There is no trick to this headline – this is a genuine Thai experience and everyone can benefit from this astonishingly cheap train service – you just need to know how to get on board – if you excuse the pun!
Trains have not run between Thailand and Cambodia for nearly 50 years but Aranyaprathet in Eastern Thailand is the closest town to the Cambodian border town of Poipet.
The first thing you need to know is that you have to go to the train station to buy a ticket at Hualamphong train station. Easier said than done if this is a first time visit for you as you are often told by taxi drivers that it is shut or they don’t sell tickets anymore or any old twaddle to get you to go to a ticket office where they can overcharge you and earn a commission.
My simple life hack on this is simply tell them you are meeting someone and not going anywhere and that should get them off your back.
When you get into the station go to any of the counters – avoid the one that says for tourists – and buy a ticket for one of these two trains:
Train 275 – Leaves Bangkok at 05.55 and arrives in the town of Aranyaprathet at 11.10 and then goes on for another five minutes to the train station closest to the border of Poipet.
Alternatively, Train 280 Leaves Bangkok at 13.05 and arrives in the town of Aranyaprathet at 17.50 and then goes on for another five minutes to the train station closest to the border of Poipet.
Take some handy small cash with you to spend on the journey – there are traders with delicious snacks to eat getting on and off the train all the way along the route. You simply must indulge in these they are fantastic.
Now there is so much to tell you about the border – so much in fact that I am not going to give you a comprehensive list of all the fun and games – but suffice to say that this Cambodian border is renowned to be the most scammed border in the world. I would highly recommend that you read this and do some research before you go. https://wikitravel.org/en/Poipet
Go ahead and google it – it makes for some entertaining reading. It’s not dangerous don’t worry but take it as a challenge to get through without being tricked out of any additional money…
So here is how I take the stress out of the border experience. Firstly most of the scamming is around you buying a visa which can be done at the border. However if you do this you will almost certainly pay more than you should. There are also lots of agencies and even bogus visa offices that look legit but do yourself a favour and just buy the visa beforehand online at the official website https:/www.evisa.gov.kh and then you remove so many opportunities to be scammed.
Personally I usually get off the train in town and stay overnight in Aranyaprathet and then get a tuk tuk to the border in the morning so that I can avoid the rush of all the other folks getting off the train – a much calmer way to do it. I use Hotel Indochina as they are a low level resort with a nice pool and usually some live music at night, but there are other choices in town.
But be warned There are lots of casino hotels on the bridge between Thailand and Cambodia – if you choose to spend the night in a hotel in the border zone you must get your Cambodian entry stamp first. Without it you are illegally in the country and face penalties (fines) when you are found out – probably the next day when you try to get the entry stamp after spending time in the no man’s land.
When you get to the border ignore everyone offering to “help” you and don’t let them put stickers on you (they just tip off other scammers as to your plans). Most importantly tell them nothing and just head for the immigration line which is just through the market. Then rush past the touts again and go straight to the arrivals office which is on the right after the casinos.
So you made it – well done!
From here you can get to Siam Reap by taxi, minibus or bus in about 3 hours and start enjoying Cambodia.
I’m no expert on Cambodia I have to say – every time I have been to Cambodia I have just been rushing in and out to renew my visa – but I can highly recommend Lara Dunston’s website and I’m hoping to go on one of their tours and courses one day.
For disclosure this is not an affiliate link – I just love their stories and recipe’s not to mention the phenomenal photography!
So – the border experience sounds exhausting eh?
Don’t let that deter you from doing the train journey – why not take a weekend break from the city and just stay on the Thai side of the border – there are temples to explore and a genuinely local market to visit – but even if you just stay the night the journey is an experience in itself and well worth a £1 of anybody’s money!