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Poipet

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All most travellers are willing to see in Poipet: the fully paved road to Siem Reap (August 2009)
Poipet hosts Cambodia's main border crossing with Thailand, which links north-western Cambodia to Aranyaprathet, and hence Bangkok. Cross-border activity has made the town grow to be larger than its provincial capital, Sisophon.

It is located on the fully paved National Highway 5 which runs to Sisophon and then further on the south side of the Tonle Sap Lake to Battambang and Phnom Penh. At Sisophon, National Highway 6 branches off to provide a fully paved arterial route along the north of the Tonle Sap to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

Understand[edit]

The border zone with tout zones highlighted

A gritty border town, Poipet hosts a bewildering array of touts, beggars, thieves and dodgy casinos for daytripping Thais, which all contrive to separate money from the unwary. The town has one main street that runs approximately south-east from the roundabout at the immigration offices. North of this street is an average Cambodian town; to the south is a poorer slum area. Both areas have their own markets: clean and airy and dishevelled and stinking, respectively. The latter is likely to be more interesting to an observer. For travellers staying overnight at the border, Poipet represents a cheaper option than the adjacent Thai town, Aranyaprathet, particularly for those heading into Cambodia (see below for avoiding overpriced transport).

While most travellers only pass through, the town can provide the savvy and curious with some fascinating insights into Cambodia's grizzly underside. Ever a transport hub, Poipets hosts the western railhead of Cambodia's defunct but regenerating network which once connected to the functioning Thai network.

Border location[edit]

The nearest Thai town is Aranyaprathet, about 6 km from the border. The border is in central Poipet. The border is open 07:00 - 22:00. There is no time difference between Cambodia and Thailand.

Immediately next to the Thai immigration facilities is Rongkleu Market, which host banks, cafes, a convenience store, money exchangers and buses.

Get In[edit]

From elsewhere in Cambodia[edit]

Poipet is a large town that is well connected with reasonably priced buses to various points in the country. The three major cities of Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Reap ($3.75 to Poipet/$5 from Poipet) are each directly connected to Poipet. The bus station is located in the city center near the southwest end of Pub Street. Note, if on a bus to Poipet with a view to leaving Cambodia, the bus will stop at its company's Poipet offices first. Do not get off unnecessarily as it will likely continue as far as immigration, which will save you a walk or motorbike taxi fare.

Taxis to Poipet should be cheaper than those from Poipet, if you can keep middle men out of it. Your guesthouse may help arrange one but will inflate the price for you. A taxi from Siem Reap should be about US$30 and take about 2.5 hrs.

Leaving Cambodia at this border is generally unproblematic. The porters that swarm over your luggage as soon as it's out off the bus are only trying to get a fare for carrying it to the Thai side. They will generally not steal from it (but it's best to have your cash and electricons on you). Their services (US$1) can be appreciated on a hot day if the queues are long.

From Thailand[edit]

The visa scam


This one is common. Any tuk-tuk driver from Aranyaprathet will take you to the Cambodian Consulate first. Visas here are overpriced (1000 - 1400 baht vs. $20 if obtained after Thai immigration). Do not waste your time here, just say "have visa" loud and clear (even if you don't) and he will not persist in trying to scam you.

Even if you make it past the consulate, you're still in the Visa Tout Zone (see map). A group of "visa officials" with fake laminated badges will have go at sending you back to the consulate for an expensive visa. They are criminals. Ignore them and go to the Thai immigation office, which is to the left of the main road.

Whatever happens, ONLY EVER GET A CAMBODIAN VISA ONCE YOU HAVE BEEN STAMPED OUT OF THAILAND AND HAVE WALKED ACROSS THE BRIDGE TO CAMBODIA.

Money change scam addendum: You will be told that ATM's in Cambodia charge exhorbitant fees ($15) per transaction in Cambodia and that it is best that you change all your Thai Baht at the 'Government' money exchange at the border. The $15 ATM fees are lies and the money exchange place they recommend gives very bad exchange rates. Just get a few US dollars in Thailand before you head over.


Rongkleu Market has buses to Bangkok's Victory Monument, Mo Chit bus station and Suvarnabhumi airport. There are also buses from the market to other Thai towns, such as Nakhon Ratchasima and Chachoengsao. Such buses allow travellers to avoid Aranyaprathet town, though Aran is better connected.

From Aranyaprathet, songthaews (pickup trucks that act as buses) run between the 7-Eleven in Rongkleu Market and the out-of-town Tesco Lotus hypermarket, passing through central Aran on the main road. A ride costs 15 baht. A tuk-tuk should cost 60 Baht after haggling and a motorbike taxi should be 40 Baht after a haggle.

On the Thai side, entry to the Thai immigration facillities is to the left of the main road which approaches the border. Travellers therefore must head towards the busy Rongkleu Market for about 2 or 3 meters before seeing the lines for immigration.

When in line for Thai immigration, both arrivals and departures, there are vats of cool drinking water that travelers can avail of, if they have a bottle to fill.

Cambodian Immigration[edit]

Other possible scams

While problematic officials are increasingly less common, there are some old tricks that may be worth being aware of.

The visa fee is posted on a sign over the window of the visa counter. It clearly states that a tourist visa costs US$20. You may be asked for 1000 baht (about $30 USD) or for $20 with an additional 100-300 baht fee. If you pay, you'll likely have your visa very quickly. Insisting on paying only $20 may lead to being made to wait, though the visa will come. Arriving early can help, as in the late afternoon a corrupt official knows that a delay could result in missing onward transport, which makes the bribe seem more attractive. Whenever you arrive, be polite, say hello (sue-saw-day) and thank-you (awkunh) in Khmer and you should find no problems.

Just be aware that $20 (+100 baht for no photo) is all you need to pay and you will eventually be let through. Past scams have included having to pay for a SARS form or for non-production of a vaccination certificate.


Cambodian visas are available on arrival. The official building is just after the bridge, to the right of the Traditional Style Arch (see map). Tourist visas cost $20 and permit one stay of up to 30 days.

  • Queues are greatest at around midday when many buses arrive. Arriving earlier or later will let you sail through.
  • The paperwork is very simple. It requires no assistance, regardless of what touts may say.
  • Forms are available at the counter to the left of the visa window, although a "helpful" tout will likely offer you one as soon as you approach the office. Take the form and otherwise ignore the tout.
  • A passport photo is required for the visa. A 100 baht fee (read bribe) applies if you don't have a photo.
  • You can also pay in Thai Baht, but the visa fee of US$20 will translate to 800 Baht. Better stock up in US$ before the border or change money outside the building, where you’ll get slightly better rates.

Alternatively, you can obtain an e-Visa for US$25, which is the same visa as the one for $20 but obtained online in advance. Having an e-Visa saves time at the border but that's all the extra $5 gets you.

$20 tourist visas (T class) are extendable for one month only ; anyone wanting longer stays and multiple entries in Cambodia will need a $25 business visa (E class, valid for 30 days and extendable once in Cambodia). Confusingly, E class visas are unrelated to the online visas. They costs $25 and require no extra documents or fees. Make sure the officials know that you know this.

Once you have your visa, brush off the touts and head down the street to get an entry stamp into Cambodia. The arrivals office is on the right (south) side of the street, after the last casino. Some lurkers may tell you otherwise. Compared to obtaining the visa however, clearing immigration is relatively straightforward.

To elsewhere in Cambodia[edit]

The Official Transport Monopoly Scam[edit]

One's first steps after the arrivals office lead to the Transport Monopoly Tout Zone (see map). The scam here is the dressing of overpriced transport as official policy.

Free shuttle busses or so called government buses or minibuses await tourists emerging from immigration. They go to an inconviently out of town transportation depot: the Poipet Tourist Passenger International Terminal. They cease running at about 6pm. Overpriced food is available while one waits for an overpiced bus or shared taxi. Be sure to stock up in cash US$ before, as there is no ATM at the depot and paying in other currencies results in highly inflated rates.

Only the diligent will avoid this one (see below) because police are beastly to and extort drivers that pick up tourists near the border. The police and "helpful" others pester tourists emerging from arrivals and basically cajole them onto the buses. Most tourists succumb, either unaware of the scam or unwilling to go against a uniform. If such a set up irks you, remember that despite how it initially feels, you have every right to do as you please in Poipet and you can smilingly, tactfullly and respectfully tells the scumbags where to shove it.

Some tourists have reported being taken to a private travel agency instead of the proper depot, under the pretence that the station "is under construction". You can handle this as you like, you don't have to deal with them but the private company may be cheaper than the official scumbags.

Taxis[edit]

An 'official' taxi to Siem Reap costs an offensive US$48 or US$12 (500 Baht) per passenger. While posted in written form, this may be subject to change. The police-enforced cartel takes its share per taxi and trip, probably about one third of the price. Negotiation is very difficult but should be possible given that a taxi outside the cartel should cost about US$30. Negotiate the price in dollars, baht prices tend to be inflated.

There's no rules against introducing yourself to fellow travelers and sharing the ride, touts may even take care of that.

Drivers that work for the cartel will generally deliver tourists to wherever they choose in Siem Reap without any problems. Though possible tricks include being dropped in a dusty parking lot out of town or at a commission paying guesthouse (which is most of them) or the driver pretending to not know the destination and needing to ask at his "office", where you’ll be dropped off to change into Tuk-tuks (see the bus section below). Simply do not pay until you are happy with the destination. Do not believe that taxis are prohibited from entering the center of Siem Reap.

Wherever you end up, tuk tuk drivers will be waiting. A fare within town should be $1; though Siem Reap is easily covered on foot.

Bus[edit]

From the Tourist Passenger International Terminal a bus to Siem Reap costs $9 per person and takes around three hours.

You may arrive a couple of kilometers outside central Siem Reap, where tuk-tuk drivers pay the cartel for access to arriving tourists. They recoup their money by taking tourists to commission paying accommodation, which they may offer to do very cheaply, perhaps for free. Their big money however comes from temple trips and they will emplore you to hire them on for this. This is not necessarily bad but make sure you know the correct rates. If you value your independence, pay the tuk-tuk driver a fair rate ($2 is acceptable, perhaps generous) for the trip into town, make sure you are dropped where you want to be dropped and then have nothing more to do with him.

Outside the Transport Monopoly[edit]

Avoid this scam by saying you want to have lunch/find a guesthouse/see Poipet/to the post office/casino/karaoke, basically anything that isn't finding a bus. Then walk down the street, the pressure eases off away from the roundabout and you should be able to pick up a ride without being bothered.

Just don't start negotiating with a driver if a policeman is standing right next to you. It's unfortunately their job (i.e. orders from bent bosses, rather than legal duty) to intervene if a tourist tries to deal with a driver outside the monopoly. Don't be worried, the intervention will be nothing more than creaming a cut from the fare (you're not actually doing anything wrong remember). There are many taxi drivers in town. A taxi to Siem Reap normaly costs up to $30 USD, but negotiate as prices may start at $50-60 USD. If you want to do it Khmer-style, a seat in a shared taxi will be about US$8.

Not-tourist buses depart from the bus companies' offices scattered along the main street a little way from immigration (see map). Their fares are outside the official monopoly so a bus to Siem Reap costs only $5. The only direct bus to Siem Reap was from the Capital office, which was about a fifteen minute walk from immigration (on the main street on the left). It left at eight in the morning and required a change in Sisophon. Departures are in the morning and can generally only be made after staying overnight in Poipet. However, the taste of victory over Cambodia's institutional corruption is sweet. As of Summer 2012 there is a bus leaving weekdays at 6:00 pm. Look for the Sign that says "Kampuchea Angkor Express Co. Ltd.". The ride costs $6 and is very comfortable. There are quite a few places selling tickets to Battambang and Phnom Pehn and they leave at night. You're only forced on the 8am. bus for Siem Reap. Update: There are now no evening departures to Battambang from the major companies. Only smaller ones and they will drop you outside of Battambang where, when I went, onward travel to Battambang centre wasn't available. I'd bought a Soriya ticket from the Soriya office, but it was a scam and I was sold onto another company. Only morning buses are possible now, and only pay for a printed ticket with the company name on. If you arrive after one pm then a better bet would be either skip Battambang or stay overnight.

Pickup trucks can be found near the border and in the town, they run to Siem Reap and Battambang, although changing in Sisophon is likely. Seats inside/outside the truck cost 10,000/5000 riel to Sisophon, plus approximately double that for an onward journey to either Siem Reap or Battambang.

The monopoly only affects transport from Poipet. Buses from Siem Reap to Poipet are about half the price of those from the Tourist Passenger International Terminal to Siem Reap.

There are also several bus companies which depart from Poipet going to Phnom Penh. Capitol Tours, Phnom Penh Sorya, Paramount, and Ponleu Angkor are some. The bus ride may take up to 9 hours with frequent stops along the way. A ticket with Capitol Tours costs 30,000 riel or $7.50 and prices will be similar for the other bus companies. If you have taken a motorcycle taxi (moto or motodop) from the border (price 5,000 riel - 50 cents or less) ensure that the driver is not present during the ticket purchase. He may try to get a bonus for delivering you, and this will only increase the price of the ticket. Alternatively, the bus stations, which are quite spread out, can be reached by walking from the border. They are all on the main road, but be aware that the walk may be up to a kilometer.

Poipet's airport has no scheduled flights. However if you're travelling between Bangkok and Siem Reap, flights will pass near enough over Poipet and cost about $150.

Alternatively, have the monopoly work for you. Take the free shuttle out of town and then hitchhike. Anyone who picks you up will expect something for their effort, nothing compared with a taxi or even bus fare though.

Get Around[edit]

The town is relatively easily covered on foot, for those who wish to explore it. Hotels are within walking distance of customs; though on a hot day, you and your luggage may appreciate a motodop (motorbike taxi), which for 500-1000 riel will take you to any part of Poipet. One could also be useful for escaping the transport monopoly hot zone of immediately outside immigration and finding a non scam taxi. There is also the free bus to the transportation depot, which is perhaps a false friend.

Spending time in Poipet involves being hassled, scammed and frustrated. Though these problems mainly fall on the post-border, bag-carrying weary. Check in, dump the bags, and shower - the town then looses many of its teeth.

See & Do[edit]

For those who look a little closer, Poipet has some vibrancy in the slums around the old station
Poipet is a border town typical of where shocking development disparities exist between two nations, not unlike Tijuana or Ciudad del Este or less famously, impoverished Sungai Kolok in southern Thailand, which borders more prosperous Malaysia. The town offer the usual Khmer mix of markets, stalls, coffee shops and beer gardens.

Poipet's growing gambling industry has spawned several large, opulent casinos, in rather sharp contrast to general squalor of the town. Gambling is illegal in Thailand and in Cambodia, though this has not prevented some well connected somebodies from putting up casinos before Cambodian immigration. Thais use the casinos to circumvent their own country's interdictions, though Khmer are not allowed at the tables.

The amateur anthropologist can watch Asian businessmen entertain themselves at the casinos or at the karaoke joints throughout town that double as brothels. Watching the coachloads of package tourists being shepherded through customs may also count as a valid pastime.

The area around the old railway station is particularly interesting. This slum backs onto the filthy trickle of a river that demarks the Thailand-Cambodia border. There formerly was a rickety, bamboo bridgere there, and at around dusk tuk-tuks brimming with people could be seen making their way to the unofficial border crossing The path ends at a small Cambodian Border Patrol station. The bridge is no longer there, but given one could cross this creek and not even get your knees wet, it may still be the site of some of the undocumented immigration from Cambodia to Thailand. The Thai side is a minefield, but the well trodden path can be followed. It leads to a road.

People with a desire to help others can find opportunities in Poipet. Any assistance or conscious effort to speak Khmer or interact with local people on their own level will be highly appreciated. A man called Trip (+855 77945100) is a friendly English speaker. He will act as a guide to Poipet and tell you some interesting stories about the area. Cost: buying him lunch and a beer.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Money changing scam

This is not officially condoned and is easy to avoid. Anyone suggesting that you change money to riel is trying to scam you. The Cambodian central bank maintains the riel at 3900 to 4100 to the USD - on the street, 4000 riel to the dollar is ubiquitous. Riel is only used as change or for small purchases such as a drink, small meal or a newspaper. USD is used for anything else. ATMs throughout Cambodia dispense dollars. There are ATMs in Poipet.


In Rongkleu Market, just before Thai immigration, banks sell USD at decent rates (USD being the main currency of Cambodia). There are also ATMs dispensing Baht. For exchange, the banks don't open until 10:00 AM, and after a weekend or holiday they may be short on USD. Do not worry, baht can be exchanged in Cambodia without problem, some large stores even accept baht at rates better than they do Cambodia's own toy currency, the riel.

In Poipet, just about anyone will exchange USD and THB to Riel. Look for the traders with glass cabinets full of money, it's their way of advertizing. There's banks and ATMs close to the border but Canadia Bank, a little further away, is worth the journey as its ATM doesn't add a surcharge to foreign cards, while ANZ charges US$5. A warning: Canadia bank ATMs display a "Time per limit exceeded!" error if you try to withdraw more than 150 USD and don't pay out. The 150 dollar limit is for any cards with the Maestro and Mastercard logo's, VISA cards have a limit of 1000 USD.

On the main road near the Poi Pet Main Market, on the southern side of the ride there's a good convenient store named Star Supermarket which sells products that are usually found in Thai stores, except at far lower prices. Especially great if you're looking for the cheapest booze in the world. All of the items list the Thai Baht price, but you can pay in USD after they've scanned the products' bar codes.

Eat & Drink[edit]

If you're a sucker for the minibus to the Poipet Tourist International Terminal, you'll probably also be a sucker for the expensive snacks next to where it goes from.

Very close to immigration, on the northside of the roundabout, Long Sen Guesthouse has a convenience store. In front of the post office is a little street stall does reasonable meals and coffee and doesn't rip off tourists, which is a pleasant break from the border stress.

In the duty free zone, in front of the Poipet Resort Casino is a laid back coffee shop (i.e. True Cafe). Also, some of the casinos offer buffets. Though they have dress codes, so you may have to spruce up a bit. Holiday Palace and Diamond serve good coffee and even frappes and have airconditioning, although in Diamond you need to explore a bit to find it, an interesting experience in itself. Food in the casinos is good and a welcome change from the standard restaurants in town.

Beyond the immidiate border area, the markets probably offer the most atmospheric dining. Also Capitol Restaurant (2km from the border) has A/C. Meals cost $2-4.

Destiny Cafe (7am-7pm) - An NGO supported cafe with a range of breakfast options as well as lunch items such as Stir Fried Chicken with Cashews (80 baht). The onsite bakery also bakes a nice slice of banana bread for 15 baht. They also sell a variety of fruit or coffee drinks. Nice and clean environment with aircon and free wifi. About 2km from the border and roundabout.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

While many choose Aranyaprathet to spend the night, Poipet does have a resonable selection of accommodation. For the budget conscious, it is a cheaper option.

  • Poipet Phnom Pich Guest House (On the main street, about 500m from the border office, opposite the old train station). A good budget option, well placed for exploring the slum behind the station. Cheap, acceptable, with free Wi-Fi. Single room with fan, small window for $5 (150 baht). Twin room with fan $7. Aircon room $10.
  • Nita Guest House (near the casinos and the Cambodian customs office) Tel. 012-832026. Clean rooms with A/C for 500 baht.
  • Liv Hov Guest House (speak: Lee Hou), (On the second nameless sidestreet from the round-about at the border, about 250 m).  edit
  • Hotel City Poipet. About 1Km from the border, on the left side of the main road in the direction of Siam Reap. Newly opened hotel, clean and quite cheap. For sure the best option if obliged to sleep in Poipet 12$ for a big aircon room with hot water shower. The restaurant next door from this hotel sells the most incredible pork, cooked right on the street. Excellent choice for breakfast when heading off to work hard for the day!  edit
  • Long Sen Guesthouse, (On the north side of the roundabout, next to the convenience store), 012313187. Closest guesthouse to the immigration offices, unfriendly owner. Aircon room US$9 From US$6.  edit
  • Sophal Thavy Guesthouse, (On the north side of the main road, about 100m from the roundabout), 012910735 011753252. Free WiFi. Clean. All rooms have AC, $11 for basic double bed. 11+.  edit
  • Viroth Hotel, (The first guady hotel, next to the departure immigration office). Aircon, guady, pretentious, no internet US$18.  edit
  • Orkiday Hotel, (The second guady hotel, nextdoor to Viroth Hotel), 012767676. Airconn, guady, pretentious, no internet US$20.  edit
  • Huy Kea Hotel, National Road #5, 012346333. (Next door to Phnom Pich Guest House) Standard room with double bed, big Panasonic Air-Con, LCD TV & Cable, 2 free waters and 1MB Wifi for $11/$12 (Single/Double) $11.  edit
  • Ly Hengchhay, (about a km down Nat'l HWY 5, on the right). checkin: 1400; checkout: 1200. AirCon, windowless rooms, hot water, very fast & free Wifi. Can be booked online via Agoda. 10.  edit
  • Chao Pah Ya Guesthouse, (Alley to the left of Grand Diamond City Casino, before the Cambodian checkpoint.), 0806599510. Air con rooms, cable TV with about 10 English channels including HBO and Fox movie channels, free Wi-Fi included. Safest guesthouse in the area as it near the protection of the casinos and well-lit at night. The alley has cheap food and can be ordered in Thai if you can speak Thai. Daytime staff Kun Thea 0806599510 is lovely. 400 Baht.  edit

Stay Safe[edit]

Like most of South East Asia, unprovoked violent crime is not rife. However, being foreign and out at night could be construed as sufficient provocation. During the day, one can wander through the town and its slums without fear of a beating. Being robbed more subtly via scams and pickpockets is a different matter. Any visitor should explore Poipet with the expectation of spending more than reasonable and also of losing the contents of his pockets. Wear a money belt and stand your ground if you think you are being scammed. Watch out for pickpockets and snatch thieves, including the adorable little children who swarm you and cheer at the border. If you've managed to arrange a taxi away from the monopoly, don't pay up front, and do not let anybody you don't know into the car. The small upside to the travel monopoly is that, once the exorbitant price for the taxi has been paid, they're reliable, and the driver will take you anywhere you like once you've reached your destination.

Contact[edit]

On the south side of the roundabout, in front of the cluster of radio masts, is a post office. Postcards not available but it's your last chance to get a Cambodian stamp on those Angkor postcards.

Get Out[edit]

Routes through Poipet
Aranyaprathet in ThailandEND  W noframe SE  SisophonPhnom Penh


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