay and you will eventually be let through. Past scams have included having to pay for a SARS form or for non-production of a vaccination certificate.
2. The Official Transport Monopoly Scam: One’s first steps after the arrivals office lead to the Transport Monopoly Tout Zone (see map). The scam here is the dressing of overpriced transport as official policy.
Free so called government buses or minibuses await tourists emerging from immigration. They go to an inconveniently out of town transportation depot: the Poipet Tourist Passenger International Terminal. They cease running at about 6pm. Overpriced food is available while one waits for an overpriced bus or shared taxi.
Only the diligent will avoid this one because police are beastly to and extort drivers that pick up tourists near the border. The police and “helpful” others pester tourists emerging from arrivals and basically cajole them onto the buses. Most tourists succumb, either unaware of the scam or unwilling to go against a uniform. If such a set up irks you, remember that despite how it initially feels, you have every right to do as you please in Poipet and you can smilingly, tactfully and respectfully tells the scumbags where to shove it.
Some tourists have reported being taken to a private travel agency instead of the proper depot, under the pretense that the station “is under construction”. You can handle this as you like, you don’t have to deal with them but the private company may be cheaper than the official scumbags.
Outside the Transport Monopoly: Avoid this scam by saying you want to have lunch/find a guesthouse/see Poipet/to the post office/casino/karaoke, basically anything that isn’t finding a bus. Then walk down the street, the pressure eases off away from the roundabout and you should be able to pick up a ride without being bothered.
Just don’t start negotiating with a driver if a policeman is standing right next to you. It’s unfortunately their job (i.e. orders from bent bosses, rather than legal duty) to intervene if a tourist tries to deal with a driver outside the monopoly. Don’t be worried, the intervention will be nothing more than creaming a cut from the fare (you’re not actually doing anything wrong remember). There are many taxi drivers in town. A taxi to Siem Reap normaly costs up to $30 USD, but negotiate as prices may start at $50-60 USD. If you want to do it Khmer-style, a seat in a shared taxi will be about US$8.
Non-tourist buses depart from the bus companies’ offices scattered along the main street a little way from immigration . Their fares are outside the official monopoly so a bus to Siem Reap costs only $5. Departures are in the morning and can generally only be made after staying overnight in Poipet. However, the taste of victory over Cambodia’s institutional corruption is sweet.
Pickup trucks can be found near the border and in the town, they run to Siem Reap and Battambang, although changing in Sisophon is likely. Seats inside/outside the truck cost 10,000/5000 riel to Sisophon, plus approximately double that for an onward journey to either Siem Reap or Battambang.
The monopoly only affects transport from Poipet. Buses from Siem Reap to Poipet are about half the price of those from the Tourist Passenger International Terminal to Siem Reap.
After reading this you can say that I was also a victim of that Official Transport Monopoly Scam. But, I have seen all tourists did the same thing like me and I did not suffer any problem. I might have lose some 4-5 extra dollars in this scam, but overall it was a satisfactory trip to Seam Reap. However, If you are in Poipet, you can try the way suggested at Wikitravel to avoid this scam.
Tips: If you exchange money at the exchange counter, you get approx. 3900 Riels for 1 USD. But at the shops, if you make payment in USD, the shopkeepers offer you the exchange rate of 4000 Riels for 1 USD.
The road is again in excellent condition up to Seam Reap. Fully paved National Highway 5 which runs to Sisophon and then further on the south side of the Tonle Sap Lake to Battambang and Phnom Penh. At Sisophon, National Highway 6 branches off to provide a fully paved arterial route along the north of the Tonle Sap to Siem Reap.