( Updated November 2018 )
Over the past few years I have noticed a big increase in the number of people who are making the most of a two week holiday by combining the wonders of Angkor Wat with the beaches of Koh Chang. People who do this tend to be those who have already visited Chiang Mai and the popular beach destinations in the south of Thailand in previous visits and are now feeling a bit more adventurous.
The most common route is for people to fly into Bangkok, then overland ( or fly if
you have money to burn time is of the essence ) to Siem Reap, have a few days there and then overland to Koh Chang – as there are no direct flights. A few nights on Koh Chang and then back to Bangkok, again by either plane or overland and a couple of days shopping in Bangkok before heading back to reality.
I won’t go into the Bangkok to Siem Reap leg in much detail, but it’s very similar to the Koh Chang to Siem Reap trip, in so much as any cheap minibus ticket will involve attempted scams just before you reach the border at Rong Kleua market, a few kilometres from the town of Aranyaprathet, and from that point onwards to Siem Reap it is identical.
As most people travel from Siem Reap to Koh Chang, i.e. the culture before the beach, and to my mind the best way to do it, I will look at that journey first.
Siem Reap to Koh Chang
By Cheap Bus / Minibus:
When you are in Siem Reap your hotel or any tour agent will sell you a ticket for bus/minibus from Siem Reap to Koh Chang. The price will be from US$12- US$15, depending on your haggling skills and how much commission the seller thinks they should be getting. Regardless of whether you have paid for a minibus or a big bus, it will be a big bus that will pick you up from your hotel early morning, around 07:30 – 08:30 and will take you to the border. On the way you will probably stop once at a roadside restaurant / minimart for a quick break, 15 mins or so. And then again, for a longer 30 minute break a few kilometres before the border at the grandly named ‘Poipet Tourist International Passenger Terminal‘ this is basically a bus station run by the local taxi mafia, which means buses out of there are in very short supply. ( More on this in the Koh Chang to Siem Reap section below) There is no real reason for this break other than to encourage you to buy overpriced snacks and food. On the plus side, the building is fairly new and the toilets are free and relatively clean.
Around this time one of the bus staff will take your ticket from you and give you a sticker, either colour coded or just white with the initials of your next destination on it. Stick this on your chest and don’t lose it as it is the only proof you now have that you bought a ticket for onward travel from the border. ( Dec ’14 – I noticed at least one minibus company is now giving passengers an ID worn around their neck to say which minibus they are on – much better system than the stickers. ) Another 10 minutes on the bus and you will arrive at the border. The bus will park near a large roundabout. Exit Cambodia at the Immigration Office on the right hand side of the border crossing. This is a very old building from before the days of casinos and so during High Season queuing won’t be a pleasurable experience as the majority of the time you will be in the open air. But regardless of how long you have t queue here – the one thing you can be sure of is that the queue on the Thai side will be longer.
Wander past the casinos, past the stalls selling cheap cigarettes and no-name booze,under the dramatic Angkorian archway and then cross to the opposite side of the road and you will come to the Thai Immigration offices. The first office and queues you will see will be for Cambodians coming into the country, just past this is a much larger building and an outdoor holding pen where you will wait, if it is busy, before going into the air-conditioned Immigration Office.
Bear in mind that most buses coming from Siem Reap will arrive at the border at pretty much the same time – late morning – and so if you are unlucky you could find yourself at the back of large queues both exiting Cambodia and then again when entering Thailand.
Once in Thailand you will probably discover that there is no-one waiting for you and at this point will most likely think that you have been ripped off. But fear not, just follow the covered walkway out of the Immigration Office, past the Customs check and into Thailand. If you’ve got a bottle or two too many , try to hang back behind a Cambodian laden down with bags – they’ll be stopped by Customs and you can walk through. In front of you is a long, wide, straight road, walk along it for about 50 metres. On the left you will see vans parked and further on you’ll come to a row of small tour agents offices with minibuses parked outside. Someone will approach you or just ask anyone where your minibus is and they will point you in the right direction. ( If you need to change money or use an ATM then look over to the right when you come out of Customs – past the large ‘Cross Cafe’ coffeeshop and should be able to spot a large green bank building – Kasikorn (or K) Bank about 100 metres away. )
Having found your minibus, it will leave once everyone is accounted for, and will then take you to your destination. For the trip to Koh Chang the driver will make one quick stop to refuel where you can go to the toilet, buy some snacks and then you will taken to Centrepoint Ferry pier. The van will stop outside a tour agents by the pier, here you will probably be given the option of having the van take you to your hotel on Koh Chang for an extra 100 to 200 Baht per person. Up to you if you do this or not. It is more expensive than a pick up truck taxi from the pier on Koh Chang – which will be from 50 – 120 Baht. If you decide not to have the van take you to your hotel. You will still get back into the van and the driver will take you onto the ferry. Then you can hop out and do your own thing when you reach the mainland. As the price of the ferry ticket is included in the original US$12-15 ticket.
From Siem Reap you will be able to book a taxi to the border easily through your hotel or any tour agent. It will probably an old Toyota Camry which can seat a maximum of 4 passengers, plus a couple of backpacks or suitcases ( as half the boot space will be used for an LPG tank ). Expect to pay around US$30-35 for this. There’s no reason to pay any more than this as it isn’t a long journey, around 155Km. Driving time to the border is around 2 hours on a pretty good road.
Then you have the border crossing and as soon as you emerge into Thailand the first large sign that greets you is one for the taxi service to Bangkok. Just follow the sign to the taxi station which is on your left as soon as you come through Customs.. A taxi to Bangkok is 1,900 Baht, Koh Chang 2,200 Baht and Pattaya 2,200 Baht. I’m sure other destinations are possible but these are the only three listed on the sign.
For that price you will be dropped at one of the ferry piers for Koh Chang, then it is just a matter of hopping on a ferry and taking a pick up truck taxi to your hotel.
This seems a good way of doing the journey – for two people you are looking at around 1,500 Baht each ( 3,000 Baht total ) for Siem Reap to the pier for Koh Chang and if you are picked up from Siem Reap after breakfast, say 08:00 then you would reach the border well before the buses coming from Siem Reap and so shouldn’t have very long queues at Immigration. So, if all went to plan, then you’d be on a ferry to Koh Chang around 15:00 – 16:00.
August ’13 Update: We had three Spanish guests book a taxi to the mainland ferry pier through their hotel in Siem Reap. They paid US$100 – total. For that they got a taxi after breakfast to the border, dropped at the border where they were escorted across and then taken to a waiting car that took them to Ao Thammachat ferry pier. They were on Koh Chang by 3pm.
November ’14 Update: This is still possible and the price hasn’t increased too much. Figure on $110 – 120 depending on your haggling skills. The main downside is that you never know what type of driver you’ll get and in what condition his vehicle will be in. So it’s a bit of a lottery. But you will get to Koh Chang late afternoon.
July ’16 Update: Thanks to Courtney for sending her experience. I think the price is a bit cheaper as it is Low Season . . .
My husband and I booked a taxi from our hotel in Siem Reap, which picked us up at 6:15 a.m. (We chose the time) and we were at the border by 8 a.m. It took us almost two hours to go through customs and immigration, unfortunately. But when we finished we hopped in another taxi which dropped us off at the ferry to Koh Chang at about 12:45 p.m., and we were at our hotel before 2 p.m. Our travel for two people, including the ferry and pick-up truck taxi on Koh Chang, was $105. The taxi from Siem Reap was $40, the taxi from the border to the ferry was $55 (with two ‘free’ waters!), the ferry was 80 baht/person, and the taxi was 100 baht/person. All and all it was very easy!
April ’18 Update: Thanks to Paul who did the trip hassle free in early April. These are the costs for a transfer for 3 people from Siem Reap to Koh Chang.
6.30 – 09.00 Taxi from hotel in Siem Reap to Poi Pet border. Cost $35
09.00 – 11.00 Crossing the border and queueing at Cambodian and Thai Immigration
11.00 – 14.00 Taxi from the Thai side of the border to Ao Thammachat ferry pier. Cost = 2,500 Baht
14.30 – 15.15 Ferry to Koh Chang. Cost = 80 Baht per person = 240 Baht total
15.30 – 16.00 Pick up truck taxi (songtaew) to Sea View Resort. Cost = 100 Baht per person = 300 Baht total
Total cost = $35 + 3,040 Baht = approx 4,140 Baht
By Private Transfer:
Various tour agents will offer this service, but as with taxis, the vehicles from a Cambodian tour agency can’t bring passengers into Thailand and vice-versa. So you still have to change vehicles at the border. You can have some flexibility in the time you are picked up but you would still want to leave your hotel in Siem Reap by 9 or 10am, just in case there were any long delays crossing the border. In addition, you can of course stop where and when you want during the trip. Plus if you can book so that you don’t pay anything in advance and only pay when you reach your destination, then that should allay any fears of not getting the service you have booked. It is in the tour company’s best interests to make sure everything runs smoothly and the drivers are punctual, safe and polite. But a good option for inexperienced travellers or a group who just want to minimise hassle and plan their trip well in advance.
The actual time spent on the bus & minibus really wasn’t too bad. The big bus arrived on time at 07:30, I was the first to be picked up, and the next hour or so was spent crawling round the backstreets of Siem Reap picking up fellow passengers. The bus itself wasn’t anything to write home about but the seats were pretty comfy, the aircon worked and the driver wasn’t too crazy. No loud Khmer pop music playing or anything like that. We arrived at the border around 11:45. Clearing Cambodia Immigration took 20 minutes. Again, no hassle at all. The fun began at Thai Immigration where I, along with a couple of hundred others, had to queue for getting on for 3 hours before being allowed into the country. The reason for this was that a huge number of Chinese tour groups were crossing at the same time and had obviously paid a ‘tip’ for a fast track Immigration service. So they were ushered in, past the not particularly happy, very sweaty, mainly Western, contingent who were forced to wait outside.
So around 15:00 I was in Thailand again. Luckily there were only three of us on the minibus to Koh Chang. So I could sprawl out and read. The driver was fast, but that’s to be expected of a minibus driver in Thailand, and there were no near death experiences en-route. Around 18:45 we got to the ferry pier and were then on the last ferry to Koh Chang which departed at 1930. The ferry crossing takes about an hour, so I got home at 21:15. A long day but if it wasn’t for Thai Immigration then the trip would have been hassle free. Regardless of how you travel overland, any delays at Immigration will affect everyone and are out of your control; there are no scams on the way – other then hoping you will buy some expensive potato chips and a drink; and the only slightly confusing aspect is finding where the minibus is parked when you enter Thailand, as you aren’t told this info at any stage.
So I’d take the cheap bus route again if it was Low Season. Can’t really go wrong for the price. I paid US$13 (400 Baht) for my ticket from some random tour agent in Siem Reap. But if I were travelling with someone and wanted a the best option in terms of cost vs. convenience + time then I’d take a taxi to the border, beat the bus queues at Immigration, then just hop in a taxi to Koh Chang.
Photos: (Mouse over for a brief explanation)
Alternative route: Siem Reap via Battambang and Pailin to Koh Chang or Koh Kood
Virtually everyone goes from Siem Reap to the main Poipet / Aranyaprathet border crossing. However it is possible to go via the much quieter crossing at Psar Phrum / Ban Pakard. This is to the south east of Siem Reap near the town of Pailin. The driver in Cambodia is much longer but on the Thai side it is much quicker. Plus you avoid long queues at immigration.
How to do the trip:
Take a taxi to Psar Phrum (near Pailin in Cambodia) the Thai name for this border is Ban Pakard. The ride takes about 4 hours including time to stop for a couple of short breaks. Taxis are often old, but very comfortable, Lexus Rx 300 cars which should cost around $70 – 80 from any tour agent in Siem Reap.
Make sure your driver drops you in Psar Phrum and not in Pailin town which is almost 15 km from the border. The border crossing will be quiet. Get stamped out of Cambodia and then walk 150 metres to Thai Immigration. Crossing the border shouldn’t take more than 15 – 30 minutes even at the busiest time of year.
** Important to remember that this border only accepts Cambodian Evisas when exiting Camboddia ( not when entering ) . If you try to do this trip in reverse with an Evisa you won’t be able to cross the border. **
From the Thai side of the border you can take a local taxi to the pier at Laem Ngop (for boats to Koh Chang). This will be around 2,500 Baht total. Or if you are going to Koh Kood then get dropped off at Trat bus station or pay extra to go to Laem Sok pier. Note that the last boat to Koh Kood is at 15:00. So to get there the same day you will need to leave Siem Reap by 06:00.
If you want to save money then you can take a pick up truck taxi from the border to Chanthaburi and then a minibus to Trat.
November 2018 update.
Prices have increased a little. Expect to pay around US$90 – 100 for a car for two people from a hotel in Siem Reap to the border crossing at Phsar Prum / Ban Pakard.
The roads are in good condition, until the stretch from Pailin to the border when they become a bit rough. Expect it to take around 4 and a half hours to reach the border. Taxi prices are 2,500 Baht to Trat town or 2,800 Baht to Laem Sok pier. You might as well pay the extra to Laem Sok, as you’ll have to hire a pick up truck taxi from trat to laem Sok and that will cost a minimum of 300 Baht.
From the border to Laem Sok pier is around 2 and a half hours. It would be around 30 minutes quicker to get to the pier for boats to Koh Chang.
Koh Chang to Siem Reap
First, lets look at the cheap minibus service to Siem Reap run by DD Mhuek Travel. And also jump to the end of this page for some updates by passengers. You have no other option if you want to get to Siem Reap cheaply, but it will help a lot if you are prepared for your fate inadvance.
Also worth noting that in theory you can avoid most of the scams by pre-paying the amount they were hoping to rip you off for. This is simply in the form on a more expensive ticket. This is around 900 Baht per person. The idea is that if you pay the premium, you’ll receive better treatment and fewer hassles. ( But as the updates at the bottom of the page show, this isnt always the case. )
Any tour agent on Koh Chang will sell you a ticket to Siem Reap for around 450 – 600 Baht. A ticket to the border only is only 100 Baht less, and so you may well assume that it’s a good deal paying just a little extra for the 155Km ride from the border to Siem Reap. And it is, on the face of it. But it depends how quickly you want to get to your hotel and how much hassle you want to endure on the way.
After being picked up around 07:00 – 08:00 from your hotel on Koh Chang you’ll then take the 08:30 ferry from Centerpoint to the mainland. After a brief stop for LPG / toilet / snack buying in a town called Khlung, the driver will then take you to the border. The drive itself is pretty nice, no wide highways but quiet rural roads and even some limestone karsts. You will probably arrive at a restaurant a couple of kilometres from the border in Aranyaprathet around 12:30 – 13:00. Here you can avail yourself of drinks & ‘tourist price’ Thai food.
A nice man who will say he is from the Cambodian partner company will then appear. He will hand out visa application forms and tell everyone to fill them in if they don’t already have a visa as you need one to go into Cambodia. About this time, your scam radar should be giving you strong signals that something is wrong as it isn’t really commonplace when travelling internationally to fill out visa application forms in an overpriced restaurant owned by a tour company.
If you are sensible, you will just smile and say that you already have a visa. Even if you don’t have a visa, you will say that you have one. And you won’t let them check your passport. The scam here is that after the break, you go back into the van and are then taken to the border. Passengers will also be given a sticker to wear , just to identify them as having paid for an onward ticket to Siem Riep. Anyone without a visa is then taken to an unofficial Cambodian Consulate from where passengers will get a genuine Cambodian visa but will be paying 300 – 400 Baht more than they should for it.
After obtaining the visas, the handlers know they have a bunch of gullible people on their hands and so will then try to convince you that you need to change Baht or US$ into Cambodia Riel before you go into the country. There is no requirement to do this, you’ll probably just use US$ in the country anyway, and the rate you get will be well below the 4,000 Riel / US$1 rate that is the norm.
A more recent adaptation of this scam is to tell passengers that they need US$ but there aren’t any working ATMs in Cambodia now, so you have to exchange Baht for US$ whilst in Thailand. Guess what? They’ll do that for you but you’re going to get a very low rate. So avoid doing that. The ATMs in Cambodia give out US$ and work fine. Despite what anyone in Thailand might tell you.
Of course a visa is needed to get into Cambodia. So, to save time, simply get an E-visa online in advance from the Cambodian Government website. This is a very good, efficient service, I have used it a few times. If you haven’t already got your visa then as soon as you pass through the Angkor Wat style archway, after clearing Thai Immigration, cross the road and you will come to the Cambodia Visa office. It’s the building on the right in Google Streetview:
There is a counter directly in front of the door with the prices for Visas displayed prominently above it. A Tourist Visa is US$25. Naively, you may assume that obtaining the visa would be as simple as filling out a form and handing over a photo, your passport and crisp $20 bill. But it isn’t. Or it is if you don’t mind waiting for a long time. The problem is that if the Visa price is $20 and you hand over $20 then the immigration guys don’t benefit in any way. Satisfaction in doing your job properly doesn’t put food on the table or buy an Iphone 7.
So, on the counter, beneath the blue perspex sign with the official Visa prices, you’ll see a handwritten sign with the official unofficial Visa prices which you pay to avoid having your application disappear to the bottom of the pile. And if you don’t have a passport photo, cough up another 100 Baht on top of that.
Having got your Visa, wander past the casinos to the Cambodia Immigration office, on the right hand side of the road (On the left is for entering Cambodia). There will be a guy hanging around somewhere with pocket sized Immigration cards for you to complete, do this whilst you are queuing.
Another scam that some will experience , especially those that booked the absolute cheapest tickets for Koh Chang to Siem Reap is that when you are queuing to get into Cambodia, the friendly guide from the minibus company will tell you that the bus driver is leaving now and so if you wait in line then you will miss your bus and will be stranded at the border. ( At the mercy of scammers, no doubt.) So, rather than allow this to happen, you should pay 200 Baht per person for a VIP Immigration experience, in order to jump the queue and so you won’t miss your bus. Of course, this is bull.
There isn’t a bus waiting for you when you cross the border, the bus you’ll be on leaves from a bus station 7Km from the border – as you’ll discover if you read on . . .
Welcome to Cambodia. Now it is their turn to try to rip you off.
But all you have to do now is get on a bus to Siem Reap. How complicated can it be?
Upon exiting Cambodia Immigration, you will immediately come to the holding pens where everyone crossing the border is herded. The idea is that anyone requiring onward transport by bus or taxi can avail themselves of a free shuttle bus that will take them to the out of town transportation terminal from where they can make their connections. In theory it is a good idea as it avoids having a multitude of buses and taxis parked on the streets by the border all fighting over passengers. But from what I can make out given: a) the observation that here are only four buses per day from the transportation centre and b) And only one of them, the 15:00 bus to Siem Reap departs after 08:00 and c) Ticket price for the bus is US$9, only $3 less than for a seat in a shared taxi- it appears that the sole aim of the transportation terminal is to make people take a taxi. Taxi prices are US$48, or as just mentioned, US$12 for a seat in a shared taxi with three other passengers.
If you have either already paid for the bus to Siem Reap, you then have to decide if you want to hang around until 15:00 to take it. Or if you want to hop in a taxi instead. Siem Reap has a perfectly good bus station, not too far from the centre of town. But taking passengers there would be too obvious. So instead anyone who does decide not to put some money the taxi mafia’s way and take the bus is punished.
The first thing that happens is that although the bus is scheduled to leave at 15:00 – it won’t.
You’ll be sat on the bus waiting for an hour or two, some people may decide to give up and take a taxi instead – which is the idea of delaying the bus. Within an hour of the bus finally departing, it will be time for the driver to stop for a well-earned break. Passengers can then expect to wait 30 minutes whilst he eats and has a chat with friends. By this time it’s dark.
After a very slow ride, you will be dropped off about 6Km from Siem Reap in a makeshift bus station just off the main road. Here you are met by smiling tuk-tuk drivers, all too happy to take you to a hotel, which may or may not be the one you want to go to, for around US$6-8. It’s dark, you’re somewhere out near the airport on Highway 6 and you have been on the road for 12+ hours. Not a fun way to end the day.
By Private transfer to the border and Taxi to Siem Reap:
For anything from 2,500 – 4,000 Baht you can book a car and driver to whisk you from your hotel on Koh Chang to the border crossing. Pay more to avoid being driven there by an insane youth in his Dad’s old Corolla with amphetamine fuelled dreams of one day being the first Thai in F1. Presuming you survive the journey, you will be dropped off right by the border crossing. Easy. As soon as you enter Cambodia you will be faced with the same obstacle as described above, the holding pens for the Poipet Tourist International Passenger Terminal which semi-official looking people will try to herd you into. Here you will be told that you can get a taxi without having the hassle of going to the terminal, but it will cost you around US$80. “Just Say No”, as a wise man once said. If you want to do things officially, you could go along with the taxi guys and take the shuttle to the terminal where you will find the same taxi is only US$48 for the ride to Siem Reap.
There is no law preventing you from going any further into Poipet than the waiting area of the shuttle buses – regardless of what any Cambodian scammer ( aka taxi company employee ) tells you. You can just wander off on your own. If you want to get a cheap taxi then just walk past the waiting area and around the edge of the roundabout. After 100 metres you’ll come to a few small shops/ kiosks and if you haven’t been approached by a guy to ask if you want a taxi by now then I’d be very surprised.
They know what you are looking for as no-one wanders into Poipet for a few last minute gifts for the family or for spot of leisurely sightseeing – as it’s a dump. Here you will be able to get a taxi for around US$30-40 without having to haggle too much, if at all. The vehicle will most likely be an old Camry and the driver will be a proper taxi driver. The only thing to remember is not to pay in advance. Agree that you will pay when you arrive at your hotel. The drive takes around 2 hours.
One trick is to take you to the outskirts of the city centre and then say that < insert vaguely plausible reason here > the driver can’t take you to your hotel but his friend, a tuk-tuk driver will. Just play along, take the tuk-tuk, he won’t charge you anything. But his aim is to find a way to make some commission from you. So best not to outright refuse until you get to your hotel. On the plus side he may well be a friendly guy and if you are going to need a tuk-tuk, it’s worth getting his card.
One thing you’ll quickly notice is that you can have a sensible conversation in English with most tuk-tuk and taxi drivers in Siem Reap. The standard of English is way higher than their counterparts in Thailand )
On the way you’ll learn that in Cambodia they don’t drive on the same side of the road as in Thailand. In fact, they don’t drive on any side of the road. The average Cambodian drives straight down the centre right up until they meet a larger vehicle coming in the opposite direction doing the same thing. The exception to this rule is if you are in a Range Rover or Landcruiser – in which case everyone else will get out of your way.
By Private Transfer:
As above but the tour agent will have also arranged to have a driver from the Cambodian partner agency waiting for you on the other side of the border. To allow the driver to come right up to the border, and not meet you at the transportation terminal you will need to give names and passport details of all passengers to the tour company. If the Cambodian driver has these details, i.e. can prove to the taxi mafia guys, who he is picking up, he can meet you at the border. Alternatively, the same applies for vehicles from hotels coming to meet you at the border. Your hotel in Siem Reap would be able to arrange either their driver or a taxi for you.
I got my ticket for Koh Chang to Siem Reap for 550 Baht but had already decided beforehand that I would try to get a cheap taxi to Siem Reap from the border. (Having the ticket through to Siem Reap rather than just the border simply meant that if I found this wasn’t possible then I could always fall back on Plan B and didn’t have to pay for another bus ticket.) I was picked up on time at 07:30 and shared the van with six others. It was a new Toyota Commuter so plenty of space inside for everyone. We took the 08:30 Centrepoint Ferry to the mainland and then headed towards Chantaburi. Just out of Khlung, a small town about an hour’s drive from the mainland pier we stopped for gas – as the vans all run on LPG and the driver then did a u-turn and headed back into the centre of Khlung where we turned off the main road and onto a back road. It was actually quite a nice, uneventful drive up to the border along quiet country roads.
We arrived at a restaurant which I noticed was attached to office of the same tour agency that ran the minivans. Here the driver got out to eat and the idea was that the passengers would too. I’m sure the food is fine, but the prices were a bit on the touristy side. After about 15 minutes a guy appeared put down forms on tables and asked everyone to come and fill them in – without giving the reason. They were photocopied visa application forms. As I already mentioned, the expensive Visa scam and changing money scam are widely documented online and in guidebooks and you are guaranteed to experience it. Yet, of the passengers on the bus only myself and one other guy didn’t fill in the Visa forms. I did try to tell a French couple that they would be over paying for the Visa but they obviously trusted the advice from the nice man from the tour company more than me.
We were then taken to the border where the passengers who had opted for the scam visa were taken off to be fleeced and the others were given an orange sticker to wear, to show we paid for an onward ticket to Siem Reap and pointed in the direction of Thai Immigration. There were no queues, so five minutes after arriving at the border I was wandering across the no-mans land / casino zone built between the two Immigration check points. I had an E-visa already but still popped into the Visa office just to see how depressing it was and to get some info on the official unofficial prices people can expect to pay. There weren’t too many tourists milling around but I imagine that in busy times it would be a bit of a free for all.
Another 100 metres further on and after passing through Cambodian Immigration, which took 15 mins or so to clear, I was in Cambodia. I had read that there would be people trying to make sure I went into the waiting are for shuttles to the transport terminal but didn’t realise that it was virtually adjacent to Immigration, so I just wandered past lots of tourists who were sitting around without realising that this was the area I was trying to avoid. No-one said anything or shouted after me as I wandered off.
Pretty much immediately I saw a Cambodian guy make eye contact so I just said “Taxi”. He said 35 Dollars”, I said “30. Pay you at the hotel in Siem Reap” and he said “OK”. The car was parked by the large roundabout less than 50 metres away. He then drove round it, stopping to hand over a fistful of Riel to some guy who was keeping an eye on proceedings and we were on the way. A good drive in an old American Camry. Unlike in Thailand drivers on the whole seemed to go much slower in Cambodia, hard to tell how fast though as the speedo read 60MPH all of the way but was still reading the same when we stopped. We stopped once for to grab some water and again so I could go to an ATM and get some dollars , as although banks on Koh Chang will buy US$ they won’t sell them and we arrived in Siem Reap a couple of hours later.
To Siem Reap, but not to the hotel. Just out of the city centre, the driver said he was late to meet someone and would it be OK if his friend, who had a tuk-tuk took me to the hotel instead. I knew where the hotel was and from the road signs could see that we were only a few minutes away and also thought it would be interesting to see what the tuk-tuk’s guy spiel was. Rather than insist on the taxi taking me, I said OK, paid the taxi guy, who in turn handed over some Riel to the tuk-tuk guy and we headed off. I guess this is pretty common as it allows the tuk-tuk driver the chance to make some money from tourists.
He knew where I wanted to go but asked if I had already booked the hotel as he could take me to a good cheap place if I wanted. I had already booked. And then, what my plans were for the following day and if I needed a tuk-tuk to take me around the temples. ( I told him the same thing I had told the taxi driver when he asked about my plans, hoping for a job for the following day, that I was planning to cycle out to Beng Mealea temple about 70Km away. Both times I got a reply that seemed to suggest that if I didn’t want to use their services then it would be better just to say so and not make up something as crazy as cycling a whopping 70Km – i.e telling the truth.)
If I was going from Koh Chang to Siem Reap again then I’d do the same thing – minibus to the border and then taxi from the border to my hotel in Siem Reap. There’s only one thing I might do differently, in order to save an hour sitting around waiting for fellow travellers to be ripped off, and that would be to say Goodbye to the van as soon as it stops off at the restaurant in Aranyaprathet. From there it would be easy to just grab a motorcycle taxi or tuk-tuk to the border.
Jan 2013: I added a new page on the scams as an English couple took a series of short videos during their Koh Chang to Siem Reap trip which inadvertently highlighted them well. Videos of scams here
Nov 2014. A brief update to the Koh Chang – Siem Reap experience. This is what you can expect in November 2014. Same thing going on, trying to get passengers to pay 50% more than they should for Cambodian visas at a restaurant near the border. this from Laura who made the trip recently:
I think that now might be several companies doing the service. ours was DD Muek travel ( or something) . We arrived around 1:30pm at a restaurant close to the border crossing to have lunch and also change the minibus. When we arrived there were several groups there, I think with guides, they were handed visa forms in the restaurant. I asked where we are on a map hanging on the wall but suddenly there was a language barrier. Two Russian ladies that I think were on a travel package were put in a minibus and left but the minibus was quite quickly back so we were probably close to the border.
They asked if we need visa. We said no, some other passengers said yes. They started preparing docs for the rest, charging them 1,300 baht. By now the other groups had gone. They started asking about hotels, we refused any help again. A lady left with a motorbike with the papers for the others. They stuck blue stickers on the others who had got the visa at the restaurant.
Now things started getting a bit unpleasant they came back to us and started a little harassment about wanting us to give them our passports for them to check. That was unexpected. There were two more people in the same situation. When the lady came back with the others passports they said they would go to the border now and we would have to wait. We said no way, and we were quick enough to occupy the minibus first. By now it was already 3pm. They took us to the border acting offended and making nasty remarks. The border was 1 km away from the restaurant. They refused to hand us tickets for the big bus.
As we passed to the Cambodian border a very friendly guy in a blue shirt guy greeted us. We then got our visas from the Cambodia Immigration office for 800 Baht as we didn’t have any passport photos. After clearing Cambodian immigration the same guy in a blue shirt appeared again and tried to get us in a waiting line for a shuttle to bus station. We escaped him claiming we go buying water. A taxi driver immediately appeared, we paid 40 bucks for 4 persons to hotel. The taxi took us to tuk-tuk in Siem Reap, but we refused to get out and then we were taken to our hotel. We gave the driver a tip, he was happy and we were happy to be at our destination.
January 2017: The good news is that it is now possible to take the minibus to Siem Reap and not get scammed. There’s just a half-hearted visa scam to contend with.
As well as the cheap minibus tickets, you can also buy a ticket for around 850 Baht that promises a minibus from your hotel on Koh Chang to the border and then another minibus from the Cambodian side to your hotel in Siem Reap. And the good news is that although it costs 300 Baht more than the cheaper alternative, it is a far less stressful and quicker way to get there.
The only thing to be aware of is to remember that if you haven’t got your Cambodian visa already, don’t get it until you have passed through Thai Immigration. Ignore any requests from minibus staff to see your passport or get you a visa whilst you are still in Thailand.
One of our guests, Piotr, took it in January 2017 and said:
I took the first ferry of the day, the 09:00 Boonsiri catamaran to Laem Sok ( 1.5 hours – 500 Baht) . From there I took the free shuttle to Trat bus station (around 45 minutes) . At Trat bus station, the only mini buses leaving for Cambodia were crossing at Hat Lek. So to get to Aranyaprathet, for Siem Reap, I had to take the big bus. This departed at 12:15 to Sakeo . ( 5 hours, 175 Baht) Then in Sakeo, I changed to another bus to the border. ( 1 hour – 50 Baht )
I arrived at the border around 18:30 . There was no wait at all and I passed through quickly.
On the Cambodian side of the border, I accepted the offer from one of the Camry taxi drivers to take me to Siem Reap (2.5 hours, $30USD)
I arrived at my Siem Reap hotel around 21:30
April 2017: Somethings never change and the minibuses keep on scamming. This is a tale of the journey from Koh Chang to Siem Reap by cheap minibus :
We paid for the tickets 600 Baht each and we were told it will take us to Siem Reap. The way to the border was OK but it started when the guy, who was driving the minivan, dropped us 2 km far from border control. There were around 100 people waiting in the restaurant.
You actually don’t know what’s going on cause no one explains to you anything. So you are waiting and waiting. Then someone came to us and started to tell us that if we don’t buy a Cambodia visa for 1500 Baht from them we will not get to the bus. We asked why? As we bought a ticket to SR.
Then all the guys screamed that we didn’t buy anything that we can walk there etc. One guy said to my boyfriend he is gonna kill him! I swear that was the way to much! There was no chance for us so we did buy visas from them. They sat us to the bus and the show carried on.
OMG! They stopped us before the border telling us the stories about how we should change the money for Baht (they have a commission from bank) that in Cambodia they’re going to change us 15$ in the bank etc. Just tricks. Then on the way to Siem Reap, they stopped 4 times, again commission from markets!
They said they’re going to drop us in the bus station, of course they left us 3 km from central and from the real bus station just with a million of tuk tuk guys. Unbelievable!
June 2017 – More from another passenger on the DD Mhuek Travel minibus
After reading these reviews here, we were prepared that there will be scams.
After we got on our minibus from Ko Chang to Siem reap, we travel a few hours to the border. But we stopped before them, probably a few kilometers before in some restaurant. They told us to get out of the bus, and then they separated us on small groups depending on which country are we from.
After that they told as to pay them 43$ per person and give them our photos that they will arrange visa for us. Of course we were against it, but we have no choice, because he said that he will leave us there (in Thailand before border). So we paid him and hoped for the best.
On the border they told us a lie about money (that we should change dollars on riels, that its better to pay in Cambodia with riels-its not true). After that we went to get stamps. Our visa was genuine, not a scam, fortunately.
Then we continued trip to Siem Reap with small problems and at the end they dropped us outside of Siem Reap and told as we have to take their Tuk-Tuk driver for free to drive us to the hotel (we also expecting scam about tuk-tuk free ride). But really it was for free. Just so you know, its good to know before your trip and expect it.
October 2017 – And another minibus horror story. This contradicts what I had heard and thought about the more expensive tickets being relatively safe to buy. It seems they now aren’t. . . .
The company we deal with is DD Mhuek Tour and Travel and their Cambodian counterpart (supposedly) is Hangtep Tours.
I see you mention DD Mhuek on your website. You are kind in your description of the men at the restaurant. We had no smiles. They pretty much demanded we pay them for the visa. At one point the man from Hangtep Tours threatened to kill me because he thought I took a photo of him. Another (young Polish) couple traveling with us attempted to walk to the boarder to get the visa themselves but they were chased down and told if they do that they will not get a ride to Siem Reap.
It truly was horrific and I do believe they are hurting Thailand’s tourism. Is there a way to make the travel agents on Koh Chang aware of how this operator is treating tourists? Perhaps if they would stop using them it would be a start… or at least warn of the scam so we can be prepared.
We had no idea what company we were traveling with until we were picked up but we paid 900 Baht each for the tickets.
November 2018 – Guess what? The same scams are still going. This from guests who stayed in Lonely beach and bough tickets for the cheap minibus.
First scam was the visa process. They stopped at a restaurant before the border and made everyone complete the visa forms but charged $45usd ea, as opposed to $30. They wouldn’t budge and threatened to leave us at the border.
Second scam began with a very friendly talk from our guide about how to get through the visa process ahead, only to then convince everyone to withdraw large amounts of baht from the nearby ATM as he claimed that the few ATMs in Cambodia charge $15usd per transaction, as opposed to the free exchange which the joint governments offer at the border so we would all save money. Everyone followed suit and then surprise! They screwed everyone with a terrible conversion rate by creating fear and rushing everyone through. This was also an area with no phone reception.
Third scam was a 20min bus stop less than an hour from Siem Reap for the driver who “needed dinner” at about 5pm. They tried to sell “free” SIM cards to everyone, didn’t work so we were gone again after about 10min.
Then the last scam, after 12 hours of travel the bus stopped 5km out of Siem Reap and we were told they could go no further but had politely organised free tuk-tuks! They then tried to sell their personal services to everyone and it took a lot of convincing that we wouldn’t hire them as our personal guide and to just take us into f%$cking town.
We were done over for the visa, we did question it but we weren’t in much of a position to get out of that one. We also, along with everyone else were scammed a bit through the exchange one but fortunately didn’t withdraw anywhere near as much money as they suggested/others did. We’re quite shocked that we fell for any of it as we usually have our wits about us. However, because we were under the impression that we were being looked after and avoiding the scams by taking the service, we had our guard down.
They really are professional scam artists, very charismatic and convincing that they’re your guides who are there to look after you. In every part of the scams they did a great job at creating fear and pressuring time. We completely understand that you weren’t aware this happens. Make it known to your guests that these events will pop up and they will do everything in their power to make you comply with them.
It was shit. But at least we made it here safe and sound and the bus itself was comfy.
In summary . . .
If you take the minibus. Pay for the more expensive ticket and avoid the worst of the scams.
Photos: (Mouse over for a brief explanation)
Bangkok to Siem Reap
In brief, from Bangkok to Siem Reap first and then the reverse trip :
Direct bus from Bangkok – Siem Reap. In 2013 a new direct bus service, run by the Thai Government’s ‘Transportation Co. Ltd.’ bus company started running this route. Ticket price is 750 Baht per person. There are no scams. You are dropped off in the centre of Siem Reap. Leaves Bangkok at 09:00 & arrives in Siem Reap around 16:30 – 17:00.
This is the best way to do the trip cheaply without any headaches or hassles.
Back to Bangkok: Do the same trip in reverse. Scam free but if every Baht/ US$ counts, it is double the cost of the cheapest services.
Cheap private bus or minibus: The type of tickets tour agents sell. This will involve attempted scams on the Thai side of the border, and, if you do decide to buy a ticket all the way through to Siem Reap then, regardless of what you are told when you buy the ticket, you won’t get to your hotel in Siem Reap before dark.
Back to Bangkok: No scams on the border to Bangkok journey, just expect to stop a few times as the driver looks to make some commission on passengers buying food / snacks.
Regular public bus: From Mochit Bus Station, there are two types of Express Bus – No. 60 takes around 5 and a half hours and No 921 takes four and a half. Departures throughout the day. Cost around 220 Baht to Aranyaprathet Bus Station then figure on 50 – 80 Baht for a tuk-tuk to the border 7Km away.
Back to Bangkok: As above but in reverse, tuk-tuk to the bus station, then regular buses for Bangkok.
Private car or taxi: Anywhere from 1,600 – 2,500 baht depending on how you book it and age & type of car, age & sanity of the driver etc But shouldn’t set you back more than 1,800 Baht and you will be dropped off at the border.
Back to Bangkok: 1,900 Baht from the well signposted taxi stand one minute walk from the border. Doubt you could haggle the price as there aren’t any other equivalent options.
Train: Two trains from Hualampong Station in Bangkok to Aranyaprathet. One at 05:55, takes 5 and a half hours and the other at 13:05 takes 4 and a half hours. Ticket price is 189 Baht. Then add on 50 – 80 Baht for the tuk-tuk ride to the border.
Back to Bangkok: Tuk-tuk from the border to the train station. There are two trains, one at 06:40 which you won’t make as the border doesn’t open until 07:00 and the other at 13:55. This takes 6 hours, price also 189 Baht.
What scams can you expect at the Aranyaprathet / Poipet border?
Note: These apply to people buying tickets for shared transport.
From Koh Chang – Siem Reap:
If you don’t already have an E-visa, DON’T complete a visa application form anywhere except at the Cambodian Visa Office which is located after you pass through Thai Immigration.
DON’T believe anyone tells you that you need to change any Thai Baht to Cambodian Riel or into US Dollars ( unless it’s at a real bank ). Or that there are high withdrawal fees at Cambodian ATMs.
DON’T believe anyone tour agent who tells you that your bus/minibus will drop you at your hotel in Siem Reap or that you will arrive there late afternoon. Remember there is only one bus to Siem Reap at 3pm from the tourist passenger terminal a few kilometres from Poipet. You will be dropped off a few Km outside Siem Reap and will need to take a tuk-tuk to get to your hotel.
If you decide to take a taxi from the border then there is nothing to stop you walking past the waiting area for the tourist passenger terminal shuttles and getting one for around US$30-40. DON’T believe anyone who tells you that you have to go to the passenger terminal. You can ignore them.
There is sometimes a ‘Health Check’ midway between Thai & Cambodian Immigration offices at the border. People who look like nurses will ask you to fill out a form to say you don’t have Ebola, Zika or whatever the current trending tropical disease is. They won’t check anything you write and you’ll see that whilst you are filling out the form dozens of other people will wander past. But, at present, at least they aren’t asking any payment for the form. In the past you were asked for anything from 20 – 100 Baht. If that happens , smile, fill out the form but DON’T hand over any payment.
From Siem Reap – Koh Chang:
No real scams. But you might want to avoid the tourist price food & drinks at the tourist passenger terminal in Poipet. Also, when you reach Centrepoint Ferry, you will be offered the opportunity to stay in the van to your destination on Koh Chang. This will usually cost 100 Baht per person, compared to the pick-up truck taxi ride which is between 60 – 150 Baht. But it is more convenient to let the van driver take you. DON’T believe the tour agency staff if they tell you that because it is the last ferry you might have to pay 1,000 Baht to get to your hotel. ( There will be other foot passengers on the boat.)
If you’ve decided that all this seems too much effort, then the trip from Phnom Penh to Koh Chang is much less hassle, as far as scams and long queues at the border are concerned. But is more expensive.