If you are travelling by land around South East Asia, chances are that you will be crossing one of the most tricky borders around there.
Some people consider the border of Thailand and Cambodia in Poipet one of the most difficult to cross due to the lack of information and the many scams existents in the area.
We crossed the border and did it safely to our final destination in Siem Reap in a total of 9 hours. We suggest that you get used to the fact that you will spend about 2-4 hours at the immigration point as it can get really busy. The earlier you get there, the better.
If you are doing this route, here are all our tips to do so safely and with a decent level of comfort.
How to Cross the Thailand to Cambodia Border:
- Don’t fall for the bus ticket scam. There are (apparently) many scams for bus trips to Cambodia that charge you for it but when you get to the station, there’s no bus! Beware of these and purchase your ticket here: Nattakan Bus (not an affiliate link). This is the only company run by the Thai government that will take you to your final destination and you won’t have to change buses or even take your bags out of the bus. Easier and ‘almost’ hassle-free.
- Book the bus tickets in advance.
We booked ours from Bangkok to Siem Reap about 15 days in advance. This way you can get better seats. The closer to the front the better. Seats at the back can get a bit too close to the toilet.
- Get to the terminal station a little earlier to get your tickets and board the bus. They provide a small bottle of water, cookies, juice and a can of coffee if you are travelling in the morning bus.
- Almost near the border the bus will stop for toilet and snack break. Just after that we received a small fried rice for lunch. So if you are really hungry, get a some extra food at the ‘snack stop’.
- Then, we reached the border. As soon as the bus stopped, a whole group of locals approached us and before the jumped off, they were onto us. That’s when it gets weary. They will come around out of nowhere and ask for your passport or shout out for you to follow them to get a ‘Cambodian visa’. They are persuasive and will be around as long as you hesitate and feel unsure. Just say ‘no’ and keep walking. Some of them even will have a card that looks like the one you’ll receive in the bus. Don’t trust anyone after you leave the bus.
- Keep walking until you leave the parking lot and cross the street. Keep on the right hand side and you’ll see a small sign for Thai Immigration, keep right and walk through to the immigration office. Go up the stairs and wait in line to get the stamped out of Thailand.
- After you leave, keep walking and you will go through the Friendship Bridge. Once you crossed the bridge, there’s a building on the right hand side with a smallish sign that reads ‘Cambodian Check Point’. If you haven’t applied for an online visa, you will have to apply there.
The application system is simple and kind of not official, anyhow, the officials there will hand you a A3 sized sheet which you’ll fill and hand back with 1 passport sized photo and the money. There is the tricky part. Preferably pay in US dollars. If you pay in Baht it’s more expensive. We paid US$30 plus 100Baht which was written in a handwritten sheet is ‘to complete the 1200Bath visa fee’. We paid it anyways and had our visa in less than 5 minutes.
- After you have your visa, keep walking a bit further (about 200 metres) and you’ll see the ‘stamp processing area’. We didn’t have the time to take a photo of the sign, but you’ll see it eventually. Wait in line and wait to get your passport stamped. Then you are free to jump back on board (the bus will be waiting next to the Casino Grand Diamond).
- Back to the bus, it will take another 4 hours to reach Siem Reap. Things go slow and driving in Cambodia is a challenge.
- As soon as you arrive at the bus station, your bags will be unloaded from the bus. A tuk-tuk driver will be responsible to take you to your accommodation, free of charge! We even used our driver to take us to Angkor Wat in the following days as he was extremely polite and really helpful.
So that was it. We read a lot before crossing the border and were prepared to cross the border without falling for any scams, unfortunately many in our bus didn’t know about it and at least we were able to help. Keep an eye on your personal belongings and just go for it. It will be fine.
Cambodia was one of our personal favourites and we are sure you’ll enjoy it too!
Have you had any different experience when crossing the border? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.
Larissa & Jean