Thailand has six land crossings into Cambodia. The most popular is the Aranyaprathet-Poipet crossing, which is the closest to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. It can also be a hot mess. There are a couple of scams you will undoubtedly run into, but they are pretty easy to identify, because these scammers don’t seem to realize that snickering about it in front of you or losing their temper immediately is an obvious tip-off.
If you’re coming from Bangkok, you can take the train to the border or the bus to Siem Reap. My travel partner and I took the bus to the border. From the station, passengers got into tuk-tuks (haggling to little or no success) for the ride to the crossing. Along the way, we stopped at a card table set up on the side of the road, teeming with aggressive men trying to convince us that we needed to buy a Cambodian visa at double the cost from them, because the visa was no longer available at the border.
Don’t listen to them. You do not need a visa prior to arrival. These shouty men will take this opportunity to yell at and insult you; ignore them. A few more minutes, and you’ll be at the crossing.
Lines are pretty long to get out of Thailand, but it’s also a brief reprieve before the next round of scams. Once stamped out of Thailand, exit the building and head straight – there are plenty of signs and a large crowd going in the same direction. Once you pass the Cambodia gate, turn to the right to the Arrivals building. This is where you’ll fill out the visa form and get processed.
This whole area is dusty and a bit seedy. Gambling is forbidden and looked down upon in Thailand, so there’s a few casinos ready and waiting as soon as you get stamped out. Kids and dogs and touts run wild, and women shout for customers. Touts may come up to you, asking if you need help filling out your forms. Hang on to your purse, put on your sunglasses, and hang tough.
The paperwork required is US$20, one photo, the visa form, passport and passport copy. The officer didn’t take my passport copy, however. Here it’s possible that the officer will ask for an extra couple hundred baht, even though the signs on the wall state that the cost is a flat $20. If you press the point, the officer will let it go after a few attempts, leave his desk for a few to apply pressure, or threaten you with a three-hour wait (which rarely, if ever, happens). Stand firm and you’ll be fine.
When you exit the Arrivals hall, touts will descend with a vengeance. I actually took a ride with one to Siem Reap, mostly because I let my guard down, partly because one of them shouted out a price that I agreed with and I thought I’d get more leg room. The tout gave me a tour of his car, which smelled of gasoline, pointing out the condition of the tires, but he refused to open the trunk. He stowed our bags in the front seat, and I sat in the middle of back seat, in between my partner and bunch of loose coconuts that went flying every 100 yards when we hit a bump. He dropped us off at our hostel, and didn’t try to take us to his brother’s or his friend’s shop along the way.
I definitely wouldn’t go with a tout again, especially now that buses go straight from Bangkok to Siem Reap. The road to Siem Reap is finally finished as well, thankfully. To make things even easier, e-visas are now available for US$25, but you need to double-check that they’ll be accepted at your crossing of choice.
Do you have any tips or tricks for crossing the Thai-Cambodian border by land?