If you’re ever paying a visit to Thailand and also wish to include Cambodia in your travel plan, there is a travel method that will offer you almost unbelievable value for money but also a bit of an adventure along the way. Now, if you want a stress free, excitement free journey with no surprises, then this won’t be for you. But with flights at around the $200 mark, a journey costing less than $35 seems a no-brainer, and could also be a lot of fun. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s extremely doable!
So, with a few video prompts, here’s my (almost) fool proof step by step guide for getting from Bangkok in Thailand to Siem Reap in Cambodia (which for most tourists, is where you’ll want to go, being near the giant Angkor temple complex).
Buses are also available for this journey, but as with aeroplanes, that won’t offer you the cheapest journey, although it could be quicker. It won’t be as fun though, trust me on that.
- Get up early.
The train from Hualamphong Station leaves at 5:55am, so give yourself enough time to get up, get ready and get a taxi (unless you’re fortunate enough to be very near the station). Tickets can be purchased on the day for just 48bt. There are separate windows for advance tickets and same day travel. Basically, a reservation is not required for the Aranyaprathet train so you can just turn up on the day and buy a ticket.
Here is me, one very rainy morning in Bangkok, struggling to find the lights, and not wake up my hostel guests at 4 in the morning:
- Make sure you’re on the right train and platform at Hualamphong Station. As mentioned, the train to Aranyaprathet leaves at 5:55am, and you can buy your ticket on the day, but get there in time! In the video clip it sounds like I say the ticket is “five baht”, which I can’t remember saying, but if that is what I actually said, it’s wrong. Five baht would be next to nothing, and as I do say later, the actual price is 48bt at the time of writing (which is less than £1).
- The train journey to Aranyaprathet.
There are two trains departing for the town of Aranyaprathet, which is nearest you can get to by train to the Cambodian border. I strongly recommend getting up early and on the 5:55am train. There is a second train, daily, at 1:05pm, but as the jorney to Siem Reap can take up to 12 hours, I would avoid this train; you could be arriving in Siem Reap very late, which could cause problems with hostels, hotels and guest house arrivals, not to mention any delays getting through immigration.
The actual train journey can take up to six hours, so take some food and entertainment with you (books, ipod, etc).
- The journey from Aranyaprathet to the border.
Once you arrive at Aranyaprathet you are still nearly 4 miles (6km) from the border, so will need to secure a tuk tuk for this part of the journey. I don’t advise walking, particularly in the heat! You will need to negotiate the tuk tuk fare, which will be around 100bt, and make sure your driver drops you off at the actual border. Be warned, as the official Cambodia visa office is located after the Thai border exit (near the rather impressive entrance gate feature). Until you’re exiting Thailand, do not get your stamp from anywhere else. Do not go in these fake visa offices, as you will end up paying extra, The $30-$40 you pay (either before for an e-visa or on the day) is all you need to pay. Avoid the fraudsters!
So, here’s me in a tuk tuk. I look terrible, I have to admit. I’m drenched with sweat, already slightly delirious from the heat and looking like I’ve had about three hours sleep. All of these would be true!
- Exit Thailand, Enter Cambodia!
At the border exit you will find two queues, so get in the one for tourists, and not Thais. You will then get your official stamp in your passport from an official immigration officer. Make sure it IS stamped properly, for reasons I will share with you later. Depending on the time of the week this could take a while, so be prepared for long queues at certain times.
Your walk to the border will involve a walk across the ‘Friendship Bridge’ and under the ‘Welcome to Cambodia sign. At this point you’ll almost be home free! But don’t start kissing each other just yet. Just to remind you: If you haven’t bought a Cambodia e-visa in advance, now’s the time to get a Cambodia visa! Cambodia visas are available on the border for US $20 in the visa office after walking across the bridge. It’s a fixed proice, but this is Cambodia, so if you want your journey speeding up I’m sure you can add a few dollars on top of that for the privilege. What you will learn about this otherwise beautiful country, is that they will happily take your money at any given opportunity.
- On to Siem Reap!
I believe there is a free bus from Piopet to Siem Reap, but I only saw a bus for $10. Thisis the same amount I paid for an air conditioned taxi, which I shared with two others, One of them was a fascinating guy from India, who was a well travelled individual with lots of tales. This made the two hour journey to Siem Reap fly by. He was meeting his European girlfriend in Phnom Pehn the next day and his brother runs a decent guesthouse and bar in Siem Reap (‘The River Queen’) It’s amazing the amount of wonderful people you can meet if you’re open to the experience. We covered lots of topics, but I do strongly recall talking about tigers in India and how mind blowing India is, even for someone who was born there. If you leave for a few months and return, you’ll need extra time to re-acclimatise to the vibrant culture that is India. Goa is not India, was the final verdict on where to go if you want an authentic Indian experience.
Anyway, I digress! Back to Cambodia and the journey to Siem Reap! You’ll be in Piopet at this stage, and what a treat that will be. No, I’m not being serious. It’s ****ing awful. Piopet is like Mos Eisley in Star Wars or a cheap Western; a dust-bowl of a town with dodgy bars and casinos, and you will be glad to see the back of it. As I will tell you in a later blog, I had the misfortune to return!
Here are a few video recorded words of wisdom from me at the location:
- Arrival in Siem Reap.
Hopefully you’ve survived your journey and ultimately arrive unscathed in the French colonial styled town of Siem Reap, which I’ll tell you more about next time.
If you’ve followed these directions and it’s all worked out: well done! Go and get yourself a cool drink and relax! You made it!