If you’re thinking about bussing it through the Thailand Cambodia border crossing, don’t panic! It really isn’t as bad as it sounds…
Heading through the Thailand Cambodia border crossing over land is nothing to stress about. Besides, the most cost-effective way of getting from Bangkok to Siem Reap is via bus.
If, like us, you have heard many horror stories about the Thailand Cambodia border crossing, don’t worry! It really isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. We will share our experience below to walk you through it and give you peace of mind.
Booking the bus
We booked the bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap a day in advance from the travel information desk at New Joe Khao San hostel in Bangkok for 700 TB each (£18/$23 US).
In the morning, after check out, we boarded our bus direction Cambodia. Travel Mart, the bus company we travelled with, was pretty good in our experience. There was WIFI onboard and an English speaking host who accompanied us through the border crossing free-of-charge. On arrival in Siem Reap, we had a free tuk-tuk take us to our accommodation (provided it was not too far out of the centre).
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Don’t pay on the bus
As we were nearing the border, the bus driver offered to take $40 from us for a “hassle-free” visa. We wouldn’t recommend opting in for this as it’s completely unnecessary and involves handing your passport over. We politely declined and crossed the border ourselves. Other passengers will most likely be in the same boat (or bus) ;)!
Arriving at the border
When arriving at the border we originally got off the bus opposite Star Plaza shopping centre. There are toilets and food places available in the mall.
The bus driver offered to sort passport-style photos out for anyone who didn’t have one for 100 baht. We always carried some with us and would recommend to always have some with you around South East Asia. You may need them for visas etc.
We decided to stick with a few people on the bus so we could all walk through the border together. After a quick toilet break, we crossed over the road down by Star Plaza and took a left turn following the passport control departure sign. We continued down an alley where there were a few signs and headed towards ‘Thai passport’ or ‘ foreign passport’.
Following the ‘foreign passport’ sign we went up escalators into a small passport control room. Here we got stamped out of Thailand and handed our departure slips in (which we received on arrival). If you have lost yours, don’t worry – you can get another one free of charge. We realised we’d misplaced ours so asked an official on the right-hand side of the room for a new one and filled another one out before queuing up.
Through passport control, we went down the stairs and followed the exit signs toward Cambodia.
There were a few beggars and people trying to get our attention for taxis etc but we just carried on walking. We figured that if we looked like we knew what we were doing and where we were going we wouldn’t be hassled as much.
After crossing a bridge like pathway you’ll come across two signs – follow one if you already have a visa or the other for a visa on arrival. Follow signs for ‘Passport Control’ (about 50m).
You will find a ‘visa on arrival’ office. For the generic 30 day tourist visa you will need to fill out a form and pay 30 USD. When we were there they were asking for a 100 Thai Baht fee on top without really explaining why. We have heard of people refusing to pay it, but personally didn’t think it was worth fighting over for £2.60/$3.30 US.
This office is where they need your passport photo to attach to the visa form. They will take your passport for a maximum of 5 minutes then hand it back to you with your visa stamped in your passport.
There is one more stamp that you need – an entry stamp. Our bus was pulled up just after the ‘visa on arrival’ office. So we had to walk past it to reach the ‘arrival’ office. This is where you get given one more form (entry/departure card). Fill in both sides before queuing to receive your final stamp and give your fingerprints to the government. Don’t panic about the exact information for example ‘length of stay’ or ‘flight/vessel number’. We didn’t fill them out and no-one asked any questions.
The whole process was so straightforward and relatively quick. From getting off the bus, sorting people’s photos out, taking a loo break and getting back on it, it took us just under an hour. Obviously, this will depend on how many people are at the border at the same time.
Important to note
Residents of most countries can get a visa on arrival. For more information regarding visa exceptions and exemptions read visa cambodia.
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