Bangkok to Siem Reap
Updated on 8th September, 2014. First published 15th October, 2006
The trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat is one of the most talked about routes in the region: scam buses, visa rip-offs, over-priced taxis and a whole realm of shysters and con artists to boot. But in the end, it's a straightforward trip that's as easy as pie -- if you know what to expect. Here's a cheat sheet to get you there and back without too much fraying of the nerves.
FlyIn one of the more dubious chapters of open skies agreements, Bangkok Airways was for a long time the only airline flying the Bangkok to Siem Reap route, and not surprisingly, for the distance it was one of the most expensive flights around. Rumour long had it that the road from Poipet to Siem Reap was kept in crappy condition in order to steer people onto the Bangkok Airways planes -- who would have thought!
Thankfully, a pair of regional airlines -- Air Asia and Cambodia Angkor Air -- have cracked the monopoly. While Bangkok Airways still charges over 4,000 baht for a one-way ticket, flights on Air Asia usually go for around 2,500, with Cambodia Angkor running closer to 3,000. While that's still not cheap for an hour-long flight, it's a major improvement.
Keep in mind that Air Asia flies out of Bangkok's old airport, Don Mueang, while both Cambodia Angkor and Bangkok Air will depart from Suvarnabhumi. We've not yet tried Cambodia Angkor; it's 51% owned by the Cambodian government and 49% by Vietnam Airways. Reviews are patchy but checked bags are free (unlike with Air Asia). Bangkok Air is still probably the most comfortable choice. If you're not up for spending a fair chunk of cash to fly, read on for the details on doing the trip overland.
The full trip has two segments: the Thai side (from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet and the border) and the Cambodian side (from Poipet to Siem Reap).
Bangkok to Aranyaprathet
Unless you're willing to hire a taxi from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet (expect to pay around 2,500-3,000 baht) your choice is down to train or bus. If you're travelling slow and maybe considering overnighting in Aranyaprathet, then the train is great, but most people opt for the bus as it's a lot quicker.
Two ordinary third-class-only trains depart for Aranyaprathet daily from Bangkok's Hualamphong station. The morning train leaves at 05:55, the afternoon one at 13:05, and the trip takes a solid six hours or more. You must catch the morning train if you want to get to Siem Reap on the same day without hiring a taxi. The train is slow but scenic -- if you have time on your hands it's worth doing at least once. While neither of the border towns is charming in the least, Aranyaprathet has a better selection of accommodation if you need to spend a night in the area.
From Bangkok's Morchit (Northern) terminal, buses to Aranyaprathet depart roughly every hour from 04:00 to 18:00 and cost around 230 baht for first-class and 190 for second-class. Tickets can be purchased from booths on the ground floor and buses depart from the massive parking lot out back. These will drop you at the main bus station in Aranyaprathet town, from where it's a five-minute tuk-tuk or motorbike taxi ride to the border (there are also slower shared songthaews for cheaper). In the opposite direction, buses depart Aranyaprathet at 05:00, 06:00, 09:30, 10:30, 13:30 and 15:00.
From Bangkok's Ekkamai (Eastern) terminal, buses to Aranyaprathet depart roughly every two hours from 06:30 to 16:30 and cost around 220 baht. Compared to the massive Morchit, catching buses at Ekkamai is easy and the location right next to the same-named BTS skytrain station makes it more convenient. Buses from here will also drop you at the main Aranyaprathet bus station. In the opposite direction, buses depart for Ekkamai at 07:30, 10:00, 13:00, 14:30 and 16:00.
From the Suvarnhabhumi Airport transport centre, buses depart every two hours from 07:00 to 17:10 and cost around 190 baht. These are the same buses that embark and terminate at Ekkamai. Regular buses to Aranyaprathet take between four and five hours from Morchit or Ekkamai; a bit less if coming from Suvarnabhumi.
Once you reach Aranyaprathet train or bus station, you'll need to take a tuk tuk, motorbike taxi or songthaew to Rong Khlua border market (aka Friendship market) around seven km away. The ride should cost around 60 baht for a motorbike and 100 for a tuk-tuk, depending on the number of passengers, or 15 baht per person for a shared songthaew. Under no circumstances allow a tout into the tuk-tuk with you, and do not take the driver up on offers to take care of your Cambodia visa on the way to the border.
At Rongklua market
Your transport will drop you at the border market where you need to clear both Thai and Cambodian immigration and customs. As you walk towards the border crossing, you will be approached by touts who could win Oscars for their skill at acting like concerned locals trying to assist weary travellers with what they say is an extremely complicated border-crossing process. Ignore them -- don't even acknowledge their existence. Do however pop into the market to pick up a few fresh-baked baguettes for the road.
Immigration and customs
The Poipet border crossing is open from 07:30 to 20:00 daily. Clearing Thai immigration and customs is straightforward. Once you've been stamped out of Thailand, you'll emerge into a surreal "in between zone" where weathered farmers push wooden carts past wealthy Thais getting their kicks at the on-site casino. This is where the touts get really pushy, trying their hardest to lead you to desks where an "official" will charge a premium to run down the street and get your Cambodia visa, or possibly even sell you a fake visa.
The actual immigration checkpoint is located a short walk up on the right; it's a fairly nondescript building with a roof and a few counters. This is where you can fill out an application and meet the friendly immigration officer who will issue your visa-on-arrival and stamp you into the country. On one occasion we were sent to a separate booth just outside to get acquire the visa, then back in to pass through immigration.
Unless you're a citizen of an ASEAN country, you will need a visa to enter Cambodia. It costs US $30 at the border, and you'll need to supply one passport photo. You are well advised to have enough crisp US notes at the ready, as they will save you money. The standard tourist visa is valid for a 30-day stay. The Poi Pet crossing also now supports E-visas.
For more detailed info on the border experience, see the "Crossing the border" section at the bottom of the Aranyaprathet landing page.
Once you've been stamped into Cambodia, take the government shuttle bus from the border to the transport depot. From there you have some choices: share- or private-taxi, government bus or pick-up truck. Apart from the transport depot there's virtually nothing of interest in Poi Pet, but there are plenty more touts and conmen so don't let your guard down just yet. Also don't be pressured into exchanging your crisp US or Thai bank notes for a stack of Cambodian riel at poor exchange rates; both US dollars and Thai baht are widely accepted in Cambodia, and riel is worthless (and cannot be exchanged for other currencies) outside of the country.
One of the best things about Poipet is leaving it. A taxi to Siem Reap will cost US $30 to 50, so try to hook up with other travellers to split the fare. The government bus costs $10 and is a lot faster than it used to be. A ride in a pick-up will cost you 30 baht in the back or 100 baht for two seats in the cab -- note this is only to Sisophon, from where you'll need to organise another ride on to Siem Reap. If you're going by pick-up we'd suggest splurging and buying two seats in the cab as it's a dusty, uncomfortable ride in the back. When shopping around for a pick-up, be sure to choose one that is almost full. Some hotels and guesthouses in Siem Reap also supply a pick-up service from the border with advance notice.
Poipet to Siem Reap
This road has gained near legendary status for its poor condition but that is all in the past now. The road is completely sealed and a trip by taxi from the border to Siem Reap can take as little as an hour and a half. If going by bus, expect a slower ride that will probably include a stop at a restaurant.
At both Khao San Road and Siem Reap you'll see minibuses offered for next to nothing for the Bangkok to Siem Reap run. These are invariably scams that in some cases have taken in excess of 20 hours to deliver the passengers. Do NOT use these services.
Don't use the minibus scam service
If you have money - fly
If you have loads of time - take the train
Never talk to touts
Don't use the minibus scam service
See -- we told you getting from Bangkok to Siem Reap was going to be easy!
Looking to sort out your accommodation at either end of the trip? Read our independent reviews of guesthouses and hotels around Khao San Road in Bangkok and Siem Reap, or, if you're looking to book something online, try Agoda's discounted hotels in Bangkok and Siem Reap.
Related readingAngkorian traffic woes
Siem Reap to Ko Chang
Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
The best islands in Cambodia
The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
Why you should go to Cambodia
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