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One of the most popular backpacker routes is to travel from Bangkok to the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. In Thailand there are plenty of tour operators around Khao San road that are offering very cheap minivan transportation that will take you all the way to Siem Reap in Cambodia. The prices are often so cheap that you immediately realize that there is a catch to it. On the internet there are thousands of reports of “minivan scams”. Although it may sound counter intuitive, but there can be a very good deal in this “scam”. In this blog post we will show you how to make advantage out of this. The reward? You will be able to travel from Thailand to Cambodia for 9 USD, all inclusive… All you have to do is follow our 5 simple steps. To make this travel guide complete we also provide all the alternative transport options with their pros and cons.
Step 1: booking a minivan at Khao San road
If you are familiar with Khao San road in Bangkok, you might have noticed that there are plenty of tour companies. They also offer cheap border crossings to Siem Reap in Cambodia. For less than 9 USD, they promise you to take you all the way to Siem Reap. To good to be true, right? We booked our tickets at Stray travel, but there are plenty of travel agencies to choose from. So our advice, check out some travel agencies near the Khao San region and ask them for transportation from Bangkok to Siem reap. After reading mixed reviews from other travelers, we took the risk and booked a ticket from Bangkok to Siem reap. Worst case scenario we would only get to the border of Thailand, which is still a decent deal for 9 USD. Best case scenario: we arrive in Siem reap for next to nothing. Turned out we made it to Siem reap and quite comfortably to be honest. Find out in the next steps how we did this. It’s really easy.
Step 2: from Bangkok to 5 km before the border
The minivan picked us up at 7 am at the tour office in Khao San road. We arrived ten minutes earlier and quickly, a guy showed up to show us the minivan. So far so good! The minivan was OK. We had airco and it was not fully packed with other stuff. After 2-3 hours of driving, we were almost at the border near Poipet (Cambodia). All of the sudden, the minivan stopped at a little restaurant. First, we had to gather in the back. Other tourists from other minivans joined us at well. Everybody was asked one by one inside, in a small office. And that’s the moment when the scam starts…
Step 3: enter the small office
When you enter the small office, they immediately started to ask us questions about whether we’ve already been in Cambodia. If it was overland or by air. We found out that the reason they start to question you, is to estimate how well aware you are about the visa procedure. We knew that it was easy to get a visa at the border and that it would cost us 30USD per person. However, the guys in the small office said that it was impossible, or at least really difficult, to obtain a visa at the border. After some discussion, they almost obliged us to pay 45USD, so they could take care of the visum. This however meant that we had to pay 15USD extra for a visum (what a scam). We thanked them in a polite manner for the service and informed them that we would arrange it by ourselves. Just stay calm, don’t argue and everything will be fine. They didn’t seem happy that we were aware of the scam. But nonetheless they showed us in a friendly kind of way another minivan without any tourists in it and they took us to the border. This went all very quickly to make sure we could not communicate with other tourists. Or warn them that they charge way too much for the visa procedure. Before we left the minivan at the border, they gave us a pink sticker that indicated the group to which we belonged. As a last goodbye, they informed us that we had two hours to get through the border and reach the bus on the other side. If we didn’t manage to cross the border within two hours, the bus would leave without us… Don’t worry, 2 hours is plenty of time to obtain your visa. Just think about it. The other tourists that joined you on the same minivan just as well need to cross the border and get their passport stamped. So don’t worry, you’ll catch that bus.
Step 4: crossing the border and obtaining your Cambodian visa
The minivan dropped us at the market near the border. Finding your way to the border is really easy. Just follow the blue signs. You can`t miss, and if you do get lost there are always people nearby that will gladly show you the way. The signs will lead you to a first building. On the first floor, they will stamp you out of Thailand. After receiving your stamp keep on following the street until you see a building on the right side, again easy to find. That’s the building where the visa for Cambodia is issued. To obtain a visa, you have to fill in an arrival card, have a photo with you and pay 33 USD (30 USD for the visa and 3 USD bribe money for the corrupt officers). After 5 minutes, you get your passport back with a nice visa inside. Keep on walking until you reach building nr 3. That’s where you get your arrival stamp for Cambodia.
That’s it, you made it to Cambodia for 9 dollar! Now let’s see if you can get to Siem Reap with no surcharge (yes you can).
Step 5: from the border in Poipet to Siem Reap
When we crossed the border, we immediately were recognized by our pink sticker. Another Cambodian tour operator welcomed us and showed us a seat where we had to wait. After 10 minutes we had to take a free bus that would take us to the tourist bus station. Once at the tourist bus station we waited one hour until everyone crossed the border. Once everyone arrived, we entered a large tour bus and drove to Siem Reap. A couple of hours later, just before sunset we arrived at Siem Reap.
This was by far the cheapest border crossing we ever did. Imagine how much it can save you if you are willing to take the same “risk” instead of flying. The best part is that this “scam technique” is quite universal throughout every border crossing in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. So the best advice we can give you: just stay calm, know that they will try to scam you anyways. Don’t be affraid to tell them you’ll arrange it yourself, they won’t put you in jail. And last but not least, if you want to save some money and drink an extra cocktail at pub street in Siem Reap, this can be an excellent method to do so.
Other ways to cross the border between Thailand and Cambodia
We totally understand that this guide is not ideal for every type of traveller. Perhaps you don’t have a lot of time and you are just looking for the most comfortable way of crossing the Thailand border. Below you can find all the info you need for other transportation methods.
Your own motorbike
This will always be the least expensive option and something to take in mind if you are planning to stay for a longer period in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, etc. As a rule of thumb you need to buy a Vietnamese plated motorbike. Vietnamese bikes are allowed to cross most boundaries without any hassle. If you want more information about this topic, this is an excellent guide to start with: buying a motorbike in Southeast Asia.
Local / goverment operated bus
This method of transport gains rapidly in popularity as there is a bus company that is owned and operated by the government. In other words, no scams, just fair prices. The name of the bus company is Nattakan. You can find more information about this bus journey on the website “move to cambodia”.
The price is a bit more expensive, around 25-30 USD if you book online. But it offers more peace of mind and a direct connection between Bangkok and Siem reap, so no need to change busses or hassle with you luggage. Check out this website for booking bus tickets online: .
Location: Northern bus terminal in Bangkok. The name of the bus terminal is Mo Chit 2 or Chatuchak bus terminal.
Schedule: one bus every day at 8 am
This is comparable to the price we paid at Khao San road, but the journey in total takes longer. Plus, you need to get up really early (train leaves at 5am). First you need to take a train from Bangkok to the border of Poipet. Next you arrange the visa yourself (like in our guide) and take a local bus to Siem Reap. Buses are not hard to find at the border of Poipet. The bus station is called K.S.O Bus Station and is 500 meters away from the border. If you go through the gate walk straight on, cross the round about, keep the railway station at your left, continue walking for 10 minutes and you will see the bus station at your left hand side. Buses from Poipet to Siem reap are frequent and should cost around 5 USD.
Pick your desired mode of transport that suits your travel needs best. If you are looking to save some money book a minivan at Khao San road or take a train. However, when you Wan to add some more comfort to your trip than opt for the government bus or take an airplane. Are you more the adventurous type who likes to explore the golden triangle of Southeast Asia on his own? Consider buying a Vietnamese motorbike.
Have you ever crossed the border between Thailand and Cambodia or planning to do so? If you have any questions, just shoot away! We’ll soon help you out.
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