Travel

TRAVEL GUIDE: Bangkok to/from Siem Reap by BUS

It wasn’t in our plan to travel to Siem Reap as I was having doubts with my financial capacity if I could go further from Bangkok. My itchy feet were telling me to push the boundary forcing me to book my return flight to Manila via Siem Reap with my eyes closed. I made one of the best decisions of my life!

The ordeal did not stop there, with little budget and time-pressed itinerary of mine (dragging Dianne with no choice), we need to the get to Siem Reap a day before my red-eye flight for Manila. Checking through AirAsia website, the cheapest flight was around 1,800 Baht (50USD) and it doesn’t arrive until 9pm. It left us no option but to travel by land.

The affordable way to get to Siem Reap from Bangkok is to travel by land. There are affordable options like seeking assistance from travel agencies in Khao San Road ranging from 350-900 Baht (10-25USD) or taking taking the direct bus from Mo Chit Bus Terminal that cost 750 Baht (21USD).

We chose the latter as it was the most convenient while the former has 2 transfers at the border – not to mention, using a van going to Aranyaprathet border for about 4 hours with little legroom and transferring to another van or bus with confusing cross border system, you will be lucky if you get to your van/bus in one piece. Yes, we’re persuading you not to take the travel agency option that requires 2 transfers, if convenience matters to you. Read our guidelines to find out why!

SIMPLE GUIDELINES TO TRAVEL BY BUS

Travel time: 8 hours …or even probably more! Bangkok to Aranyaprathet (Thailand) is around 4 hours, crossing the border is about 1-2 hours depending on the pace of your co-passengers in the Immigration; Poipet (Cambodia) to Siem Reap is around 3 hours. Bring a lot of patience (as we all know you’re excited too) and personal entertainment to keep you sane the whole journey!

Bus station: Mo Chit 2 Bus Terminal (near Chatuchak Market). You need to take a taxi that costs around 60-80 Baht (2-2.50USD) from/to Mo Chit BTS Station. The bus station has plenty of food stalls and convenience stores so you wouldn’t have to worry if you forgot to bring food or toiletries.

Bus schedules: 8AM & 9AM ONLY. If you cannot work around those times, you may opt to try the travel agencies in Khao San Road Area.

Nattakan Bus

Where to buy tickets: At the terminal or ONLINE. You could buy your ticket at the bus station for 750 Baht (21 USD) or online for 750 Baht with Service and Convenience Fee of 43 Baht (1.20USD). We booked online* and had our vouchers exchanged for the actual tickets at the Thai Ticket Major booth near the main entrance inside the terminal.

*Buying your ticket online would save you time, money and anxiety. If you buy your ticket at the station a day before, you will have to take the BTS and taxi twice that adds up to the ticket price you paid. If you buy your ticket at the station on the day itself, you will have to risk not securing a ticket on your preferred schedule (but be sure to get there at least at 7AM if you are willing to risk).

Boarding time: 15 minutes before departure. Bring a lot of patience (and food) in the terminal in case you get there too early.

Bus condition: New and decent. Seats were comfortable and had ample leg room, air-condition was fine and toilet was a bit cramped (and sometimes funky but bearable).

Siem Reap here we go!

Food: Light snack and light lunch. The light snack consists of cupcake, pastry and juice, serve upon leaving the bus terminal. The light lunch  consists of fried rice and water, serve before reaching the border. However, everything was served in modest (kiddie meal portion) so we had to buy food at the border (Poipet).

PHOTO GUIDE ON HOW TO CROSS THE CRAZY BORDER

The bus Conductor will hand you an ID and will drop you off at Aranyaprathet where the Thailand Immigration Building is.

Bus ID for you to be recognized by the conductor or your fellow passengers in case you get lost.

This is where it gets confusing. Since it’s a direct bus, you have to leave all your luggage in the bus and without any more further instruction from the bus crew, you will just have to follow the flow of the local people. When you arrive at the immigration, chances are, the queues are already long so be prepared to fan yourself in a humid office. You won’t have to pay anything upon getting your passport stamped.

Thailand Immigration Building

If you could already see this, you’re in the right path.

After the Thailand Immigration Building, you will be shocked greeted by the locals who try to sell you something or scam you. We were in dazed if we skipped the Cambodia Immigration as we were roaming and interacting freely with the locals, but we were fortunately in the right direction.

Look straight and do not get distracted.

After you have passed through the Cambodia Welcome Arch, you will be amazed how you have stepped on the land of Cambodia without being stamped. There were no clear directions nor instructions but we could see our bus from a distance so we went towards that direction.

In case you haven’t sorted out your Tourist Visa (if you need one), from the vantage point of the photo below, turn right and you will see The Office of the International Boarder Check Point of Poipet Building. That is where you will pay 30USD for your Tourist Visa. Since I am a Philippine Passport holder, I am exempted. However, Dianne, whose British citizen, had already applied for Tourist E-Visa Online for 40USD beforehand to skip this ordeal.

Casino Hotels are everywhere upon reaching Poipet.

Upon getting near the bus, we finally saw this small Arrival Building and queued right away! The queues get ridiculously long and expect hiccups along the way so patience is a valuable in this whole border crossing business.

Once your passport has been stamped, you can finally breathe with ease going back to the bus. However, the ordeal drained most of our energy and patience so we necessarily had to buy food to eat our stress away!

Drop off point: Nattakan Transport Office. The office is just beside the KFC in Siem Reap Town Center. There are a mob of Tuktuk drivers who will assist you to your accommodation, free of charge.

Once you arrive at your accommodation, the tuktuk driver will politely offer his tour/temple hopping service for a reasonable price, which you may opt to decline. We accepted the offer of our tuktuk driver Dara since he was accommodating and the Small Circuit Tour was in standard price at 20USD.

Now that you’ve patiently read this, you are now prepared (somehow) for your Bangkok>Siem Reap shenanigans! But, how do you get back to Bangkok from Siem Reap?

It’s easy as these steps below:

  1. Book your ticket at Nattakan Transport Office the moment you arrive in Siem Reap or at least a day before your departure for Bangkok. The ticket cost 27USD plus free pickup from your accomodation. The bus schedules are 8AM and 9AM only.  There are other agencies too that offer cheaper transfers that are similar to Khao San Road agencies if you wish to compromise comfort and convenience.
  1. Everything is similar to Bangkok>Siem Reap route but done in reverse. The only difference is there is a security check at the Thai Immigration; your bus operator will ask you to take your luggage for inspection.

Overall, Dianne and I were both satisfied with Nattakan Transport because they provided excellent service. I’ve mentioned several times that we’re budget travellers but we would never sacrifice our comfort and safety over a few dollars.