If you’re a backpacker exploring Southeast Asia and have more time than money on your hands then you’ll probably have to use bus transportation within and between countries at some point. Fortunately, the buses nowadays aren’t too shabby and based on the horror stories that I’ve read on the interwebs these buses are worlds away from what they were just a few years ago.
After extensive research we decided that the bus route from Bangkok to Siem Reap would be a safe, economical, and comfortable enough option for us. It would save us about $200 which is about 100 nights of accommodation in Cambodia. I exaggerate. It’s more like 15 nights. Anyway it made sense for us so we gave it a try. Since it’s a fairly new service there isn’t much information out there so we’ll share our experience.
First thing’s first, buy your bus ticket. Supposedly you can buy your ticket online but this didn’t work for us. I’m not sure if the issue was with my US credit card or a flaw with the online ticketing system, but I couldn’t complete the transaction online, so we had to go to the bus station to make the purchase. The bus terminal is called Mochit2. Don’t get it confused with the Mochit BTS train station or you’ll be waiting a long time for a bus that will never come. At the bus terminal the ticket booth is inside, on the first floor. There are booths outside too, but the one you’re looking for is inside underneath a large LCD screen. It’s actually called The Transport Company and there will be a sign in English with route information.
The guy at the window spoke English well enough to clarify our ticket information several times before he printed and sold us the tickets. He was surprisingly thorough unlike other bus ticket sellers we’ve dealt with around the world. He checked our departure date, time, destination, and names several times. Bring your passport or at least a copy of it. He asked for ours and typed in our names for the tickets. Each ticket is 750 baht; the price for a one way trip with breakfast and lunch served on the bus.
The next day we arrived 45 minutes early to wait for our bus. I don’t like to rush for international travel, so I’d rather get there with time to spare. There are a bunch of food options at the station and I highly recommend that you stock up on snacks if you’re a big eater because the bus does not make any pit stops and the provided meals are meager. The bus arrived at platform 106 before 9:00am and after loading luggage and passengers we were on our way by 9:05am. Not bad for timing.
The bus itself was VERY well air-conditioned, clean enough, and had a toilet in the back that I would only recommend for emergency use. They gave us each a bottle of water, an orange colored drink, and a couple of cookies for breakfast. I only drank the water.
Within one hour of leaving Bangkok, two or three people on the bus were vomiting. I have no idea why because the bus driver was driving like a normal person which was a pleasant surprise. Maybe the people were sick or had never been on a bus before. Thank GAWD I didn’t get a whiff of barf otherwise I would’ve puked too. Other than the barfing sounds the ride was pretty decent.
After a few hours the bus pulled over and an heavily-armed officer boarded the bus and said something in Thai. The nine non-foreigners on the bus got off and followed him somewhere. The rest of us stayed on. A few minutes later some of the people got back on the bus and we continued our trip. Don’t ask me what happened to the people who didn’t return to the bus.
At the border we were given badges and told to go through immigration. We didn’t get much direction from the bus attendant or driver, but a nice tourist police officer walked us to the border to be stamped out of Thailand. We walked out of Thailand through glass doors and walked down the dirt road towards the Kingdom of Cambodia. If you have an e-visa then you just follow the signs until you come upon a line of backpackers waiting to get stamped into the country. It was an open-air immigration booth with a painfully slow moving line and only fans to keep us cool. We eventually got to the front, got our passports stamped, and headed back to our bus. Thankfully a few loitering Cambodian tuktuk drivers pointed us in the direction of our bus since our bus attendant hadn’t bothered to tell us where they were going to park. Just a side note: don’t use the toilet at the border. It’s foul, to put it mildly.
After the border crossing the bus chugged along for another 2.5-3 hours and arrived in Siem Reap at 5:30pm. Our bags were removed and placed in the Nattakan office and a representative from the company told us that they offer free tuktuk transfer to nearby hotels. That was the first we heard of the free transfer, but it’s a huge plus if your hotel doesn’t offer free pick-up.
We didn’t take the bus back to Bangkok due to visa confusion but I would recommend this bus for cost-savings and flexibility since it runs every day for the same price.
– You can’t buy a return ticket from Bangkok so you can purchase ticket back to Bangkok when you arrive at the Nattakan bus office in Siem Reap. The Nattakan office is not too far from the main Old Market area so you can always purchase at a later date.
– Most bus travelers know this but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded: Keep your passport with you. Don’t pack it with your large bags under the bus carriage since you will need it when you get to immigration.
– If you plan to enter Thailand from Cambodia and you’re not a citizen of one of the G7 countries or a visa exempt country then you will only be allowed a 14-day stay in Thailand. I don’t know why I had such a hard time confirming this information before I decided to fly out of Cambodia. Anyway, keep this in mind if you want to explore Thailand after Cambodia.