Travels during Peak Seasons: Tips and Tricks

If you have plans for travelling during major holidays, such as the upcoming Chinese New Year celebration, it is important to think ahead and set your expectations. What is it like?

Well, you know how much of a difficulty it is to book plane tickets and hotels during Christmas and New Years? Booking boat or bus tickets is not much different. Just because you plan to travel within the same country that is teeming with bus companies, does not make it any easier. But let us help you make it less difficult.

Viral photo taken from the Internet. This is not an actual depiction of the travel season in Cambodia.

 

Tips for travels during peak seasons

  • Check the Cambodia Public Holiday 2017 calendar to see if your plans fall on a holiday.
  • If travelling on a holiday, make sure to book a few weeks ahead (this is also true for hotels).
  • Do some research regarding transportation options if the expected destination will be crowded.
  • Go to the pick up point or bus or boat station early to check in on your expected bus.
  • Bring your own water and snacks. Yes, the company might promise some drinks and snacks, but remember that it is travel season, so they might run out. You never know.
  • Bring a hand fan. Sometimes some things never go right when you travel. It can be hot and crowded, so it would be hard to get decent air anywhere.
  • Keep personal belongings safe at all times. Being extra vigilant is important during these times. Crowds can easily divert your attention from your valuables.
  • Consider the type of vehicle you want to travel in, factoring the possible number of travelers you will be travelling with.
  • Travel light if you know it will be crowded. There is no use dragging a trolley around if you will be travelling for a short time only.
  • Travel ahead of schedule to avoid the crowds.

Points to Consider

There are many things that can happen during trips when its travel season or peak season. As a result, it is best to set your expectations ahead of time:

  • It can be difficult to travel when everybody is also travelling, so it is best not to expect a relaxing time.
  • Bus companies can change their schedules during these times
  • Bus companies can add special schedules to accommodate their travelers.
  • Sometimes pickup or drop off locations can change due to possible traffic or closed roads.
  • Due to increase in travelers, some bus companies will not tolerate any delays or lateness caused by travelers.
  • Bus companies may or may not move some bus travelers to other vehicles in order to accommodate the crowd.
  • Buses may sometimes carry additional passengers – depending on the bus company rules.

Travelling is definitely fun. However, it may not always be a walk in the park. That is why it is important to consider your options and plan ahead.

We hope this small information would be useful for you when travelling during peak seasons.

How to NOT ORGANIZE a trip to Siem Reap

Editor’s Note: Here’s a fun take on a trip our traveler, Morgane, took on a first solo trip in Cambodia. Morgane recounts that not all trips to Siem Reap have to be perfectly organized from the get-go. All content and images are from the contributor.


My mother is the best trip organizer I know. Unluckily we cannot say the same thing about me.

It has been a few months since I’m living in Phnom Penh. It is a busy and crowded town and after a few weeks, you just feel you got to go out of it.

The thing is I am really busy working on several projects for work. I ended up booking a guesthouse online and since I had the BookMeBus application on my phone, I just took a bus ticket on it.

As I wanted to arrive there on Friday, I took a night bus with Seila Angkor Express. My friends were telling me I wouldn’t be able to sleep on the bus, but I was positively surprised by the bus and enjoy a nice night on it. They even changed drivers after the first half of the ride.

I arrived at 5AM in the morning and just walked to the nearest market to enjoy the early activities there. After a while and arming myself with some hot bananas, I went to the Riverside and sat there a bit, just watching the sunrise turn the sky into an amazing and colorful show.

Siem Reap view

As I am a coffee lover, I headed towards the first coffee opened, which happened to be Brown Coffee and drank a lovely mocha. The space was great and the staff adorable.

Well, I had a team meeting at 9PM, so I went to The 1961, which is an art gallery and a coworking space in the West Upper Riverside to work for the day. I basically just worked remotely for the day into this nice and spacious environment.

Siem Reap surprised me, I was expecting a bigger city, with a lot of infrastructures and roads, but basically, in comparison to Phnom Penh, it just looks like a huge village to me. But a very peaceful and interesting village. I didn’t borrow a bike and just enjoyed walking for the weekend. The tuktuk drivers were asking me every 5 meters but I still enjoyed the atmosphere there.

On the Friday evening, I went to an event organized by AngkorHUB, another coworking space located next to the Night market to hear Robin Biddulph talk about his experience in Cambodia. I’ve learnt a lot from it and met the Hub’s community.

That is why I decided to go back there on the Saturday morning to work on my programming skills. I lunched with the team and met new people full of projects before heading to a meeting with the game studio Direxplay. They explained me everything I wanted to know about their business and their vision for the future. I walked out of the interview and downloaded their most famous game ‘Sok and Sao’s adventure’.

I went to Wat Bo on my own, walking through the streets and stopping at the Old Market. I took the time to play with a kid and asked for directions before entering the Wat. It was really quiet and there weren’t a lot of tourists there. I took some pictures and admired the architecture and the wall paintings.

Afterwards, I visited to the brand new Biolab Café as a good friend of mine told me to check the place out. I stayed there enough to enjoy some coffee and snacks. Accompanied later with two friends, I discovered the khmer BQQ and spent the dinner talking and laughing. It was then the time to discover the famous Pub Street and the Temple. We have a drink over here and keep on spending the night talking.

My Sunday morning was about waking up smoothly, walking in the quiet streets, discovering new coffee places such New Leaf, doing some writing.

 

Siem Reap coffee
Relaxing coffee at Siem Reap

I left Siem Reap in a mini-van with Golden Bayon Express and it was very punctual. I slept during all the ride so I didn’t notice the 5 hours.

It was my first solo trip in Cambodia, and I loved it.

 

Border between Thailand & Cambodia (round trip)

Editor’s note: We continue with our last post from Hugo‘s experience. This started from the post Border processing in some countries in South East-Asia (part one), which was then followed by the post Border between Vietnam & Cambodia (round trip). As always, images and content are provided by our contributor. Please enjoy.


thailand cambodiaI am living & working in Phnom Penh. I had to go to Bangkok for few days due (or thanks) to some business meeting. As always, I took a bus to reach the Thai border from Cambodia and I arrived to Poipet. First, you have to know that Thai are driving on the left (like British) & Cambodian are driving right side (such as French). Due to that and legacy, most of the bus coming from Cambodia cannot cross the border and continue until Bangkok. Therefore they are in partnership with other bus companies on the other side of the border.

Thus, I am warmly recommend you to ask the bus driver how is it going to be working once arrived at the border. Most of the time, the other company is waiting for you once the bus arrive and follow you until you enter into the bus to reach your final destination. If you don’t want any issue on that point, I will recommend you to take a direct bus but they are only few of them and are more expensive.

Once arrived to Poipet crossing point, you have to check out from Cambodia and walk until checking point of Thailand. Most of the time, the queue is really huge, you have to be patient!! I pass without any problems. As a French citizen I don’t have to pay for Visa in Thailand (and I think that it’s free of charge for most of citizenship – However have a look at your embassy website again!). Once you arrive in Thailand, if you are looking for a bus, a coffee, a guesthouse or whatever, you have to keep going straight and after 5 min walking on your left you will have many buses companies that are going everywhere in Thailand.

I finally reached Bangkok and stayed there for few days meeting. On my way back I just took a bus to the border and stay on the Thai part because I knew that I will be in a hurry if I wanted to pass the border (Poipet crossing point is closed between 9.30 pm until 7 am) as well as I don’t like passing border night time. I finally passed the border on early morning and everything was fine because I had my multiple entry visa for Cambodia. If you arrive without any Visa, please refer to my border story between Vietnam & Cambodia. However, if you are aware of the Visa application it shouldn’t be a problem.

When you arrive in Poipet (Cambodian part), you have many bus companies, just pick up the one you prefer!

I hope my stories helped you!

See you around!!

Hugo

Border between Vietnam & Cambodia (round trip)

Editor’s note: Below is the second part of the post Border processing in some countries in South East-Asia (round trip). Let us continue with Hugo’s experience at the border. This time it is at the Vietnam border.


I arrived in Cambodia by plane from France at the end September. I applied for a tourist Visa once arrived at the Phnom Penh International airport. Customs officers asked me for ID photo & 30 USD for one month Visa. It takes me 30 min to get my Visa and my adventure in Cambodia started.

However after one month, I had to extend my Visa. I went to some travel agencies asking for a 6 month Business Visa multiple entries but it was much too expensive to change my Visa from a tourist to a business one. Therefore I decided to leave Cambodia and cross the Vietnamese border in order being able on my way back to apply for a business Visa.

I took a bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh and I passed the border without any problems. As I am a French citizen I have two weeks free (without Visa) in Vietnam. Only few countries have this agreement with Vietnam, the others needs to apply and thus pay for a Visa to enter Vietnam. I am warmly recommending you to have a look at your Embassy website based in Vietnam, they always provide explanation on Visa application. If I have one advice to give you: you have to know clearly and from official sources (embassies website) how you apply for Visa (cost, validity, other requirements).

I stayed few days in Vietnam but I had to go back to Phnom Penh. Therefore I took a bus from Ho Chi Minh to reach Phnom Penh. As I experienced border processing in many countries, I promise myself to never crossing a border in which I need a Visa by night (bad memories…). Indeed, border are not my favorites places and if something happened I prefer it happening at day time in order being able to find a solution and not being stuck at a crossing point all night long. Moreover, be careful, some borders are closing by night but some remain open all night long (you always have to be informed about border opening hours which can be different on every crossing point – FYI, Thai border in Poipet is closed between 9.30pm and 7 am).

I left Vietnam without any problems. Because I was living in Cambodia, I knew that a tourist visa cost 30 USD and a Business Visa cost 35 USD (and I think everyone, except Asian citizen has to pay that amount of money). However, once arrived at the Cambodian border, customs officers asked me 45 USD for my business Visa. As I don’t want to support corruption which, for me, is ruining Cambodia, I told them that I will not pay 45 USD for my Visa. Then, they answered me that because they had a lot of work to do (10 Visa to stamp for 3 officers) I will have to wait. Because I didn’t give bribes, which are shared between bus driver and customs officer (I think…), the bus left without me (I was waiting my Visa). Thanks it happened during day time!! Once my Business Visa finished, I had a look on it and some information were missing (like the price) so I asked the officer to fulfill it properly, what he did. Here is another advice, always check your Visa once the officer give it to you, sometimes they are not properly fulfilled, which can leads you to some problems (which can only be solved by money).

However, I was still stuck at the border and my bus left. Therefore I took a moto and ask him to reach the bus. We reached the bus, I entered, and this bus driver was looking at me like: “you should have pay!”. Regarding this experience, I let you choose either you prefer paying more and avoid problems or if you prefer take the risk of not paying customs officers even if it can leads you to some trouble. We were more than 30 on this bus and I was the only one that didn’t want to pay more, so on this journey 300 USD went on bribes at the border (10 USD * 30 passengers)….

Anyway, after all these unforeseen development, I arrived in Phnom Penh as I wanted to. And I will keep not giving bribes at borders.

Hugo

Border processing in some countries in South East-Asia (round trip) (Part 1)

Editor’s note: We continue with our favorite traveler, Hugo, and his adventures in Cambodia. This time, he talks about border processing.

Recently, we’ve been having requests for information regarding Visa or border processing at the gates between Thailand-Cambodia, and Vietnam-Cambodia. This series is split into three, with this post as the first one. 

We hope you find this useful and entertaining.


This story and those tips are based on my own experience on crossing border, which is subjective. Thus, this is just a shared experience and habits, feel free to not take them in consideration if they are not relevant for you. ~ Hugo

My Golden Rules for crossing border:

border processing

  • Always check on internet opening hours of the crossing point
  • Always be aware of the Visa application (which are different depending on your citizenship) – refer to your Embassy
  • Be careful of the Visa validity: FYI: overstay cost you 10 USD per day in Cambodia & in Vietnam if you have 2 weeks free tourist entry, once you leave the country you have to wait a month before coming back.
  • Be aware of the time you will cross the border (night or day time)
  • Be patient and polite, even if something went wrong, you will for sure avoid problems.
  • https://www.canbypublications.com/cambodia/overland.htm