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Thursday, 15 January 2009

Crossing to Thailand

15th January

$12 from Phnom Penh to the Thailand Border. $25 from Phnom Penh to Ko Chang. That’s an extra $13, or around 455 baht to get from the border to the island – a huge amount for the distance involved. We, along with several other people had only bought bus tickets to the border, and intended to travel onwards by our own steam.

None of us had considered the Songthaew mafia of Had Lek. All the guide books, and even the local people, tell you that you can get a minibus from the border to the next town, Trat, for 120 baht. We met some people who had already been waiting 2 hours for this minibus, and they told us how there seemed to be one guy in charge of transport, and he wouldn’t let any of them take the minibus to Trat, claiming that they had to have a ticket for the whole journey already. Instead, we were offered a Songthaew for a total price of 1200 baht. Fine we said, there are 10 people so we’ll take it. He then said there was a maximum of 7 people per Songthaew…. What a joke! You can fit twice as many people in the back as we know all too well.

We were all at this guys mercy as we needed to get out of the border town and he was being wouldn’t shift on price or number of people. A stand off ensued, eventually we got the price down to 1000 baht, but he wanted the money up front – another first for Thailand.

At Trat, we took another Songthaew to the pier, via the drivers friends ticket office where they tried to sell us overpriced ferry tickets. We insisted on going straight to the pier. Eventually on the boat, but having paid the inflated price of 160 baht return (30 baht each way for locals!!!) we could finally see Ko Chang in our sights!

Top Traveller Tip #15 – If you are crossing the border at Had Lek, pay for a straight through ticket from Phnom Penh to wherever you are going. We may have saved a couple of baht in the end, but we wasted hours waiting around, and had their not been the handful of other people in the same situation as us, we’d have paid a lot more than the through ticket cost.

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