Scams at the Thailand-Cambodia border: how to avoid them all! Complete august 2015 updated walkthrough
Crossing a border can be a pain but crossing from Thailand to Cambodia on the Aranyaprathet-Poipet border, known as the worst one in Asia, is an absolute nightmare if you are not prepared. Luckily we were, and we managed to minimise the risks of being scammed…still there are a few things we wish we knew before…
Here is everything you need to know to avoid being scammed when crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia.
Before you get there:
1.Get US dollars (not in Aranyaprathet as they are known to rip tourists off at the exchange office, it is better to change while your in Bangkok).
-The Cambodian tourist visa is $30 US, if you pay in actual US dollars. If you only have Thai baht, they will do some conversion to get their part on top of that.
-Cambodians love US dollars. You can pay for anything with USD once you’re there anyway.
2.Have a recent ID photo of you ready for the form to fill up at the office.
3.Decide on a hotel to go to, you can even book online and write down the exact address. This will be handy to fill up the visa form and to show the driver at the border.
4.Have a screenshot on your phone of a photo of the official border offices
Scams to be aware of:
-The main one is : There are fake offices just before the main border crossing, on the left hand side of the road. We heard there are some others before that too. There, they charge way more than the $30 you are supposed to pay for your Cambodian visa, telling you, you have to get the stamp from them.
-The second one is: the transportation you take to get to the border is very likely to stop at these offices and ask you to get your visa from them. Either you take a bus from Bangkok, or a tuk tuk from the train station of Aranyaprathet, it is the same bullshit story.
-Be aware of pick pockets walking accross the border, and don’t pay attention to kids faking to faint at your feet.
-On the Cambodian side, when all the paperwork is done, you will be harassed by taxi and bus drivers. You will be offered a “free shuttle bus” to transportation terminal. Off course this is a scam…we’ll get back to this.
All right, so how to avoid this sh!t? Arm yourself with the following informations:
-You could get a bus to Siem reap, which looks like it is the easiest solution but it is not. Why? simply because the bus stops at these fake offices before the border. Fake “officials” come onboard the bus and ask you for your passeport. They force you to pay their fees and even if you refuse, you still have to wait for all the passengers in the bus to get their stamps before you get back on the road.
–Better to take the train to the border from Hualamphong train station in Bangkok, easily accessible by MRT train (the Bangkok subway service). Trains from Hualamphong to Aranyaprathet leave twice a day, at 5.55am and 1.05pm. It takes about 6 hours to reach Aranyaprathet for 48 bahts. It is not really comfortable but the ride is kind of fun with the windows open, lovely sceney and very few westeners onboard.
When you reach the Aranyaprathet train station, drivers will “offer” their services to the border. See how you feel. If you are tired from the trip and it is late and dark, you might want to just walk to the closest hotel. If so, simply turn right on the street as you exit the station, follow the main road for 5min until you come to a crossing where you will see a 7 eleven on the corner and about 30 tuk tuks parked. Pass the tuk tuks and you will see on your left 2 hotels that are between 250 and 450bahts a night. Get some street food for diner and have a good rest.
In the morning, have another read through all the different steps to go accross the border and get a tuk tuk . Simply say :”border”, he will understand. It will be 80 baht.
You would have guessed it, the driver will stop before the border and point to the other side of the road. Some guys might even call you over, telling you it is this direction to the border. Don’t fall in that trap, that’s where the fake offices are.
Basically, if you’re asked to pay for a Cambodia visa before you get the Thai stamp on your passeport, it is a scam, don’t fall for that!
Simply get off the tuk tuk and follow the road 3minutes until you see this sign:
Walk upstairs, into the office and get your Thai stamp out of the country. Then ,walk downstairs out on the other side of the building. Make sure your bags are closed properly, whatch your belongings as there are pick pockets there (you will see men standing and seating there, looking at you walking past.).
Walk to this arch:
The official office to get your Cambodian visa is on its right:
There you will have to fill up the usual form, attach your photo, pay the $30USD, and they will put the Cambodia sticker in your passeport. As always, getting a visa can’t be that easy, you will have to walk an extra few hundred meters to get the stamp from another office.
So walk in front of the casinos, ignore the kids begging and faking to faint in front of you, until you get to this office:
There, fill up another small form, add the visa number you just got, give it back to the officials with your passeport, and get out! The visa bit is done!
The scam bit though is not completely past…
Transportation to Siem reap:
As soon as you get out you will be harassed by tens of “drivers” that will follow you even if you keep walking telling them no…thing is, you don’t want to stay here for the night, you went through enough bullshit here to realise it’s a bad idea. Got straight to Siem reap to see Angkor wat, but be carreful:
The biggest scam here is this free shuttle bus:
Don’t get onboard, come on! It is free, can’t you smell something fishy there? It will drop you off at a “transportation terminal” in the middle of nowhere where you won’t have any choice but to get on an expensive taxi or bus to Siem reap and will have to wait for hours for it.
Our best advice is to get out of the office, walk a bit to pass the crowd and talk to the taxi drivers that come to you. We highly recommand you talk to travellers before and share a taxi together to Siem reap…this will be more fun and it will come in handy for the next part. Show the driver the adress you wrote down and tell him several times that the price you’re willing to pay is for this adress:
You can negotiate the taxi for $25 to share between you and your fellow travellers. Make sure it is absolutely clear:
-“we pay you $25 in total (make sure it is also clear that it isn’t 25 each he expects), and you drive us to this adress, ok?!” You can even add:
“no tuk tuk ok?!” you’ll soon understand why.
Get onboard…it will take 2.5 hours to get to Siem reap. The cab driver will be very friendly with you, telling you he helped travellers before, how good a guy he is etc… for you to like him. He will then stop at the petrol station to fill up. He will ask you to pay him now because he doesn’t have any money.
Refuse!…never ever pay a taxi driver before you’re 100% sure you’re at your destination. They will go to great lengths to act out their scam and tinkering with the petrol gage is not beneath them – you will see after he has filled up the gage will still show as ‘empty’.
If he really insists, pay him a third or half now and the rest when you get to your hotel.
Don’t be foolled by any of his excuses and never ever leave the car all at once to go buy some drinks or food at the petrol station…he could just leave with all your belongings.
Back on the road, you’ll arrive in Siem reap , he will stop in front of an agency where tuk tuks are parked and tell you:
-“ok, now you get off the taxi, the tuk tuk will drive you for free at your hotel, road too small, I can’t go with car”
Off course, it is absolute bollocks, refuse at all costs. Between the all of you guys, you’re way stronger that a tiny ridiculous scammer. He will get pissed off and stop the car, telling you he has no time, that he needs to go to the airport. Dont believe that, the tuk tuk thing is a scam.
The tuk tuk driver would tell you once you’re onboard and going, that your hotel is closed and he would drive you to the hotel he’s affiliated with instead (usually dodgy and expensive)…
Insist on staying in the car, don’t move. Remind him the conversation you had before you left Poipet, show him the adress once again, and remind him you won’t pay him as long as you don’t get to your hotel (here is why you shouldn’t pay him before).
He will quickly give up against all of you and drive you to the place of your choice…
You can have a good bedroom with a fan for $16 at Okay1 villa for exemple. Just be careful with the receptionnist and the people in charge of the restaurant, they’re quite good at forgetting you already paid for a night (always ask for a receipt with a “paid” stamp and the check out date), and always check the bill at the restaurant before you pay, they will always try charging a few extra cents. Naga hotel is $12 for a standard small bedroom. Plenty of choice in Siem reap!
So here is a quick reminder of how to get through the border, in this order:
-get US dollars, a photo of you and a hotel adress in Siem reap (have a look at its location on google maps too just to be safe)
-48 baht train from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet
-80baht tuk tuk from train station or hotel to border
–DO NOT follow the driver’s direction, follow the road to the blue Cambodia sign
-get your Thai stamp out of the country
-go to the building on the right of the arch, get your visa
-keep walking and go to the other building for your stamp
-refuse any driver’s offer
-talk to a taxi driver out of the crowd
–be clear with him: adress, price, no tuk tuk
-say no to paying him in advance at petrol station
-say no to getting off the taxi before you get to your hotel
-enjoy your time in Siem reap and Angkor wat with caution!
Hope this helps, all the best for the crossing!
The Our tiny little world team