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 then Trat is probably the easier option, here’s how
To catch the blue and white air-conditioned bus from Pattaya to Trat, go to Sukhumvit Road, and wait at any of the main intersections (Naklua, Pattaya Nua, Pattaya Klang, Pattaya Tai, or Thepprasit Road). Wait on the East Side of Sukhumvit Rd in the direction going away from Bangkok. Buses will stop after they go through the signal.
The bus you are waiting for is the bus from Bangkok to Trat. Buses will come approximately on the following schedule: 06:00, 06:30, 07:30, 11:15, 14:15, 18:30. As you are waiting, buses to other destinations will stop, and the conductors will ask you where you are going. No matter what they say, just wait for the bus with Bangkok – Trat on the side.
The fare is about 130 baht, but be aware that fares constantly change. Keep your ticket, as it will be checked later. It will take about five hours to get to Trat, and you will be let off on the main street of Trat, next to a bright blue building. Remember where this place is, because you will have to come back here to get the bus back to Pattaya. There is no bus station as such in Trat.
Go to your right on the main street, and walk for about 300m, looking for a 7-11 and a Bangkok Bank. Across from the bank, you will see some green/gray vans parked along the street. The vans wait until they have 9 or 10 passengers before they leave for Cambodia, so you may have to wait for a while. The fare is 100 baht, and the ride to the border takes about 90 minutes. The last van to the border leaves about 18:00 and the border closes at 20:00.
The van will let you off at the border crossing which is called Hat Lek on the Thai side. There is nothing at the border except a few stores selling souvenirs and food. As you take the short walk to the border, you will be accosted by touts asking if you have a visa, and offering to ‘assist’ you. Ignore them. Walk to the Thai Immigration office on the right side of the road, and get stamped out. Then walk across the border to Cambodia. You will again be set upon by various motorcycle and taxi drivers wanting to know where you are going, and offering to ‘help’ with your visa. Ignore them, too, and just go the Cambodian Immigration office on the left. The checkpoint here is called Cham Yeam.
Go in the immigration office, fill out the form, and give them your passport, 1,000 baht, and a passport-sized photo–you MUST have a passport photo to get into Cambodia. After you get your visa, you have to go out and get your visa stamped at a window in the same building. There are only a few drink and cigarette stalls on the Cambodian side.
The town of Koh Kong is not really that far away. You can take a motorcycle taxi for 40-60 baht, or a car for 200-300 baht. It takes about 10-15 minutes to get to the town. There is some competition among the drivers, so you can bargain to get the price down. There are a few foreign run operations in Koh Kong but really it’s a small town with not a great deal to do or see. From Koh Kong you can go on to Sihanoukville, or Phnom Penh. There is a casino a short way from the border where you can stay from 1,000 baht a night.
When you come back to the border, go the ‘Departure’ window at the immigration building, and get stamped out. Walk back across the border to Thai Immigration, and fill out the form. There is no fee or passport photo needed for the 15-day Thai visa. Then walk back up to a parking lot on the left to get the van back to Trat. Vans leave hourly, 09:00 to 17:00. If the van is not full, it may wait for a while for more passengers.
On the way back to Trat, you will usually have to change vans at Klong Yai, which is the nearest town to the border on the Thai side. Don’t worry about this, just change to the other van, but make sure you take all your bags and belongings with you. When you get back to Trat, the van will let you off on the main street. It’s worth a shot to tell the driver that you want the bus to Pattaya. They may let you off there. At any rate, you need to get your bearings, and get back to the ‘blue building’ to catch the bus. There are also other bus ticket offices along the main street. These buses also go to Bangkok, but they do not stop in Pattaya.
While there probably is a schedule for buses back to Pattaya, it is not known, and it is advisable to get to the bus before 15:00. If you get there late, there may be no more buses.