It’s a lot easier to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap Cambodia now than it was back in 2000. The last time we travelled overland in South East Asia we had to cross the border on the back of a pick-up truck. These days you can do it in relative comfort by direct bus, train, plane or taxi.
Good buses take you right the way through to Siem Reap from Bangkok, no changing, just a disembarkation and wait at the border while visas are taken care of.
Of course, it is arguably easier to fly, but for us as a family of 4, the extra costs quickly add up. Bus travel is usually pretty enjoyable, so we went the old-school way. It took a lot longer than we expected and the scenery was pretty uninteresting so you wouldn’t be missing much if you chose to travel from Bangkok to Siem Reap by plane.
Bangkok to Siem Reap, Best Ways of Getting There
Cost of Flying to Siem Reap from Bangkok v Cost of the Bus
March 2015, the direct bus tickets to Siem Reap cost 750 ($25 US approx) Baht each. No discount for children.
This month Skyscanner ( click through to site) gives flight prices at between $56 and $102 (US$). You may find an even better price if you book further in advance. See our post on cool tricks to help you save more with Skyscanner for more tips.
You could take a taxi or mini bus to the border and split the cost between a group. For us, as a family of 4, the bus worked out best.
There are buses that take you to the border, from there you can arrange your own transport to Siem Reap, they are frequent and cheap at $4-5. We didn’t fancy finding a bus on the Cambodian side with 2 hot, tired kids so the direct Bangkok Siem Reap bus was our best choice.
Cambodian Visa Costs, Photos and the Child Visa Scam.
A 1 month Cambodian tourist visa is $30 at the border.
You can pay cash in Baht or US dollars.
If you pay in US$ you also have to pay an extra 100 Baht fee.
Cambodian officials try to charge you for children’s visas, claiming that children are only free if travelling on their parent’s passports. This is wrong, stand your ground, politely and with smiles. We got free visas for our 8 and 10 year old children, their passports are clearly stamped “gratis”. I know of another family who paid for their children a few weeks ago and received the same “gratis” stamp.
You could, of course, buy your visas in advance, but processing can take up to 4 days even for online visas.
You need a passport photo for each person. Lonely Planet say that if you don’t have one you will be fined $1. We had photos for 3 of us, my husband was not fined for not having a photo and it wasn’t a problem at all.
The Bus From Bangkok to Siem Reap
There are, we believe, 2 direct buses from Bangkok’s Mo Chit bus station to Siem Reap, every day.
They run at 8.15am and 9am.
You can buy tickets online, at the bus station or through agencies and guest houses.
We took a taxi to Mo Chit from Silom ( where we now prefer to stay in Bangkok ), it cost under 100 Baht and the roads were clear at that time of the morning, despite warnings of crowds and traffic congestion for the Sunday markets.
The journey from Bangkok to the Cambodian border took us round 3.5 hours. We were at the border for almost 3 hours. The visa process is fairly long and 1 person on our bus was held up for some time, obviously, we had to wait. Bags stay on the bus while you walk across the border region, which is a great help.
Do not buy your visa at the visa office before the actual border, this is a scam, head straight to the official Poi Pet immigration control office.
The bus journey from the border to Siem Reap is around 3.5 hours. The road is now pretty good, years ago it was a dirt track.
It’s a very long day.
The bus company told us the total journey was around 4 hours, we may have lost something in translation, it actually took around 10.
We received a lunch box just before the border, it was small but very welcome. Eat it quickly, you don’t have much time. You will also need to take your own food and water.
The bus is modern, comfortable, has air conditioning and a toilet. I’d see the toilet as a disadvantage, it didn’t smell too good.
The bus will take you to Siem Reap and deposit you on the pavement near the centre of town. Our bus driver announced that tuk tuk drivers would collect our bags and take us to our guest house for free, part of our ticket. This is a lie, it’s not free, the drivers need you to make a booking with them for a tour of Angkor Wat the next day. They tell you this after they’ve loaded all of your bags, and you, into their tuk tuk. We felt really bad that we couldn’t give him our custom, it’s a crappy set up. I’d avoid it if we ever do this trip again, it was a horrible start to our Cambodia trip. We had no cash to give the driver.
You could find accommodation on arrival in Siem Reap, we chose to book one night in advance online to make life easier.
So here we are, in Siem Reap, the must-do city in Cambodia, base for Angkor Wat, possibly the most magnificent temple complex in the world. It’s changed a lot in the last 15 years, but no surprises there. We plan on staying a while so I’m sure we’ll find “our” way to enjoy what used to be such a cool little town. Pub St and the new “Night Markets” were a bit of a shock, but we’ve found the old market, it’s still almost the same, I know this will turn out fine.
Train From Bangkok to Siem Reap
Cambodia currently has no train service, so getting to Siem Reap by train is impossible. However, as of 2016 trial rail service will open in Cambodia, from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, so watch out for new developments.
At the time of writing, the closest thing to a train in Cambodia was the Bamboo Railway, near Battambang.
You can take a train from Bangkok to the Cambodian border, but from there you will need to take a bus, taxi or mini bus on to Siem Reap.
Where To Stay in Siem Reap and Finding the Best Deal
Hotels Combined is usually the best place to start looking, they compare multiple online search engines to find the best deal on that hotel for your dates. Agoda are the Asia specialists, they usually have a greater variety of hotels, guest houses, hostels and resorts and can often have better local deals. Hotels Combined DO NOT check Agoda, so take a look at them separately. Booking.com is useful for fully refundable, longer term bookings. Some people like to book multiple hotels well in advance and finalise their choice nearer departure date.
We highly recommend Garden Village Guest House in Siem Reap , it’s cheap, has a wonderful new pool, decent food, a great location and plenty of space, we loved it. They will organise drivers and tours for you or you can very easily find a driver on the street. We searched around on foot for accommodation and this was by far the best place we found. It’s very popular, so booking in advance could be a good idea, they do have private rooms with en-suite suitable for families and a lovely new pool.
There are also some very luxurious and up-market hotels in Siem Reap use the search engines mentioned above to view.
Enjoy Siem Reap, Angkor Wat is fabulous and truly a global must see. As you can see you have multiple choices on how to get there. Which is the best way to get to Cambodia from Bangkok? Well, it’s personal choice. Flying may look faster but factor in airport journeys and wait times. For me, my favourite way is still the old pick up truck on bomb cratered roads from 20 years ago. But the bus is good.