(The Great Birthday Trip Part 3)
This tutorial aims to teach you how to cross the Aranyaprathet, Thailand–Poipet, Cambodia border by land using Bus 99 which departs from Lumphini Park in Bangkok. Why this route? Because it will take you straight to the border unlike other buses that stop at the Aranyaprathet Terminal. The terminal is 6 kilometers away from the border and is reportedly full of touts who will harass you to no end.
If you are a budget traveller ready for an adventure, proceed to the checklist. But if you have low tolerance for heat, dirty public toilets, communal eating utensils or dust in general, leave this page NOW and go book one of those packaged holidays in Phuket or Chiang Mai.
Note: 1.) Do not skip steps, unless otherwise indicated. 2.) Do not get too paranoid. 3.) It’s not as complicated as you may think.
Make sure you have the following with you at all times:
- A pen
- A small notebook where you have written down your hotel and flight details
- Enough Baht for bus fare from Bangkok to the border and back, and enough US Dollars for spending in Cambodia
- Another pen, in case you lose the first one
- Hand sanitizer, in case you want to use the public restrooms
- Snacks (to get you through the 5-6 hour trip)
1. Find the bus. There is only ONE bus that plies the Aranyaprathet–Poipet route and it waits for passengers from 5am -6am in Lumphini Park. If you miss this window, you can take another bus that departs from the Mo Chit Bus Terminal. But that’s another tutorial.
To find the bus, take the BTS Silom Line and go down the Sala Daeng station. Walk towards the Si Lom station (MRT subway) then turn right at RAMA IV Road (towards Thai Dusit Hotel) which is approximately 1 kilometer away. When you reach the HSBC building, take the pedestrian overpass to cross the road towards Lumphini Park. Bus 99 is usually parked at the foot of the overpass.
2. Pay the fare. Bus fare is 200 Baht or a little over US$6. Your seat comes with a free bottle of water. Travel time is between 5 ½ to 6 hours. Enjoy the view or sleep.
3. Go down in Aranyaprathet. You don’t have a choice, really. That’s the end of the line for you. If you’re hungry and not in a hurry, go to #4. If not, go straight to #5.
4. Eat before you cross. Restaurants are few and far between so it’s advisable to have lunch at one of the restaurants in this Divisoria-like market place. You will be surprised at how good the food tastes here.
5. Cross the border. This is it! This is what you came here for. All you really have to do is get inside one of those smallish buildings, fill up an immigration card, and together with your passport, present it to the immigration officer. Foreigners are usually charged US$20 for a Visa but Filipinos do not need one to get into Cambodia. We are lucky like that.
*You will find that there’s a long queue just outside the immigration building but that’s mainly for Vietnamese, Thais and Cambodians. Ignore.
6. Cross the bridge when you get there. Once your passport has been stamped and signed by the Thai immigration officer, you can now cross the Friendship Bridge.
An elaborate arch greets visitors as they enter Poipet. It says “Kingdom of Cambodia!” (exclamation point mine). The irony of this proclamation only becomes apparent as you walk through the short distance between the two countries. Amidst several high-end casinos, vendors are everywhere and poverty certainly makes its presence felt.
7. Go straight to the Cambodian immigration building. Have your passport stamped.
Once you’re done with the immigration procedures, you can board one of the free government shuttles just outside the immigration building. This will take you to the Transport Terminal where you can take a bus or a cab to go to your final destination in Cambodia.
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