I feel like I'm drowning in information I have read about the journey to Poipet border crossing and just don't know what to do for the best!
I'm a first time traveller, in case you can't guess!, and am flying into Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport on 16th June. My boyfriend and I plan to spend the 16th and 17th in a hotel and then will be leaving for Siem Reap on the 18th.
Currently we have no Bangkok accommodation booked - I have been nervous about travelling into the centre due to the recent problems so have been looking for airport hotels but, again, can't choose for sheer volume of choice! Is it best for us to travel into the city, stay there the 16th/17th and then travel on from there to the border?
Any advice would be so grately appreciated. I'm feeling so nervous right now, I just want to be slightly prepared so I don't go crazy before the trip!
#1 torilou has been a member since 6/6/2010. Posts: 25
I have been nervous about travelling into the centre due to the recent problems so have been looking for airport hotels
There is no reason to avoid Bangkok now with respect to the troubles seen last month. There is perhaps some risk (you could get in an accident with a tuk tuk or fall into the Chao Phraya river too) but nothing which stands out in a big chaotic Asian city anyway.
Arrive at the airport, go to the ground floor (ignoring the touts for "limousine service") then outside is a well-marked metered taxi rank. Give your destination, get voucher, board taxi and make sure the driver switches on the meter. As for where to go initially, first-timers usually head for the Banglamphu area near the river (Khao San Road or adjacent Soi Rambutri in particular). Taxi there with tollway and airport pickup fee usually comes to 300-400 baht depending on traffic conditions.
There are a few ways of getting to Cambodia from Bangkok, just don't buy inclusive transport from the agents offing too good to be true tickets. Probably best to take an early AM government regulated bus from Mo Chit bus station (near the same-named BTS station at the top of the Skytrain line) to Aranya Prathet then tuk tuk to the border, visa on arrival, shared taxi to Siem Reap. You've probably already read http://www.talesofasia.com/cambodia-overland.htm and agree it can make it seem quite overwhelming. It's the easiest way to go unless you feel like shelling out $200 per person one-way for the Bangkok Airways flight.
OK, first of all - RELAX! It's really not as complicated as it sounds - we just did it in both directions with a four year old, and while I wouldn't say it was the most fun day we've had so far, it was completely do-able.
We're now in central Bangkok - right next to where the red camp was actually - and it's really all fine, but if you're just planning on resting up for a day after your flight then moving on to Siem Reap then I'd say go for an airport hotel. We did just that, as we were arriving at about 7pm. I can recommend Thong Ta Resort & Spa - it sounds really posh, but it's not really a 'Resort', more of an upper-end budget to mid-range hotel, I would say.
We booked two nights through agoda.com, paid about $30 per night for a triple room, with breakfast & free airport pick-up/drop-off included. There's not much to do, but we went for a little walk and just hung out in the room for the day - room was clean, spacious & comfortably furnished with air-con, hot water, cable TV & mini-bar/fridge, so pleasant enough way to pass a day.
The airport pick up service runs from the meeting point at Gate 3 on the ground floor. It's all signposted & easy enough to find - you come out of customs into the arrivals hall, which is on the ground floor of the terminal building. Just turn right and walk almost the length of the terminal building - you'll have exits on your left hand side, all numbered 'gates' & counting down - just keep going until you get to Gate 3. There's loads of people trying to sell you hotel rooms, taxis etc, but everyone's really friendly, and if you just show them your hotel booking papers they'll point you in the right direction.
You can get the bus to the border from the airport bus station. It's slightly cheaper & quicker than getting it from the Northern/Northeastern Bus Terminal, and you can take advantage of the hotel's airport transfer service to save yourselves a bit more money. The only thing I'd say is that buses are far less frequent from the airport bus station, so get your timings right or you'll find yourselves with 3 hours to kill at the airport! (Can you tell I'm speaking from personal experience?)
If you stay at Thong Ta, they run a half hourly shuttle service to the airport (on the hour & half past the hour in theory, although we had to wait for some other guests to arrive). I would suggest booking the 8.30am hotel shuttle - it only takes 5-10 mins so this should give you some leeway if it's running a bit late.
When you get to the airport they'll probably drop you off upstairs at Departures by Gate 3 (same deal as at arrivals, just upstairs). Just walk along the pavement until you get to the airport shuttle bus stop, which I think is between gates 5 & 6. The shuttle bus is free, and all routes stop at the bus station which is called something like the "Passenger Transport Centre". The airport shuttle takes another 5 mins or so and buses come along every 5-10 mins.
At the bus station, say you're going to 'Aran' (easier than Aranya Prathet, and that's what they call it on the buses anyway!) and they'll point you to the correct ticket counter. It's basically right down the end near the 7-11 style shop. I'm pretty certain there's a bus at 9.30am which is the one you ideally want, but if you miss this there's another at 1.10pm which gets you the border by about 5.15pm. Another plus is that the buses from here run right to the border market, so you don't have to worry about a tuk-tuk from AP to the border.
When you get to the border, the amount of hassle you'll face is entirely dependent on whether you value convenience or principles more. If you go along prepared to pay $30 for a visa rather than the official $20 rate (plus 100b bribe to the Cambodian border guards for... err... doing their job!) then it will be pretty quick & pain free. If you're on a really tight budget or object to being scammed/extorted then you'll probably spend a bit more time & energy at the border. If you're an already nervous first time traveller, I'd just bite the bullet and budget for $30.
The important thing to remember is to ignore EVERYONE until you depart Thailand. Touts will mob you as you get off the bus, just ignore them and follow the general flow of people which will be moving towards the border. Look for people pushing carts if in doubt. You go through a kind of vehicle checkpoint bit and into a building where you get 'signed out' of Thailand. You then have to enter Cambodia in 3 stages:
1. Health check - you are ushered into a little room and asked to complete a health screening form. Basically 'Do you have any flu symptoms?' - No. - 'Ok then.'
2. Visa on arrival - there is a room with 2 guards standing outside, who get you to fill out visa applications & then take them, your passports, visa fee & a passport photo, which they then pass through the window where a visa is granted, then hand it back to you. For this they will charge you 100b, but they will make you give this to them out of sight of the guy inside who is actually handing out visas... Apparently they normally start off saying visas are $30 but we only got charged the standard $20 straight off. They did charge us for our 4 yr old though which was a bit sneaky (his visa came back stating 'gratis'), but frankly by 5.30pm with a hot, sweaty, grumpy toddler I'd have probably paid $40 for each of us!
3. Passport control. Once you've got your visa, you then have to walk a couple of hundred yards to passport control & fill out an 'arrivals card' & get your visa stamped. After this, prepare for the onslaught of taxi touts! You might even get approached before passport control by one - we did and managed to negotiate a price we were happy with and the taxi was waiting for us when we got out of passport control, which saved a bit of hassle. Make sure you negotiate a price into town/to the hotel or they drop you a few km outside Siem Reap.
Our taxi driver dropped us on the outskirts and delivered us to a tuk-tuk driver who gave a a 'free' ride into town (even though technically we'd paid the taxi driver for it) in the hopes that we'd use him for sightseeing during our stay there - he was very nice, spoke pretty good english and his prices were pretty much the standard rate so we did end up using him. (He was a bit vague, just saying 'pay me what you are happy with' but did indicate about $12-15 per day to see the main temples which is about standard.) I've got his email address somewhere, so will try to post it back here for you if you're interested.
From getting off the bus to getting into the taxi, the whole border crossing bit took about an hour I think. It's then a 2 hour drive to Siem Reap, so if you have a hotel booked the 1.10pm bus from the airport is completely viable. If you plan on looking round a few places when you get there I would really try to get the earlier bus. Like I said, I think it's 9.30am, but then again we did arrive at 10am, so I can't be 100% sure. If you do just miss it, a handy tip is to catch the airport shuttle back to the main terminal - there's air-con & a bigger selection of shops & cafes/restaurants etc, so a much more comfortable way to kill 3+ hours!
OK, so reading back, my post's turned into a bit of an epic - sorry! Hopefully it's reassuring rather than more info to drown in... :-/
If you've got any other questions about the trip in either direction, just ask.
#3 ZPeppiatt has been a member since 12/4/2010. Posts: 38
Thank you both for your replies, it is so nice to hear first-hand information.
Zoe, we had looked at staying in Thong Ta before but I was unsure if it would be suitable - read the reviews and they were a little up and down, and photos on the website differed grately from those taken by people who had stayed there. Having read all you had to stay about it though, I will definitely have another look, especially as you mentioned it is easy enough to spend a day there. Do you recommend going through Agoda rather than the hotel website?
If we do book this hotel then we definitely will use the airport bus to the border, everything you said was so helpful, the more details the better for the way I am feeling (doesn't help leaving a very nervous Mum at home!)
Do you know of anyone who has used the e-visa? We were thinking of doing it to save time.
I hope you are enjoying your time away :D
#4 torilou has been a member since 6/6/2010. Posts: 25
Yeah, I saw some pretty mixed reviews online too, but to be honest it was absolutely fine for a stop over. Rooms didn't look quite so sparkly as they do on the website, but then I think that's to be expected - the website is promotional material after all! If you go expecting a 4* resort & spa then I think you would be disappointed, but if you are planning on backpacking then it will probably be quite upmarket compared to some of the places you'll stay. Prices are comparable to staying in a Travelodge in the UK, but it is 10 times nicer.
The agoda prices were broadly similar to what was quoted on the hotel website, but the agoda price included free airport transfers, which I think the hotel website charged more for. Agoda is very easy to book through and has a 'best price' guarantee so you can't really go wrong. (It also has a reward points scheme - I doubt I'll actually use it enough to take advantage, but you never know!)
No idea about evisas, but I did read online that some people who had bought visas in advance got stung for a 'processing fee' or something when they got to the border. Reports I read were mixed though, so I think it's dependent on who's on duty that day! To be honest, it's realistically only going to cut 15 minutes tops off the border crossing process (unless you're determined to get your visa for $20) - but if you've got time to do it and booking it in advance is going to give you peace of mind then go for it.
Worried mums - lol! I can sympathise, although I now have worried grandmothers who are convinced I'm going to lose my son or put him in mortal peril! You'll probably find she'll calm down considerably if you book at least your first couple of nights' accommodation in advance though.
One other thing - if you do go for Thong Ta & book through Agoda, I had a minor panic on the plane as I realised I hadn't actually contacted the hotel about pick up service, or specified when I was landing! I needn't have worried as there was someone from the hotel there anyway -I'm pretty certain the hotel have a representative at the airport most of the time, but you might want to put your flight arrival details in the 'special requests' section on the agoda booking form.
Almost forgot - details for friendly tuk tuk driver in Siem Reap if you're interested:
Visal (not sure of last name) - email firstname.lastname@example.org, tel 855 12570995.
We stayed at Central Boutique Angkor hotel and can highly recommend it - not sure of your budget but we paid $47 per night for a triple.
#5 ZPeppiatt has been a member since 12/4/2010. Posts: 38
Thank you Zoe, you have been such a great help to me, and my boyfriend. It's so very kind of you, I know you are taking time out of your trip to reply to me.
Will have another look today but think we will go ahead and book the Thong Ta. We actually have a more than avergae travellers budget, we have decided we wish to travel comfortably so we have somewhere nice to come home to each day - it certainly has helped with my nerves! We have also booked accommodation in Siem Reap (thank you for the recommendation anyway) and Phnom Penh already, so I have something to show my Mum when she arrives home from her current holiday. Hopefully that will make her feel better.
Did you go over to Vietnam? If so, how did you find the border crossing there? And how did you find it coming back into Bangkok?
Again, many, many thanks!
#6 torilou has been a member since 6/6/2010. Posts: 25
I have crossed from Poipet to Vietnam before, but it was about 7 years ago so not sure how much things have changed. I think we did the Chau Doc crossing (by boat) - can't remember having any major problems.
I know lots of people really rate South Vietnam, but personally I didn't think it was all that and had a much better time in the Northern half. Maybe we were there at the wrong time of year or something.
Trip back to Bangkok was much easier - we had prebooked a taxi from our hotel, set off at 8.30am and got to Aranya Prathet bus station (so through the border & short tuk tuk ride) just in time to get the 11.15 bus to Bangkok.
Obviously it's up to you, but I'd try not to book TOO much accomodation before you go. I can almost guarantee that your plans will change at some point once you're out here - you might decide you want to stay a couple of extra nights somewhere or stop off on the way to your next destination - or even cut something out of your trip altogether. There's internet access EVERYWHERE (unless you're planning on really getting off the beaten track maybe) so if you prefer to have a fixed destination when you arrive you shouldn't have any trouble booking a couple of days ahead as you go. I booked our accomodation in Chiang Mai 20mins before checking out of our hotel in Bangkok!
You're welcome! I know how you feel, I almost obsessively plan things before leaving (I had an hour-by-hour spreadsheet mapping out our whole trip lol!) but I also know that most of it goes out of the windows once I'm actually there. It's always good to do your research though, as you've got a basic idea of what you can fit in and you know how to get from a to b and what scams to look out for.
#7 ZPeppiatt has been a member since 12/4/2010. Posts: 38