Traveling 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. They have moved to another place in town. 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 their own van service for this trip so you may compare the price and other things.
Nattakan Siem Reap Phone Numbers
070 877 727*
087 877 727*
070 999 666*
*These phone numbers are sourced from Nattakan’s Facebook page, and I am not sure if these are accurate. There is a Nattakan website link on that Facebook page and that website is nothing but malware. You need not visit Nattakan’s Facebook page and if you do visit, please do not click their website name. There is no official website, only malware.
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 was from Siem Reap to Poipet, the border check-point. Its was a 150 km distance and took about 2 hours to cover.
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 would 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 inside and took unduly long to clear each tourist. When I finally reached him, I learnt 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). Perhaps it was his way of asking for a bribe. 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 wisdom 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 was a wide road with footpaths on both the sides. For going towards Thailand, I was supposed to walk on the left side footpath and enter the building in the above picture. The Visa on Arrival / Thai immigration counters were on the first floor after a big staircase. Carrying my luggage on those steps did take some effort. Immigration queues here were long but for the lucky ones who needed to take Visa on Arrival, the process was way faster because there was no queue and the visa & immigration happened in a single step.
Board the Nattakan Bus Again
After completing Visa / Immigration procedure, I walked out where some Customs officials with their X-ray machine were seated but they did not stop me. There was a wide road again. The bus stop where the Nattakan bus awaited me was at the first big left turn. It was a long wait, about 2 hours because they waited for everyone. The luggage was stored in the bus again. There were drinks / snacks stalls, tourist police and taxi counters, etc. on the road outside the bus stop.
The bus started from the border post and after a while stopped 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 I am vegetarian, I gave away the meal to someone needy I saw on the way. Lunch was supposed to be eaten in the bus itself. There was no stop after the border crossing. Once the bus entered Bangkok, it got slow due to traffic.
Arrival at Mochit Bus Terminal
That day the bus arrived at Mochit at around 4.30pm.
There were tuk-tuk/taxi stands for going to Mochit BTS Staion or anywhere else in Bangkok. For going to Pattaya directly, there were buses/vans 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.