Cambodia is not a very easy place to reach, more so if you are budget traveler and looking to save money. It is not as well-connected by flights and the tickets are normally quite expensive. So, for my own budget trip, I had to put in numerous hours of research on the net and speak with loads of people and travel agents to decipher the best and cheapest way to reach Siem Reap. Since I had put in so much of an effort, I decided to write a detailed post on the best ways to reach Siem Reap from Bangkok for my other fellow travelers who too are struggling as I was.
Since the post is very long I have split it into 3 parts –
- Part 1 – Bangkok (Thailand) to Aranyaprathet (Aran) Border (Thai side of the border) by train, bus, mini-vans or taxi.
- Part 2 – Border crossing, Visa on arrival Vs an e-visa in Cambodia and the various scams near the border.
- Part 3 – Transport from Poipet Border (Cambodia border) to Seam Reap by bus or taxi.
By Air: This is the best, easiest and a hassle-free way but it also is the most expensive way to reach Cambodia. Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are not connected to any city in India by air. So you will have to route your flights either via Bangkok or via Singapore.
For Siem Reap – From Bangkok your options are – Thai Airways or the Bangkok Airlines and from Singapore – your options are Vietnam Airlines or the China Southern Airlines. I have tracked this sector for months and the fare is never less than Rs. 15,000/- one way. Recently, Angkor Air has also started flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap, and if booked in advance, at times you do get some good deals.
For Phnom Penh – Phnom Penh has a much better connectivity with numerous options – Tiger Airways, AirAsia, Malaysia Air, Silk Air, Singapore Air, etc and some of these are very reasonable options.
There are quite a few other cities in South East Asia that have good connectivity by air for Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
Overland Border Crossing: If you have to travel from Bangkok to Siem Reap than the overland border crossing is a long, hassled but the cheapest way to travel. The road / highway is in a very good condition and if you leave early then you will not encounter the Bangkok traffic. Also, the hassle is not the actual travel or the kind of conveyance, but it’s the touts and scams all around.
Train from Bangkok to Aran: This is one of the most time-consuming ways to travel but it’s also the cheapest way to reach the Aran border.
In Bangkok, you can hire a cab, or a tuktuk, or ride a public (government bus) to reach the Hualamphong Railway Station. You can also use the MRT Interchange link to reach the Hua Lampong Train Station.
Here there are just ordinary trains, only third-class compartments, no aircon, only non-reclining chairs, and the journey takes about five and a half hours to reach from the Bangkok Hualamphong Railway Station to the Aranyaprathet Railway Station. Also there are only two trains a day. The first train leaves at around 5:55 am, the second train leaves at 1:05 pm. The problem with taking the second train is that you will have to spend the night in Aran, thereby spending on a hotel and wasting about 2 days in commute. However the train fare is only 48 THB.
Then the Aranyaprathet station is about 6 kms away from the border. You will need to hire a tuk-tuk (they will take about 50 – 100 THB) or a motorbike (if you have very less luggage and the fee will be around 20 – 25 THB) till the Rongkleu Market.
Map Below – courtesy – http://wikitravel.org/en/Poipet
Bus From Bangkok to Aranyaprathet Border: This is more expensive than the trains, but the frequency of buses is better, there are lesser stops and the time taken is between 3 – 6 hours. You can take buses from the following 4 terminals –
1. Bangkok’s Northern Bus Station (Mo Chit) – To reach this bus station, you can take a public taxi, public bus or you can also take the Skytrain (BTS) to Morchit Station. Please note that the Morchit BTS (Skytrain) Station and the Morchit Bus Terminal are not the same, and the distance is quite a bit. So take a tuk-tuk or a cab. Bus #3, #136, #104 will take you to the bus terminal from Chatuchak. You can also ride the MRT all the way to the Kamphang Phaet Station and then take a cab, motorbike or public bus to reach the bus terminal.
These government buses are air-conditioned, with comfy seats and depending on the class (1st or 2nd) include a free – small drinking water bottle and a small snack. First-class buses depart regularly every half hour for Aranyaprathet from 3:30 a.m until 5:30 p.m. and the fares are around 200 to 220 THB depending on which route the bus takes. Fares for the second-class buses are roughly 150 to 170 THB. At the bus station the ticket windows for Aranyaprathet are on the ground floor inside the terminal. The ticket windows with red letters are for second-class buses, the windows with blue letters are for first-class buses. After purchasing the ticket, you just need to step out and walk towards the parking lot for your Bus.
The main bus station in Aranyaprathet is about 6 kms from the border and you need to pay about 80 – 100 THB for a tuk-tuk. If you have less luggage then you can take a motorcycle taxi which is around 60 THB.
If the Bus drops you at the Rongkluea Market Bus Terminal, (approximately 2 kilometers away from the border) then you can either take a tuk-tuk or a motorcycle to bring you to the border. The fare starts at 40 THB and you can also walk.
Many a times buses drop you right near the Immigration area.
2. Take a Casino Bus from Lumphini Park – This is one of the best and most time efficient buses to the Aran border. Lumphini Park is a central location in Bangkok and you can take an MRT or a taxi to reach it.
The problem here is that there is no central bus station and buses are just parked around the Park. These buses leave around 5.30am – 6.00 am, the fare is around 200 THB and takes about 3.5 – 4 hours to reach. We really tried to take one of these buses but we just couldn’t find someone to book those tickets for us.
3. Airport to the Aran border – If you land in Bangkok in the morning and your timing matches with the bus schedule then you can leave for the border immediately from the airport itself. From the Suvarnabhumi airport there are two daily first-class buses at around 8.00am and 2.30pm with cost just under 200 – 220 THB. In the reverse direction, buses to the airport leave Aranyprathet at 08:30am and 12:30pm. These buses go to the Aranyaprathet bus station.
4. Bangkok’s Eastern Bus Station (Ekamai) – You can reach this station by taking a cab or a BTS.
This station also has buses to Aran leaving every hour or two (4.5-5.5hrs) and the ticket is around 200 THB.
Miniwans from Khaosan road – Khao san road is a complete backpacker and tourist section of Bangkok. As a result there are numerous travel agencies here offering transportation via minivans. There are major number of scams related to these minivans. Though the fare is supposed to be around 200 – 400 THB, these vans take forever to reach and have numerous scam stops. So they are best avoidable.
Catching a taxi from Bangkok: If you are a 4 people group and want to travel a bit more conveniently then you should consider booking your own cab. This mode of travel is convenient, flexible, time efficient but slightly expensive. You can just negotiate and book a metered public cab from Bangkok to Aran through your hotel or from the airport. Now the trick here is to find a good cab, negotiate really hard on the price and then stick to it. I have heard people quote from 2,500 THB upto 4,000 THB and any good cab will take from 2,500 THB to 2,700 THB. The toll on the way is not above 50 THB so if they start asking more for the toll then just say you will pay it yourself. Also there is no need to pay any return fare to the cabs.
While I have tried to make this list as exhaustive and informative, please feel free to drop in comments with suggestions on your experiences.