Friday, December 7, 2007

Visa run to Aranyaprathet - Poipet Thai/Cambodia border.

Visa runs - not my favorite way to spend a day or two, but sadly a must if you stay in Thailand long enough. This time I have decided to head off to Aranya, the closest border crossing to Bangkok, but my least favorite.I have not been there for a year or so, but have read that you can now get a visa for 20USD, (which is the official fee), something I have never been able to do before, having to pay 1000 baht, about 30USD every time.
From Bangkok, the easiest way to get to the border town of Aranya Prathet is by bus from Mo Chit ( northern bus station).
I catch the BTS skytrain to Mo Chit. From there you have a choice of motorbike taxi (30 baht), taxi, or a cheap bus (8 baht) to get you to the bus station.Decided on the bus, so with my limited Thai, managed to jump on a bus, however, a few hundred yards down the road I was told that this bus did not in fact go to Mo chit bus station. Great! Jumped off, then immediately a taxi pulled up. I was feeling lazy, so rather than walk back to the bus stop, got in. Meter on, off we go. Only 65 baht, not bad considering the traffic.
Mo Chit bus station can be a bit confusing if you have never been there before. There are hundreds of ticket sales booths, so if you don't know where the booth is for your destination, good luck! Best thing to do is ask, there is an information desk, so I suggest you head there if lost. Bought my ticket,(221 baht) for a bus leaving 10 minutes later. Four & a half hours later arrive in Aranya, try to avoid all the tuk tuk drivers wanting to take me to the border, & walk off into town to find a hotel. Stayed at the Inter hotel for the night (350 baht - fan/tv/fridge - a/c available for a little more).
Up at 6am & took a tuk tuk (80 baht) to the border, which is 6kms out of town, to get there before it opened at 7am. Already, there was a long line of people waiting to get stamped out of Thailand, but not half as bad as it gets later in the day. Joined the foreigners line( i was the only westerner) & after about 20 minutes from opening, got stamped out.
Next comes the fun part - trying to get my Cambodian visa without getting ripped off. Not so easy! As soon as I exited the Thai immigration office, two Cambodian lads, speaking very good English, attached themselves to me, asking all sorts of questions about what I was doing & where I was going etc. I told them that I was here just to make a visa & that I had been here many times before, hoping this would put them off, but no such luck. One led the way through the masses of Cambodians trying to enter Thailand, while the other tagged alongside me, I was taken into a little office & greeted by a lone man with a Cambodian immigration uniform on. "Visa"? he asked. "Yes" I replied. "but I want to get it at the immigration office across the road". "up to you" he replied, so I left.I presume this was the expensive express office, for those who want to pay a little extra & get someone to do the work for you. Not for me!
Next stop, the real immigration office. The two lads had now left me, (off to look for a new, richer punter) & I was greeted by a man not in uniform, handing out the form to fill in for the visa. Paperwork done, one photo, & a nice new 20 dollar bill in hand, I head to the counter. Before I could get there, the man handing out the forms, blocks my way & seeing my 20 in hand, says "1000 baht". I smile, & go straight to the counter, rather than the usual, which is to give your form, photo & 1000 baht to him. At the counter an immigration officer, gets up from his chair, sees the 20, says "1000 baht" then sits down again. I smile again, try to explain that the Cambodian visa fee is only 20 dollars, but no luck. All I get is "this express visa, !000 baht, not Bangkok", then I am completely ignored.
What to do now, I had failed! Ok, next idea. I go to speak to Mr form hander out & lie saying that I do not have 1000 baht. He now offers a fee of 25 dollars or 20 dollars & 200 baht. Better! Decide to go for the 20/200 option ( approx 870 baht) as I have no small dollar bills (my mistake, slightly cheaper) & within five minutes I have my visa.
I have read about people getting a visa for 20 dollars, but have never been able to get one myself, so if you did, let me know how. Maybe I just don't have the patience to wait it out until they get bored of me.
Is it worth the bother many people would ask? Why not pay the 1000 baht (30+ dollars)? In my opinion yes. Living in Asia, I get fed up with all the corruption from people with "official" jobs, while those who slave away all day, earn much less in a day than one ripped off tourist trying to get a visa. Anyway, the decision is yours, but the more people that try not to pay the inflated fee, the better & maybe one day it may make the corruption go away. I doubt it, but maybe.
After you have your visa, you now have to walk a few hundred meters (keep to the right ) to another office to fill out another form & get stamped in. At this point you used to have to pay another 100 baht if you were not staying in Cambodia for one night. Why? Because they can! But today, nothing!
After exiting this building, if you were heading off to Ankor, the transport starts from here (I recommend a taxi for about 40 dollars - read final paragraph). If your just on a visa run, then cross the road to get stamped out. No hassle, no payment required (at the moment), then it's the long walk back to the Thai immigration office (now on your left) to get stamped back into Thailand for 30 days.
All this took about one & a half hours, but the later in the morning you go the longer it can take, as bus loads of tourists & Thais visiting the casinos (esp at weekends), leave Bangkok in the early hours arriving here at about 9/10 am onwards. So avoid this time if you can.
A tuk tuk back to the bus station for 80 baht & caught a 9am government bus back to Bangkok (207 Baht). I must at this point recommend the government bus company. Their buses are much more spacious, the fare slightly cheaper & they only stop at major bus stations. Look for 999 on the bus or office.
A final word of warning about the border. It is a very chaotic place with thousands a people wandering around,many of whom are working hard to earn a few baht, but some of whom are there to steal from unwary tourists. So take extra care!
If you are travelling on to Ankor Wat, do it yourself, preferably by taxi from Poipet, which is just as cheap if there are a few of you & the fastest way by far. DO NOT buy a Khao san road ticket - you will regret it & it will cost you much, much more in the end, not just financially. There are all sorts of scams involved with these tickets, plus it takes forever. Also, the agents in Aranya should be given a wide berth too, as they too may part of the Khao San scam. Trust me, I had the misfortune of buying a ticket to Ankor in Aranya once. I had heard about the scams, so made my way to Aranya alone, stayed in a cheap guest house on the main road to the border, where I met a group of other people travelling to Ankor. We all decided to go with the guest house, who showed us nice pictures of the transport etc. What we didn't know was that we had just bought a Khao san ticket. What happened the next day was the worst & most annoying day I have ever had travelling around Asia.
Maybe I will write about that next time!


buffalufagous said...

we rocked in. changed $400 aud each.... like 10000 baht and got an exchange of 80 real per baht which was meant to be 120 real per baht. so yep. we lost $120 bucks each too. fuckers. we feel like getting back in a cab just to go back and smash that fucking window in. never again will i be made to feel like such an idiot. hope that makes you feel better!

michael neubusch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.