Crossing borders between countries can be very stressful but can be a very interesting experience too. You get to go another step out of your comfort zone, as these are the areas where the internet cannot be accessible and interacting with the locals is the only thing you can do to move forward.
I’ve decided to ask my fellow travel bloggers about their own land border experiences while backpacking in Southeast Asia. Personally, I’ve crossed five land borders across this part of the world and I must say that those are one of my favourites.
Read on and get more ideas for your future travels.
Land Border Crossings in Southeast Asia
BANGKOK TO SIEM REAP (Thailand to Cambodia)
A very popular and well-travelled backpacker journey is the overland border crossing from the capital of Thailand, Bangkok to Siem Reap in Cambodia, the city very close to the ‘big three’ temples of Angkor: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. There are several tour operators that offer this trip so you could just go and book in any tour operator’s office in Bangkok, but you can also just do it by yourself.
It is definitely the cheapest and most convenient option, besides the fact that you could as well just take a cheap flight to Siem Reap. But as we all know that travelling is all for the big adventure, you should give it a try at least once. The border crossing itself is pretty easy, fast, inexpensive and definitely a fun experience you will probably never forget. Just imagine the selfie you will take in front of the border.
- Travel time: 8-10 hours
- Bus price: $28
- Recommended bus company: Nattakan/Transport Co. Ltd – BOOK HERE
- Border control: good and easy
Contributed By Clemens of Travellers Archive
PREK CHECK to HA TIEN (Cambodia to Vietnam)
If you want to travel between Kep, Cambodia and the Mekong Delta Region or Phu Quoc in Vietnam, the land border at Prek Chek to Ha Tien is the nearest crossing. We crossed from Cambodia into Vietnam here.
The easiest way to reach the crossing is via taxi or tuk-tuk from Kep (20 kilometres), a sleepy seaside village in Cambodia, or Kampot. You can catch a taxi or motorbike on the Vietnam side to Ha Tien for onward transport or arrange pick-up at the border. Ask at your accommodation.
We walked across the border (200-300) meters carrying our luggage, as transport typically does not cross the border.
Most travellers will need a visa for both Cambodia and Vietnam. When crossing from Cambodia to Vietnam at the Prek Chek to Ha Tien crossing you must have organized your Vietnam visa in advance. It is not available at the border. For entry to Cambodia, you can get a visa at the border for $30 USD in cash. You need two passport-sized photos and the bills need to be in good shape.
- Travel time: 30 minutes
- Bus fare: Not applicable- use a tuk-tuk or taxi approx. $8 USD for Tuk Tuk
- Recommend bus company: Arrange transport at your accommodation or you can BOOK HERE
- Border: Open 6:00- 18:00, good and easy. Need Vietnam Visa ahead of time.
Contributed by By Elizabeth of Compass and Fork
RATCHABURI – BUTTERWORTH (Thailand to Malaysia by Train)
Overland border crossing between South-East Asian countries sometimes can be tricky and be confusing especially if you take local transport, but not always. We had a great experience crossing the border between Thailand and Malaysia by train. After spending a couple of amazing days at Amphawa Floating Market in Thailand we headed towards Malaysia and decided to use a local train as a long-distance train journey is usually more comfortable than a bus one.
First, we took a bus to Ratchaburi to get to the train station. From Ratchaburi, there is a sleeper express train to Butterworth in Malaysia. The train leaves every day at 5 pm. Next morning, at about 8 am, the train arrives at the Thailand/Malaysia border where passengers do the border crossing procedure and switch trains. Both countries’ immigration desks are in the same building. It takes 5-10 min. to get both stamps and check the luggage. After that everybody gets on a second train, which takes two more hours to get to Butterworth.
- Travel time: 18 hours, including border crossing and train switching
- Train price: 1100 Thai Baht
- Recommended train company: State Railway of Thailand- BOOK HERE
- Border control: Good and fast
Contributed By Alya of Stingy Nomads
LANGKAWI – SATUN (Malaysia to Thailand by Boat)
I’ve travelled in between Thailand and Malaysia multiple different times, and in several different ways…but the absolute best and easiest option is taking the boat from Langkawi, Malaysia – Satun, Thailand (or vice versa). Langkawi is one of my favourite islands in South-East Asia, and I’m always telling fellow backpackers they need to visit! TraveLling overland from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok was one of my best trips I’ve ever done, and think it’s super easy.
There are travel agents all over Langkawi that can help book the package, but it depends on where in Thailand you’re continuing on to. Some people go to the Trang Province, while others head all the way up to Krabi. Prices vary between 85-140 MYR. The immigration lines are always quick and easy, and it’s much easier than the train/bus border on the mainland. While there are also a lot of hostels in Langkawi who can help you find the best way to get to Thailand depending on your budget and adventure you’re up to.
Contributed By Dave of Jones Around the World
YANGON TO BANGKOK (Myanmar to Thailand -Maesot Border)
One of my favourite land crossing borders in Southeast Asia is the border between Myanmar and Thailand through Maesot border. It’s probably the friendliest border ever and the not corrupted one. After a 9-hour bus journey from Yangon, I reached the town called Myawaddy the bus station was a minute or two to walk over to the exit point (Myanmar side), without any internet, I couldn’t check where I should go.
I asked the locals where is the border office, who was very happy to help me. The line for the locals of Myanmar and Thailand is pretty long lucky for me there are not many backpackers that day, so I didn’t have to wait for a while. I sat in front of the officer who took my passport, a photo of me and landed an exit stamp on my travel document.
I walked the bridge which is about 300 metres, then I stood on the line to get my entry stamp to Thailand. The whole process took about 20 minutes. I didn’t know where to take the bus, there were loads of buses that are parked. Maesot is sitting between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, which explains a large number of buses with different destinations. A local lady told me to take a tuk-tuk and ask the driver to drop me at the “bus station” where I can take a bus to Bangkok. From this station, you can also take a bus to Chiang Mai.
Even it was stated on my evisa letter that my visa should only be used through air borders, I managed to exit Myanmar without a fuss (I entered through Yangong Airport). However, I had enough time to turn around in case I will be denied to exit through the land. If you are in a hurry, I suggest you not to take this risk as things can go wrong.
- Travel cost: $13
- Travel time: 8 hours
- Border control: Very friendly and easy
- Bus Company: I can’t remember which one I took, but I was advised to head to the terminal in Yangon and booked the one for overnight for
- Bus from Maesot to either Bangkok or Chiang Mai can be BOOKED HERE
Contributed by Mary of A Mary Road
SIEM REAP – BANGKOK (Cambodia to Thailand)
This is a relatively easy journey to make from Siem Reap, the town near Angkor Wat to Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. It’s possible to undertake this journey in tuk-tuks, and a public bus, with a walk across the border itself. From there it’s another tuk-tuk and then either a bus or a train to Bangkok. However, you’ll take an inordinate amount of time doing this. You won’t save much in terms of money either.
Much better to opt for the bus company that takes you all the way to Bangkok’s Mo Chit bus station. You will still need to carry your own bags across the border though, although it’s not a difficult walk. This is the easy route from Siem Reap to Bangkok. While here is a guide from Bangkok to Ayutthaya for domestic travelling around Thailand.
- Travel time: 8 hours. Leave Siem Reap at 09.00, arrive at Mo Chit Bus station in Bangkok at about 16.00. Mo Chit to Khao San 60-90 minutes in a local bus depending on traffic.
- Bus price: from Siem Reap to Mo Chit Bus Station Bangkok US$28. Mo Chit to Khao SanUS$0.20
- Recommended bus company: Nattakan Bus Company – BOOK HERE
- Border Control: leaving Cambodia is outside and a scrum. Separate lines for westerners = bigger scrum than ever. Immigration into Thailand is air-conditioned, marble and delightful.
Contributed by Sarah of ASocialNomad
KOTA BHARU – SUNGAI KOLOK (Malaysia to Thailand)
If you’ve been visiting the Perhentian Islands on Malaysia’s east coast and are heading to Thailand, then crossing the border on the east is a simple affair. The towns at the border are Rantau Panjang in Malaysia and Sungai Kolok in Thailand. Most people will make their border run from Kota Bharu in Malaysia, it’s the nearest big town with facilities.
Kota Bharu is Malay for New Castle and is infamous for being the location where the Japanese first made landfall in Asia in World War II. A local bus runs from Kota Bharu to the border at Rantau Panjang, where it’s a short walk across the border to Sungai Kolok. You’ll find hotels and places to eat here and also a train station with direct trains that run through to Bangkok. This is an easy border crossing on the east coast of Malaysia to Thailand.
- Travel time: 2 hours – 1 hour from Kota Bharu to the border, immigration time and a 1km walk in No Mans Land, then 20 minutes walk in Sungai Kolok to the train station.
- Bus price: 5 RM
- Recommended bus company: Cityliner Aduan SPAD (local bus company) from Kota Bharubus station
- Border control leaving Malaysia – easy, simple procedure
- Border control arriving in Thailand – simple, may have further questions if you’re a frequent traveller
Contributed by Sarah of ASocialNomad
MALACCA – SINGAPORE CITY (Malaysia to Singapore by bus)
Probably one of the easiest land border crossings is the one between Melaka and Singapore City. I booked the ticket online, the next day I took an Uber (but Uber is not available in Southeast Asia anymore, try Grab or simply a regular taxi) to the bus station. I showed my online ticket to the right window (make sure to find the ticket window for your bus company) to check-in 15 minutes before we leave, the bus pulled in and we get on.
Once we reached the border, we got off the bus, took our backpacks and head to the immigration office for an exit stamp for Malaysia. Then went through the next building to get our entry stamp for Singapore. It can be busy, it took us about 30 minutes before it was my turn. I showed my passport, a fly out of a ticket from Singapore. I was asked usual questions like how long am I staying, what purpose of my visit, and where I will be staying.
After that, we got on the bus again and continued our journey. We were drop off right close to the city centre of Singapore. People speak English and cafe have free WiFi if you need to connect to find your way around. Check this guide if you are travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.
- Bus price: $12 US
- Bus Company: Delima (the cheapest)
- Travel time: 4 hours
- Border control leaving Malaysia: easy
- Border control entering Singapore: long wait but easy
I must say that one of my favourite about Southeast Asia is the fact that you can travel around easily, there are a lot of ways to cross the border between countries.
I would like to thanks all the amazing travel bloggers who contributed to this article.
Have you crossed any of these borders? Do you have any tips? Share it in the comment section below.