Thailand to Cambodia: Scams at the Border

Thailand to Cambodia Border crossing scams

Our border crossing from Thailand into Cambodia was not the roughest ever, but it wasn’t exactly a picnic either.

Border crossings can sometimes be a hassle, even for the most patient and experienced travelers. We have crossed numerous borders via land, air, and water, mostly without a hitch. The worst we had experienced in most places were long lines, and on occasion, some long lines in bad weather. We had also never been direct targets of a scam during our previous years of travel. That was about to change, however.

We booked passage via minibus from Bangkok to the Cambodian border. From there we were going to hop on an easy bus to Siem Reap. We were not expecting anything too hectic. Our research told us we should prepare for a long day of travel, and some annoying touts on the Cambodian side of the border crossing. Nothing new, simple enough.

Instead we ended up experiencing the most frustrating and draining border crossing of our lives. The road from Bangkok to Siem Reap turned out to be paved with scam after scam after scam.

But before we get into the dirty details here are the various overland options we found to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap.

Getting From Bangkok to Siem Reap

Avoiding scams while crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia

Option 1 – Cost 300 baht ($9.38): Minibus, Walking, Cambodian Government Bus

Step 1: Take a comfortable, air conditioned minibus from our hotel in Bangkok, Thailand to the border town of Aranyaprathet, Thailand. Approximate duration, 4 hours

Step 2: Cross the border on foot, get visa, pass through Thai and Cambodia customs. Approximate duration, 2 – 5 hours

Step 3: Once Past the border take a large Cambodian government bus from Poipet, Cambodia to Siem Reap, Cambodia.  Approximate duration, 4 hours

Option 2 – Cost 600 baht ($18.75): Minibus, Walking, Taxi

Step 1: Take a comfortable, air conditioned minibus from our hotel in Bangkok, Thailand to the border town of Aranyaprathet, Thailand. Approximate duration, 4 hours

Step 2: Cross the border on foot, get visa, pass through Thai and Cambodian customs. Estimated Time: Approximate duration, 2-5 hours

Step 3: Once past the border take a taxi from Poipet, Cambodia to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Estimated time: Approximate duration, 2 hours

Option 3 – Cost 750 baht ($23.47): Thai Government Bus

Step 1: Direct Thai Government Bus from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Approximate duration, 8 – 10 hours. Bus takes you from Bangkok, Thailand to the town of Aranyaprathet, Thailand, drops you off, and picks you up on the opposite side in Poipet, Cambodia and transports you to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Being cost conscious budget travelers, we chose Option 1 and boarded a minibus at 8:00 am expecting to arrive in Siem Reap at around 7:00 pm.

And now, the Scams.

SCAM: The comfortable, air conditioned minibus from Bangkok to the border.

We were sold a ticket on a comfortable, air conditioned minibus. What we ended up with was a sweltering minibus packed with thirteen people and their luggage that filled bit of free space since there was no rear compartment or rooftop rack for storage.

Unfortunately, we managed to be assigned the most uncomfortable seats on the bus. When we boarded we crammed ourselves into the only available seats in the very back row. At first it wasn’t so bad because we had the entire row to ourselves. Of course, this luxury didn’t last. The driver stopped and picked up four additional passengers which meant we had to shoved over into the back left hand corner of the bus. Our seats were far away from the barely working air conditioner vents and on top of a burning hot wheel well.

Cambodia Scams at the Border
I think this fire was burning under our seat!

After about 20 minutes we asked the driver if he could turn the air conditioning up because we were melting into our seats. He refused and yelled “No, the engine go BOOM!”. All requests to open a window were also denied but without explanation. We were stuck riding in a sweaty sardine can for the duration of the trip to the border! This is not the trip described to us when we bought our tickets.

SCAM – I HAVE to refuel…every 30 minutes.

Our driver, who must have been practicing for Formula One tryouts, took to the bumpy highway like his skin was on fire and the border was host to the only resource of water in the entire country. We were actually pretty happy about this because between our personal puddles of ass sweat and feeling like the walls of the van were closing in on us, we didn’t want to be in there any longer than we had to.

We stopped for gas not long into the trip and were informed, with a laminated sign printed in English, that Thai law mandates we disembark while the van was being fueled. Everyone obeyed, some of us bought snacks and drinks, the van was fueled, we re-boarded, and were on our way. Thirty minutes later we stopped for gas again, and again, and again.

The drivers and/or the transportation companies have some sort of deal worked out with these stations. In exchange for a discount they bringing hordes of tourists to them each day that usually spend what remaining Baht they might have at each stop.

SCAM – The price of a Cambodian Visas just went up.

This is one of the more popular scams you will encounter when crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia.

After about four or five stops at various gas stations, we finally stopped at a little restaurant somewhere near the Thailand-Cambodia border. We were once again told to vacate the van, but this time instructed to take all of our belongings with us. We were then told (politely) to sit down at a table and were given menus to order lunch from while we waited.

A friendly Cambodian man, who turned out to be the master of scams, handed out visa applications and border crossing forms, asked us to fill them out, and insisted on checking the details of each so we wouldn’t have any issues at the border. He went around the tables and asked everyone where they were from and if they had ever been to Cambodia.

He then told us that the cost of the Cambodia Visa was $45.00. Having done research beforehand, we contested but he insisted that the fee had just gone up in the last month. It was true, the fee had gone up recently but not to $45.00. In fact, the real cost was $30.00 and we knew we were essentially paying him to get our Cambodia visas for us. Not a big deal since we would avoid some of the hassle involved and potentially save a few extra hours at the border.

The problem we did have with all of this is that we had no choice in the matter whatsoever. Not once were we told we could handle the application on our own and save a few bucks. We were forced to hang out at a restaurant and wait, with no way to find the visa office on our own.

Cambodia Thailand Border

SCAM – There are NO ATMs in Cambodia…well there are a few but they charge an insane fee!

Once we had our Cambodia visa in hand, everyone got back into the same mini-van, with our bags…all wondering why we were forced to remove them earlier.

Our new friend/border crossing guide gave us all a quick Cambodian language and culture lesson, and warned us to watch our bags and pockets carefully because the border was rampant with pickpockets and people looking to rob us…unlike him.

The van stopped in front of a bank and we disembarked for the last time. Our new friend huddled us in a circle and informed us that the ATMs in Cambodia charge a $15.00 fee per transaction, that they only gave USD, and that he strongly advised that we get Thai Baht before we crossed the border. We could then change it at the bus station we were headed to for a near-zero percent exchange rate. He also explained that there were only three ATMs in all of Siem Reap, none of which were located at the station we would be dropped off at. Since the station was 4 kilometers from civilization he warned that we better get some cash now!

Every bit of that speech was total BULLSHIT. There are ATMs all over Siem Reap, and not a single one charges an abnormal transaction fee. In fact some don’t even charge a fee!

SCAM – You can be a VIP!

Cambodia Thailand Scams

We went through the Cambodia visa stamping line and again met up with our guide. He took us down the road to wait in a second line where we would have our passports scrutinized, and our Thai departure cards reviewed and stamped.

He told us that it would take about over a hour but if we wanted to spend 200 Baht on the VIP line we could zip through in a matter of seconds.

The VIP Line is real but the normal (free) departure line takes nowhere near an hour to get through. We were on the other side in about 30 minutes.

SCAM – Taxi from the Border is Soooo fast and nice and is only 600 Baht

Unfortunately our Cambodian friend found us again, told us that the shuttle to the bus station was ready, and informed us that the bus from the border to Siem Reap would take about five hours. Luckily we could take a taxi for 600 baht (twice the fee we paid for the entire trip) and get to Siem Reap in about an hour and a half.

Despite being tired, cranky, and ready for the day to end we declined, boarded the shuttle and headed to the bus station. Once there we were urged over and over again to exchange any Baht we had now because it was our last chance and the rate was REALLY low. Our resistance did not sit well with our friend and for the first time his demeanor revealed that he wasn’t happy with our group. Finally, when he realized we had all decided not to trust his advice, and when he thought no one was looking, he hopped on a scooter and rode off without a goodbye.

SCAM – The bus takes five hours, or maybe the rest of your life if traffic is bad!

We boarded the bus which was a huge, and by comparison to the minivan, extremely comfortable. We were told by a new guide/friend/trickster, who would be joining us from the border to Siem Reap, that the ride would be at least 5 hours if we were lucky. The good news was that we would stop in about an hour and a half for dinner at a nice little restaurant along the way.

We did, in fact stop at a restaurant where we were met by other cranky and fed-up tourists who also expected to be in Siem Reap by that time (it was past 7:00 pm). We complained to each other about how frustrating the border crossing was and exchanged stories about the scams we had experienced while we waited for the driver to finish what was probably a free meal. We finally boarded the bus again and were in Siem Reap about 45 minutes later. Total bus ride – 2.5 hours.

SCAM – Free tuk tuk to your hotel!!

Cambodia Thailand Scams at the border

When we got on the bus for the second time, our guide asked everyone where we were staying. He told us he would arrange for a tuk tuk to take us to our hotel for a good price, or for free if we wanted to hire the driver to tour us around the city the next day. Being completely fed up with everything we had experienced that day we refused his offer, much to his displeasure.

Once we finally arrived in Siem Reap we easily grabbed an available tuk tuk and headed to our hotel in the center…which was less than a five minute drive away. We could barely even respond to the driver as he promised he had a better hotel for us that was even closer to town. Of course, he didn’t mention the commission he would get if we stayed at his hotel.

We finally got to our wonderful and cheap hotel, threw our bags into our room, and stumbled down the street to the nearest restaurant for our first meal of the day. We were tired, hungry, dirty, and felt completely violated.

Luckily the 50 cent beers helped wash away memories of the experience and for the first time all day we felt happy. We were finally in Cambodia and couldn’t wait to explore Siem Reap.

Randi at the Cambodian Border
That smile is fake.

Avoiding Scams when crossing the border from Thailand into Cambodia

Now that we’ve suffered through the crappiest border crossing of our lives we feel we can safely recommend some alternate routes of transportation between Bangkok and Siem Reap.

Option A – Fly

best way to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap

You can find one-way flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap for about $80.00, even if you book only a few days in advance. This is by far the most expensive option but it is also the fastest. Make sure you get your Cambodia visa online ahead of time for an even faster journey. Cost is $30 for the Visa and $7 for processing fees.

Option B – Thailand Government Bus

Boy are we kicking ourselves for not fully exploring this option before committing to the the hassles we embroiled ourselves in. By all accounts this bus departs from Bangkok’s Mochit 2 Bus Station daily at 9:00 am. You are taken straight to the border, and the bus crew can help you get your Visa if you did not obtain one online ahead of time. They wait for everyone to cross, pick passengers up on the Cambodian side of the border, and head straight to Siem Reap. Easy peasy. The cost is 750 Baht (about $24.00 USD) and we reckon it’s totally worth it.

Option C – Do What We Did BUT…

Scams at the border

If your main concern is money and you still want to take the same transport option we did (because you’re crazy?), we strongly recommend you get your Cambodia visa online ahead of time and be highly skeptical of everything your guides tells you along the way.

Also, try to make friends with your fellow travelers. It’s always good to have another pair of eyes or someone to run a fishy bit of info by. Who knows, you might also pick up a travel partner or make a lifelong friend or two!

Good luck and safe travels!

Did you find Thailand to Cambodia: Scams at the Border to be helpful? Have you experienced any scams while crossing the Thai/Cambodia border? Leave a comment below and let us know about it!

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The road from Bangkok Thailand to Siem Reap Cambodia is paved with scams. Here is what you need to know before making the trip!


14 thoughts on “Thailand to Cambodia: Scams at the Border

  1. For anyone doing this overland journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap

    You can get a train ticket from Bangkok Station for a train that goes all the way to Aranyaprathet at 5.55am every day and it only cost about $2USD or 48 Baht

    once you get to aranyaprathet barter a tuk tuk between 50-70 baht and just tell them to take you to the border.

    They will take you to a stupid Cambodian Consulate. If they do just say your looking around town and make a run to the official border crossing. Get stamped out of Thailand

    Once your out of Thailand you simple walk to Cambodian Immigration and apply for your visa there. I haven’t do this trip yet but i know what to doo

    Also the Scammer will make bullshit up that you have to use Cambodian Riel instead of USD and they even ask money for some stupid health test

  2. Yes, go the above route! We did it in Feb 2015 and it was actually so easy that I was a bit uneasy waiting for all the big scams I’d read about to eventually rear their ugly head…but they never did. We took a taxi to the train station–even though it’s early in the morning and there may not be too many drivers around, be sure to go with a driver that will turn on the meter. The flat rate we were quoted turned out to be triple the cost on the meter, as usual.

    The train is reliable and exceptionally cheap. It just takes a long time but leaving at 5:55 am gives you lots of time to work with so it’s fine. When we got off the train, there were plenty of tuk tuks there but also a big truck that everyone piled into the back of for like 50 cents each or something crazy cheap. Not sure if this is always available or just happened to be on that day but worth waiting for or asking around. This truck drove us directly to Thai immigration, no scammy stops. From there we just walked ourselves through to the correct Cambodian immigration office for our visa application. Outside of the obligatory “processing fee” (i.e. bribe) there was no scam or hustle involved the whole way.

    I think the difference is that on the train/back of the truck we were traveling with locals instead of just other tourists. Through that trip (and many others through SE Asia after that) we learned that you should plan to do whatever you can to avoid being on transport with only tourists as this is where you seem to get the real run-around. From what we gathered in SE Asia, buying anything through travel agencies is always a losing situation because you usually end up in the above situation.

    After border, transport was a little confusing and I’m not quite sure I totally understand all the options available but right after clearing customs there was a free shuttle taking you to a bus stop for transport into Siem Reap. They were asking for 10USD/pp but it’s worth making friends with other travellers in the long immigration line because if there is enough of you, turns out you can barter for your own minibus from this stop. Due to some hardcore haggling by another couple in our group, we ended up paying $5 ea for 6 people to Siem Reap. Though the bus stop people were none too happy, it can be done.

    Ultimately the entire process cost something like $10 for transport all the way from our hotel in Bangkok to Siem Reap. Of course this was just our experience on that day so may not hold true every day, but definitely the train/truck combo was perfect for avoiding the unpleasantness of this notoriously crappy border crossing. Highly reccomended route from someone who has done it recently!

    1. That’s pretty great info Ash, definitely agree that you should make friends while on line and watch each other’s backs while crossing and once on the other side. The mini bus option wasn’t an option for us at the time we crossed but maybe we failed to keep our eyes open for it. Thank you for sharing!

  3. thanks guys!! Awesome info I was surprised to finally find what I’m wanting to hear/read!!
    Just wondering if the station is called ‘Bangkok railway station’ just want to make sure I’m telling the taxi driver to go to the right station. And assuming the desks are open this early to buy a ticket, or is it all just done on the train? Also approx how long does the journey take?
    Just hoping I can snag this cheap truck to Thai immigration, or the tuk tuk drivers understand enough English to understand I’m ‘just looking’ or better yet actually just take me to the official immigration.
    One last thing, once clearing customs, however I manage to get to siem reap – minibus/shuttle, I won’t have a hostel booked, anybody have some suggestions?! Sorry for all the questions!! Thanks 🙂

  4. Sorry I just found some good info if anyone else needs! http://www.seat61.com/Cambodia.htm#.VeW3AlJXfCQ

    Still open to hostel suggestions though 🙂

    1. Nicole, glad you are all sorted! We highly recommend Mad Monkey Hostels in Siem Reap. So highly we wrote an article about them =)

      http://www.justapack.com/why-mad-monkey-might-be-the-best-hostel-in-the-world-its-not-for-the-reasons-you-may-think/

  5. January 15 2016 -day trip to Ching Chom for visa stamp
    Drive our car from Prasat 49 minutes good road. Parked car in car park 50 baht crossed border cambodian guy offers to help got to visa place no photo so paid 100 baht filled out forms etc then visa office said 1500 baht complained and said 1000 baht on Internet old price not much we could do finally was taken into office to meet very stern looking senior guy apparently he was considering my complaint he opened a big far wallet stuffed with that baht and reluctantly gave me 200 back
    Profuse thanks and off to stamping line paid another 300 baht to go fast
    Finally all over thanked our guide gave him 100 baht and popped into the huge casino for a coffee then returned to Thailand
    How nice to deal with polite smiling officials who don’t rip you off
    Cambodia forget it never want to go there again what a xxxx hole

  6. July 12, 2016
    I’m currently in the bus on my way to Siem Reap with my girlfriend. Definitely a different experience for everyone involved. We boarded a bus at the Mochit 2 station and paid 1500 baht for both of us. They gave us food in the bus which was nice but it was obviously shitfood. Before we get to Poi Pet a guy comes in and asks everyone to give them 1400 baht for some fucking papers, everyone is a foreigner and refuses lol my girl was the only one who almost said yes, he tells us “its okay” then we are told to get off the bus and as soon as we are off a guy asks us if we need photo, we say yes (make sure you have a passport photo before you cross to Cambodia) he takes us into this tiny shop we get our photos taken and get charged 200 baht. SCAM. Then we leave to the departure site and we realize we didn’t have a departure ticket so we freak out until we get to the front of the line (10 mins – remember to have that ready, the lady at the office almost didn’t want to let us through) then we cross into Cambodia and there’s naked children with sores running around. We get to the visa place and are asked to pay 30 USD and 100 baht. We don’t care we just want to leave so we pay. What is messed up is that it was one of the officials scamming us. Then we get the arrival ticket and fill it out and go back in the bus. Cambodia is a very poor country as far as we have seen. I’m still on the bus on our way to Siem Reap so we will see what happens. Overall the process to get through the border took us 30-45 minutes. Much less if we had taken our passport photos with us.
    Safe trip everyone!

  7. My boyfriend and I just did this crossing from Bangkok to Siem reap. We actually started in Ko panangh after a full moon party and were so exhausted and just wanted to get there. We ran into all these scams and wish I woulda read this article earlier as I got dooped a few times. Know how much Cambodian visa fee is ahead of time cause he guy told us that it was 50 $ because he was “expediting the processing fee” that’s complete bullshit and it should only be 20 USD. He also told us to pull out baht and exchange all our baht for riel as its no exchange fees and they like Riel not USD. That’s shit as well as there’s tons of ATMs all over Siem reap and it only dispenses USDs and being an American this scam really pissed me off. Fact is they only want you to use USD as currency there not the riel. Also they will have you pay extra after the border to board a bus that will drop you off exactly at your hotel and after several long bus rides with air conditioners leaking on your head this seemed very pleasant as we just wanted to be there already. This in fact does not happen as a bus will drop you at a point win several tuk tuks waiting to take you to your hotel, NOT dropped off at your hotel. We could have walked actually once we were dropped off finally. I guess my advice would be to just say NO every time but after 48 hours of bus travel and waiting for buses and restaraunt stops I guess exhaustion kicks in and you loose sense of what’s really going on. Funny thing is, I’ve traveled to Siem reap before 8 years earlier and it was a breeze, atm at customs dispensed 20$usds and that was that. And I was through customs in under 30 minutes. But do bring passport photos with you as you do need them.

    This was a great article and thanks for sharing, just wish I woulda read it a few days earlier!

  8. Now. Koh Chang to Siam Reap. I crossed yesterday and i managed to talk a fellow traveller into the taxi option from the border and we ended up paying 12.50$ each and he dropped us off right at our place. Needles to say, the scammers are very intimidating, try to split people so they dont form groups and dont inform eachother, and as a solo female i didnt have the courage to speak to all the poor souls filling out scam forms. And there was a lot of them. But i was screamed at, and if 5 men give you dirty looks, you do shut up. Oh and the guy on cambodian side of the border was just plain nasty. People please, research before you go anywhere, thats what internet is for!! And stay in groups, talk to eachother,get e-visa(that one shuts them up for a minute- a little victory of mine, worth the money). Just please dont let them scare you into anything, they have no right to do so. Btw dont worry, once you leave the border, all will be fine, Cambodians are great

    1. Lucia, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sorry to hear that things haven’t changed since we did the crossing. But I want to thank you for pointing out one very important thing. Cambodians are probably the most kind, giving, and lovely group of people I’ve ever met. I quickly fell in love with the country after arriving, in no small part due to the people.

      Wishing you fantastic travels in the future. 🙂

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