Aranyaprathet-Poipet border crossing a.k.a. “the scam border” is sometimes referred as the most corrupted border in South East Asia. There are many horror stories and rumors going around on internet about crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia. On the other hand, this way is the most convenient way to get to Cambodia by land. If you prepare well and act wisely, it is also the cheapest way. We will walk you through all the steps that help you to choose the cheapest options and avoid scams.
We read a lot about Aranyaprathet-Poipet border crossing beforehand and got the impression that it’s all about scams and it’s almost impossible to survive without paying bribes or using corrupted tuk-tuk and bus drivers. The border crossing process sounded like walking in a minefield – and avoiding touts instead of mines of course.
We were quite reserved after all these warnings and read carefully what to do in each step. Luckily we can say afterwards that the border crossing wasn’t even nearly as bad as we expected. It’s very good that there are warning stories that make the travelers be more aware though. We cannot say if the things have recently got better or if we were just lucky but everything went very well for us! For sure our good preparation and awareness helped us too.
The most popular option to get to the Cambodian border is to take a bus from Bangkok. Anyhow, the price differences can be significant and there are many scams on the way. We opted for an independent travel option that includes a train from Bangkok to the border and a bus on the Cambodian side. This method was scam-free (depending pretty much on what you agree to pay or not to pay) and probably the cheapest way to get from Thailand to Cambodia: The whole trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap cost us less than 10 dollars each.
Here are the most important things to keep in mind while crossing the border:
- Never pay for the Cambodian visa before you get stamped out from Thailand and have crossed the border to Cambodia. You don’t need the visa before this, no matter what the people tell you.
- The visa costs 30 USD. Only pay this amount in USD and not any extra in any currency.
- Don’t talk to any people on the way that try to “help” you or make you pay something extra. You only need to talk to the officers at the official counters. You also don’t need to exchange money at the border, especially not to the local currency. Just have enough US dollars to pay the visa and get bus tickets etc. in Cambodia. Vaccination card fees and handling surcharges are also all scams.
- Smile, stay calm but firm and act confident. This is a much better approach to deal with the scammers than to get upset.
The following instructions are for the people who don’t have a pre-arranged visa. If you bought a visa before, just skip the step 6.
Step 1: Train from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet
Price: 48 baht (3rd class)
We really fell in love with train travel in Thailand and because of the price, it was not hard to decide whether to take a bus or train to the border.
Compared to a bus package all the way to Siem Reap, the train is a good option because you don’t need to stress about catching the certain bus on the Cambodian side. Even if you paid for the whole trip, you need to get off from the bus and cross the border by foot. Some scammers might tell you that your bus is leaving and ask for an “express fee” for a quick visa handling.
There are two daily trains running to the border: at 5:55 am and at 01:05 pm. The train takes 5-6 hours but can be delayed. We recommend the morning train because it gives you more time to cross the border without a hurry. We read that there are more scams in the evening because the people know that the travelers need to rush for the last bus connections.
You can buy a ticket at Bangkok train station one hour before the trip. Remember to ask for a third class ticket because the second class is significantly more expensive. You will get to travel with locals and enjoy the cheap and delicious train foods!
Step 2: Get from train station to border
Price: 50-60 baht
Aranyaprathet station is 7 kilometers from the border so the next step is to get there. The easiest way is to take a tuk-tuk. The scam attempts start right when you get off from the train. There will be fake visa sellers and tuk-tuk drivers breathing to your neck desperately.
We tried to find a second transportation alternative that we read about on Wikitravel: a truck that brings to the border for only 15 baht. Unfortunately we couldn’t figure out where to find the truck so eventually we had to go for tuk-tuk.
We wouldn’t pay more than 60 baht for the tuk-tuk ride. We asked for the price from some drivers but they didn’t go under 80 baht so we waived a tuk-tuk on the main road. The guy offered 60 baht and we bargained it to 50 baht.
Make sure that the driver brings you to the proper border crossing point. It’s straight road all the way from the train station. If (and most probably when) the driver asks if you have a visa, just answer yes. Otherwise he will take you to a place that sells overpriced or even fake visas.
Step 3: Have lunch at local market
Before you cross the border, you have the last chance to enjoy some Thai food. There is a huge market area on the left side of the border crossing point. We read that the busiest time for crossing the border is around noon so if you take the morning train, this is a good place to have a break.
Instead of going to KFC like many tourists, buy a lunch from the street stall vendors. We got a huge portion of fried rice for 40 baht and it was big enough for two people. To find food places, you need to walk a few blocks left from the crossing point to the marketplace. There are also several 7 Elevens where to buy refreshing drinks.
Step 4: Go to Thai passport control
On the left side of the main road, the is a sign for the departure passport control. Follow the signs and go upstairs. There is an office for non-Thai people. You have to hand out your departure card and you will get your passport stamped. We were in and out from here in like 10 minutes. Remember that you don’t need a Cambodian visa at this point yet!
Step 5: Cross the border from Thailand to Cambodia
Walk out from the Thai building and cross the bridge. Now you are in Cambodia!
Step 6: Buy visa at visa office
At the end of the bridge, there is a sign to turn right if you don’t have your visa arranged before (e-visa). At the right side you will see the visa office. The officers have light beige uniforms and there is a counter that states the visa price (30 USD). Don’t buy the visa anywhere else than here.
Go to get a visa form from the counter and fill it out. Additionally, you will need to give your passport, 30 USD cash and a passport photo.
Stay strong at this point because the officers will ask 100 baht bribes besides the visa fee. The extra fee is hand-written on a paper. You don’t need to pay this extra fee! We smiled, pointed at the official price at the counter and handed out 30 USD and the officers didn’t say anything. For us it was a principle not to pay bribes. The more tourists agree to pay, the harder it is to stop the corruption. So please don’t do it.
The office was almost empty at this point and we only sat down for 3 minutes before our visas were ready. Without any bribes!
Step 7: Go to Cambodian passport control
This is the final step before you are officially in Cambodia. Walk a few hundred meters forward from the visa office and go to the passport control on the right side.
You need to take an arrival/departure card and fill it out first. Then go to the counter and get you passport stamped. At this point, you should have an exit stamp from Thailand, a visa on your passport, a stamp from Cambodia and a departure card attached in your passport.
(step 8: Spend a night in Poipet)
We decided to stay one night in the border city Poipet. Mainly because we read so many negative things about it as a “scam city”, we were curious to find out if it is really that bad. And it wasn’t! So when most tourist jump directly on the bus, consider walking to the city center and exploring this place for one night. In the morning you will have a cheap bus option to Siem Reap. More about that in the next step.
Poipet is a quite poor city even in Cambodian terms and visiting there felt like going back in time. There were no other foreigners and the people stared us a lot but we really liked the authenticity of the place! We found a hotel for 7 USD next to the bus station and had a street food dinner with locals. After wandering the dusty street until the sunset we enjoyed our first Cambodian beers.
Step 9: Get a ride to Siem Reap
Price: 5-25 USD
If you decide to stay in Poipet, you can catch a daily bus that goes to Siem Reap at 8 am and costs only 5 USD! The company is Capitol Tours. Their office is on the main road at the left side when you come from the border (distance from the border is about 1,5 km).
If you want to take a ride directly after arriving in Cambodia, there are buses for 9 USD. Alternatively, you can take a minivan or taxi (taxi is an affordable and fast option if you are a group of travelers). We got offered a minivan ride for 8 USD per person. Remember that the prices are can always be bargained though. The problem is that sometimes the drivers leave you outside the city and force you to take an expensive tuk-tuk that they cooperate with. If you want to make sure, ask before where they will drop you off. Don’t pay before you are in the destination.
We liked Capitol tours because it seemed to be a company that the locals use. We had to change the bus on the way to Siem Reap but didn’t have any problems. Their bus station in Siem Reap also happened to be only a few hundred meters from our hostel so we were super lucky!
We hope these instructions help you to travel from Thailand to Cambodia cheaply, scam-free and without any hassle.If you have more questions, just leave a comment below.