Can you travel overland from Phnom Peng to Bangkok? The short answer is that yes you can and that there is more than one option to do so, which includes doing most of the journey by train.
So, before you jump in and say “but the flight is only $50”, we know that, but for some saving that extra bit of money is still worth it, while for others, such as The Street Food Guy, the journey is as important as the destination.
Overland from Phnom Penh to Bangkok via Battambang
We will get the fact that there is an AC bus for the same price as the train out of the way here that is more reliable and move straight on to the train.
The train takes 6 and a half hours and leaves t 6.40 am from the wonderful Phnom Penh Railway station. The journey is epic and it drops you in Battambang with enough time to do the Bamboo Railway. You can read about that train journey here.
Battambang is a real unknown gem of Cambodia and very underrated. The vibe here is great, as is the Street Food.
Battambang to Poipet (Thai border)
After being quoted $16 a person at the bus station (crazy expensive). I queried a private taxi and was told it would be $15 to get from Battambang to Poipet. The journey did take a few hours, but was pleasant and easy enough.
Note 15, was a shared taxi. On arrival in Poipet I went to buy hotel, which was of the Chinese persuasion and altogether not all that great. Here is popular for gambling and buying stuff, so the hotels are nowhere near as good a value as you get in Battambang, or other Cambodian cities.
They do though have an epic night market with amazing street food.
Crossing the border between Cambodia and Thailand
Usually this is quite a quick border, but if you are unlucky it can take up to 3 hours. Alas on this day I was slightly unlucky and only managed to get over the border just in time for 7-Eleven and the 13.50 train, despite arriving at the border at 11 am.
As borders go it is pretty nice, with there being a cool clothes market on the Thai side, which it turns out is an epic place to buy underpants. I sure know how to live……
Taking the train from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok
Aranyaprathet is the Thai town opposite Poipet where the market is. There are some cheap hotels here if you get caught coming to Cambodia late at night. They also have very nice squid, but then that is very much a Thai thing.
Anyway there are two trains per day from Aranyaprathet
To Bangkok, one leaving at 5.55 arriving at 11.35, whilst the second leaves at 13.59 and arrives at 17.55, except that both are always late. Personally my train arrived more 19,40, but it was all good.
You can check out the timetable here.
And the train journey?
I will be honest and say this was far from the first time that I have taken this train and that in fact I am quite obsessed with said train. In fact I count at least 6 times I have taken it.
So, why do I like it? Firstly it is crazy cheap costing roughly $1.60, or 49 baht, but it is about more than price, The journey is on an old school train with the windows and even doors open that offers and epic view of the Thai countryside, street food on the train (train food I guess) and a relaxing place to even work on the laptop if you desire.
And while traveling overland from Phnom Penh to Bangkok is indeed tiring and not for everyone, to those that like this kind of thing, it is pretty amazing.