The Bangkok-Siem Reap route is infamous in backpacking circles. A Bangkok based airline has a monopoly on flights, inflating the price, and was rumored to have been paying off the Cambodian government to delay the paving of highway N6 which runs between the Thai border and Siem Reap. The road was finally completed in the middle of last year, cutting travel time from 6 hours to 2, but there are still other hazards to the crossing.
A long running scam involves buses from Bangkok to Siem Reap taking as long as possible to do the trip, sometimes detouring to a further border crossing. The bus company gets a comission from the Siem Reap guesthouse where it drops travellers off; the later that is, the more likely you are to stay there. As a result, there are horror stories of 20 hour trips.
We went the independent route, taking a train to Aranyaprathet then spending the night, a tuktuk to the border in the morning and shared a taxi from there to Siem Reap.
Before technically ‘arriving’ in Cambodia there are several casinos, hundreds of touts and many people pushing heavily loaded carts back and forth on the dusty road across the border. Cambodian visas are $20 on arrival, but that doesn’t mean that everyone won’t still try to make an extra buck or two.
Our tactic to expedite the Visa process involved an “express fee” of 100 Thai Baht each (lowered from the initial asking price of 2500 baht for two visas, about double their actual cost). Once that was out of the way we watched our passports immediately receive 30 day Visa stickers. Walking further down the same dirt road with casinos they would actually get stamped. At this point we’d ‘arrived’ in Poipet, Cambodia. Now all we had to do was negotiate a reasonable cab fare to Siem Reap…