Travelling between Thailand and Cambodia over land has always been a scam prone adventure. There are endless stories of tourists getting ripped off by way of a super expensive “official” Cambodia visa even before the bus arrives at a Cambodia border. Also the buses leaving for Siem Reap from the Khao San area in Bangkok are often called “scam buses” because of their variable pricing & the stuffing of tourists into small vans after crossing into Cambodia and even mis-selling of hotels in Siem Reap by the bus staff. However in the present day, one has the option of avoiding most of these scams by taking a “Company Direct VIP Bus” for road travel between Bangkok and Siem Reap / Phnom Penh. In this article I will share all the essential details and my personal experience of a road trip from Siem Reap to Bangkok in a “Company Direct VIP Bus”. Please note that this option is way more expensive as compared to the cheaper bus/van combos that start at approximately USD 10 per person. This VIP service operated by Nattakan Cambodia Co., Limited in Cambodia and The Transport Company in Bangkok costs USD 28 per person one-way including a free pickup from your hotel, a frugal “breakfast” and a packed “rice/curry” lunch. The ride starts at 8.00am in Siem Reap and ends in Bangkok Mo Chit Terminal after 4.00pm.
Buying of Tickets
Nattakan used to have their own office on Sivatha Road near KFC but that is now gone. So, only hotels/agents sell these tickets. But there is a good news that one can buy a ticket at the official price from the office of Mekong Express. Please read this for details on Mekong so that you can locate their office. By the way, Mekong Express have thir own van service for this trip so you may compare the price and other things.
The Direct Bus
The people at the place where you buy your ticket from will guide you on the departure location and free pickup, etc. Luggage is stored by the staff in the compartment in the bottom part of the bus but no tags or tokens are given as acknowledgement.
When I did this trip, the bus started 15 minutes late, at 8.15am. The seats in the bus were comfortable and it was more than half empty so there was no one on the seat next to me. There was a toilet in the bus that was really clean. The first leg of the trip is from Siem Reap to Poipet, the border check-point. Its a 150 km distance and takes about 2 hours to cover. Each passenger was given an ID sort of thing to hang around the neck for identification at the border.
The breakfast that Nattakan served was a few chocolate cookies from a Banana Bakery and a choice of fruit juice or a cold coffee can. I chose the cold coffee and it was good. This breakfast will obviously not fill you up so better carry some snack with you. Lunch will not be until after 1.00pm.
Poipet Border Post
At Poipet Border crossing, our bags were returned to us and we were told to approach the Cambodia Immigration Departure Counters. There were queues before those counters but cleared quickly except the one that I was in. The immigration officer on that counter was busy chatting with his friends sitting inside and took unduly long to clear each tourist. When I finnaly reached him, I leant why he was slow. This guy appeared slow on purpose because he was asking some funny questions. He asked me about Thai visa. When I told me that I would take Visa on Arrival, he told me to go there first, take the Visa on Arrival and then come back for the departure stamp from Cambodia. That was clearly the dumbest thing that I had ever heard at an immigration counter in any country (Read about Camobdia Visa scams here). I tried to explain that it would not be possible for me to arrive into Thailand before departing from Cambodia. A few moments later, perhaps wisdome dawned on him and he quickly stamped my passport. I was on my way to the Thai Border Post.
Thailand Border Passport Control / Visa / Immigration
The way to the Thai Border Post is a wide road with footpaths on both the sides. For going towards Thailand, one is supposed to walk on the left side footpath and enter the building in the above picture. The Visa on Arrival / Thai immigration counters are on the first floor after a big staircase. Carrying one’s luggage on those steps does take some effort. Immigration queues here are long but for the lucky ones who need to take Visa on Arrival, the process is way faster because the visa and immigration happen in a single step. Visa officials ask for the visa fee THB 2000 even before handing over the visa application form.
Board the Nattakan Bus Again
After completing Visa / Immigration procedure, just walk out where some Customs officials with their X-ray machine may or may not stop you. There is a wide road again. The bus stop where the Nattakan bus waits is at the first big left turn. Its a long wait, about 2 hours because they wait for everyone. The luggage is stored in the bus again. There are drinks / snacks stalls, tourist police and taxi counters, etc. on the road outside the bus stop.
The bus starts from the border post and after a while stops again in front of this 7-Eleven. I bought my Thailand prepaid sim card at this 7-Eleven. They even had tourist sim cards. Lunch was a packed Chicken Curry and White Rice along with a bottle of water. This was a smelly meal and since in any case I am vegetarian, I gave away the meal to someone needy I saw on the way. Lunch is supposed to be eaten in the bus itself. There is no stop after the border crossing. Once the bus enters Bangkok, it slows down due to traffic.
Arrival at Mochit Bus Terminal
That day the bus arrived at Mochit at around 4.30pm. There are tuk-tuk/taxi stands for going to Mochit BTS Staion or anywhere else in Bangkok. If you plan to go to Pattaya directly from there, there are buses at Mochit Terminal itself.
At the end of the trip I felt that this direct bus service though very comfortable had in a way taken the adventure out of this trans-national road trip. And I also wondered why there were so few people in the bus. Maybe USD 28 per person sounded a little too much.