We took a bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap on Sunday 25th April. Our Thailand visa ran out on this day, so it was important to leave, otherwise we would get charged 500 Baht (£10) for each day we over stayed our visa.
We organised our bus with our hotel. It cost us 950 Baht (£19) each. We were in a rush to get a bus as our visa was running out. We later found out, that if we had got our bus ticket from Khao San Road, that we would of got it for a lot cheaper. It should have been about 300-400 baht (£6-£8) each. So it is best to shop around. Also remember if you get it with your hotel they will be taking a commission, so it will cost a lot more!
We were picked up by a taxi from our hotel at 7 am and dropped off on Khao San Road. We had a guy following the taxi on a moped. He works for the bus company, to make sure we get on the bus. We were told we would be getting a coach, but we were led to a small mini bus, seating 12 people. We weren’t happy about this, as the mini bus option was a cheaper price; we purposely paid for the coach.
We set off at around 8.00 am. The journey from Bangkok to the Poi Pet border, took around 4 hours. We were dropped off at a travel agent shop, near the Poi Pet border. We were all greeted by 3 members of staff, who gave us an arrival card to fill out and a visa form. You can apply for your Cambodian Visa on the border, so we were confused as to why we had stopped here. We soon realised what was happening. The bus company drop you off at this travel agent, where they tell you that you need to get your visa here. They charge you 1200 Baht (£24), and they drive to the border with your forms and passports and get your visas for you. We were all confused and at one point everyone from the bus, stood up and said ‘This isn’t the official place to get our visa’s’. A man from the UK was amongst us, and reassured us that it was ok as he had done this many times, and got his visa through them. He explained that they charge you a little extra, for the service of going to get your visa, but that he felt it saved a lot of hassle at the border.
In the end we just decided to go with it, as the guy had reassured us. Well we got our visa ok. The guy came back on the bike with all our passports, with the visas inside.
Once everyone was ready, they walked us to the border. We were told that it was too busy at the border and that’s why we have to fill our forms out with them. Well we still had to queue when we got there, and would have had plenty time to fill out two forms in a queue that we have to stand in anyway.
Although it worked out fine getting the visa with them, we wouldn’t do it again. When you get to the border you can pick up the forms you need for your visa. You just need to fill in an arrival and departure card, and a visa form. You need to make sure you have two passport photos for your visa. Also take some dollars with you. The price of the visa on the border is $20 or 1100 baht .They were charging us 1200 baht . So when they tell you they are only charging an extra 100 baht it doesn’t seem so bad, however 1100 baht is $35 Dollars. So if you pay at the border with dollars, you save yourself 450 Baht ($15).
These agents make sure they pay in Dollars. So in total they are making 550 Baht per application.
On top of this they try to get you to take out 10,000 Baht (£200) on the Thai side of the border, we didn’t fall for this but many in our group did. They will tell you that cash machines in Cambodia only give out Dollars at a bad exchange rate. When you get across the border, they get you to change your 10,000 Baht into Cambodian Riel (at a very bad rate). They will tell you it’s the best place to change it. However Cambodia mostly deals in US dollars. Everything in shops and restaurants is priced in Dollars and all cash machines only dispense US Dollars. You will get a more competitive rate when you change your Dollars in the country and not at the border. The travel agent must be getting a commission for persuading us to change our money at the border! They were very persuasive and when I told him I was going to wait till I get to Cambodia, he said but there are hardly any cash machines and you will get a bad rate. These were all lies. There are loads of Cash machines in Siem Reap!
The bus journey from Poi Pet to Siem Reap took about 4 hours. We stopped half way at a café for about 45 Minutes. We were told we had to get off the bus. The only place we could sit was in the Café where you are pressured to buy food and drink. This must have been another commission stop!
We arrived In Siem Reap about 6pm. We were dropped off in a field (apparently Siem Reap bus station) where there were 5 Tuk Tuk (Taxi’s) waiting for us. The host on the bus directed us all to our Tuk Tuk. The host had been talking to us on the bus, telling us that when we get to the bus station a Tuk Tuk will take us to find a hotel and also organise a tour of Angkor Temples for us. We didn’t fancy paying for a Tuk Tuk and being hassled like this. So we decided to try and make our own way. We saw a sign saying Siem Reap Centre so headed towards that. We were in a built up area within 20 minutes of walking. We finally found our guesthouse and checked in to our room.
We are staying in Ta Som Guesthouse in Siem Reap. It costs $12 a night. The room is a good size and very comfortable. It also has Wifi and breakfast is included.
It was hard work getting here, with all the hassle from people, however Siem Reap is a very nice city and the Angkor Temples are more than stunning. We will write all about our adventures around the Angkor Temples in our next Blog.
What you need for your Cambodian Visa
2 Passport photos
$20 or 1100 Baht (£24)
500 Baht (£10) for everyday you have over stayed your Visa
Will power to not give in to touts and people who will try and con you!
Smile and patience
Paul and Ruth