After 30 days in Thailand our visas were up and it was time for a run. A visa run that is. But instead of just crossing the border briefly before returning, we decided to take some time and explore another country.
First up was Cambodia so we could visit Siem Reap. There are a few things you must consider before traveling to Cambodia.
There are two main ways to get to Cambodia: fly or bus. Some people also take taxis but that seemed unnecessary and expensive. We opted to take a bus because it would save us quite a bit of money.
When is was time to leave Thailand, we were in Koh Phi Phi so the first order of business was to get back to Bangkok, a major transportation hub. We did so by taking a ferry to Krabi and then an overnight coach bus to Bangkok. All of our necessary tickets were bought for about 800 THB in a bundle at a tourism shop on our day of departure from Koh Phi Phi.
The overnight bus dropped us off on the side of a major road in Bangkok around 5 am so we had to take a taxi to the bus station where we booked our bus to Siem Reap. They also offer buses to Phnom Penh.
A few questions later, we were directed to the counter selling tickets to Cambodia. The important thing is to book a direct, or continuous, journey to Siem Reap so you don’t have to switch buses at the border. It will be slightly more expensive than the other ticket they offer that provides one bus to the border and another bus from the border to Siem Reap.
The indirect bus ticket only works if you have an e-visa. At the border we met two girls who had taken that journey and got left behind by the second bus while they were waiting with their visa on arrival applications.
Our bus waited inside the border for us all to go through the visa process.
In Southeast Asia you need a visa to stay in each country. Some place like Thailand provide you with a visa stamp on arrival without fees.
Other places, like Cambodia charge foreigners a fee for the visa. You can apply for an e-visa online in advance but we opted to apply for visas on arrival. The fees included $20 for a tourist visa plus a $4 service charge.
When our bus arrived at the border we were all offloaded and informed that the bus would be waiting two hours for us all to get through. First we had to go through Thai passport control to exit Thailand. This is fairly quick, especially if you’ve already filled out the exit form (provided along with an entry form when you arrive in Thailand). Stamp, stamp and we were off for the Cambodian side.
We walked through a seedy little “town” and spotted two signs: one for visa holders and the other for visas on arrival. We were directed into a little building with nothing but a window counter and a table. You fill out two forms and then queue in line to hand over some money, your passports and a form. Don’t forget to bring passport sized photos, they are required for the application. Also come with crisp US dollars for the fee (they will not accept old bills or bills with tears). A few people in line were able to pay with Thai baht.
The officials will grab your things and push you aside. We waited a bit and then they called our names, handing over our passports with a new shiny visa inside.
With our visas in hand we walked over to the last stop, Cambodian passport control, where we showed off our visas, posed for a mugshot and recorded our fingerprints. This was the longest part because no one seemed to understand how to give their fingerprints on the electronic reader. Stamp, stamp and we were done.
Finally out of line, we climbed back on our bus which was parked right outside of passport control and headed into Cambodia.
One of the perks of the direct bus ticket was that it included a free tuk tuk transfer to our hostel upon arrival. Our big coach bus arrived into downtown Siem Reap, not too far from Pub Street.
When we hopped off and got into a tuk tuk the man tried to charge us $2. I informed our bus driver of this so he spoke with the tuk tuk driver and made sure we got a free ride.
We spent over 24 hours traveling from Koh Phi Phi to Siem Reap but it really wasn’t that bad. I’ve read horror stories about crossing the Cambodian border, getting stuck there over night or having to take a taxi after the border but with our direct bus ticket we didn’t run into any of those issues.
Without a doubt flying is the easiest way to enter a country because the airports will have a smooth visa process and handle the paperwork for you when you arrive. If you are willing to take the time to save a lot of money though, the direct bus is definitely the way to go.
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