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Southeast Asia

September 2, 2013

The Definitive Guide to Avoiding Scams at the Thai-Cambodian Border at Poipet

Of all the border crossings in Asia, I doubt there are any more notorious and scam ridden than the one between Thailand and Cambodia. At the Thai-Cambodian border crossing between Aranyaprathet, Thailand, and Poipet, Cambodia, hundreds of tourists cross each day (mostly from Thailand into Cambodia) and scamming them is a major industry in the city.

When I crossed in April 2012, I took some time to read about the different scams that I would likely encounter. Fortunately, I was able to pretty much avoid being scammed, but I’m sure I was one of the lucky ones that day.

If you plan on crossing this border, it’s important to understand some of the ways that locals will try and get you to part with your money. However, don’t let that stop you from crossing the Thai-Cambodian border at Poipet. With a little knowledge and preparation, you can avoid many of the hassles that come from crossing here.

Here are five of the scams you are most likely to encounter when traveling from Thailand into Cambodia, and one huge tip on how to dramatically increase your odds of avoiding them.

Don’t Get Your Cambodian Visa in Thailand

Unless you are from the handful of mostly Middle Eastern countries that aren’t allowed to get a Visa on Arrival, there is no need to get your tourist visa anywhere other than in Cambodia.

If you have yet to get stamped out of Thailand, you are not at the official visa office. The Cambodian consulate in Thailand is located very close to the border, and this is the regular stopping point for anyone transporting foreigners to the border, whether you’re on a bus from Bangkok or a tuk-tuk from Aranyaprathet. The consulate charges at least 50% more to process your visa than the border officials only a few hundred yards away.

If you’re on a bus from Bangkok, there is a good chance that people will come on the bus and collect your money and passports before you get to the border, telling you that you are required to buy your visa from them, and that they won’t wait for you if you get stuck at the border.

This is, of course, not true. Getting your visa on the Cambodian side of the border is easier, cheaper, and very quick. Refuse to get your visa-on-arrival before being stamped out of  Thailand.

Want to make sure that you’re in the right place? Refer to the map below to get a look at the border layout before you go. Remember: You DO NOT need to buy your Cambodian visa before you get stamped out of Thailand.

Map of the Thai/Cambodian Border at Poipet - The Definitive Guide to Crossing the Thai/Cambodian Border at Poipet/Aranyaprathet(Creative Commons: Wikitravel.org user Travelpleb)

Map of the Thai/Cambodian Border at Poipet/Aranyaprathet (Creative Commons: Wikitravel.org user Travelpleb)

You Don’t Need Help Filling Out the Forms

Another common scam I’ve heard reported, though I didn’t experience myself, are helpful volunteers offering to help you fill out your visa forms and then demanding money. This is completely unnecessary unless you can’t read basic English.

The form is simple and straight-forward.

Extra Fees for Your Cambodian Visa

This is a scam that you are pretty much guaranteed to run into because it’s run by the Cambodian officials processing the visas. When you fill our your visa on arrival forms, you will see very clearly written signs indicating that the visa fee is $20 + 100 Baht (about $3). The extra fee is not official and the officers simply pocket it.

Despite knowing this, I actually decided to pay it when I crossed the border. I didn’t want to be held up by slow processing, something they usually do for those that refuse the fee.

While I hated paying it, I decided arguing it wasn’t worth the hassle. That being said, you can likely save the money if you fight it.

You Don’t Have to Change Your Money in Thailand

No matter what anyone tells you, you can exchange Thai currency in Cambodia. You also don’t have to change your dollars into Riel. In fact, while the official currency of Cambodia is Riel, everyone uses American dollars. The country’s ATM machines even dispense US dollars.

It is a good idea to get some American dollars before entering into Cambodia, but do that either in Bangkok or at one of the ATMs in the border area, not from a money changer in Arayanaprathet

You Don’t Have to Take the Official Bus in Cambodia

Once you cross the border into Cambodia, you will likely be approached by a group of friendly looking Cambodians telling you that you must get on the bus for a ride to the bus station. They are full of shit (Excuse my language, but those guys still make me angry 1.5 years later).

Ignore them, lie to them, or shove them out of the way, but make sure to get around them and talk to one of the “taxi” drivers quietly sitting close by.

If you get on the “official” bus, you are taken to the tourist bus station, put on an expensive bus to Siem Reap, and then dropped off several miles from town. Conveniently, for them, you are dropped in front of a travel agency with many tuk-tuks waiting to provide you with an expensive ride to the guest house of their choice.

All that being said, if you made the mistake of buying a through ticket from a travel agent on Khaosan Road, this is the bus you need to take to get your transfer.

However, if you don’t have through transportation, the “illegal” taxis down the street are who you want to work with. A fair price for the trip is around $25-30 for the whole taxi, which can seat 3-4 comfortably. Getting your own taxi will save you time, money, and aggravation. Don’t listen to the “official” bus touts who might tell you that it’s illegal to not get on their bus, they are full of shit (Sorry again).

Taking the train from Bangkok to the Thai/Cambodian border at Poipet may be slightly uncomfortable, but it's really inexpensive and helps beat some of the most common travel scams.

Taking the train from Bangkok to the Thai/Cambodian border at Poipet may be slightly uncomfortable, but it’s really inexpensive and helps beat some of the most common travel scams.

Top Tip to Avoid the Scams at the Thai/Cambodian border at Poipet: Don’t buy a bus ticket from any travel agent near Khaosan Road. Instead, buy a ticket at Bangkok’s train or bus station to the town of Aranyaprathet and take a tuk-tuk to the border. Then, after crossing the border into Cambodia, walk past the insistent touts just outside the border area and negotiate a private car to your final destination. Lastly, don’t pay your tuk-tuk driver or private car driver until you are 100% sure you are at your final destination.

If you follow these steps, you may be transferred from your taxi to a tuk-tuk on the outskirts of Siem Reap under the guise that the driver doesn’t know where you hotel is or that he can’t enter the city. If this happens, simply refuse to pay until you get to your hotel. When I did the trip, the tuk-tuk driver paid our taxi driver, and then we paid him when we reached our hotel.

It also helps if you keep your luggage with you in the taxi instead of putting it in the trunk. While it may be more uncomfortable, it gives you the ability to simply leave without paying in the unlikely event that they refuse to provide you service to your final destination.

If you look out for the scams I mentioned and follow my tip above, you will have a great chance of making it through the Thai-Cambodian Border at Poipet without falling for any scams.

Have you crossed the Thai-Cambodian border at Poipet? What scams did you see that you think other travelers should be aware of? Let us know in the comments section below.






23 Comments


  1. Jennifer

    Great advice, Jim! We just did that trip this summer (just like you did, apparently! Including the bus-guy scam!), and ended up having a fun time (despite the flat tire on the van to Siem Reap). However, too bad we didn’t know before about the bus-guys first!


  2. Good tips…very thorough and useful. We left Thailand and crossed in Laos, so we didn’t experience this border, although we’ve heard lots about it. We’d love to go back to Cambodia, so we’ll certainly keep your tips in mind when we make it back.


  3. Sounds like oodles of fun! We are currently in Vietnam but unfortunately we won’t have time to make it to Thailand or Cambodia this time around. We’ll have to save these tips for next time! Thanks for the heads up. 🙂


  4. We’ve used that crossing 3x since 2011 and its good to be prepared. We encountered all of those and avoided them too although our taxi driver had to pay a fine for picking us up in poipet. Also another scam to be aware of if you are traveling with children: their visas are FREE. We got scammed the first time and were charged the regular price for them but on the other visits we had to ‘remind’ the officials of this fact and they obliged.


  5. I flew into to Siem Reap for my Cambodia trip, rather than braving the scam heavy border. Thanks for the info man, its good to know about land-border crossings through these countries.


  6. Lydia

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for your information. We plan to take bus to SR from Bangkok in July. There are 5 people, the bus ticket from Mo Chit to SR is 750 baht x5, do you think it is better for us to take 2 taxi from the border to SR?
    (It costs 200 from Bangkok to the border.)


    • I don’t know that it’ll be cheaper to take 2 taxis, but you are more likely to avoid any scams. If you do take the taxi, it’s best to keep your bags with you (not in the trunk) and make sure you don’t pay until you reach your final destination. Have fun!


  7. Lydia

    Hello Jim,

    I read some information from a website. It says they can help to arrange the taxi from poipet to SR, but need us to provide passport number and names so Cambodia customs will let taxi to come to the border. It sounds strange.

    Could you please tell me how far to walk to a taxi from the Cambodia customs office where we get stamps?

    How long does it take to the taxi station or we can find a taxi as soon as we get into Cambodia ?

    Thanks a lot,

    Lydia


    • There is no taxi stand per say. Taxis are located just about 100 yards past where the bus touts will insist that you HAVE to get on the bus to the bus station. If you want to take a taxi, just walk past them.

      Keep in mind that you will have to negotiate pretty hard with the taxi drivers, and I wouldn’t pay them until you’ve reached your final destination.


      • Lydia

        Hello Jim,

        Thank you very much for your reply. I just want make sure when we walk out of Cambodia immigration office, there are guys outside to make offers to take us to the Poipet bus station, But WE JUST WALK PAST THEM, Towards the cars ( taxi) which is about 100 yards away. Am I right ??? ( It means We can see the cars – taxi after we step into Cambodia – maybe more than 100 yards away from the border? )

        I also read some information about there is no private cars allowed parking at the border, are those cars ( taxis) about 100 yards away not parking at the border ???

        I did read some people take a taxi at the border, or they mean at the bus station ? Which made me confused.

        I am a little nervous, but looking forward to it.

        Anyway, thank you again, you give me more confidence 🙂 !


        • Bear in mind that I was at this border about 2 years ago, so things may have changed slightly. However, when I was there, I just walked past the very insistent touts and kept going until I saw a few cars with guys standing around who asked if I needed a ride. Can’t really miss them. Of course, make sure to bargain hard, keep your bags with you (not in the trunk), and don’t pay them until you are sure you are where you want to be.

          As for people taking taxis from the border to a bus station, I think they may be talking about the local bus station. That is a different station than the tourist one that the touts will take you to. Unfortunately, since I didn’t go there, I don’t know anything about it, and I would guess that the taxis at the border might just take you to the tourist station regardless.

          Good luck, and let me know how everything goes when you cross, or if I need to update any info on this page.


  8. […] bus arrived at the border, I’m out of Cambodia and in Thailand in a flash! The infamous Poipet border crossing is notorious for scams. Most of them occur with visitors entering Cambodia from Thailand, and I […]


  9. Andy

    Hey I’ve already bought a bangkok to Siem Riep bus ticket (didn’t realise scam extended past trying to fleece more money for visa).

    I still intend on getting visa on arrival and telling bus touts where to go. Though imagine that I then need to get the tourist bus (seeing as it’s paid for).

    Any idea where the tourist bus stops at Siem Riep and how to then navigate to my chosen hostel. Taxi? Tuk tuk? Walking? Cheapest?


  10. Maya

    Hi! I find this post very helpful. However, I am a bit bothered by the part where you suggest not to buy tickets from the agents in Khao San (though I agree buying from the bus / train company sounds safer and cheaper). I wonder, then, if you would recommend getting a package tour in Cambodia from Khao San? Thanks!


    • I wouldn’t, unless you have a good recommendation from someone. I’m sure there are a few good and honest tour operators there, but there are many that aren’t.


  11. Charlotte

    Just came through poipet today. I had a Thai bloke shouting at me for 7 hours on the train from Bangkok, which wasn’t the best start to the day (I have no idea what was upsetting him but the word falang was being used in my direction a hell of a lot).

    I too decided to let the 100baht additional charge slide (slightly less than $4 NZ, probably worth it for an easy life). I also did not avoid the bus touts (although I’m travelling on my own, so the bus was more economical than taking a taxi anyway).

    The main thing I wanted to make sure people were aware of is, the dodgy tourist bus is broadly ok, however it dropped off down a dirt track probably about 1.5km out of town. It stank to high heaven of scam, none of the other tourists on the bus spotted that it wasn’t the actual bus station…), so I walked back to the main road with the intention of taking a tuk tuk. In the end I decided I’d just walk instead, so a win for me. It’s absolutely vital for people to realise where they are so they can avoid the waiting tuk tuk drivers. I have a fantastic app on my phone where you can download maps and follow your location with the gps (which even works without data, if you’re on your home SIM card). An absolute lifesaver for me today, otherwise I would have been at the mercy of the scam tuk tuks like the other tourists were

    (Citymaps2go if anyone’s wondering!)


  12. Mark

    There is a scam operating from capitol tours khaosan road. They drop you off 2km from the border at a cafe then lead you to an office where two official scam artists tell you you cannot get a visa at the border and charge you $54 for a visa. The visa states it is for three months yet at the bordet you are given 30 days. Get the $30 visa at the border only and AVOID Khaosan road!


  13. tu chun jung

    Too late to read this article otherwise those scamed i can skipped at poipet ; i did some research about landcrossing from Thailand to Cambodia . The articel decribe the process step by step quiet clear , but non of thoses scramed been refering at all . It emphasised should ride :free goverment shuttle van to bus shuttle station , but it was one of the scram



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