Getting from Koh Chang to Siem Reap in Cambodia or its reverse has been become much more organised over the last few years, with travel possible by car, minibus and taxi to and from the border at Aranya Prathet (on the Cambodian Side, the infamous Poipet).
It can, however, seem a little daunting with apocryphal tales of scams and rip-offs, so this week, we round up all the details and hopefully guide you through that fog of exhaust fumes to make the journey seem a whole lot more manageable, with a run-though of what to expect and a few tips on what to avoid.
From Koh Chang to Siem Reap – Through Tickets
As there is no public transport, you must make the journey either by private transfers, share taxis or most commonly, by using shared minibuses and buses on what are termed through-tickets.
Through-tickets are all together too tempting with prices that seem fabulously cheap and agency sales pitches that present the trip as a Sunday drive along orchid-lined Asian boulevards. Well, these tickets are cheap for a reason and that reason does not have you at its centre. First up, everyone must change vehicles at the border and second to that, everyone also needs a visa to get across that border and with those two elements, the bar of opportunity for some serious nonsense to be inflicted on unsuspecting, hot, tired and impatient tourists has just been raised more than few notches.
It’s not that the through tickets don’t work, they do if you absolutely refuse to be beaten, but built into them, they have some hugely ingenious, frustrating delays, which benefit no living being other than those locals trying to make a fast buck. On the positive side, their very cheapness does mean you can have less qualms about ditching part of them when they have outgrown their usefulness and taking another form of transport.
Through Tickets – Cost from Koh Chang and to the Border
From Koh Chang to Siem Reap, that cheap through ticket costs around 600bt, maybe less, it simply depends on the agent. You leave from your resort around 07.00am (Lonely Beach) and are whisked down to the ferry at Centrepoint for the 08.30am boat. From there, the minibus will likely first make an LPG stop – all the minibuses fill up at the same stations so it takes time, maybe 30 minutes or more but afterwards you do then head straight to the border, arriving around 12.30.
Crossing into Cambodia – Visas and Scams
Once at the border, the easiest option now is to have an evisa already prepared – $40 including the processing fees from https://www.evisa.gov.kh. Presuming some of us are not so efficient and let’s face it, the world would be a boring place if we were all so sensible, you will now need to purchase one at the border. By border, we mean exactly that, the border at which the Cambodian Immigration office sits, which you will reach by crossing over the road having stamped out of Thailand and having passed under the fake Khmer arch.
Any other request, exhortation, threat about visas from anyone before the border, near the border, in restaurants within spitting distance of the border or talk of VIP tracking to avoid missing connections at the border, anything that sounds similar can be politely ignored or brushed away with “already have one” replies, even if you are lying and have never lied in your life before.
The tourist visa is 1200bt with a passport photo needed, add 100bt if you don’t have one. If you want it processed more quickly, when at the counter, pay an extra 100bt to the person the other side of the screen. This is the only scam you need play along with, but even that can be ignored – you’ll just wait longer.
And while we’re here, do not exchange any money into Riel despite the apocalyptic doom you will undoubtedly meet if you fail to do so, (as foreshadowed by those offering the exchange).
From The Border (Poipet) to Siem Reap – Share Taxi Alternatives
OK, so now you’re though the visa process, the next stage involves an interminable wait for the bus, both at the border in a holding pen and then later at the bus station (Passenger Terminal).
The wait by the border is the touts’ way of getting you to take a share taxi instead of using the onward part of your through ticket. The longer the wait, the more tempting the share taxis become and in truth, they do make some sense, with prices around $50 between 3 and 4 of you. Remember the through ticket you would be giving up on is only worth 300bt. Cannnier still, take the touts’ advice but strike out from the pen up to the roundabout where you will get much better prices.
Incidentally, you can ditch the through ticket even earlier if you stop at the “visa” restaurant before the border. Rent a tuk-tuk from here for 100bt up to Rongleua Market (the border), get your visa, head up away from the masses and haggle your price for the share taxi through to Siem Reap ($40).
From the Border (Poipet) to Siem Reap – Bus Station to Siem Reap
Meanwhile, if you resolutely stick with your through ticket, in the end, you will find yourself at the bus station ready for the 15.00 departure to Siem Reap. Except there is no 15.00 departure, never has been and never will be and here starts your next wait, with those share taxis hovering just outside the windows to tempt those now so fragile will-powers. The bus will not leave much before 17.00, with journey time of 2.5 hours.
Arrival at Siem Reap
With the late departure of the bus, arrival at Siem Reap of course will now be at night and not in town but in a tuk-tuk park a few kilometres outside. You have no other choice but to rent from one of the flotilla of loud, energetic, over-familiar drivers at a price of $8 to $10. Your driver will also then try to deliver you to the door of their choice of hotel or failing that, having gone to your hotel, harangue you to hire them as a tour guide the following morning. It’s been a long day.
From Siem Reap to Koh Chang – Through Ticket
Coming back the other way from Siem Reap to Koh Chang is much more straightforward and refreshingly, scam free. You can pick up a ticket for around $15 which will put you on a big bus (7.00am) to the border with arrival time there around 12.00 to 13.00. After you stamp out of Cambodia and into Thailand, you then follow the directions down the wide road to find your minibus (you will have a coloured sticker as well, so people will guide you in the right direction).
This minibus travels all the way to a ticket agency at Krom Luang pier near to Koh Chang, where you are offered the chance to stay on the minibus after the crossing, with it taking you to the door of your resort, prices for that delivery in the region of 100bt to 150bt. This is more expensive than the songthaews which wait on the other side, so the choice is yours. Decisions made and additional monies collected, the minibus subsequently whips up to the Centrepoint Ferry Pier for Koh Chang. The ferry price is included in the through-ticket price.
So, that all seems more than doable, but bear in mind the transport tends to arrive all at once on the border in Poipet, so it may well be a long long wait to stamp out of the country. You will likely be on the last ferry of the day at 19.30.
From Siem Reap to Koh Chang – Share Taxis
Alternatively, you can pick up a share taxi from Siem Reap, price similar to going the other way, say $35 to $50. This has the advantage of putting you on the border before the buses, so beating those Immigration queues. Visa business done, walk through to the Thai side and jump in a private taxi down to the ferry pier at Centrepoint, price in the region of 2,500bt. They are parked up near the Kasikorn Bank.
You will have to pay the ferry yourself and jump on a songthaew on the Koh Chang side, but you may be doing this around 15.00 to 16.00, perhaps earlier rather than hopping on the last ferry at 19.30, as will be the case with a through-ticket on the bus/minibus. With all the taxis, pay when you reach your destination not up-front.
The most comfortable way to make this journey to and from Siem Reap is by using private transport, be it car or minibus. Prices are around 7,000bt (car) to 9,000bt (minibus), door to door, with a change of vehicle on the respective other side, but you are met by a driver specifically assigned to you. Do please ask for more information here if you are interested. We can put everything in place for you. You can also use a private transfer from your Koh Chang resort just to the border, prices around 3,500bt (car) to 4,500bt (minibus).