It was finally time!
Our 30 incredible days in Thailand had come to a conclusion and after snorkeling with sea life, bathing with elephants, avoiding scorpions on a stick on Khao San Road and meeting lots of new people, it was time to hop on the bus and cross the border between Thailand and Cambodia.
I’ll be perfectly honest with you; we’d heard such horror stories about how unnerving it was to cross the border from Thailand into Cambodia, but was it really that bad?
Stay tuned to find out.
We arrived at the Travel Mart office at 8am. It was only a 5-minute walk from our hostel near Khao San Road so it’s very conveniently centrally located.
However, I was excited about this journey as it would give us our first taste of crossing land borders in Southeast Asia.
We showed the member of staff at Travel Mart our email confirmation booking reference and he gave us a paper ticket in exchange. According to our ticket, the bus was supposed to set off at 8:30am but we didn’t leave the Travel Mart office until 8:45am and then the bus didn’t depart until 9:15am. This is actually a very common occurrence when travelling in Asia.
However, as soon as we stepped on the bus, I knew that the journey was going to be a lot more enjoyable than any overnight bus we’d taken in Thailand.
Space, snacks and surfing the web
We located our seats which were right at the very front of the bus. Oftentimes, you can just sit anywhere on a long bus journey in Thailand, but we were given designated seat numbers this time and we weren’t complaining!
As our seats were at the very front of the bus, it meant that we had plenty of legroom; an absolute Godsend for my 6-foot-tall boyfriend who often struggles with space for his long legs when people recline their seats.
The staff on board the bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap were actually trainee tour guide students from Thailand and they did such an incredible job of ensuring that everyone was well catered for and looked after.
Shortly after departing the city, the staff came round with a packet of Oreos and a bottle of water each. They also came round to take pictures of our passports and to check our departure cards (you will receive one of these when landing in Thailand so make sure you keep hold of it!).
One great thing that I loved about the Travel Mart bus was that it had free Wi-Fi on board for the entire duration of the journey so it meant that I could get some work done for a couple of hours. As a travel blogger and freelance writer who travels full time, I always cherish the ability to get work done when I’m travelling by bus as it means that the long journey doesn’t feel wasted.
After a couple of hours of work, I decided it was time for a quick nap before the bus pulled over at 11:20am at a restaurant where you could purchase local Thai food such as curries and rice dishes for 40 Baht (around $1.28).
When we got back on the bus, the staff explained about the upcoming Visa and border crossing process. I just want to say again how helpful the staff was with answering any questions or issues anyone had. They told us that it’s $33USD per person for the Cambodian Visa on Arrival or 1,200 Thai Baht ($38.46). As you can see, it’s much better to pay in US Dollars if you can as otherwise you’ll be losing out on around $5.
Pro tip: Remember to get dollars in Bangkok before you depart as the currency exchange rate at the ATMs at the border is shocking. Go to the little currency exchange desk inside Rocco Bar on Khao San Road as we went to five different exchanges beforehand who all said they didn’t sell dollars. We also got a pretty good rate here.
The staff also said that they offered a service whereby they could expedite our Cambodian Visas for us, for an additional $7 per person; taking the total process up to $40USD each. By allowing the staff to do the Visa process for you, it means that they take your passports, fill in any forms, and you also don’t have to wait in the queues at immigration which can sometimes take between two to three hours!
After undertaking a lot of research before our journey, my boyfriend and I already knew we wanted the staff to take care of the Visa process for us as it seemed like a much simpler and stress-free way of entering Cambodia. You still have to go through the Thai immigration departure side of the border and show your passport to officials, but the staff takes care of the Cambodia Visa on Arrival and entry stamp.
At around 2pm, we arrived at the Thai/Cambodia Poipet border and were given further instructions on what we could expect from the whole process.
Crossing the border into Cambodia
1. We gave the staff our passports while we were on the bus so they could take all our details. Upon disembarking the bus, they gave us our passports back so we could go through Thai immigration.
2. We walked as a group to the Thai immigration area which is just a couple of minutes’ walk from the bus. You leave your big backpacks and suitcases on board the bus, but remember to take any valuables with you, just in case.
3. We queued up to get our passports checked by Thai immigration officials. This process took no longer than 10-minutes which was a pleasant surprise as we were expecting it to take much longer.
4. Once we were through, we waited for the other bus passengers at the “Duty Free” area where you can buy cigarettes and alcohol.
5. Next, we handed our passports back to the helpful bus staff who then walked us back to the bus which had pulled up outside the casino on the Cambodia side. We were able to go to the toilets inside the casino and then it was just a matter of waiting for the staff to take care of the visas.
The bus set off again towards Siem Reap just after 3pm and we could both finally relax with the knowledge that the whole process was taken care of. The staff returned our passports with our Cambodian visas and stamp inside and it was such a great feeling knowing that we’d had a pleasant experience, especially after hearing such bad things about it.
For the rest of the journey to Siem Reap, I watched some downloaded episodes on Netflix. The Cambodian countryside seemed a little desolate so there really wasn’t that much to look at.
The bus arrived in Siem Reap at 6:30 pm, an hour after the supposed arrival time but considering we’d heard that you can spend up to three hours waiting at the border, we thought this arrival time was pretty good.
There were numerous tuk tuks waiting when we arrived and we got one immediately to our hostel which was about a 15-minute drive away. We paid $2 for both of us which seemed like a pretty reasonable price and we were just so relieved to finally be there after an exhaustive day of travelling!