Looking for a safe and convenient way to get from Bangkok to Angkor Wat? This step-by-step guide to the Bangkok to Siem Reap bus shows you everything you need to know for a smooth trip – from buying tickets, to visas and immigration.
I’ve just arrived in Siem Reap. It’s my third visit to Cambodia, and with a full month to make my way around the country, I’m in no rush. After flying into Bangkok and travelling around Thailand for a short stint, I decided to try something different and travel here the ‘slow’ way by taking a bus across the border.
Having read so many negative reviews of the Bangkok to Siem Reap bus online, I was pretty anxious about the trip. In the end, I was surprised at just how painless the whole thing was. Remember that I previously lived in Cambodia for 12 months and have been in the region for almost three years, so I’m used to rough roads and long journeys.
Even so, the Bangkok to Cambodia bus is very straightforward – even for a solo female traveller like me. Provided you know what you’re doing, of course.
This post is the most up-to-date and comprehensive guide to the Bangkok to Siem Reap bus currently available online. I hope it helps to answer your questions, ease your mind about the journey ahead, and encourage you to make the most of your overland adventure!
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How to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap: To fly, to train, or to bus?
If you’re reading this, you might still be deciding whether to travel by bus, train or plane from Bangkok to Siem Reap. There are lots of things that will factor into your decision.
If you have a packed itinerary or you’re in a rush, flying is obviously the quickest way to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap. If you’re backpacking Thailand and Cambodia as part of an extended Southeast Asia itinerary, you can probably afford to spend a day in transit.
On my first visit to the region in 2013, there were no budget airlines – which made flying prohibitively expensive. Now there are far more options available for transport in Southeast Asia. With the launch of AirAsia, it can actually be cheaper to fly, even very short distances.
If budget is your main concern, I recommend using Bookaway to compare fares. It’s the only site I know of where you can see prices for flights and road transport side by side.
But it’s not just a question of time or money. There are lots of reasons to choose the bus or train over a flight: minimise your carbon footprint and see more of the countryside, for starters. Personally, I’m a nervous flyer so I like to limit the number of flights I take for peace of mind more than anything else.
I love slow travel, but trains in this part of the world are a little too slow (not to mention uncomfortable) for my liking. There is no direct train, so to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap by train, you first have to take the train to Aranyaprathet, take a taxi to the border, then catch a bus the rest of the way.
All things considered, the day bus is a nice compromise between time, money, safety, comfort – and having a slightly adventurous experience.
Here’s a quick comparison of the different ways to travel between Bangkok and Siem Reap:
|Frequency||Journey time||Ticket price|
|Plane||3 times daily||1 hour||≈ 82 USD|
|Bus (direct)||Twice daily||7-8 hours||32 USD|
|Bus (local)||Every hour||9-10 hours||24-30 USD|
|Train + bus||Twice daily||10 hours +||≈ 16 USD|
The only Cambodian bus company I trust for long journeys
As you can see in the table above, you have two options for bus travel: direct bus, or changing buses at the border. The second option might save you a little bit of cash, but it will be a huge hassle.
There are a few different companies that run direct buses from Bangkok to Siem Reap. But there’s only one I trust for long overland journeys in Cambodia, and that’s Giant Ibis.
Why? Safety, safety, safety. Seriously, road safety in Cambodia is no joke. When I was an expat in Phnom Penh, I was prohibited from travelling by bus after dark for insurance reasons. There were at least two fatal bus crashes involving tourists in the 12-month period I was here. With the exception of a few newer highways, most roads in Cambodia are very poorly maintained. Combined with questionable driving practices and lax road rules, it’s literally a recipe for disaster.
Road safety is not something I’m willing to compromise on. Ever.
Giant Ibis has the best road safety record of any company in Cambodia. They were the first to implement a two-driver policy on trips of more than four hours, and they have a self-imposed speed cap. I’ve travelled with them countless times within Cambodia, between Phnom Penh, Kampot and Siem Reap, and am confident they walk the talk. They also go to great lengths to make the visa and immigration process as easy as possible.
In fact, if Giant Ibis didn’t service the Bangkok to Siem Reap route, I probably would have flown instead.
Bangkok to Siem Reap bus: Before you travel
Giant Ibis bus schedule
There are two daily departures from Bangkok to Siem Reap: One at 7.45am, and another at 8.45am. Travelling the opposite way (Siem Reap to Bangkok bus), the schedule is exactly the same.
The fact that Giant Ibis doesn’t offer a night bus service earns them another big road safety tick from me.
Buying bus tickets online
Do you need to buy tickets in advance?
Most reports online suggest that this bus is pretty empty. When I travelled in September 2019, the coach was roughly 1/3 full. If you’re travelling in the off or shoulder seasons, you can usually get away with buying tickets on the day. If you’re travelling in high season (roughly November to February), I would recommend buying tickets a couple of days before you travel. I always like to have my tickets in hand the day before, just to be safe.
Because of the higher price point, Giant Ibis isn’t really popular with locals, so you don’t have to worry about tickets selling out ahead of holidays.
There are a couple of different ways to buy tickets for the Bangkok to Siem Reap bus online. I purchased my ticket through Bookaway before I left Australia. They have a straightforward interface, and you can pay securely using credit card. You also have the option to select your seat.
Top tip: When the bus crosses into Cambodia, it changes to the right side of the road. Choose seats D/E if you don’t want to be looking into oncoming traffic for the Cambodia part of the trip.
Buying bus tickets at the office
The Giant Ibis office in Bangkok (directions in the next section) is open daily from about 7am. If you prefer to buy tickets in person or you want to pay in cash, you can just drop in and purchase tickets directly. Office staff speak English and are generally pretty helpful.
Getting a Cambodian tourist visa in advance
Most nationalities require a visa to enter Cambodia as a tourist (check if you need a visa here). I’ve obtained Cambodian visas at land borders twice now – once when entering from Vietnam, and again on this recent trip from Thailand.
Whether or not you choose to get your visa online in advance or just apply for a Cambodian visa on arrival at the border is a personal choice. In some instances, I would highly recommend getting an e-visa before you travel.
But with Giant Ibis – as you’ll soon see – the ‘visa on arrival’ process is really simple. It also costs the same amount of money. Honestly, there’s no advantage to getting an e-visa if you’re travelling on the Bangkok to Siem Reap bus with Giant Ibis.
On the day
What to pack for the bus
Giant Ibis provides passengers with bottled water, a breakfast snack (a tin of Nescafe and a Blue Pumpkin-brand pastry), plus a lunchbox (vegetarian fried rice that contains egg).
There are a few things you should pack for the journey:
- Refillable water bottle
- Extra snacks
- If you have a travel partner, a headphone splitter so you can share a podcast or screen for the journey
Getting to the pick up point in Bangkok
Buses depart Bangkok from the Giant Ibis office (not the bus station). Locating the office should have been easy, but I found it confusing!
My 12GoAsia ticket had one address. The Giant Ibis website had another. And a forum post I read listed a third address. I called Giant Ibis the day before to confirm the pick up point:
229 Phra Sumen Rd, Khwaeng Talat Yot, Khet Phra Nakhon
The office is about a six-minute walk from Khao San Road, which is convenient if you’re staying in the backpacker area.
If you’re staying elsewhere, I would recommend taking a taxi rather than using public transport – simply because the nearest MRT/BRT is a fair walk away. Grab is the easiest way to order a taxi. Just remember to install the app before you leave home unless you plan on getting a Thai sim card.
Traffic in Bangkok is hectic, especially in the early morning, so factor this in when you’re planning a time to leave your accommodation. Giant Ibis recommends arriving at their office 30 minutes before your bus departs. I was staying 7km south in Yan Nawa and the taxi ride to the office took about 20 minutes.
When you get to the office, check in at the desk. If you booked through 12GoAsia, you’ll need to print your e-ticket before you travel.
There is WIFI and a toilet inside the Giant Ibis office. There’s a 7/11 and a few ATMs opposite, and a cafe next door that opens at 6am. This being Thailand, there are hot food stalls everywhere if you want to grab a more substantial breakfast before you leave.
Top tip: The bus waits several blocks away from the office, so be prepared to walk for about 5 minutes with your luggage before boarding.
What is the bus like?
Giant Ibis uses new Hyundai coaches for this route. These are large buses that seat around 40 people. When you buy your ticket, you’ll be assigned a seat. But as long as the bus isn’t full, you can sit wherever you want.
Stow big bags underneath but keep your valuables with you. Giant Ibis specifies one bag person person, max 20kg – but I don’t think anyone really checks.
The bus is clean, and seats are spacious and pretty comfortable. They recline, and there’s a leg rest you can elevate to support your knees. Each pair of seats has a little USB portal for charging your phone or tablet. Note that these are low to the ground, right next to the foot rest, so you’ll need to pack a long cable if you want to use your device while charging it.
There is WIFI on the bus. It works, but it’s pretty slow.
As well as two drivers, every bus has a steward whose job it is to assist passengers, answer questions, and help with the border crossing. This is another nice touch from Giant Ibis that I really appreciate. (Other companies do it too, but I think Giant Ibis are more thorough than Mekong Express, for example.) Before you depart Bangkok, the steward will give you a run-down of the route and the visa process.
On the day I travelled, the bus left 15 minutes late at 8am.
What are the roads like?
The first hour or so is the slowest part of the journey. As soon as you leave Bangkok city limits, the traffic dissipates and the bus speeds up. The roads in Thailand are great – flat, straight, and uneventful.
I tracked the whole journey on GPS. Basically, the bus takes the highway south from Bangkok towards Pattaya before cutting inland to Sa Kaeo where it re-joins the highway and continues to the border crossing at Aranyaprathet-Poipet.
As soon as you cross into Cambodia, the road changes to a single lane, dusty highway. This is where the fun begins. Overtaking tuk-tuks and motorbikes, speeding trucks and general chaos ensues. This last part of the journey (156km or roughly 3 hours of driving) is more nail-biting and slower going.
Does the bus make any rest stops?
The bus makes two or three stops, depending on how you’re travelling for time.
There is a mandatory stop 2 hours after leaving Bangkok. The bus pulls up for 10 minutes at a large rest area where there’s a 7/11, restaurants and cafes.
The next stop is for the border crossing. Passengers have to disembark the bus and cross the two border control point by foot (more details in the next section). After you walk into Cambodia, there’s an opportunity to use the bathroom at a nearby hotel. When you get back on the bus, you receive your lunchbox.
If the bus is making good time, it will stop again one more time near Kralanh – the halfway point between the border and Siem Reap. This is a quick 5-minute bathroom break. If the bus is running late, the driver may choose to skip this stop. You can double check with the steward – or ask him/her any time if you need to make an emergency stop.
Crossing the Thailand Cambodia border
Getting a Cambodian visa on arrival
Two very important things to note: You need at least 6 months validity on your passport to enter Cambodia. The Cambodian tourist visa is a full-page visa, so make sure there’s at least one empty page in your passport.
As I mentioned earlier, Giant Ibis make the visa on arrival process really easy. For an additional fee of 5 USD – which is added to the price of the visa ($35 for most nationalities) – they will take care of the paperwork and expedite the process for you.
Visa on arrival with Giant Ibis costs 40 USD or 1400 Thai Baht. They will accept either currency, and can provide change. Pay the steward directly – you won’t need to exchange money with anyone else.
I know, I know – when people hear this, they usually think it’s a scam. Why pay an extra $5 for something I can do myself? Admittedly, that’s what I was thinking too before I took the bus. Having done the trip, I now realise why it’s better just to pay the $5. In fact, with Giant Ibis, you don’t have any choice. (Please note, this advice ONLY applies to Giant Ibis. I don’t know how other bus companies approach the VOA process.)
If you’re crossing the border independently, you’ll reach a point where you enter an office to receive your visa. When you travel with Giant Ibis, you skip this step entirely. Just before the border, the bus makes a stop at the Cambodian consulate. The steward runs your passport in while you wait on the bus. After about 10 minutes, you get it back with a fresh visa inside – stamped and signed by the Consul General himself. Now you have your visa, crossing the border is easy and you don’t need to exchange any more cash.
There were no other buses around, so I think this is some ‘special’ Giant Ibis privilege.
How the visa process works
- When you board the bus in Bangkok, you’ll be given a clipboard. Fill in your details.
- If you have an e-visa or you don’t need a visa for Cambodia (ASEAN residents), you’ll get a yellow Cambodia arrival card to fill out. If you’re doing visa on arrival, the steward will fill the card out for you.
- Just after the bus departs, the steward will come around and collect up all the passports. If you’re applying for a visa on arrival, put the cash inside your passport and hand it over. If you have an e-visa, put that inside your passport instead, along with the Cambodia arrival card.
- There is no photo required for a Cambodia tourist visa.
- Make sure you also have your Thailand departure card filled out and placed inside your passport. You can’t leave the country without it. If you lost your departure card, Giant Ibis can organise a new one for you.
- Before the border, the steward will run into the consulate to get your visa, as described above. You then get your passport back.
Walking across the border
All passengers must disembark the bus for immigration and cross on foot. You don’t need to bring all your luggage, but you should definitely hang onto your valuables.
If there’s a long queue of cars at the border, the steward will suggest getting out to walk while the bus waits. He will accompany you and guide you through the entire process.
The first part, Thai immigration, is easy. After exiting Thailand and going down some escalators, you then walk through a busy informal market area to reach Cambodian immigration. This is where things can get a bit hairy and confusing. It’s not really obvious where to go next, and people will probably be approaching you with various offers. You’ll be glad to have someone to show you the way.
The border is always crowded. Many Cambodians who live close to the border cross into Thailand to do their shopping, and lots of kids go to school in Thailand before coming back across for lunch at home.
Eventually you’ll be shown into a tin shed office – border control – to get stamped into Cambodia. When you get to the front of the queue, simply hand over your passport.
Top tip: Remember to fill out any empty fields on the yellow entry card, including your final destination, duration of stay, and phone number, before you get to the desk.
Once that’s done, you can get back on the bus (the same bus, of course) to continue the journey to Siem Reap. The steward will be waiting, and the bus will be parked close by.
When I travelled, we were at the border for a total of 1 hour, which I thought was pretty good.
Arriving in Siem Reap
Location of Siem Reap’s new bus station
Much to my annoyance, buses are no longer permitted to stop near Pub Street or at the old Siem Reap bus stop. Instead, buses terminate at the new ‘Siem Reap Bus Station’, located about 5km east of the city centre.
Because the bus has to drive through Siem Reap to get to the eastern side of town, this adds another 20-30 minutes to the journey.
Getting from Siem Reap bus station to your accommodation
Here, you have two options: either pre-organise a pick up through your hotel, or grab a tuk tuk when you arrive. A tuk tuk to any hotel in the centre of town will cost you 5 USD. If you have Grab or PassApp, you can use the app to call a tuk tuk for a cheaper price. There’s no WIFI at the bus station, though, so you’ll need a Cambodian sim card with 4G to do this.
I met a tuk tuk driver when I arrived at the station. Most drivers in Siem Reap speak excellent English and know where all the hotels are.
Be aware that when you pick up a driver at the bus station or airport, they will try their hardest to sell you a tour of the temples for the next day. If you’re interested in hiring a driver – great! Here’s your intro. If not, it can be a bit awkward to say no.
Looking for things to do in Siem Reap? Check out my guide to the best Siem Reap tours.
Where to stay in Siem Reap
Siem Reap has more hotel, guesthouse and resort options than you can poke a stick at. This time around, I stayed at the beautiful Rokkhak River Resort, which I highly recommend. To help you find the right fit for your budget and travel style, I have a whole post dedicated to the best accommodations in the city.
Where to stay in Bangkok
Check out my list of Bangkok’s best Airbnbs for inspiration.
Siem Reap to Bangkok bus: Travelling the opposite way
Travelling back to Thailand, the journey is exactly the same but in reverse. You can buy tickets online using the same process described above, and you board the bus in Siem Reap at the new Bus Station linked to above.
Bangkok to Siem Reap bus: Final thoughts
Did I enjoy the bus ride from Bangkok to Siem Reap? I didn’t hate it. It was comfortable enough, and travelling with Giant Ibis made the whole process straightforward and hassle free. After my experience with Giant Ibis, I certainly wouldn’t contemplate doing the trip by local bus or with another direct company.
Would I do it again? Sure. Would I recommend the Bangkok to Siem Reap bus to others? If you don’t mind slow journeys, then absolutely.
If you have any questions about the Bangkok to Siem Reap bus, leave them in the comments below.