Kratie (pronounced kra-chey) is a tiny town in northeastern Cambodia. Despite its small size, it is the capital of the province of the same name.
Kratie is one of the four provinces in northeastern Cambodia, and although it is relatively remote and not heavily touristed, travelling here won't earn you points if your priority is to be a pioneer. There's no large scale tourism, but plenty of backpackers pass through here during the high season. The town has developed to meet this demand, and now provides good budget accommodation.
The province is rural, so be mindful of your behaviour. Please do not add to the already overwhelming amount of litter and discarded rubbish visible in and around the town and be mindful of local norms in dressing.
From Kampong Cham (to the south) the road is currently in good repair. From Stung Treng (to the north) the road is sealed but has fallen into disrepair and the journey can be uncomfortable and slow; if headed into Laos, visas on arrival are now obtainable at the Lao border.
The bus/truck station is in the northwest part of the town.
Buses to/from Stung Treng take about 3 hours. As with all forms of transport in Cambodia, get your bus ticket early, and show up even earlier to ensure you get the best seat, as buses will fill up fast as soon as they let people board. With the improving road conditions, bus services have improved and there are now a number of options between Stung Treng and Phnom Penh.
There are daily buses from Siem Reap to Kratie. They leave at 07:00 and cost US$10. You will have to change buses half way through this journey at Skuon or Suong.
Share-taxis and minivans servicing Phnom Penh (4-5 hr), Stung Treng (2 hr), Kampong Cham (2 hr), Ban Lung (4 hr), Sen Monorom (4 hr), and a plethora of other small towns go from the taxi stand a block north of the Market. Prices to Phnom Penh and Stung Treng are about 20,000 riels per seat. These are much faster than the large commercially operated buses and comparably priced, though slightly less comfortable. Purchase an extra seat or share 3 between 2 of you for extra luxury. To and from Phnom Penh or Kampong Cham share-taxis and minivans can save several hours buy taking a road directly south of Kratie that most of the commercial bus companies do not use and bypassing Snuol.
Trucks go to various neighbouring towns and provinces but you have to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of this form of transport carefully. They are less safe and often slower than buses, as well as being more expensive. The one potentially overriding positive is that riding in a truck you get the chance to have a much closer connection with local Khmers than if you were riding in a tourist bus, particularly as you'd be surprised how many Khmers in the provincial capitals are somewhat proficient in English. Expect to wait a couple of hours for the truck to fill up, assuming you're the first one there.
- to/from Kampong Cham: 10,000 riel in the back, 15,000 riel in the cabin, 8-10 hr
- to/from Stung Treng: 20-25,000 riel in the back, 25-30,000 riel in the cabin, 10-12 hr
- to/from Ratanakiri: US$12 in the back or in the cabin, 12 hr
With the improvement of the roads, ferry services along the Mekong River from Kampong Cham no longer run. If you are feeling adventurous, you might find a rice-barge on its way north from Kampong Cham.
As the town is so small, ignore offers from touts to take you from the bus stop into town, since it's a walk of just a few minutes. If you feel compelled to hire a motodop to take you anywhere within town, you shouldn't need to pay anything more than 1000 riel for your short journey. To visit sites outside the town, you'll need to hire a motodop for a few dollars - standard prices are posted around the guesthouses, typically US$5-7 depending how far and how long you go for.
Bicycles are by far the best way to get around Kratie and enjoy the town at your own pace. Most guesthouses will organize you one, but they usually all come from the same shop - from the front of the market head south until the street ends across from the Ministry of Water Resources. On the corner there bikes can be rented from a lovely Khmer family for US$1 or 4,000 riel per day. Easy to spot this shop - look for all the bikes!
Motorbike rentals are available at just about any guesthouse. A 110cc Honda step through bike for US$8 per day. Given the tiny size of the town, you won't need one to do anything within Kratie itself, and the roads outside Kratie aren't in great shape, but it can be a great way to look around the country side a bit further afield.
- Phnom Sombok, (10 km north of Kratie on a prominent hill). A rather nifty temple north of town and situated on the only hill anywhere near Kratie. A long set of steps lead to a pavilion, the interior of which is painted with more torture scenes, depictions of what happens to those not virtuous enough to lead a holy and clean lifestyle. Makes a good stop on the way back to or from the dolphins. As a little bonus you might catch a glimpse of the family of monkeys that lives around the temple. Approximately one hour by bicycle at a leisurely pace. Free - but visitors are highly encouraged to leave a small donation toward upkeep of the temples. edit
- Sambor, (about 40 km from Kratie). This is a pre-Angkorian era settlement. The temples, among which is Wat Sorsor Muoy Roi (temple of 100 columns) contain several colourful murals that tell legends of nature, and other traditional Buddhist stories. The original structure is no longer standing, in its place is a reconstructed temple. Approximately 3 to 3.5 hours by bicycle at a leisurely pace. edit
- Town Museum, (At the north end of the main town near the globe roundabout). This place is almost never open. If you are really keen, go see the Culture Ministry and they might open it up for you (for an appropriate donation - say US$2) - though you'll be lucky to catch them in the office. edit
- Basket weaver villages, (15 km south of Kratie). There are 3 basket weaver villages near Kratie. The biggest is the Cham village Chheu Teil Ploch with 4,000 villagers. edit
- Villages of the Mekong. There are very interesting places along the Mekong river. You enjoy your day at the villages along both sides of the Mekong river. You can go by tuk tuk or motorbike. edit
- Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, (downtown north Kratie). Here you can sometimes catch a musical performance. Groups sometimes come to perform singing contests here, with both traditional Cambodian instruments and Western. Otherwise, there's little else to see. Located by the river by the northern roundabout. edit
- Concrete Animals, All around town. Spot cranes, rhinos, deer and even elephants in Kratie. Concrete, sadly, but melancholy reminder of the wealth of creatures that once roamed the local area. Free!. edit
- Irrawaddy Dolphin Watching, The best spot to watch the dolphins is Kampi village, 15 km north from Kratie.. There are only around 85 dolphins in the Mekong, but there is a very good chance to see some at Kampi. As river dolphins, these animals don't generally approach boats show curiosity towards tourist boats like some marine dolphins do. There is no best time of day to see the dolphins as their activity patterns don't change much over the course of the day, though it can be pleasant with the setting sun late in the day, and fiercely hot in the early afternoon. The dry season offers generally better opportunities to see groups together and spectacular behaviour (rare though it is), and in wet season the boat trip is considerably longer as the animals move several kilometres upstream from the tourist site. To protect the dolphins, you should ensure that your boatmen follows the dolphin watching guidelines provided and only use oars when near the dolphins. There's also a nice little shop which does benefit the community and helps encourage the villagers conserve the remaining dolphins. By moterbike, this trip should be around $7 for the round trip or $10 for a tuk tuk, about 20 min each way. Or rent a motorbike for US$5. Cycling to this spot should take about 60 min, bicycles are available for rent in Kratie and cost about 5,000 riel a day. When planning to do the Mekong Discovery Trail, keep in mind that you can also see dolphins from Koh Rougniv island, which nicely combines with a homestay in Koh Phdau. You get a private, and romantic, sunset tour with no other tourists in sight for US$7 per boat. US$9/person, US$7 for 3 or more. Includes a boat trip. If you just want to sit on the bank and watch the dolphins, you still have to pay the same. This is a set government charge. edit
- Bird Watching. If you are interested in birds, when on the boat, go upstream to the islands to look for the Mekong Wagtail (Motacilla samveasnae), a Cambodian endemic species that can be found in this stretch of the river. Early morning might find them hopping on rocks near the dolphin area. edit
- Kratie Bin. If you are interested in bins or garbage, there is a bin on the end of the main street where locals place their household waste at around 5pm on Tuesdays. A tuk-tuk driver will take you here for about $8 one way. edit
- Cambodian Rural Development Tours (+855 99 834 353), Rue Sumamarit, House 695, ☎ +855 99 834 353, . CRDTours is a social enterprise Community Based Eco-Tourism (CBET) provider. Managed by local NGO Cambodian Rural Development Team (CRDT) which works with communities along the river and runs Community Development Tours to their projects. This allows you a unique experience of Cambodian village life, and the chance to help out with their integrated development and dolphin conservation project. Organizes Mekong Discovery Trail legs (you pay a donation) and provides free information concerning the track sections in the area. edit
- Basketball and Volleyball. There's a basketball and volleyball area on the south side of the old Governor's residence. The security guards probably won't refuse a civil request to use it within reasonable hours, and they might even join in. edit
- Turtle Sanctuary. A small section of the temple in Sombor has been set aside for a turtle exhibit which includes a guided tour by the Steve Irwin style monk who runs it. There's something hilarious watching a little bald guy in an orange loin cloth wading through pond scum in search of a 50kg+ turtle... Unexpected as it was amusing. As of Oct 2013 there was just one girl who spoke very little English so could not answer questions. She picked up pretty much every turtle and stated its age and weight. The biggest turtle under 25kg. The most interesting turtle they had was the Mekong Softshell Turtle. A way to fill in 20-30 minutes at the steep price of $4. Would be excellent for people who have not seen turtles before or is a turtle-addict. Otherwise you may find it slightly uninteresting. edit
- The Mekong Discovery Trail is a network of safe, ecotourism journeys through some of the most natural and least populated parts of the Mekong. It takes you into the heart of the Mekong where the beauty of the river and the friendliness of the people create unforgettable river life experiences in northeast Cambodia.
- The free trail guide (e.g. Community Development Tours) provides maps, transport and accommodation options. You can travel on a small part of the trail, or all of it. You can travel alone or with a group. There are many options along the 180 km trail, which runs between Kratie and the Cambodian/Laos border. But remember to allow enough time to go with the flow of river life.
- Along the trail, you will have the opportunity to see critically endangered Mekong River dolphins, while minimising your impact on them and the habitats they rely on.
- By using the Trail, you will also be assisting river communities, some of the poorest but most welcoming in Cambodia.
- As advertised, cycling is perhaps the best method to see the trail, as it allows to rapidly cover the long stretches of track were it is impossible to obtain drinking water.
- Sorya Kayaking Adventures, #426 Street 6, Kratie, Cambodia (next to Canadia bank on the riverside), ☎ +855 90 241148, . Go kayaking along the Te River or Mekong River near the town of Kratie. Half-day, one day, and overnight trips are available at reasonable prices. Along the river you can see dolphins, many unique bird species, forest, villages, crop land, and Vietnamese floating villages. If you participate in the overnight trip, you can enjoy a peaceful homestay along the Te River. edit
- Looking Glass Jeep Tours, river road, ☎ +855 77 507-420, . Offering personal tours and transportation around Kratie and North-East Cambodia in an open top jeep. Affordable and customizable tours let you make the most of your Cambodian trip, and take you places tuk-tuks and buses can't go, getting an insightful view into rural Cambodia. Great for families too. edit
- Koh Trong Island, front of Kratie town. This island, in front of Kratie downtown, is easy to reach with a boat. (1000 riels, sign says 4000 in English, but money collector took 1000 without a word), you can also watch sunset, end of boat rotation 18:00, anytime after is "private" prices ($4). On the island, rent a bicycle (1-2$) and ride around (9km). The island is an excellent example of rural Cambodian life. Enjoy the beach and a swim in the Mekong. Visit the Vietnamese Wat and see the floating village. Search out the rare Mekong Mud Turtle. Enjoy the sunset and stay overnight. There are a couple homestays/ guesthouses. edit
- Acleda Bank, Road 12, (near the northern end of the Market). This branch can change US dollars and Thai baht only. They can also cash travellers cheques. The ATM only accepts Acleda ATM cards AND Visa cards. A more expensive option for funds, but saves a 3-4 hr trip to Kampong Cham.
- Canadia Bank Bank branch and ATM on the riverside north of the centre of town. This ATM charges less than the Acleda Bank, and accepts Maestro, Cirrus, Visa and MasterCard.
- Money changers are available throughout the town, particularly in and around the markets - look out for packets of money on display. Some guest houses can also change money. They will give you in general a slightly better rate than the bank but you have to ask around for the best deal. Some of them do also change other currencies than US dollars such as Thai baht, Vietnamese dong and Myanmar Kyat. Occasionally, other western currencies are changed as well but expect a poor rate. It is possible to change Lao kip but you are better off changing kip to US dollars before leaving Lao. Balcony Guesthouse usually offers the best rate for kip, though still low.
In Kratie there are few (if any) local souvenirs aside from the odd mass produced wooden dolphin to even show you were here. There's also nowhere to make donations to directly aid the Irawaddy Dolphin's survival either.
- CEDAC Shop, (on the river front near Heng Heng guesthouse). Range of local handicrafts and products such as honey, local juices, rice, handmade hats. CEDAC is run by a local NGO and profits go towards their rural development products.
- Dolphin Men of Kratie Calendar is a unique Kratie souvenir from Red Sun Falling with a different dolphin man each month. Calendars feature photos of guys from local tourism businesses, and if you're lucky you could get your copy signed by one or more of them.
- The Market, (along the main road at the centre of town). Find the standard assortment of local foods, fruits and meats, as well as a small variety of handicrafts. Remember your bargaining skills and etiquette when here. The market was burnt down and was being re-built in early 2012. In the meantime, the vendors spread throughout town.
Aside from the usual assortment of food and drink stalls in town, there's a few different restaurants for you to eat at.
- Tokae Restaurant. New restaurant, run by the same Spanish owner who had before Mekong Hostel & Restaurant. ST.10, # 084 Eo, opposite the market. It offers decent Western and Khmer food at reasonable prices, ranging from about $1.75 to $2.50 a dish. It also has the usual breakfast staples - eggs and bread, pankcakes - and a wide selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Free wi-fi with good speed
- Mic-donalds. A fast food place modeled off McDonalds. On Street 134, serves 'Mic-shakes', 'Mic-burger' and 'yum-fries'. Also has a clown modelled off Ronald McDonalds called 'Roneath Mic-donald' who entertains kids on a Wednesday afternoon somethings. Tourists pay $4 to 'see' the clown, and locals pay 200 riel. This can be added to your bill automatically, but you must bring your passport for some reason.
- Red Sun Falling, on the waterfront opposite the port building, is a backpacker staple with good food and drinks, and the ex-pat touch. Prices are reasonable, but not as cheap as the nearby Khmer food. The Red Sun Falling also has a good selection of books for sale, which you can browse while you wait. Specials shown on a blackboard.
- Heng Heng Restaurant. Tasty Khmer food at reasonable speed and price (per dish US$1-2.50). Khmer breakfast also OK with a western option of omelette and bread for US$1.
- Mekong Restaurant. Typical Khmer food including staples such as fried rice, grilled chicken, and rather tasty french fries. US$1-2.
- The Thea Sdav Restaurant, (near Wat Ou Ruessei). Students eat here early in the morning rice with meat and vegetables or a soup before they go to school. Seasonal and daily menu of typical Khmer food including BBQ, Khmer salads, eggs and soups, home made prahok, freshly made fruit juices, ice cream and Khmer herbal spirits. US$ 0.50-2. edit
- Balcony GH & Restaurant,. Restaurant/bar with a standard menu of Khmer and western food US$1-5 and slightly more expensive daily specials. Lots of vegetarian food, including marinated tofu burgers, though the service can be excruciatingly slow when busy.
- You Hong II Restaurant, is attached to the guesthouse of the same name just in from the river near Heng Heng, and and has an impressive menu, but can cook only some of it fairly well. They also have an Internet connection, which is slow, but usually working. The former You Hong (I) next to the market is now defunct.
- Sorya Cafe, On the North end of the riverfront (next to Canadia Bank), ☎ 090241148. Mon-Sat 7AM-9PM. Western style coffee, capuccino, tea, smoothies, and other specialty drinks. Baked goods, homemade bread, sandwiches, and Khmer food. Nice relaxing atmosphere with comfortable seating. $1-$3.5. edit
- Tuk Tuk Bar & Restaurant, River Dolphin Hotel, Sangkat Orrussey (Head east from river through roundabout, cross white bridge, after 2nd large hotel turn left), ☎ 072210570, . 6:00-10:00. Open air restaurant overlooking hotel swimming pool, garden, and fish pond. Menu includes western and pan Asian favorites. Patrons can use pool also. Eat and drink in the restaurant or poolside. $2-$7. (12.4975,106.0275) edit
- Street ice cream, 12.483105,106.017407 (Opposite heng heng guest house). Young guy selling ice cream on his ice cream truck. It'd along the river, opposite heng heng guest house. Open during evening 4-5pm. Delicious and cheap, rich in coconut taste. Very popular among local kids. Only 2000 riel ($0.25usd) 2000. edit
- Mlub putrea restaurant, Preah Sihanouk Street between 5 and 6, ☎ 087495070. 0600-0900. Fried noodles, beef and pork stew under $2.50 Coffee at 0.50. Owner speaks Chinese too. English menu. Their beef stew is thick and flavourful,goes well with bread. edit
- Street fried rice, 12.484273,106.018024 (Opposite tokae restaurant). Lady in her 40s selling fried rice on her motor bike food stall. Flavour Bursting beef fried rice for only 5000 riel ($1.25). Popular among the locals. edit
Watching the sun go down over the Mekong, with a cold beer or a tuk-a-lok (fruit shake) on the riverfront, is one of the joys of a visit to Kratie. There are many stalls which set up in the late afternoon serving them, and stay open until midnight, which is unusually late for a Cambodian provincial town.
Red Sun Falling will stay open until the last person leaves, which can be pretty late, and the new Marlees bar offers the other bar option in town.
- Silver Dolphin Guesthouse (www.silver-village.com), No 48Eo, St Suramarit (Riverside Road) ([email protected]), ☎ 85512999810. Khmer cuisine and selection of western breakfast, comfortable seating area by street to direction of tourist information, to chill out or catch up with the friend, the view of the Mekong, and unique rooftop to serve you an open pleasant terrace. A great place to escape to the dust and the bustle. Serving fruit shakes, fresh fruit juice, cold beer, wine and cocktail at reasonable price and to lounge away at the afternoon for the best sunset from the rooftop. edit
- Le Tonlé Tourism Training Center (Le Tonlé), # 724, St. 03, Phsar Veng Village, Kratie Commune, Kratie Town. (4 blocks north of Kratie market, just off Preah Soramarith Quay), ☎ 072 210 505, . Le Tonlé is a Tourism Training Center managed by local NGO Cambodian Rural Development Team, providing vocational training for disadvantaged youth in the north-eastern provinces of Kratie and Stung Treng. With boutique rooms from $10, and a menu featuring almost 100 Khmer and Lao dishes, Le Tonlé is a great way to enjoy Kratie town while helping to support skills development. (12.49057,106.016349) edit
Almost all the hotels and guesthouses in town are located along the riverside, and a couple near the market. Prices for a room typically range from $5-8. Dorms $2-4.
Their are also some accomodations on Koh Trong Island where you can enjoy a out of time piece of land with a typycall rural environment.
- Arun Mekong Guesthouse, #855 Krati, Kracheh, Koh Trong Island, ☎ +855 17 663 014 ([email protected]), . Arun Mekong is a large wooden construction on Koh Trong Island which is a wonderful island in the Mekong River in front of Kratie town, the island is a calm place where you can discover traditional Cambodian culture and nature in a nut shell. With 5 double bedrooms in the main house, two separate bungalows and a large public living area we would be happy to host you during you stay on this wonderfull island. US$22-US$33. edit
- Le Tonle Guesthouse & Training Center, #724, St. 03, Phsar Veng Village, Kratie Commune, Kratie Town, ☎ +855 72 210 505, . This tiny guesthouse (only 4 rooms, 2 double, 1 twin, 1 family) also serves as a training center for disadvantaged youth in hospitality and gastronomy sectors. The rooms are spacious and have towels and mosquito nets. The shared bathrooms are very clean and tastefully decorated. The restaurant serves good Khmer and Western food with excellent service. The place works together with the CRDB center to encourage sustainable tourism. Each room is 10 dollars per night, make sure to book in advance! US$10. edit
- Heng Heng Hotel, Rue Sumamarit, ☎ +855 72 971405. Now offers riverfront rooms of very good quality (especially at the Heng Heng 2), if slightly pricier than other options in town. This place has been upgrading itself significantly over the past few years, and now has hot running water. The restaurant downstairs is a good choice too. WiFi in rooms on all floors. High season: Singles US$10, doubles US$15 Low season: singles no view: $5, with view: $6. edit
- Oudom Sambath Hotel, Rue Sumamarit, ☎ +855 72 971502. Probably the best hotel in town, and some of the top-floor rooms offer good views of the Mekong. Service can be a bit slow. Has WiFi in most rooms. Laundry is also an exorbitant $2 a kilo and never seems to be less than $5 a bag no matter how small. Singles US$8, doubles US$15 (goes down to 5$ in low season). edit
- Santepheap Hotel, Rue Sumamarit, ☎ +855 72 971537. This has long been the standard choice for tour groups, and has a small restaurant. Rooms come with hot running water and some cable channels even though you probably didn't come to Kratie to watch TV, but the bathrooms are generally dirty. Wi-Fi in reception. If you want to get to Laos the 07:30 bus departs from here. Singles US$7, doubles US$15. edit
- Silver Dolphin Guesthouse, No 048 Eo. St Preash Suramarit, River Road, Kratie, Cambodia (http://silverdolphin.over-blog.com/), ☎ 012 999 810, . checkout: 12.00pm. Silver Dolphin Guesthouse, new budget guesthouse, opened 0n April 2012, run by local family, a young couple. French and English spoken. Room are fully equip: Dorm Bed-USD 2.00 with share bathroom,SNG room USD 4.00 (can be 2pax), DBL-room USD 6, TWN-room USD 7.00, TPL-room USD 10.00, complementary wifi and Destop usage, 24 hours front Desk service, restaurant well faced to the Mekong view from the unique rooftop in the town. There are security cameras IN the dorm room. USD 2-8. edit
- Balcony Guesthouse. As of 8th March 2016 the Balcony Guesthouse was no longer at the location given by google maps at the northern end of the hotel strip. Located beside the river at the northern end of the hotel strip. 6 double rooms with prices starting at $5. For an ensuite $6, and for an ensuite with a river view $7. Wifi in every room. They have their own restaurant which does pretty decent food. The balcony is a nice place to just hang out and meet other travellers. They also have an internet computer, tv with a selection of movies, laundry service, and bicycles and motorbikes for rent. Only a few minutes walk to the market. edit
- River Dolphin Hotel (http://www.riverdolphinhotel.com/), Sangkat Orrussey, Kratie, ☎ 855072210570. New hotel in Kratie. (Open in April 2014) All range of price. 2$ : gazebo. 5$ fan room windowless. 15$ A/C in basement. 20$ A/C balcony. 55$ double. Can be cheaper in low season. Clean big room, hot shower, flat screen tv. NOT on riverside. Free tuk-tuk shuttle between town and hotel. Motorbike renting (6$ manual, 7$ automatic) and rent bicycle. Restaurant with good food (Asian and western). Happy hour for drink. Clean swimming pool !!!! Laundry 1.5$/kg. They sale bus ticket. Really nice staff, really helpful even if they don't have all a good english. View on field. 2$ to 55$. edit
- Home Sweet Home Guesthouse (Koh Trong Island), (Take the Koh Trong ferry from Kratie, beside Jasmine Boat restaurant. 1000 riel one way. Follow the path across the Koh Trong beach to the entrance of Chong Koh village and turn left when facing the temple.), ☎ 089 499 356 ([email protected]). Home Sweet Home on Koh Trong Island offers 9 fan rooms. Shared bathrooms. Food is available at the guesthouse (breakfast from 7, lunch 11.30-1.30, dinner 5-7), with prices ranging from $2-4 for a freshly prepared Khmer meal. Tea, coffee and cold drinks are also available. We have beautiful views of the Mekong and Kratie city from the second floor balcony, as well as free WiFi throughout. Single $7, Double $10. edit
- Barbers shops, (on the road near the Mekong Restaurant). They are open until at least 20:00, and charge 2,000 riel for a shave, 2,500 riel for a standard haircut or 4,000 riel for both. They will always use new razor blades but the towels are not the most hygienic.
There is a central bus station one block up from the river. Go here to avoid guesthouse fees.
- Banlung - town located beside spectacular natural attractions, including waterfalls, volcanic lakes, natural parks and hill tribe villages.
- Chlong - a small town, about 30 km from Kratie.
- Kampong Cham - the third largest city in Cambodia, full of colonial charm. Bus takes 4 hours and costs $6.
- Stung Treng - the town most tourists pass through on the way to Laos.
- Sambour district - a small and charming town along the Mekong river about 38 km from Kratie
- Sen Monorom - look for the orange bus at the bus station in Kratie. The bus is due to leave at 7.30am
- Laos - If you want to avoid the horrible experiences described below, go to the Sorya bus company on
Street 9. Sorya runs big buses from Phnom Penh up to Laos and although they leave later - 12pm, rather than 7.30am - they appear to get to the border at about the same time. They also just drop you at the border and let you sort out your own visa, rather than going through all of the corrupt shenanigans described below.
You can take a crowded minivan at 07:00 which has been described as a 'the worst travel experience I've ever had' or a virtually deserted bus at 07:00 (and only $1 more expensive) which departs from the front of Santepheap Hotel to pick up passengers entering Cambodia from the Laos border. Speak to the reception at Santepheap Hotel about bookings to the border. From there you simply hire one of the minivans that drop off tourists exiting Laos and proceed to Don Det. This journey is nowhere near as stressful as people make it out to be and you can arrive in Don Det by around 14:00-15:00.
As noted above, the van can be a horrible experience. Designed to hold 12 passengers in 4 rows (3 per row) they instead cram all the paid tourists into 3 rows (no seat for one of the four) then pack as many locals and cargo into the first row as can fit. So in addition to the approximately $200 they collected from the tourists they get additional income from the locals.
You will be transfered to a bus at Stung Treng.
You (and everybody on your bus) may be extorted by the bus company as we were in March of 2013. They will tell you that they need to process your Visa for you, that otherwise they cannot guarantee you a seat on the connecting van (and boat to 4,000 islands) for which you have already paid. The little ratbag will then come and collect your passport and give you a form to fill in. Just say no thanks and spout gibberish. When you get on the bus show the local fixer your ticket and do not let him take if from you. Keep your passport and proceed to the customs guys and visa posts when the bus stops, do not allow yourself to be herded towards the cafe-stalls. Bribe the visa people yourself and walk to the minibus waiting at the Lao side of the border. They will tell you that it is the last van of the day and that if you cross the border yourself you may be stranded. They will ask to collect the cost of your Visa plus a bribe of up to $10. You can avoid the bus company's extortion by walking yourself through the border (probably still being subject to bribing the border officials). The trouble here is the catch-22 that you need to get your connecting bus ticket (for which you have already paid) from the guy who is trying to extort you, or risk forfeiting your already paid ticket for the van/boat to 4,000 islands. It is better to avoid confrontation with the little fixer, unless you know how to behave like a mean-bastard/violent psychopath, pretend ignorance, idiocy or being "away with the fairies". Walk around this problem rather than confront it ... but if you don't crack a rib or two for this contributor
This town is under the influence of local gangsters. The hoteliers and guest-house owners have to get along with them. Go directly to the bus company office to book your ticket. The early transport is controlled by these local agents. The later transport and the bus up from Phnom Penn are not, but there is a modus vivendi.
|This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!