Nattakan – tickets
Nattakan is one of the companies that offer a direct bus link from Bangkok to Siem Reap, the place to be in order to visit the temples of Angkor. They depart from Bangkok Bus Terminal, also called Chatuchak or Mo Chit bus station. When walking into the terminal building you will see the information boot. Straight behind that info boot is the ticket counter for Nattakan bus tickets to Siem Reap. A one way ticket cost 750 baht ($23 – Aug 2018). Departure time is at 9.00 AM. The place of departure is outside at number 106. Just get out of the doors left of the ticket counter and you’ll see sign 106 already outside.
Nattakan – service…..
Soon after the bus left the bus station, the bus host or guide brings all passengers a small bag in which you’ll find a small cake, small juice and small can of some coffee. This present is included in your ticket price. The trip can take up to 10 hrs so the bus has a toilet. The actual time of driving is around 8 hrs. The rest of the time is spend at the border crossing. About one or two km before the border, the bus stops at an (theirs?) orange painted office. Here you get a small, hot, readymade meal in the bus. Still included in your ticket price. Much time to eat you won’t have, as the guide is explaining the following procedure….
The guide is explaining friendly that he will give you an application form to fill in order to get a Cambodian visa, plus the arrival/departure card of Cambodia. You have to fill the application form and card. A passport sized photo is required, but in case you don’t have one, the guide tells that they will make one of your passport copy. No problem. Oh… of course you need to pay for the Cambodian visa, a price of 1400 baht to give to the Nattakan bus guide with all the other mentioned things.
Now we get to the point where you might consider this as scam. 1) The guide does not talk about other options that you might have, like walking yourself alone to the concerning office to get the visa. 2) The 1400 baht is equal to nearly $43 while a visa officially cost between $30 – $35. 3) When asked to pay in US Dollars (as that is the official Cambodian currency too), you will be denied. Even though bringing this up. Their explanation is that the office is located in Thailand and therefore the visa needs to be paid in THB. Of course, this doesn’t make any sense at all.
After everyone hands over all that’s required, the guide goes out and comes back in about 20 min. All the passports now have a Cambodian visa sticker in it. Meanwhile you got this time to eat the meal. The bus leaves the orange colored office and drives slowly 1 km to the point where everyone is ordered out. Take all your luggage and start with the border crossing.
For Thai immigration (Sa Kaeo) you get to the path at the left side of the road and follow the signs. You will pass several signs with information about what you aren’t supposed to bring over the border and about money declaration. Go right hand side upstairs. There are the immigration counters, five or six in total of which usually not more than three are open. Hand over your passport and written departure card and get stamped. Follow the exit sign. Just out of the door is a room to scan your luggage, but often there is nobody to call you in, so chosen randomly. People with so called hand luggage can usually pass without check.
In Between Land
Here it can get confusing at some points. Especially because there is a lot of casino construction work going on. Noise of that and all the trucks with cargo, plus a big number of people and other movements might make you look around confused for the Cambodian arrival building. Stay at the left side of the road, filled with buses and trucks. Keep walking on the path till the path goes left a few meters to the train track, which you can then follow another 30 meters. There you look to the other side of the road and can see a small building with arrival sign on it.
Poi Pet Arrival Stamp
You can also choose to cross the road already at the point where you turn a few meters left to the train track. Often the buses are parked on the road there, waiting for their passengers. You might opt to cross the road there at the buses and walk to the arrival building ahead. Crossing the road can be chaotic with way too much traffic, be careful.
Get into the small building in one of the three or four lines, get stamped, walk out and don’t walk straight once out of the building. Unless you want to buy a water or anything in a shop there, but the buses are waiting before the arrival stamp, not after. So walk back to get into your bus again. Don’t be afraid to get lost or left behind with buses gone. All passengers get a quite big plastic ID card to hang around their neck. Do that so you will easily be recognized by bus employees or others who can help you out.
To Siem Reap
The counting starts in the bus. The plastic cards will be handed back and when clear that everyone is indeed back in the bus. You get on the way for the last 2-3 hrs to Siem Reap. Nattakan bus stops about 7 km from the pubstreet area of Siem Reap at their office. Several tuktuks are waiting to bring passengers to their hotels, but now beware about the price for a tuktuk and the hassle coming up.
The price for a tuktuk to your hotel will be around $3, which is reasonable. The driver starts asking you about trips to Angkor, etc. The always well know question for experienced travelers is ‘Your first time here?’. Answer yes and they know they can either charge you whatever, or have a potential customer for upcoming days. Answer that it’s your 3rd visit and suddenly the tuktuk driver has to walk back into the office to inform the staff of Tannakan about it.
The overall trip can be called smooth, without any troubles, unless some people in the bus do make a fuss about the price scam for the visa. When charged an extra $2 for doing the work for you, in possible heat outside, it could be seen as service, but the $7 or more that Nattakan charges is way too much and the lack of informing about all other options make it a doubtful company to choose, despite that everything else is quite well organized. An impression video can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1riTAyAptw