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How and what it’s like to get the bus from Phnom Penh to Pattaya and Bangkok
To get the Bus from Phnom Penh to Pattaya and Bangkok when traveling on a budget can be stressful if you let it be. At the moment, getting a bus is the cheapest way to travel anywhere in Cambodia. Another alternative is being mooted by the Cambodian government, but these trains direct to Bangkok from Phnom Penh have been promised for mid 2016 and are not a reality yet. So, if you’re on a budget, relax and catch the bus.
To get out of Phnom Penh on the bus, you will need to go to the Night Market on Sisowath Quay (Riverside). This is where you will first have to take a long deep breath and remain calm. There are a few bus companies here, but you will want the one on the corner nearest the riverside. Here you will generally have to struggle through a throng of other passengers to get your ticket from the office. And then, of course, you have to make yourself understood. Be patient, they do speak English, but you will have to speak slowly, and this can seem difficult because they are in a rush to get you served and get on to the next person.
Getting the best deal
The first thing they will ask you is where you are going. Makes sense, right? If you tell them, you will be offered a ticket to either Pattaya and Bangkok for $32 one way for a night bus, and $28 for a daytime ticket. You cannot buy a return, you will be told, so you’ll have to get that at the other end. But wait a minute. You can do better than that as we found on our return journey. It’s 250 Baht from Pattaya to Poipet (that’s just under $7), and it’s $15 from Poipet to Phnom Penh, making a grand total of just under $22 and a potential saving of $10. This also works the other way, so I suggest you buy to Poipet on the outward journey, cross the border and get a minibus on the other side. The process is exactly the same, except that at Poipet you won’t have to wait around for a minibus because you can choose from about 10 different companies and take the one that leaves the soonest.
If there are 3 or 4 of you, then you might consider getting a taxi which is around $80 from Phnom Penh to Poipet. This will be faster, around 5 or 6 hours, and you can still get the minibus on the other side. However, I think I would prefer the bus at the moment if you consider the state of the roads which is described if you read on.
One thing you should consider is that the border shuts at 10pm., so if you are making your own way to Poipet, you need to be aware that there won’t be as many minibuses on the Thai side after 9pm.
The night-bus leaves Phnom Penh at 10.30pm and they suggest that you get there 30 minutes earlier as with any normal check-in. Our bus arrived on time and so did my partner’s who took the day bus. The night bus arrives in Poipet at around 5am; Pattaya at anytime from around 12 to 2pm; and Bangkok at around 1 to 3pm the next day. There is another bus that leaves at 9.30pm and you can adjust these times accordingly. Read the comments below to find out about this earlier night bus. The daytime bus does not go through Poipet but takes the Koh Kong border crossing. This bus leaves at 7.45am and arrives at around 8pm in Pattaya.
On the return journey, the minibuses run hourly from around 5am, but be sure to leave no later than 3pm from Pattaya and 2pm from Bangkok because of the closing times at the border. We set off at 3pm and only just made the bus which left late at 10.30. We took the last seats and there are no other buses. You will also be harassed by touts at this time of night, but don’t be intimidated by them, just cross the border and walk straight until you see the bus offices.
Visa and Immigration
You can buy your visa on arrival which will cost you around $35 depending on whether you pay in Baht or Dollars – paying in dollars should get your price down to nearer $30. Visa on arrival into Cambodia is around $25 again depending on which currency you use. You can also cross at the land borders if you have less than 6 months life left on your passport which you cannot do by plane.
Our coach was a pretty good one – a Scania that was about 20 years old and seemed like it had been looked after well and had its own toilet. Inside, the seats had no seat-belts and were cheaply fitted in plastic, but they were wide and comfortable and there’s no need to worry about sweating because they AC is very cool – chilly to be exact. This seems to be the way the bus companies like to run their vehicles wherever you travel in Cambodia. You really need that blanket. Being on a budget, you are probably traveling light, so for this journey wear your heavier clothes to stay warm.
As soon as you turn out of the city, the road becomes dirt with many large pot-holes. At some stages the driver could manage no more than 5 to 10 miles an hour. The coach also stops a lot. I lost count how many times, but I’m guessing at least 20. Two of these stops seemed to be for an actual reason: the first being to let pressure out of the tires and make the pot-holed journey more comfortable, I’m guessing, and also to blow out the air filter which had become full of impenetrable dust from the terrible road conditions. The second stop was for the drivers lunch and to give anyone who was awake the chance to take a bite to eat, freshen up, and etc. I had rice porridge with chicken breast which cost me $1.10., and it was nice.
I really have no idea why the bus stopped all the other times. Sometimes the driver got out and had a smoke – yep, OK, I get that, but other times he just stopped and did nothing. These seemed to be deliberate staggering of time to waste time. I guess there must be some reason for this, but it is beyond me. Please leave a comment if you find out.
After reaching the middle to left side of the Tonle Sap lake – I checked my Google Maps – the road became much better and I finally managed to get some sleep from around 3am to 7am which is when the bus stopped in Poipet at the border.
Crossing the border
The door opened and I immediately saw massive queues to the passport control and just as my smile was dropping a uniformed immigration officer offered me a VIP 2 minute processing for $10 as an alternative to waiting in a sweaty queue for, by the looks of things, an hour or more. I didn’t have change, I only had $5 on me and the rest were big bills. He said $6, I re-informed him that I only had $5, and he snatched the $5 plus my passport, disappeared and came back 5 minutes later with it stamped. But even with my ‘discount’, I quickly fell into the company of two other westerners who had only paid $4 and another who had paid $3. So, well, you live and learn.
After this, we (a group now) walked though and came to the immigration control, which was quite a surprise because we all thought we had just paid to get through that. No – there are two. This did take an hour, but I was in good company so the time went pretty quick.
To get to the minibuses to take you to your destination, you then may be left a little confused as to where to go. So, here are some directions:
After the immigration, follow the signs and walk down the stairs which will bring you on to a pavement. Keep walking straight, do not cross the road. On this pavement about 300 meters up, you will meet a bunch of company men and they will set you right. If you miss them, keep walking until you come to a modern-looking mall on your left and turn left as you pass it. As you walk down this street, you will see minibuses lined up on the right-hand side and a square of Asian styled food stalls beyond that. Now all you have to do is find your company office which will be on the right-hand side behind the minibuses. If you want to use the toilets, you will find them in the car park underneath the mall and you will need 2 baht to get through the gates. The toilets are clean and a good place to freshen up.
The minibuses leave regularly on the hour to Pattaya and on the half hour to Bangkok, so there is no panic if you are delayed through customs and immigration.
Once on the minibus, it was all smiles as we were all on the last leg of the trip. Well, at least until the minibus stopped after around 5 minutes, and then again 5 minutes later. This around 10 times until an hour had passed and then we stopped for lunch. This of course is completely unnecessary for a trip that would otherwise be about 2 hours. However, as in Cambodia, in Thailand the bus companies get a kick-back from the stopovers so that they can cream so money from the traveling tourists. And, of course, they did. We stayed there for about 40 minutes.
After this, there were various but infrequent stops for no apparent reason, but usually the driver went into company offices that were placed along the way. The smokers seemed to enjoy this.
We arrived in Pattaya at 2pm and were met by tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis to take us to our hotels and etc. The payment is arranged by the company so that you pay no more than 20 baht.
Although there was many pointless stops, the bus and the minibus were both in good condition and comfortable. I managed to relax and I met, as you tend to when traveling on a budget, some really interesting people and I learnt some more about the world from them. The only really bad part of the trip was the first few hours of that terrible road out of Phnom Penh. But, seeing road works along the way, I imagine this road will be sorted out soon, just as the roads to Siem Reap, Kampot and Sihanoukville have been improved over the last two year.
To sum it all up, I would prefer to fly, but if time isn’t a great issue and you are traveling on a budget, then I would recommend the bus – it’ll save you around $100 on a return and it’s a great excuse to sit back and read a book. Oh, did I forget to say? There is no WiFi on these coaches.
Bus from Phnom Penh to Pattaya Bangkok
Copyright: www.gaycambodianews.com 7/1/2015