Anyone spending more than 30 days in Pattaya or Bangkok on a tourist visa will need to make a visa run to the Cambodian border to renew their tourist visa and the border post at Aranyaprathet is the closest option.
Most people opt for the convenience of the direct visa run services from Pattaya, but if you insist on the adventure of doing it yourself here’s how.
The public bus to Aranyaprathet (‘Aran’) from Pattaya (Pattaya-Mukdahan bus) takes five-six hours, 220 baht, and goes via Chachoengsao.
When you get to Aran, you can take a motorcycle taxi or a tuk-tuk to the border. A moto is 50 Baht, and tuk-tuks are 70 to 100 Baht. Do not let them overcharge you! There are also big tuk-tuks that can hold about 6 people. It takes about 15 mins. to get to the border, and there is a huge market on the Thai side. If you have time (coming or going), you can look around and do some shopping there.
From where you are let off, walk to your right to the border, turn left at the large road, and walk a short distance to Thai Immigration which is in a building on the left. Go in this building, and get stamped out of Thailand. Exit the building, and cross a bridge to the Cambodian side. Cambodian Immigration is on the right, and there is a large sign saying ‘Visa Service’. Fill out the form, and give it to them along with your passport, 1,000 Baht, and a passport-sized photo.
It’s not really a big deal if you don’t manage to get a passport photo though, you can pay 100 baht instead. Of course, as you are walking to the border, you will be accosted by many touts asking if you have a visa, and offering to ‘assist’ you. Ignore them. After you get your visa, proceed to the Cambodian checkpoint, which is some way down the road, to get stamped in. The border opens at 07.00 and closes at 08.00.
Warning! Poipet is a bustling and crowded border crossing for goods and people. There are often long lines at both Thai and Cambodian immigration posts, and at peak times, you may have to wait in line for hours. There are also many pickpockets working the crowds. Be aware of who is around you, and watch your belongings at all times.
The arrangement at Poipet is different from any other border crossing. There is nothing actually in the town of Poipet. There are only a few hotels and guesthouses that cater to tourists, and most people just pass through on their way to Siem Reap (Ankor Wat) and/or Phnom Penh. However, in the area between the Thai Immigration checkpoint, and the Cambodian checkpoint are several large casino/hotels, some very luxurious. Room rates start at around 800-1,000 baht a night. We are told that this arrangement allows Thais to leave Thailand and go to the casinos without having to go into Cambodia.
If you would like to stay in Poipet, the Orkidayang Kor Hotel and the Chaopraya Hotel have fairly clean rooms for around 500 baht per night, and they have helpful, English speaking staff.
To return to Thailand, you first have to get stamped out of Cambodia at the ‘Departure’ window which is on the opposite side of the road from the ‘Arrival’ post. Then walk back to Thai Immigration on the left side of the road. You must fill out the Thai Immigration form completely. For some reason, they are very sticky about it here, and they will throw the form back at you if it is not filled out correctly. They want a specific address where you will be staying at in Thailand. You cannot just put down ‘hotel’ or ‘Bangkok’. You must be prepared with some kind of address. There is no fee, and no passport photo is needed for the 15-day Thai visa.
When you get your passport back, go through the little ‘OUT’ gate, and walk back up the road a bit and go to the right (just follow the people). Keep to the left, and walk by some officers sitting in chairs under an umbrella. This is actually Thai Customs, but they usually don’t check foreigners. Take a tuk-tuk or moto back to Aran, and they will let you off where you catch the bus. Get on the bus going to Pattaya.
Note: minivan services are similary priced to the bus and are slightly quicker but usually really crowded.