When Bangkok announced the first public bus service linking the neighboring countries, it helped to ease long-held concerns over the wild scamming endemic to the route. Until now, the trip to Siem Reap, popular among travelers and expats doing visa runs, was a bit like an Olympic triathlon: multiple legs, various terrains and several kinds of transportation. It takes awhile. You sweat a lot.
Bus tickets sold from Khao San Road are notorious for being fraudulent or delivering something other than what was promised. At the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet, swindlers and even immigration officials can quote visas on arrival at double or triple their actual cost. Wikitravel describes Aranyaprathet as “the scene of some of the world’s great border scams - a major local industry.”
So, it was a welcome initiative when the state-operated bus routes to both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh began running in late February. The service would undoubtedly streamline the trip and reduce scamming, right? Not quite.
Coconuts Bangkok traveled the BKK-to-Siem Reap bus route in late April. Here’s what you need to know about the new bus line, and getting over the border with your patience (and wallet) intact:
The buses are operated by the Transport Co. and run daily from Bangkok’s Northern (Mo Chit) Bus Terminal, a 4km taxi ride from the Mo Chit BTS. A passport and cash got me a ticket in less than three minutes from the nice ladies at Booth 22, located inside the terminal.
The bus to Siem Reap left at 9am and cost THB750. (The bus to Phnom Penh departs at 8:15am and costs THB900. Depending on the length of lines you encounter when stamping out of Thailand and arriving at Immigration in Cambodia, it could take anywhere from 7-9 hours for Siem Reap and 11+ hours to Phnom Penh.)
The bus ride from Bangkok to the border took a leisurely four hours. I was served a boxed “breakfast,” consisting of a cookie and a Nescafe packet, which came sans hot water or a mug.
We stopped once just before Aranyaprathet around 12:30pm, where a Royal Thai Army soldier hopped on the bus, checked a couple of foreigners’ passports, moseyed around and hopped off.
In Aranyaprathet, which is 6km from the Cambodian border town of Poipet, we detoured to the bus agency’s office. An English-speaking Transport Co. representative joined us, handing out identification cards which he explained he would use to track us down after we crossed into Poipet and passed immigration.
On our way to the border, we were given lunch. A hot meal! The travelers rejoiced.
But before we crossed the actual border into Poipet, the bus pulled behind a building where we were told to apply for Cambodian tourist visas if we hadn’t already gotten one. Sounds great. Except a Cambodian tourist visa on arrival should cost you USD20-25, not the THB1,100 (USD37) they try to charge you here. The “officer” said the visa costs THB1,000 plus a THB100 processing fee, which he later called a service fee. Later, when asked, he couldn’t explain what either “processing” or “service” entailed. Full Story: http://bangkok.cocon...dia-bus-servic