Poipet Cambodia - the Ultimate Travel Guide
The town of Poipet is best known as the home of the border crossing between Cambodia and Aranyaprathet in Thailand. For this reason many people don’t linger here and as with many border towns you won’t find much in the way of attractions.
The main draws here are the casinos dotted around the town as well as some charming relics like the Old Railway Station. The main shopping area of Rongkleu Market is also worth a visit and if you are looking to spend an afternoon exploring a typical Cambodian town, then stopping off in Poipet overnight can be a good choice.
When to go
Rainy season usually lasts from June to October and it can be a bit of a wash out at this time especially if you are looking to walk around town on foot. Far nicer are the months of November to December when there is less chance of rain and it is cooler.
This is one of the most popular border crossings in Cambodia but also one of the most confusing. It can take upwards of three hours to cross and there are a wealth of scams to look out for. The worst of these is the visa scam which involves touts coming up to you saying they can get you a visa without you having to wait in line.
The people that do this will charge you a much higher price for the visa which is USD30 and they may get you a fraudulent visa and then disappear which you then won’t be able to use.
There is no quick way to cross the border so you will need to wait in line and only use the official border checkpoint. The border is officially open from 7am to 10pm.
Note however that this can be subject to change for no clear reason and there have been reports of foreigners not being able to cross after 5pm or 8pm.
Despite the fact that most people don’t stay in Poipet, preferring to swiftly move on to somewhere more exciting like Siem Reap, there are a reasonable range of accommodation options here.
One thing to note is that it is also cheaper than staying in neighboring Thailand so if you want to linger at the border overnight then it makes sense to do it on the Cambodian side if you are on a budget.
For budget travelers Poipet Phnom Pich Guest House is a solid choice and is located on the main street close to the border. They have Wi-Fi and single rooms with a fan come in at USD5. If you want to upgrade to air conditioning then it will be around USD10. Another option close to the Grand Diamond Casino is the Chao Pah Ya Guesthouse which has cable television, air conditioning, and Wi-Fi and comes in at around USD10-12 per night.
A little more upscale, especially in the context of Poipet, is Hotel City Poipet which is quite new in the city and offers a clean but cheap option. For US12 you can expect a room with air conditioning and hot water and there is also a restaurant next door famous for its grilled pork.
If you want something a step up from a guesthouse and Hotel City Poipet is somehow inexplicably fully booked then Viroth Hotel beside the immigration office has air conditioning and glittery decor and comes in at USD18.
Located next to Poipet Phnom Pich Guest House is Huy Kea Hotel which has big rooms, televisions, air conditioning and Wi-Fi and costs around USD11 for a single and USD12 for a double. This is a good choice if you want something relatively cheap that still has all the basic amenities to make your stay comfortable.
It’s fair to say that Poipet is not exactly a culinary paradise but you will still find some charming spots here.
One of the best places in town is the Destiny Cafe which is attached to an NGO and serves Thai, Khmer, and Western bites like chicken stir fried with cashews and big pieces of toothsome cake. You can also use their Wi-Fi here and they do nice fruit shakes as well as iced coffees.
Another good choice is the Capitol Restaurant which has some good Thai and Khmer dishes and plates will cost around USD2-4.
Strangely, some of the other best choices in town revolve around the casinos where you can often get a full buffet style lunch and some such as the Holiday Palace, Diamond, and Poipet Resort Casino also have sweet coffee shops where you can have a coffee and enjoy the air conditioning and Wi-Fi. If you are looking for Western food in Poipet then the casinos, although more expensive, often offer better quality.
You will almost certainly notice a range of food places and shops selling snacks around the area of the actual border crossing but bear in mind that these are usually pricey and the quality is not great. Unless you are very hungry, venture elsewhere for a meal.
Much of the center of Poipet can be covered on foot and actually walking around can be one of the best ways to experience the city. If you are feeling weary then you can hire a motorbike taxi called a motodop to take you around for a few dollars.
Getting in and out
As Poipet is on the border with Cambodia it naturally has a wealth of transportation options.
There are direct buses and vans from Poipet to Phnom Penh. Big buses take about 9 hours and cost USD15. We suggest opting for a night sleeper bus (e.g. Virak Buntham Express) which deliver you to the capital in the early morning the next day.
Vans can go faster, e.g. Thero Express reached PhnomPenh in about 7 hours, and cost slightly more at USD17 but are not as comfy as sleeper buses.
Since recently (2018) there is a train from Poipet to Phnom Penh which goes along the western shores of Tonle Sap Lake via Battambang.
If you want to go to Sihanoukville, the best way is to connect via Phnom Penh.
Both Battambang and Siem Reap (2 hours, USD10) are easily reached from Poipet.
As Poipet is a border town it also comes with some of the usual border town problems. Violent crime here is rare but scams and pick pocketing can be an issue. With that in mind guard all your valuables, especially when walking around in the evenings and don’t give in to scams if you feel you are being unfairly ripped off. Some of the most popular include changing money at very bad rates of exchange.
Malaria and dengue fever are prevalent in Cambodia so you should take precautions to avoid getting bitten such as applying repellent and wearing long sleeved clothing.
There are some pharmacies in the town as well as basic clinics and a hospital but if you are seriously unwell then it would be better to travel into Thailand (Bangkok) for treatment or to Phnom Penh.