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11th November
written by Justin
Stop.. So We Can Rob You

Stop.. So We Can Rob You

The title says it all.  For what it’s worth, the land route from Bangkok to Siem Reap (the home of Angkor Wat and other cambodian temple complexes) is one of the most unabashedly corrupt places on earth (as far as we’ve seen.) It is so corrupt that an entire web site (it took Hazel and I about 2 hours to read the whole thing) has come into existence with the sole goal of guiding helpless travellers through the gauntlet they will experience taking this trip.

It is much easier to take the air route – Thai Airways flies the 45 minute flight for only $250 each way (the corruption here has all been smoothed over and made into a $150 US surcharge incorporated into the ticket price).  We eventually flew out of Siem Reap, but that’s a story for a later time.

I’ll give you the short story.  Many operators out of Khao San Road (the backpacker ghetto area of Bangkok) sell extremely cheap bus tickets to Siem Reap.  These are invariably a scam and will end with you having paid hundreds of dollars more than you need to, or having you travelling for 12 to 15 hours for no reason other than to try to wear you down to buy a different option from them.  We opted for the public bus route, which while less convenient has far fewer gotchas to avoid.  Our story (which went remarkably smoothly) went like this:

  1. Go to Morchit bus station in Bangkok by tuk-tuk (100 Baht or 3 dollars).
  2. Buy 1st class bus ticket at a really crazily cheap rate (about 200 Baht or 6 dollars)
  3. Take bus to Aranyaprathet, the Thai border town.  This takes around 4 hours.
  4. Get off the train, and try to walk to the border, realize that you are just at a market and are nowhere near the border.
  5. Take a tuk-tuk (who has been patiently waiting for you to realize that you are stuck without him) to the “border” for 40 Baht.
  6. (The above-linked web site warned us about this) Be taken to a building where a man dressed in a sharp business outfit comes up and says, literally, “Welcome to the Border!”.  No border crossing has ever, ever had anyone come up to us in our whole trip.  This is the first of the required scams.  The tuk-tuks will not ever take you straight to the border, they take you to a visa agency whose only reason for existence is this tuk-tuk scam.  You generally pay $20 USD more than you need to for a visa from these people.
  7. Don’t get out of the tuk-tuk, and say with increasing volume: “This isn’t the border, take us to the REAL border!!!”
  8. Tuk-tuk driver realizes that we are on to the game and leaves the “border”, taking us another 300 meters up the road to the actual border post.
  9. Get in line, receive Thai exit stamp.
  10. Walk out of the Thai border post, and be greeted by a “friendly local” who guides you to the place you can purchase your visa.
  11. Realize that the “friendly local” is someone hired to make sure you get on the “tourist-approved” “free” shuttle service to the “tourist transit station”.
  12. Attempt to buy the visa for the $20USD posted on the sign.  Told that there is an additional 100 Baht fee per person (not posted anywhere).  We paid this bribe knowing that we’d have to wait for up to a few hours if we didn’t pay.
  13. Get the visa in 5 minutes.  Escorted to Cambodian border post.
  14. Along the way, our driver finds us (we arranged a private driver for $45 USD with our hostel so as not to have to deal with any scammers once we were on the Cambodian side) but we still have to take the free shuttle bus to the “tourist transit station”.
  15. Our driver turns out not to be our driver, just someone with English.  Our real driver takes us to his car.
  16. We get in the car and drive.  After about 1km the driver pulls over (we think we are screwed at this point) and removes the taxi magnetic stickers from the side of the car and the back.  We are really freaked out, but I guess that was just so that he could drive up to the “tourist transit terminal” without hassles.
  17. Arrive at hostel in Siem Reap 2 hours later.  Phew!
We really would have had great difficulty doing this cheaply without the really helpful advice from Tales of Asia.  Thanks!  Ultimately it cost us: 100 Baht tuk-tuk, 400 Baht bus, 200 Baht Bribe = 700 Baht, and $20 USD Visa + $45 USD Taxi = $65 USD.  So two people Bangkok to Siem Reap cost us about $86 USD.  Pretty crazy, considering how little it cost to get to a remote island in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand! ($60 USD)

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