In the more than a decade I’ve lived in Thailand, I have done a visa run from Bangkok to the Aranyaprathet-Poipet, Cambodia border at least 20 times. The Aranyaprathet-Poipet border is the most popular land-crossing border for anyone going to Bangkok once they have entered Thailand, or for someone leaving Thailand overland from Bangkok, so it’s the busiest land border in the Kingdom.
It is also one of the most depressing places on the planet to visit. That’s why you should be prepared for what to expect when you do a visa run from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet-Poipet and, no, it’s not particularly dangerous but it’s also not that much fun.
Doing the visa run to the Aranyaprathet-Poipet border
Use a visa run service – While it is possible to take a public bus from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet-Poipet, Cambodia, i wouldn’t recommend it. That’s because you only save about 200 baht ($6.75) on the entire cost of the trip and, time-wise, it will take you about two to three hours longer.
A visa run service on the other hand is the easy way to do it. All you do is meet the visa run bus at 5am in Bangkok and they will then drive you all the way to the Aranyaprathet-Poipet, Cambodia. Once there, the visa company takes care of all the Cambodia visa paperwork while you enjoy an included-breakfast at a local casino. You’re back in Thailand and on the bus to come back to Bangkok less than two hours later, and arrive back in town by early afternoon.
I use Bangkok Buddy if I ever need to do a visa run, and they are excellent. Plus, if you have any problems at immigration, they are there to help.
At the Aranyaprathet-Poipet border
Watch your belongings – Once at the Aranyaprathet-Poipet border, make sure you watch your belongings as you’ll notice immediately you get off the bus how many beggars and small children there are everywhere. The Aranyaprathet-Poipet border is notorious for its pickpockets, so you don’t want to go all the way there only to find your passport or wallet has suddenly disappeared.
Follow your visa company’s instructions – The visa run company you go with will give you information about which line to stand in at the immigration desk and any other special instructions for that particular day. Do what they say as it’s all quite well choreographed, so everything will go quickly if you do.
If you try to do things your own way, however, you’ll not only delay yourself but also the rest of the bus who will have to wait for your mess to be sorted out before being able to return to Bangkok.
Don’t wander off – The visa run company will drop you off at a local casino for breakfast while they do all your paperwork and handle your visa for Cambodia (you just need one for the 2 hours you are in Cambodia before you return across the border and into Thailand). They will tell you approximately how long it will be before they pick you up along with the rest of the group, so don’t wander off.
During several visa runs I have done to the Aranyaprathet-Poipet border with a group of westerners, Koreans, Chinese and Japanese, people have wandered off to go shopping at the local market or to visit another casino. Needless to say, when it was time to cross the border back into Thailand they were not where they should be and the rest of us were held up more than 30 minutes while representatives from the visa run company had to go and find them.
If you have problems – If you have any problems at the immigration office coming back into Thailand, immediately find one of the reps from the visa run company and get them to help. They are the ones who have dealt with your paperwork and, if it’s incorrect, they are the ones who will have to make sure it’s redone — the right way.
On one of my visa run trips, I had a 60-day tourist visa in my passport so should have been stamped back into Thailand for another 60 days. When I checked the stamp the immigration official had given me, however, it was only for 15 days — incorrect and a huge problem for me. Needless to say, the rep from the visa run company dealt with it quickly and I was on my way with the correct visa stamp in less than 10 minutes.
Do use the kids and their umbrellas – Coming back across the border and into Thailand, you will be accosted with hordes of little Cambodian children all carrying umbrellas. They want to take you back to the 7-11 under the shade of their umbrella, where you will meet your bus and pay a nominal 10 baht fee (33 cents) for them to do so.
Yes, they should be in school, yes they may be mafia-run and no, their parents probably don’t have enough money to even put food on the table which is why they’ve been sent out to work, but they are there, they are barefoot, they are dirty and they are smiling………… and they work hard all day.
Cambodia has hundreds of thousands of children in this situation and your refusal to pay the 10 baht umbrella fee certainly isn’t going to change that. That’s why I not only pay one of the children for the use of her umbrella, but I also always take a bag of 10 baht coins or a few bags of Thai candy and hand them out to some of the other kids as well.
No, it doesn’t really make their lives any better, but it does make them happy for a moment. And that is worth something, I think.
Ten minutes later, and you’ll be back on the air-conditioned bus and winging your way back to Bangkok. Until your next visa run to the Aranyaprathet-Poipet border, that is.