If you’re going from Siem Reap to Bangkok (or vice versa) overland, you may be nervous about the infamous Poipet border crossing. Before I crossed for the first time, I was extremely anxious after hearing so many horror stories about the border. Now that I do the trip regularly I know that if you go prepared you won’t have any problems.
If you’re going from Cambodia to Thailand (here are all the ways to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok) you’ll be crossing from Poipet to Aranyaprathet. Here are some tips for crossing in this direction, and at the end I’ve given specific tips if you’re going the other way, from Aranyaprathet to Poipet.
It’s going to take all day
It will pretty much take you all day to go Siem Reap to Bangkok overland, but leaving early will shave a few hours off the trip (filed under ‘had to learn the hard way’). Siem Reap to Poipet is about a two-hour trip, and then an hour or four at the border, then another four to six hours from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok. The land border is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It gets very busy and lines get very long after about noon, so the earlier you start your journey, the better.
You’re crossing on foot
Whether you take a direct bus, mini-bus or taxi, you’ll still have to walk across the border from Poipet to Aranyaprathet on the Thailand side. Coming from Siem Reap, you’ll get dropped off at a roundabout near the border in Poipet. Walk straight ahead and you’ll see Cambodia immigration on your right side. Get in line there and get stamped out of Cambodia.
If you’re hungry or want to use the toilet, stop in at one of the casinos in the no-man’s land between Poipet and Aranyaprathet. I like Grand Diamond Casino’s Chillax Restaurant because they have free WiFi and a great name.
Once you’re refreshed, keep walking straight until you get to Thai immigration and go upstairs. If you’re from most countries, you’ll get a visa on arrival (and if you’re not, you should have one already). We’ve got a full blog post on getting a Thai visa in Cambodia if you need to do this in advance.
Once you are at the border 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).
Once you’re through, go straight if you’re heading to get a mini-bus or taxi or make your first right towards Rong Kleu Market if you’re catching a casino bus. This road is not paved and you’ll think you’re in some sort of post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, but in a moment you’ll see a 7-11 and realize that you’re actually in Thailand. From 7-11, you can turn right to head to the casino buses in the car park area.
Don’t get scammed
Do not change money at the border. If you want Thai baht ahead of time, you can change money at Siem Reap’s Old Market before heading out, or hit the ATM at the 7-11 immediately after crossing the border. Don’t believe anything anyone says about facilitation fees. All transport prices quoted here are current, so negotiate until you get pretty close. Don’t get on any buses to the “bus terminal” it’s just a place where they force you to buy overpriced food and overpriced bus tickets. You can get cheap food and cheap bus tickets at Rong Kleu Market and don’t need to bother with the scammy bus terminal.
Carrying baggage across the border
If you’ve got considerable baggage coming through, you can hire a porter for $2 to $10. They will take your bags through and wait for you to get through immigration. Unlike everyone else in Poipet, the porters will not rip you off. Get your porter’s phone number before you head to immigration if you are nervous, but chances are he won’t speak English anyway. It’s polite to tip your porter.
The border crossing can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. Budget a full day to get through and take your time. Accept that no one will speak English, but that’s not going to matter. Buy a Thai SIM card in 7-11 for a couple of bucks if you want. You’ll be in Bangkok soon and the Poipet/Aranyaprathet land border crossing will be a distant memory.
If you’re coming from Thailand to Cambodia
If you’re heading from Thailand to Cambodia, this is the particularly scammy direction of the trip. Bring US dollars with you for your visa; do not change money at the border because you will get ripped off. Do not believe anyone that tells you that you need Cambodian riel, you do not, and they will rip you off. You can’t even pay for a Cambodia visa with Cambodian riel!
After you get stamped out of Thailand, you’ll need to enter Cambodia. If you already have an ordinary/business visa, they will stamp you and you will be on your way. Tourists will need to get a visa in advance or on arrival check out our page about Cambodia visas if you want to know more). A tourist visa costs $30. They will ask you for 1100 or 1200 baht (~$35) or if you insist on paying in dollars, which you should, they will ask for $30 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. They’ll make you wait around for a while, but it’s just a game of chicken. Since you’ve budgeted all day to do this, might as well not pay their lame shake-down and catch up on your Kindle.
The other option is to get a Cambodia e-visa in advance, but to be on the safe side you need to order it online a week in advance, because they often don’t get it back to you in their promised three-day turnaround time. The cost is $40. It saves you hassle but not money. If you’re particularly nervous about the border crossing, this might help make things easier.
Once you walk get your Cambodia visa, you can walk through and catch a mini-bus or taxi from near the roundabout. Be aware that on the Cambodia side the police shake down all of the taxi drivers for at least $10 of each trip. The fare should be around $35, but often is as much as $55. Walk as far as you can stand and don’t deal with middlemen if you want a lower price.