Have you ever wondered how you can travel from Sihanoukville to Bangkok via overland border crossing? Is it safe and doable? If safety is your concern, all I can say is that I successfully crossed the border and reached Bangkok from Sihanoukville in one piece. So the answer to the next question “Is it doable?” is a big YES. You can travel from Bangkok to Sihanoukville and back by crossing the borders of Hat Lek in Thailand and Koh Kong in Cambodia.
How to Travel from Sihanoukville to Bangkok
Sihanoukville, formerly known as Kampong Saom, is a small province in Cambodia which is situated in the Gulf of Thailand. This coastal town of Cambodia is best known for its beaches and tourists flock this place either before or after visiting the temples of Angkor in Siem Reap.
Serendipity Beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Some tourists follow the Siem Reap-Battambang-Phom Penh-Sihanoukville route before heading back to Bangkok, Thailand. Other tourists travel the other way around by travelling south of Thailand to cross the borders in Hat Lek on their way to Cambodia. Others find refuge in doing a visa run on the borders that separate Thailand and Cambodia in the south.
However, if your goal is to do an overland border crossing from Sihanoukville to Bangkok, you need to buy bus tickets at any bus company in Sihanoukville. You can also book for bus tickets at your hotel/guesthouse in Sihanoukville if they offer one. There are also licensed booking booths or offices within the area.
never loose your Sihanoukville to Bangkok bus tickets!
I paid $25.00 for my bus ticket for my Sihanoukville to Bangkok trip. I requested a window seat. I am not sure though if there are cheaper bus fares plying by this route. Knowing that there are many bus companies in Sihanoukville, the bus fares could vary. I never bothered looking for another bus company at that time though.
I was told that the travel time was 12 hrs and there will be 2 bus transfers. Bus # 1 is from Sihanoukville to Koh Kong and Bus # 2 is when I cross the border of Thailand and travel from Hat Lek to Bangkok.
Bus Trip from Sihanoukville to Koh Kong
The bus ticket I paid for included a free pick-up from my hostel. My bus was scheduled to leave at 8:00 am. I was told they’d pick me up at 7:30am. Luckily, I checked out early because the bus arrived at 7:15am.
the wide roads of Sihanoukville; my bus approaching…
I never expected that the pick up would be the actual bus itself as I was used to getting fetched by tuk-tuks and motorbikes in Siem Reap. I was the first passenger on the bus. The bus conductor checked my ticket and led me to my seat. Afterwhich, the bus roared its engines and hopped from one guesthouse/hotel to another as it picked up more passengers.
I never slept the night before so I immediately dozed off to sleep when I thought it would take forever for the bus to finish fetching passengers. I woke up in between stop overs. I couldn’t recall how many times we stopped over too. There’s no bathroom inside the bus so in case you need to use a bathroom, you can simply approach the driver and request to stop over at the nearest toilet you’ll pass by
During my research on how to cross the borders from Sihanoukville to Bangkok, I read on some accounts that they had to ride a ferry to cross a certain area. However, there’s no need for that on this overland border crossing from Sihanoukville to Bangkok since there’s already a bridge that makes the travelling hassle-free.
Immigration Checkpoint at Koh Kong, Cambodia
By 12:30pm noon, almost 5 hours after we left Sihanoukville, we arrived at Koh Kong, Cambodia. The bus had to park a few meters away from the immigration office.
There were no gates available. You’ll see cars and motorcycles parked on the side of the streets. As soon as I went down the bus and confirmed where the immigration checkpoint office was, I started walking to reach the area since I only brought a backpack with me. The rest of the passengers had to wait to get their bags. Others left their bags in the care of the bus company, who promised them they will get their bags once they finished crossing the border on the Thailand side.
the Cham Yeam International Checkpoint office at Koh Kong, Cambodia
The immigration office in Koh Kong, Cambodia is that one-storey building on top. There’s a covered area with seats on the left side but no one’s using it.
When you go to the border checkpoint in Koh Kong, expect to get scorched under the heat of the sun just like us. We had to endure the heat as we waited for our turn to get cleared as we exit Cambodia.
Expect to be approached by touts who will sway you into agreeing to pay $5 per head for faster visa/passport processing. Those who cannot stand the heat of the sun and the long line are the most likely to take the bait. They are the ones who get to use the seats from that covered area in front of the small building.
But just so you’ll know, getting your passports stamped and cleared as you exit Cambodia will not cost you anything. It’s free.
the right side was where our bus dropped us, to the left side is Thailand’s border
Immigration Checkpoint at Hat Lek, Thailand
It took me 30 minutes before I reached the counter. They required fingerprint scanning before they clear and stamp your passport as you exit Cambodia. Once done, I walked a few meters to the other side and soon found my feet stepping on Thailand’s soil. There’s a 2-storey small building on the left side of the road. You will be greeted by guards. They are in charge of distributing the Thai immigration card. You can use a table provided when walking to the building to fill up the card or you can fill it up while waiting for your turn at the Passport, Borderpass Control office in Hat Lek.
I’ve been to 3 border checkpoints in Thailand and by far, the immigration office in Hat Lek is plain-looking. You won’t see those big Thai infrastructures that shouts “Hey, you’ve reached the border of Thailand! Take a photo as a souvenir!” like the ones you’ll see in Aranyaprathet or in Mae Sot, Thailand.
However, unlike the immigration checkpoint in Koh Kong, the passport control in Hat Lek was very fast and efficient.
that 2-storey building with the blue roof is the Hat Lek Immigration Checkpoint when you enter Thailand from Koh Kong, Cambodia
If you decided to leave your bags in the care of your bus driver with their promise of you reuniting with your bags after you’re done with your immigration checkpoint in Hat Lek, you just have to take their word for it. Or maybe not. It’s a risk to trust your bags with total strangers as you won’t know what might happen to it. But true to their word, our bus company driver kept his word when he told the other passengers that their bags will be waiting for them once they’re done processing their passports at the Thai immigration office in Hat Lek. The only catch? Those bags were dumped on the side of the street like they were on display for sale. I had to contain myself from giggling when I saw those poor bags as they enjoyed sunbathing while they await for their masters to claim them.
As soon as you finished crossing the Hat Lek border, you have to hand over your bus ticket to the person watching over the bags. Be sure to get one copy back since you will still need that. Never ever lose that ticket. That guy will assign you to a minivan. Be sure you are riding the minivan assigned for Bangkok since other passengers are headed to other provinces in Thailand.
Travelling from Hat Lek to Bangkok
After the assigned passengers of our minivan settled their things, we left Hat Lek, Thailand at 2:10pm. I started dozing off to sleep again but after 20 minutes of travelling, we stopped by a gasoline station where another minivan was parked. Without any explanation, we were given hand signals to transfer to the other minivan. Our driver doesn’t speak English so it was kinda confusing since we didn’t have any clue what was going on.
Left without a choice, we transferred to the other minivan and as soon as our things were settled and we were seated inside the van, we left.
By 3:25 pm, we arrived at this huge terminal in Trat. I thought we were dropping off a passenger but we were instructed to get out of the van. Again, we (I) were confused on what to do. They didn’t explain what was going on. They just said to give my ticket to the counter. I obliged. I was given a new ticket and the lady behind the counter said something that sounds like “Wait at #6. Bus leaves at 4:30”. I had to let her repeat what she said since I never understood any word of it. This was the reason why you have to keep your Sihanoukville bus ticket. Otherwise, you’d end up paying for another bus fare.
By this time, I realized that we will be riding a bigger bus going to Bangkok. I didn’t know where we were and figured that we were probably in the Trat bus terminal after I asked someone.
I was expecting we’d be dropped off at Khao San Road. I was glad I asked the personnel at the bus terminal. I learned that the bus was headed to Ekamai Bus Terminal.
Before boarding the empty bus, I told the bus driver where I needed to go. After consulting with his colleagues, they suggested that I need to get off at the On Nut BTS Station. I asked them to help me get off the area since I’ve no idea where it was and they agreed. When I asked them how long it will take to reach Bangkok, they said 6 hours. Goodluck!
The bus ride was comfortable and I slept most of the time.
2 bus transfers, 2 minivan transfers, 2 border checkpoints and 15 hours after, I arrived safely in Bangkok. I was dropped off at the On Nut station at 10:30 pm and an hour after, I arrived at my friend’s house.
If not for the miscommunication with the number of hours it will take to reach Bangkok, the number of times we had to transfer buses/minivans and the language barrier on the Thai side, my overland border crossing from Sihanoukville to Bangkok would have been a worry-free trip.
To anyone who’d be crossing the borders from Sihanoukville to Bangkok, or Bangkok to Sihanoukville, never lose your bus ticket. Guard it with your life, ok? Or you might end up paying more for the trip or fall victims of scams.