Overland Thailand to Cambodia, beware of scams!
The overland crossing from Thailand into Cambodia can be viewed as an ordeal, or as adventure depending on how you look at it! We had to plan our travel route to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap where the famous Angkor Wat temple is located. I've researched the entire crossing procedure online and what scams to be aware of.
There were only two trains a day that depart from Bangkok to the last border station before of Aranyaprathet: 5:55am (too damn early) and 1:05pm (we can do that). If you take the early morning train, you can actually reach Siem Reap by the late afternoon. We decided to travel slow, take the afternoon train and stay overnight in Aranyaprathet. We got to the station around 7pm and tuk tuk'd to the Market Motel for the night. The next day the same tuk tuk driver parked at the motel when we were having breakfast. I guess he's looking for repeat business driving us to the border.
The Thai border is 5-6km East of Aranyaprathet so you have to use a tuk tuk to get there unless you're with a tour group. This is where the first scam comes in. You can obtain your Cambodian Visa after passing Thai immigration, not beforehand. Although I told the driver specifically to drop us off at Thai immigration, he dropped us off at a 'Cambodian Border Visa Office' 50m before the border. This was an attempt to coax you into purchasing your visa before entering Cambodia, which isn't necessary. You end up paying more for your visa than you have to. Right after the driver stopped, I told him that we already have our visa so we're just going to walk to the borders ourselves. He seemed a bit surprised when i said that to him. At the same time a guy from the 'visa office' came out and tried to talk to us. He and the driver started talking in Thai while we grabbed our bags. After making our way out, the visa guy asks us where we're from. I told him Canada and that was the last word 🙂
Thai immigration ahead!
We walked to Thai immigration in 5min but the wait was much longer. There was only one booth operating for foreign passports so it took 45min to get stamped out. Anyway, after exiting Thailand, we proceeded to the real Cambodia Visa Office before Cambodian Immigration. The office was about 100m away. As you walk there, we got approached by an official in a light coloured dress shirt who helps direct tourists past the border. The guy is actually legit for the most part. He was helping us every step of the way in fact. He lead us to the visa office. It's $20US for the visa but they try and make you pay an extra 100baht to expedite the process which literally speeds it up to two min. It's another little scheme to get you to fork out a bit more. You can refuse to pay it if you don't mind waiting a bit longer.
After getting the visa we head to immigration to hand in our arrival cards and get fingerprinted. I don't get why you would have such a high security policy for this but nothing in terms of scanning baggage for dangerous materials at the border? That was bizarre.
We got stamped through and the official was waiting for us as expected. I asked him that we wanted to take the free shuttle bus to the International Tourist Passenger Terminal (7km away) where there are several transportation options to Siem Reap. You can negotiate with a taxi at the border instead of heading to the terminal, but you'll have to do some major haggling. The free shuttle is labeled so you don't have to be worried that you're getting on the wrong bus.
In Cambodia now!
On the shuttle bus to the terminal
At the terminal you can take the bus, minivan, or taxi. There was a woman there that was staying at the same hotel as us so we split a $40 cab amongst the three of us. With the taxi, getting dropped off directly to your hotel is included (not with the bus and minivan). Before we left, the official that's been guiding us thanked us but asked for a tip. If this is his job then I shouldn't have to give him one? I sorta just laughed it off like it was a joke and just got in the cab lol
It was a 2.5hr ride before we reach Siem Reap. The main road has been paved 3 years ago so the journey was really smooth. I remember the time we went on this same road 5 years ago and it was a hell of a bumpy ride when it was unpaved. We arrived in Siem Reap. One more attempt to scam you here. Instead of dropping us off directly to our hotel, we had to transfer to tuk tuks that would take us the rest of the way. It was still free but they try and convince you to use their recommended hotels if you already booked. The driver would say that it could be full already. Nice try buddy. The hotel was only a couple of min away so we didn't get the runaround. He asks us if we need a tuk tuk for tours tomorrow – yeah, like we're going to use you now.
Overall, the day went pretty well. As long as you don't purchase your visa until you pass Thai immigration, then the rest is pretty straightforward and easy to cope with.
Or you could just skip all that and just fly 🙂