Seat61 has been my travelling Bible for this entire journey, and it has yet to fail me. However, his method of getting across to Siem Reap seemed like it could be made a lot more simple, so we opted for a VIP bus instead of the train/ tuk tuk/ bus option that he recommended. We made this decision pretty last minute and ended up paying 550 Baht each, which worked out a little less than his method, but others on our bus paid 250 – 350 so definitely look around, there are more than enough travel agencies in Khao San Road alone to get a good deal.
I’ve read countless horror stories about the international journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap. The border crossing at Poi Pet is infamous for its touts and scam artists, but I can’t help but feel it’s been painted in an extremely bad light and that if you have your wits about you and do your research, then you will have no issues whatsoever.
The journey itself was pleasant; an air conditioned mini van and then a larger coach on the other side of the border – there can be no complaints made about this.
Just before the border we alighted the minivan, on request, at what I initially thought was a restaurant but turned out to be offices. The drivers and workers at the office proceeded to separate us into our individual pairs/ groups and took us into separate rooms. It was then that alarms bells instantly started ringing and I knew this was one of the Visa scams I had read about so many times before (if you just do your research, you will be fine). As suspected, the man behind the desk tried to inadvertently take our passports by asking us to prove our nationality. Knowing what was going on, I questioned why and he then told us we had to buy a Visa there and that we couldn’t purchase one at the border. When we questioned further he became incredibly agitated and told us that we were disrespectful, foul et cetera. Whether he was truly offended or not remains to be solved, but in my opinion it was an attempt to intimidate us Ito buying the Visas. The most important thing is to not back down, just say you’ll buy your Visa at the border and they’ll take you there. He was angry, and I can understand how it would be intimidating, but just hold your own.
We got dropped at the border crossing by the same driver who brought us from Bangkok with no more issues and proceeded to pass through immigration and the Visa Centre.
On the other side of the Poipet border we were taken in a new shuttle bus to a bus station where we had to wait a couple of hours for our connection bus. As we waited, more and more of our fellow passengers from Bangkok began to arrive and told us they had bought Visas in Thailand. Thankfully, they were legitimate, but cost them an extra $7 each than us.
Moral of the story: don’t buy a Cambodian Visa in Thailand. They will either sell you fake papers or charge you an inflated rate, so just wait until the border.
Poi Pet itself was bizarre; there was a street market between immigration checkpoints as well as a casino and a load of shops. There is a motorbike service from point A to B if you don’t want to carry your luggage, and you can definitely find something to occupy your time if you have a long stopover.
Just read up on the crossing, know what to expect, how you’re expected to behave, and you really will be fine. We booked our tickets extremely last minute, hence our twice the price tickets, but if you’re organised and book in advance you will not spend more money than necessary. The Wiki Travel page on Poipet is exceptionally helpful, as well as Seat61 – be sure to give them a read if you’re going to be using the crossing in the near future!