Heading back to Cambodia – the easy way

Well, last time we went from Bangkok to Siem Reap, we bought a ticket right through from a Khao San Road travel agent. And while it did get us all the way, it was deliberately slowed down, so that you could be overcharged along the way for your Cambodia Visa, and for your food and drink stops, and ultimately so that you arrived in Siem Reap after dark, so that you would stay at the Guest House they dropped you at. In our case, having left Bangkok at 7am, we arrived at 11pm – a 16 hour journey!

This time, with the benefit of more knowledge, we exactly the same journey a much smarter way. We got a minibus from Bangkok to the border at Aranyaprathet (6am to 10:30 am), which dropped us at a tour company office (they wanted to sell us visas at inflated prices, and onward tickets in minibuses and buses at even more inflated prices). Knowing how much they should cost, we negotiated everything down to the correct price (1,000 Baht for the visa, which is what it costs if you but it directly at the border; and $30 for the taxi direct to Siem Reap). The benefit of doing it like that, and insisting we go straight away, was that we jumped straight into the minibus, and left everyone else who travelled from Bangkok sitting waiting to know what happened next. 30 minutes later we were at the border, visas stamped in our passports, and going through immigration. The immigration and form filling turned out to be really slow, but eventually by 12:00 we were all done, and sitting in the taxi, on the road to Siem Reap. We arrived at 2.45pm – 8 hours after we’d left Bangkok, and half the time it took us last time. And the cost? Well, it cost us 2,100 Baht, the same as we’d paid for 4 slow bus tickets last time. (Next day we met some people who’d been in the minibus with us – they’d ended up sitting at the tour office for 3 hours, for no apparent reason, and then paying over the odds for the visa and the taxi – they arrived 4 hours later than us, despite getting to the border town in the same minibus).

The drive from the border was still dusty, bumpy and desolate – most of the road is just dirt, and even the tarmac bits are a bit like a roller coaster because of the potholes – but the car was air-conditioned, and at the end we felt as if we’d only been on a short journey! (8 hours of travel, short?). Along the way we stopped in a dusty town to buy a drink, and as you can see the advertising posters are a bit different to the kind of thing you see in Oxford. In fact, it wouldn’t have surprised me to see cowboys and horses, rather than motorbike taxis, in the town square.