How to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok (and vice versa)

There are lots of ways to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok, and it all depends on how much time, money, and patience you have. In this post, I’ll cover the best ways to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok whether you travel by plane, direct bus, mini-bus, taxi, or my favorite: mini-bus and casino bus combination. Later this week I’ll give you the lowdown on crossing the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border overland.

Plane

Cambodia Angkor Air

Cambodia Angkor Air: Cambodia’s national flag carrier.

Bangkok Airways used to have the only flights between Siem Reap and Bangkok, and the outrageously high price of tickets made a good argument for why competition is necessary in the world of airlines. For a one-way ticket, prices are between $200 and $300 for a one-hour flight, making this one of the more expensive routes around. Return fares are significantly less, starting at $291.

More recently, though, Malaysia-based LCC Air Asia has started offering daily flights between Siem Reap and Bangkok. You can find one-way flights on this route for as little as $60 if you book in advance, but usually tickets are more often in the $140 range. Flights arrive at Bangkok’s DMK airport and you’ll pay extra for baggage.

Local airline Cambodia Angkor Air also flies the Siem Reap to Bangkok route and generally offer the lowest prices for flights that aren’t booked months in advance. In many ways their offering is superior, because tickets include 20 kgs of luggage per passenger and they fly into Suvarnabhumi Airport. One-way flight start at $136 and roundtrip flights start at $190. If you’re flying return, CAA almost always works out as the lowest-price option. Read our full review of Cambodia Angkor Air.

Direct bus

Nattakan Transport Co bus Bangkok to Siem Reap

The direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap (and vice versa)

There are Nattakan/Transport Co. Ltd direct buses that go from Siem Reap to Bangkok for $28 and from Bangkok to Siem Reap for for 750 baht ($23). You can purchase tickets in Siem Reap at any guesthouse or travel agent, or directly at the Nattakan Transport office on Sivatha Blvd. The bus leaves at either 8:00 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. every day and take between eight and ten hours to arrive. The direct bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok is definitely the easiest option, although perhaps not the fastest and certainly not the cheapest. The best part about the direct bus is that you keep your luggage on the bus while you walk through the border. Read our full review with photos of the direct bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok.

Taxi

Taxi is the most expensive overland option, and doesn’t save much hassle over going by bus, as you still have to use two taxis and walk through the border on foot because cars aren’t allowed through the border. You can book a taxi at any guesthouse or local travel agent in Siem Reap, but you may get a cheaper rate by asking a tuk tuk driver to get one of his friends to do it. Prices from Siem Reap to Poipet are around $30 and take two hours.

Once you’ve crossed the border, there are taxis waiting that will take you anywhere in Bangkok for 1900 baht ($60). The trip takes from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok takes three or four hours.

As per usual, taxis in Cambodia (and Thailand) are usually Toyota Camrys that can comfortably seat three passengers and can uncomfortably seat four. They usually have a tank in their trunk and cannot fit a lot of baggage.

Mini-bus

Mini-bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok

The mini-buses from Siem Reap to Bangkok are cheap and cheerful.

There are mini-bus services that go “direct,” meaning the same company will drop you off on the Cambodia side of the border and then meet you on the Thailand side of the border. You still need to haul your luggage through the border on foot, and often end up waiting for others on your bus who takes hours to go through immigration. These services offer you no direction or hand-holding in getting through the border, so there’s really no reason to take them through. It’s better to buy a ticket from Siem Reap only to Poipet and then either take another mini-bus or a casino bus from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok.

From Siem Reap, there are mini-buses that leave for Poipet every morning. I can’t recommend any specific company because they are all disappointing in their own way. But at $5 a ticket, it’s hard to complain because they do manage to get you from A to B without much hassle. Book a night in advance. You can book tickets to Poipet at any local travel agent but be sure to haggle, as they’ll often try to charge $10 for a $5 ticket.

Once you are through the border in Aranyaprathet, you can grab another minibus that goes to Victory Monument in Bangkok for 230 baht ($7.20). You’ll need to wait for enough passengers to show up and fill the bus, but it doesn’t usually take long. The trip from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok takes between four and six hours, depending on what time you leave.

Mini-bus and casino bus combo

Casino buses Aranyaprathet border

You’ll know the casino buses by the stunning artwork that graces the exterior.

Of all of the options, this is my preferred overland means of travel from Siem Reap to Bangkok, costing a total of $11.25. I hop a $5 mini-bus in Siem Reap to the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border, walk through, then head to the car park next to the 7-11 and catch a casino bus. You’ll recognize the casino buses because they are massive and brightly painted with kooky designs.

The casino buses are meant for Thai gamblers who leave at 5:30 a.m. to come to Poipet to gamble all day, then head back to Bangkok in the afternoon. They are VIP luxury buses and are very comfortable. They go from Rong Kleu Market in Aranyaprathet to Mo Chit, Lumphini Park, and Bang Na in Bangkok and cost 200 thb ($6.25). The trip takes five to six hours (they usually get stuck in traffic) but stop halfway at a nice little rest stop with a couple of dozen street food vendors and all of the gamblers make a mad dash for bowls of soup and then pile back onto the bus and eat it. This method provides the best cultural experience. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what time the buses leave or stop running because I don’t speak Thai, but they seem to be around noon to 4 p.m. from Aranyaprathet.

Bangkok Airways

bangkokair.com

Air Asia

airasia.com

Cambodia Angkor Air

cambodiaangkorair.com

Direct bus – Nattakan Transport

22 Sivatha Blvd, Svay Dangkom District, Siem Reap [map]
T: 063 96 48 96; 078 975 333
facebook.com/Nattakan-Cambodia-CoLtd

Review: Giant Ibis night bus, Phnom Penh-Siem Reap

After several more Giant Ibis night bus journeys, I thought it was time to update this blog post. I’ll admit that I was very hesitant to go on my first night bus journey. In fact, it wasn’t so long ago that I vowed I would never take a night bus in Cambodia. But after meeting with Giant Ibis and discussing my concerns, I was persuaded to give it a try on their Phnom Penh to Siem Reap night bus. Since my first trip, I’ve become a Giant Ibis night bus regular.

Giant Ibis night bus Siem Reap Phnom Penh

All aboard! Loading baggage onto the Giant Ibis to Siem Reap.

The reason that Giant Ibis is my favorite bus company in Cambodia is because they drive slooooowwww. With their night buses they drive even more slowly than usual, with a maximum speed of 60km (37 miles) per hour. They enforce this by transmitting the speed via GPS to the Giant Ibis office so that management knows if a driver breaks the rules and go faster. Particularly on the night bus, passengers would prefer to go slower because a 7.5-hour sleep is definitely better than a 5-hour sleep. Giant Ibis also has two drivers on each bus, and they switch half-way through the journey. If one driver feels fatigued he can switch off and take a nap.

Giant Ibis night bus seating chart

The Giant Ibis night buses have 32 beds, with 15 on the bottom bunk and 17 on the top. They are arranged with one row of two beds next to each other, and a row of single bunks with an aisle in the middle. If you are traveling alone, try to get one of the single beds because although the row of two has two separate beds, they are right next to each other so it would be a bit like being in bed with a stranger. Seats 6-E is right next to the toilet, and as such, is probably the least optimal seat on the bus. That said, the toilet was remarkably sanitary on our trip, and wasn’t emitting any overpowering odors.

In Phnom Penh, the bus boards on time at 11:00 p.m. at the Giant Ibis office on Street 106 across from Phnom Penh’s night market. For the daily night bus to Siem Reap they do not offer hotel pick up, but the office is centrally located and walking distance from the riverside.

In Siem Reap, the night bus leaves from the Giant Ibis ticket office near the Old Market. You can find maps for both stations at the end of this post.

When you board the bus they ask you to remove your shoes, and give you a bag to keep them in. Each bed has a cubby at the bottom to keep your shoes (and feet) in. The beds do not fully lie flat, but offer a 45 degree angle that’s pretty decent. A bottle of water, a light blanket and a small pillow are provided.

The night bus buses are not new, but they are fully refurbished. As on all buses, the toilets are not the nicest in the world (if you are a larger person you’ll have a hard time squeezing in) but at least these ones are clean.

Giant Ibis night bus interior

Off to dreamland on the Giant Ibis night bus beds.

The bus has WiFi (password: giantibis) that is provided by 3G. This means the connection works as long as there’s 3G coverage, which is for true for about 60% of the journey. Be aware that they do turn out the lights soon after the journey begins, so if you do want to read you will need to bring your own lighting. The seats don’t have lights, but they do have power outlets (2-pin flat/round, accepts standard American and Euro plugs).

The air-conditioning can be pretty chilly, so if you’re like me and sensitive to A/C, bring a sweater. The top bunks seem to be a bit colder as well, so keep that in mind when booking a seat.

I prepared for the journey by bringing earplugs, an eyemask, and my own pillow, then popped a sleeping pill a few minutes after boarding. My partner brought none of the aforementioned items, and did not enjoy the journey as much as I did. The road between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is bumpy, but the slow night bus pace and sleeping pill made it easier to endure than the daytime journey. I can’t pretend it was the best night’s sleep I’ve ever gotten, but it wasn’t nearly as horrendous as I had feared. I slept for nearly the entire journey, until we arrived in Siem Reap a little bit before 6 a.m.

I used to be terrified of taking a night bus in Cambodia, but the reality of the Giant Ibis night bus is pretty relaxed, and I feel safe. I travel between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap regularly, and the trip can be excruciatingly long, so the Giant Ibis night bus has become a regular trip for me. It’s a good choice if you are looking to save time (here are the other options for this route).

If you’re arriving in Phnom Penh, the bus drops off at the Giant Ibis office on Street 106 in Phnom Penh. In Siem Reap, the bus drops off at the Siem Reap Giant Ibis bus station (not the ticket office near Old Market).

Giant Ibis night buses run every night between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap at 11 p.m. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased from most hotels and travel agents in Cambodia, or you can pay an extra $1 to book ahead and pick a seat on the Giant Ibis website.

Giant Ibis

T: 023 999 333
giantibis.com

Ticket offices:

Street 106 (across from the Night Market), Phnom Penh [map]
T: 023 987 808

6A Sivatha Road, Siem Reap [map]
T: 063 768 808

What’s going on with work permits in Cambodia?

Update 8/28/2014:

In today’s Cambodia Daily, there’s an article entitled Work Permits Now Required for Foreigners. “The Labor Ministry has begun to enforce a long-neglected law that requires foreigners employed in Cambodia to have work permits, according to ministry officials.
Teams of inspectors have begun scouring the country to ensure that foreign employees and businesspeople have the proper documentation, with employers and workers facing hefty fines in the event that they are not certified.” The article also mentions large retroactive fines and payments for prior years.

Elsewhere, the French Embassy has been advising its citizens that they should get work permits, but pay for 2014 only, ie. no retroactive fines for previous years.

In Francophone Cambodge Mag, Anthony Galliano of Cambodia Investment Management reports back from his recent meeting with the Ministry of Labor. He reports that they have clearly stated that volunteers, retirees, and the unemployed will not need work permits. Anyone drawing an income in Cambodia will need a work permit from a registered business. If you are a shareholder in a licensed, registered business, you do not need a work permit. If you are self-employed or are a shareholder in a non-registered business, it would behoove you to register your business, although it seems unlikely that the self-employed will be one of the first groups targeted. Galliano suggests using this reprieve as a chance to quietly get all necessary paperwork in order.

Update: 8/22/2014 

The Cambodia Daily has published an article saying the Ministries of Labor and Interior “met on Thursday to outline the government’s plan to more strictly enforce measures for employers of foreign nationals to ensure that their staff has proper documentation.” It looks like they will be asking all employers to get work permits for their employees. There is no mention of any other class of visa holder such as volunteers, self-employed, retirees, etc.

8/8/2014

You may have heard that the situation with Cambodia work permits has changed recently. That’s half true. In order to work in Cambodia, one has always needed a work permit. However, it was very rarely enforced and the great majority of people didn’t bother. In the last few weeks, however, there have been several announcements that the work permit requirement is now going to be enforced.

Here’s what you need to know.

First, this announcement has happened every few years for a long, long time. Most of the time, they crack down on a few expats and then the issue is dropped. This time the threats seem more serious, but it is still very much up in the air. There have been a few crackdowns this year, most notably in Kampot, but nothing has changed yet for the great majority of expats in Cambodia.

It appears that if you work for a company in Cambodia you will, at some point in the near future, need to get a work permit. They are going after the largest and most visible companies first.

Expats who have been in Cambodia the longest have the most to worry about. Work permits cost $100 per year, and they are checking passports and counting how many years you have in Cambodia and charging for the previous years. They also add fines into the mix–which are, of course, not listed in the prakas and are subject to the whims and financial solvency of those collecting. This means that those with newer passports will pay less.

Thus far, it seems that Kampot has been the only city to be seriously affected. Even in Kampot, while many people were told to get work permits, many more were ignored. In other cities, there have been reports of police going door to door asking foreigners for a copy of their passport and visa. It’s possible that this is a prelude to a work permit crackdown later in the year, or it’s possible that the sangkats are just getting their records up-to-date, as they are supposed to keep track of where all foreigners live, anyway.

At the present time it is the employer’s responsibility to secure the work permit for their employees, although this may be changing. Any foreign employee of a registered business will need to get a work permit, although there is probably no need to do it until the Ministry of Labor demands it. However, many large employers are finally getting the message and registering their foreign employees, so you may be one of the lucky ones that gets your work permit quickly and without any hassle.

It’s important to note that at the current time, work permits are not tied to visas. So even if you are on a “business” visa, you do not have a work permit. Moreover, it’s an entirely different department that is is issuing work permits than the one that issues visas. This means that even if you do not have a work permit, you will be able to renew your visa, and you won’t be stopped coming in to or leaving Cambodia if you don’t have a work permit.

And then there’s the residency card. According to the prakas, foreigners need a visa, work permit and residency card. Thus far there has been no proof that any residency card has ever been issued to a foreigner, so for the moment, this point can be ignored.

But I’m a volunteer, retiree or unemployed?!

The status of volunteers, retirees, the unemployed is still very much up in the air. Work permits may be required for all holders of long-term visas. However, a recent visitor to the Ministry of Labor says that those not drawing a salary in Cambodia will not be affected.

So what should I do?

Probably nothing. This may, as it has many times before, blow over. If you work for a large organization, your employer will secure a work permit for you. If you work for a small organization, it’s likely that you will not be asked for a work permit for at least a while. It is my personal opinion that marching into ministries and waving cash around trying to solve problems that have yet to be clarified or put on paper is a bad idea. So I wouldn’t advise doing anything until the rules become more clear, unless your employer has already brought it up.

But, but, but…

These rules have been on the books since 1995, and there’s nothing wrong with Cambodia finally deciding to enforce them. Of course it’s not ideal that are choosing to retroactively punish expats for not having work permits when it was often not possible to get work permits in years past. But it’s important to remember that Cambodia, even with an extra $100 a year tacked on for a work permit, still offers one of the easiest and cheapest visa/work permits in the world.

This is all of the information that is available to date. Clear as mud, right? Remain calm and let’s see what happens. We’ll update this blog if anything changes.

Looking for more information? Check out our page about Cambodia visas and our page about Cambodia work permits.

Cambodia visa fees increasing

The Cambodia Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently announced that the price of one-month visas will be going up as of October 1, 2014. The price of the 30-day tourist visa will rise from $20 to $30, and the price of a 30-day “ordinary” visa, also called the business visa, will rise fro $25 to $35.  The price of E-visas (aka tourist visas that are purchased online, as opposed to E-class ordinary/business visas) will rise to $37. Visas will continue to be free for those under 12.

In their statement, they also went back to calling the “ordinary” E-class visa a “business visa”, but in light of the fact that the statement was called a “ress release” we are unsure of the significance of the visa name change, if any.

The price of the tourist visa (not including extensions) has remained the same for more than two decades, so we think this price hike is not worth moaning about.

So far, they have not announced an increase in long term visas (3-month, 6-month, and 12-month) although it seems likely that is coming down the pipeline.

There have also been rumors that the 12-month visa may be eliminated and others saying that Cambodia visas will eventually allow free entry into ASEAN countries. There’s been no confirmation that either of these rumors are true, however.

This is on the back of the recent work permit rumors (link has been updated with today’s news). While it’s true that apart from the price hike of the 30-day visa everything is still idle speculation on the part of Cambodia’s expats, it seems likely that with the creation of the Department of Immigration earlier this year, some things may change.

For the full scoop on Cambodia visas, read our page about Cambodia visas.

Review: All-you-can-eat sushi at Sushi Kaihomaru, Aeon Mall

It’s no secret that I’m a big sushi fan. And apparently I’m not the only one, because Phnom Penh is awash in new sushi joints. In a desperate bid to set itself apart from the competition, a new sushi restaurant in Aeon Mall is offering all-you-can-eat sushi and all-you-can-drink beer for just $10. Can it be true? Yes, it is. Can it be good? Surprisingly, yes.

 all-you-can-eat sushi and all-you-can-drink beer

80 minutes of all-you-can-eat sushi and all-you-can-drink beer for $10. Don’t bother reading the review, just go.

Sushi Kaihomaru is on the second floor of the new Aeon Mall (more, undoubtedly, about that later). They have a conveyor belt sushi bar, as well as tables that seat up to six. The deal is you get 80 minutes of all-you-can-eat sushi and all-you-can-drink Angkor beer for $10. They will charge you an extra $5 if you leave too much rice on your plate–this is to stop people from eating the sushi sashimi-style and leaving two dozen perfectly formed rice balls on their plate. Even if you choose to skip the rice and pay the extra $5, it’s a ridiculously good deal.

Free beer at Sushi Kaihomaru Phnom Penh

You heard the sign. Free beer.

I’m not sure if they’ve been open long enough to know that when two large foreigners walk through the door, they’re going to take a loss for the night, but they were so friendly that I suspect not. The sushi is good quality, with a surprising number of expensive choices including scallop nigiri, which goes for $4 for two pieces at The Sushi Bar. At Sushi Kaihomaru it’s the same quality, but all you can eat for $10. I can’t pretend to understand the economics behind this.

The sushi chefs at are Japanese, as are a fair number of the staff. They say that all of their fish is flown in from Japan and I have no reason not to believe them, other than the fact that the whole thing does not seem financially viable. There’s another Sushi Kaihomaru near Central Market, although they don’t have an all-you-can-eat deal, so maybe…I have no idea. If you can figure it out, let me know.

All you can eat sushi Sushi Kaihomaru

Sushi Kaihomaru at Aeon Mall. Eat up, dudes.

Most of the sushi that comes around is nigiri, with lots of salmon and tuna. It’s not the best salmon or tuna sushi you’ve ever had in your life, but it’s surprisingly good for the price and pretty ridiculous value for money. If you sit around long enough–and with an 80 minute limit I suspect you’ll try–special offerings show up including raw prawns, salmon roe, and octopus. They’ve also got some strange maki creations, many of which involved sweet corn, that I was unwilling to try but which I saw many Cambodian families appreciatively consuming.

Sushi Kaihomaru Aeon Mall Phnom Penh

Cooked food at Sushi Kaihomaru, also surprisingly good.

There’s also a small hot food bar with cooked food including miso soup, udon, noodles, tempura, fried mackerel and beef. Again, for the price it seems impossible that they’ll be able to stay in business if they have very many hungry Western customers.

Overall, Sushi Kaihomaru offers excellent value for money, even if you’re skipping the beer and drinking free-flow tea and soda. The staff was friendly, the beers came faster that I’d expect (although you’ll have to ask for a refill each time) and the sushi selection was surprisingly diverse. I know I used the word surprisingly a half-dozen times in this post, but that’s because I was actually surprised by the whole operation. I don’t expect this bargain to last, so go soon.

They’re open 10:30 a.m. and the last seating is 8:30 p.m. The close the doors around 9:00 p.m., so if you want your full 80 minutes of sushi madness, show up by 7:30 p.m. or so.

Sushi Kaihomaru

Aeon Mall, 2nd Floor
#132 Sothearos Blvd, Sangkat Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 023 982 625

What Cambodia expats need to know about insurance

This week we talk to Anna Mischke from Forte Insurance about insurance issues that affect Cambodia expats. If you’ve read the Move to Cambodia book, you’ll know that I’m a strong advocate of having good health insurance in Cambodia. Forte is Cambodia’s leading insurance company and a Move to Cambodia advertiser. They’re here to answer all of your questions about travel and health insurance (and why you need it).

Why do expats in Cambodia need health insurance?

“Health insurance is important no matter where you live, not only for expats, and not only in Cambodia! Unforeseen illness and accident that can be detrimental to finances, put a patient in debt, or even lead to death because of lack of coverage are only some of the reasons health insurance is an investment that someone should consider.

In Cambodia, expats may not know the healthcare system well or where to go, or have their usual network of family and friends to rely on. On top of that, there are tropical diseases their bodies may not be used to, mysterious pains and sicknesses, and unfortunately the frequent and extreme cases of traumatic accidents. Health insurance gives peace of mind knowing that in the event of health problems, trauma, or concerns they have the resources to cover them financially, physically, and in many cases emotionally.”

What’s the difference between health insurance and travel insurance?

“There are some similarities between health insurance and travel insurance but the main difference between the two is that health insurance is generally a policy that gives medical coverage to an individual throughout the period of an entire year and covers only accident and illness, not things like luggage or personal liability.

Travel insurance provides medical coverage to an individual for a specified period of time in a particular area or region. Depending on the coverage level of travel insurance, it can include coverage on things like loss deposits and cancellation charges, hijacking, personal liability, loss of personal money, and overseas medical expenses and additional expenses. Travel insurance in many cases is bought in addition to annual health insurance for additional protection during travel for goods and extra precautions.”

Why should an expat choose health insurance over travel insurance?

“It is not necessarily a choice of one or the other when it comes to health insurance and travel insurance. Health insurance is extremely important for coverage throughout the year; you never know when you may get stung by a mosquito and come down with dengue fever for a week or when a car may come careening into you as you drive. With health insurance, treatment both locally and abroad can be taken care of by the insurance company as long as it falls within the inclusions (please read policy wording documents provided by your insurer!).

Travel insurance, as mentioned, is many times bought alongside an annual health insurance policy. In many cases, a traveler will want an extra level of protection not only for their health but also for their belongings as they travel, both near and far. The additional coverage amount for their health is also a safety net if their annual health insurance limit (the amount they have per year to spend on medical treatment through the insurance company) is depleting or on the lower end.

If you are coming to Cambodia for six months or a year and you know you’ll be living here locally, it makes most sense to get a local plan. Claims procedures are generally much quicker this way and the company is usually more knowledgeable about the services and availability of treatment in the area. If you are visiting for less than a year (policies are generally 12 months) then it’s most likely you have a policy “back home” which will cover you. You can always purchase travel insurance from your home country but as an expat in Cambodia, a healthcare plan is necessary for day to day (outpatient) and traumatic accident (inpatient) coverage.”

If an expat already has health insurance that covers them abroad, why would they need travel insurance?

“The added security that travel insurance offers specifically for things like luggage, money, problems with flights, and hijacking are not covered under a general health insurance policy. When traveling, it releases the traveler from wondering “what will happen if someone steals all my money?,” “I need to change my ticket, will I lose my deposit?”, or if they suddenly need their appendix removed and their general health insurance limit will not cover those costs at an expensive hospital abroad.”

If someone is moving to Cambodia for less than six months, is health insurance necessary?

“Usually if someone is moving to Cambodia for six months or less, they will have an existing health insurance plan from their country of origin. In this case, it would be recommended to take out travel insurance rather than a general health insurance plan. Usually health insurance policies are taken out annually and signing up for a policy for less than a year will tack on additional fees. Travel insurance, especially if purchased from the destination country, is a safe and proactive move even if the person has an existing policy.”

Forte Insurance is Cambodia’s leading insurance agency, offering health insurance plans for expats and locals as well as travel insurance. To learn more or to get a quote, please visit forteinsurance.com.

Review: Direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap

If you’re heading from Thailand to Cambodia, the Bangkok to Siem Reap direct bus is the easiest way to do the trip overland. Why might you want to go overland, one might ask? For one, it’s a lot less expensive, with the direct bus costing $23. For another, if you’re looking to transport large or bulky household goods, the direct bus is an easier option, particularly because they don’t make you change buses at the border.

Nattakan Transport Co bus Bangkok to Siem Reap

The direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap (and vice versa)

Buying tickets

The direct bus tickets are handled by Transport Co., Ltd. on the Thailand side, and Nattakan on the Cambodia side (apparently it’s the same company).

From Bangkok tickets cost 750 baht ($23). They can be purchased at the Northern bus terminal in Bangkok, sometimes called Mo Chit 2 bus terminal, sometimes called Chatuchak bus terminal. Taxi fare to the bus station is around 150 baht from Sukhumvit.

Transport Co Ltd Bangkok

The Transport Co. Ltd station inside the Northern/Mo Chit 2 bus terminal, Bangkok

On the ground floor a booth labeled The Transport Co, Ltd. sells the Bangkok to Siem Reap tickets. If you are in Bangkok, you can also call them and book your tickets over the phone and then pay for them at any 7-11, although you may need someone who speaks Thai to help.

From Siem Reap, tickets cost $28 and can be purchased at the Nattakan office on Sivatha Blvd in Siem Reap or through many guesthouses and travel agents.

They claim there are two buses that run each day, at 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. in either direction, however they often only have one bus each day as the other is sometimes reserved for private groups.

The bus journey

The direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap takes between 8 and 11 hours, depending on how crowded it is at the border. Passengers are allowed two bags each with a maximum weight of 20 kg, although the weight limit was not enforced when I hauled two suitcases of Ikea merchandise to Cambodia. There is limited storage space above the seats in the bus, so if you want to stow something inside, board early. The Bangkok-Siem Reap direct buses are Korean, and seats are comfortable and lean back more than they probably should–watch out for the knees of the person behind you!

Nattakan Transport Co bus Bangkok to Siem Reap

It’s not the worst place to spend eight hours…

On my recent trip, the 9:00 a.m. bus from Bangkok left on time. We were given a bottle of water and a snack, which was a limp-looking Asian pastry. There was a toilet break at 11:00 a.m. at a rest stop with a giant 7-11 and some fast food and local food options. At 1:10 p.m. we stopped at the Transport Co., Ltd. office in Aranyaprathet and were each given a ready-made hot lunch from 7-11, in my case it was shrimp and basil stir-fry. I’m ashamed to admit, but I thought it was pretty good if a bit on the small side. Vegetarians be warned, you’ll need to bring your own lunch. Later, we were given the choice of an orange juice or an iced coffee. You won’t starve if you don’t, but it’s definitely worth bringing some food of your own on the trip.

By 1:40 p.m. we were at the border, and everyone had finished their visa process and we were on the road at 3:15 p.m. We arrived in Siem Reap at 5:30 p.m., for a total of 8.5 hours.

The border

When you approach the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border, the bus will stop and let off all passengers. You can leave your bags on the bus (that’s why they call it a direct bus, there are no bus changes). You’ll then be expected to walk yourself through the various border checkpoints. There’s not a lot of instruction from the crew and the process can be confusing for those who have not done it before, but it’s actually quite simple. Just remember that you need to be stamped out of the country you came from and get a visa for the country you are entering (so two stops).

If you are heading from Bangkok to Siem Reap, after you go through both offices, turn back around and the bus will be waiting for you in front of the Grand Diamond Casino. They wait there for every passenger to complete their visa process, which takes an hour or two in total, so don’t be afraid to go into the casino and have a drink or a meal in the Chillax Cafe. It sounds awful, but the food isn’t too bad.

Visas

Most nationalities do not need to get visas in advance (check out our page about Cambodia visas if you want to know more). On the Cambodia side, a tourist visa costs $20 (the price will go up to $30 on October 1, 2014). They will ask you for 800 baht ($25) or if you insist on paying in dollars, which you should, they will ask for $20 and a 200 baht processing fee. There is no processing fee, it’s just a bribe. Arrive early and refuse to pay and eventually they will stamp you through. Do not worry, the bus will not leave without you. The other option is to secure an e-visa in advance. The price these days is $27 (going up to $37 on October 1st), though, so you won’t save any money doing it that way, although it may help minimize border-induced rage that is not uncommon in Poipet.

poipet border checkpoint

This is the official building that you get your Cambodia visa in. If you stop somewhere before the border, don’t bother wasting your money.

I have read reports that the bus will stop before you get to the border and try and get you to use an agent to process your visa for 900 baht by calling it a VIP service. They did not do this on my recent trip, so hopefully this is no longer an issue. However, if they do stop and try and get you to let them process your visa, just say no. There is no such thing as VIP service, they will just charge you extra so they can take a cut. You can do it yourself at the border, no matter what they tell you.

On the Thai side, you will get stamped through and do not need to pay anything.

Overall, this is a much easier way to travel overland than the other methods I have tried, which always involve haggling at the border for taxis and buses. The Bangkok-Siem Reap direct bus is not as cheap as the mini-bus/casino bus combination (which is usually around $11 or $12) but the peace of mind is worth it.

Transport Co., Ltd.

Mo Chit 2 Bus Terminal (หมอชิต 2 (อาคารผู้โดยสาร), Bangkok [map]
+66 2 936 0657; +66 89 281 1396
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Nattakan Transport

22 Sivatha Blvd, Svay Dangkom District, Siem Reap [map]
T: 063 96 48 96; 078 975 333
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