How to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok

There’s a lot of information online about how to get around in Southeast Asia, and we found dozens of articles about travelling from Bangkok to Siem Reap. Quite rightly, as it’s a route plagued by scam artists who take every opportunity to pocket as much tourist money as possible.

But we were travelling in the opposite direction, from Siem Reap to Bangkok. Scam artists weren’t going to do very well off us, since most of the scams involve convincing tourists to pay more for their visas, and we didn’t need visas to get into Thailand (although they have reduced the period that we can visit for from 30 days down to only 15 – it appears that Thailand doesn’t really want our money after all).

After reading this article, see Thailand and Cambodia travel planning advice.

We decided to trust to fate and book a bus trip all the way from Siem Reap to Bangkok – exactly what you’re advised against doing in the opposite direction. We organised it through our guesthouse, paying US$8 for the journey – slightly more than we’d seen advertised in town, but we were feeling lazy and it included a transfer to the bus station. And as it turned out, we didn’t do too badly – other travellers paid up to $12 for the same service.

Cambodia-Thai border

At the border

We were collected from our guesthouse at 7.30am by an over-punctual but friendly driver, who had to move a television out of the back seat of his car before we could get in. He dropped us at a petrol station, saying that the bus would collect us in the next ten minutes or so. One traveller was already waiting, next to a guy with a motorbike who ripped our tickets, and a tuktuk full of other travellers arrived soon after.

At about 7.55, a 24-seater bus stopped in the middle of the road and we all got on, slightly surprised, firstly that it was early and secondly that it wasn’t the large air-conditioned coach that we’d been promised. This one was just to take us to the border, not the whole journey.

After an hour we stopped for one of the ubiquitous rest stops we’d become accustomed to – squat toilets and a chance to buy a drink. Usually, though, the bus doesn’t drive off, leaving you stranded in the restaurant, as ours did on this occasion. I was convinced the driver had absconded with our bags under the excuse of having a flat tyre changed (after reading about all the scams on the Bangkok-Siem Reap run) but he came back 40 minutes later and we were on our way again.

We arrived at the border at around noon, where we were met by a well-dressed man with a folder, who took our tickets, gave us yellow stickers, and led us to the line for passport control. He waited for us all to be stamped out of Cambodia, then walked us along the road and across the bridge to Thailand.

Thai flag

Thai flag

Passport control was a longer process than leaving Cambodia, but all five of us from our bus made it through, where we met a similar-sized group of other yellow-stickered tourists and a man with a yellow-stickered nametag, who led us to a ute and encouraged us all to hop in the back, along with our bags. The guy who had our tickets turned up, gave some money to the driver and waved as we set off to our next destination – lunch. While we were eating, the promised large, air-conditioned bus arrived and discharged hordes of (blue-stickered) tourists, obviously arriving from Bangkok.

After a bit of a wait, we left the restaurant in the large coach and headed towards Bangkok. The roads were good and the journey smooth and interrupted by only one stop at a petrol station.

We knew we’d arrived when the driver started shouting “Bangkok, Bangkok!” We appeared to be in the middle of nowhere – we certainly weren’t anywhere near a bus station. Luckily one of our busmates knew the way to the backpacker district, so we dodged the tuktuk drivers and touts who had congregated around the bus, and found ourselves where we wanted to be after a 10-minute walk.

So although the route involves a taxi, a small bus, a walk, a ute, a larger bus, and another walk, travelling from Siem Reap to Bangkok is relatively straightforward. Just don’t lose your little yellow sticker!

What now? See our Thailand and Cambodia travel planning advice or ask questions on our Asia travel forum.

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23 Responses to “How to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok”

  1. crazy sexy fun traveler September 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    Thanks for sharing! I will need to use it next month 😉

  2. mike@earthdrifter.com September 22, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    Funny, I just took the same journey a few days ago. The whole excursion was very similar. It left at 3am but cost $15 purchased from my guesthouse. Maybe this one cost more because it advertised actual sleepers on the bus, i.e. the poster showed virtual beds. I was under the impression that the bus would drive across the border too. I’ve gotta stop being so gullible. :-)

    • Craig and Linda September 22, 2011 at 11:33 am #

      Glad you made it through, Mike! Its amazing how prices for the same service can jump all over the place. I remember we once bought more expensive tickets thinking it would be a better service, when it turned out to be the same bus sold under a different business name.

    • siva March 14, 2012 at 10:35 am #

      Mike u stated to have left siem reap by 3 am by paying $15. 1. By what time u reached bangkok? 2. We are a group of 8. Can we engage a separate van upto poipot. 3. book bus tickets to bangkok directly at poipet/aranyapratat?

      • Mike March 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

        SIVA: If my memory serves me correctly I got to Bangkok around midday but honestly, you never really know, you guys’ll need to be flexible. I do remember the bus not leaving till 4.30 am. Then we had to wait for the border to open. So I suggest you leave later in the morning. You need to check w/ travel agents/your hotel and they’ll have different options available for you. Someone from the bus company will go across the border with you, then someone else over there will meet you and then you’re off. You won’t stay in the same vehicle. I’m sure they can accomodate eight people. Good Luck!

  3. gianinna March 26, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    Hi guys,
    thanks for the sharing
    I’m travelling with my 11 years old daugther, and we’re going from KL to Siam Reap (fly) and from Siam Reap to BKK by bus. Then going to Krabi.
    Could you suggest any hotel in Siam Reap?
    Thanks!

    Gianinna

  4. Sam April 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    I am travelling with my wife and two children.We are planning to travel to Combodia and Thailand in mid May.Please give me a suggestion to which surface transport (bus or taxi) would be the best while travelling from Siem Reap to BKK and to Pattaya.If you also tell me of the approximate cost for the same.

    • Nancy August 4, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

      HI Sam,
      I’m going to travel with my 2 x 14 year old boys in February and was wondering the same thing. Which did you choose and how did it work out?

      • Craig and Linda August 5, 2012 at 5:36 am #

        Hi Nancy, I’m not sure what Sam ended up doing (hopefully he’ll check back in), but I think you’ll be fine on the bus – as described in the article above. There’s a few changes, but I’d definitely see that as adventure rather than risk (both as a teenager and now!).

      • Nancy August 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

        Thanks Craig and Linda. I wasn’t as much worried about the bus as a risk, but the taxi, especially on the Cambodia side. Much time to decide, though!

      • Craig and Linda August 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

        Yes, I’d recommend a) packing light (as always), and b) taking the bus or getting a taxi recommendation from a trusted source, like your accommodation provider or a resident you meet.

        99% of the time, Siem Reap to BKK isn’t a problem at all; and people are very child-friendly in all of SE Asia. Well, judging by the amount of time we get asked about our non-existent children!

  5. Alejandra June 10, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Hello! Id like to know if i can buy these tickets online. From Siem Riep to Bangkok or is the like a page or something because i need to have the tickets in order to get my visa, and i really dont wanna pay a flight. I hope you can help me. Thank you (it would be for august 2nd 2012)

    • Craig and Linda June 11, 2012 at 4:38 am #

      Hi Alejandra, not that I know of.

      I’m always wary of giving advice on borders, as they can be so changeable. There’s also a lot of personal factors: your citizenship, how you look, how bored or enthusiastic border staff are, etc. But…

      You can (normally!) explain you plan on catching the bus to Bangkok before your forced departure date. Helps if you have the exact date ready to tell them. This is especially easy if you are entering overland. Many people do travel overland, so it’s kind of accepted, despite what the visa paperwork says.

      A printed itinerary — especially one from a travel agent — can help. Proof of funds can also help.

      Another option is to buy a fully-refundable plane ticket, and make sure you cancel it in time to get your full refund. This covers you for the border crossing, and should cost you nothing – if you can find the right fare.

      There’s never any guarantees with borders, but I hope this helps.

  6. jessie July 17, 2012 at 4:27 am #

    thanks for sharing i will go to Cambodia this August 12 ‘2012) then to Bangkok by bus from Siam reap. my friend said there are bus 7.30 am and arrive 2pm.

  7. Yad Sahni August 2, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    What is the best way to travel from Bangkok to Siam reap and back again

    • Craig and Linda August 3, 2012 at 10:45 am #

      Hi Yad, kind of like the way we describe in this article, I guess. Your other option is a flight each way, which is more expensive, but there’s less hassle. Make sure to check your visa requirements no matter which way you go.

  8. KJ August 14, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    you can also get your cambodian visa on line by going to this link. http://www.mfaic.gov.kh/

    i just submitted the application and it says it takes 3 business days. Hope to get it before the 19th which is when I’ll be in SR.

    • Craig and Linda August 28, 2012 at 6:27 am #

      How did your application go, KJ? Enjoying Cambodia by now?

  9. Foro Vietnam August 27, 2012 at 2:15 am #

    Thanks for sharing!!!

  10. Rina August 27, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    Hi..am Rina…will travel to Siem Reap n Bangkok with friends this October, which one the safer journey from Siem Reap to Bangkok? by bus or by Train? and will take how many hour? is there any flight also? Thanks

    • Craig and Linda August 28, 2012 at 6:30 am #

      I’m not sure on times, but we had the bus recommended over the train several times for comfort, and timing. There are also flights available, but they are more expensive than any overland option.

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