For the traveller, Aran's focus is the crossroads near the train station. Clockwise the roads go to the train station (northeast), to the border (southeast), to the clock tower and the town centre (southwest) and to the bus station (northwest). The town can serve as a staging point for journeys to various points in both Thailand and Cambodia, though the Bangkok-Siem Reap trip is the one that most travellers will undertake.
By busThere are two bus stations in Aran, the main one is in the town about 400 m northwest of the crossroad and a less busy one is in Rongkleu Market.
In and around Rongkleu Market touts offer taxis (1,900 baht) to Bangkok, and slightly more for other Thai cities. Sharing a taxi might be a good idea.
A few metres beyond this, in the market, there are air-con minibuses to Bangkok (250-300 baht). The drop-off point may range from exactly where one wishes to in front of a Skytrain station (Victory Monument is popular). The market bus station also has buses to Bangkok's Mo Chit bus station and Suvarnabhumi airport. There are also buses from the market to other Thai towns, such as Nakhon Ratchasima and Chachoengsao (which is useful for Pattaya and other destinations on that coast). Such buses allow travellers to avoid Aranyaprathet town, though the main bus station is better connected.
From the bus station in town, there are reliable and inexpensive government bus services to many destinations, including Bangkok (frequent), Buriram (frequent), Chachoengsao (frequent), Chanthaburi (frequent), Mukdahan, Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat) (frequent), Pattaya, Rayong, Surin, and Udon Thani. For Trat, go via Chanthaburi.
Bangkok's Northern Bus Station (Mo Chit) is the best choice for buses to Aran. First class and second class buses leave from the ground floor of the terminal approximately every half hour (4-5 hr, 207 baht and 160 baht respectively). A first class ticket may include a snack and drink. The last bus to Bangkok leaves Aranyaprathet at around 18:00.
Bangkok's Eastern Bus Station (Ekamai) also has buses to Aran leaving every hour or two (4.5-5.5 hr). Ekamai service: 06:15, 08:30, 10:30, 12:30, and 16:30. 200 baht, not a VIP bus, but an OK air-con bus. Phone, +66 2 7135335. On-line ticket. Ekamai can also be reached by going via the Suvarnabhumi Airport bus terminal.
The roads to Aranyaprathet have checkpoints and most buses will be boarded at least once by uniformed military/immigration personnel looking primarily for illegal immigrants from Cambodia. Westerners are rarely bothered, but keep your passport handy. If you've overstayed your visa it may be worth using a less busy crossing like Ban Pakard/Phsar Prom.
From Suvarnabhumi AirportBuses run between Aran and Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport bus terminal regularly throughout the day but not the night.
The Suvarnabhumi Airport bus terminal can also be a good way to connect with other destinations, including Ekamai and many other points in Bangkok served by Suvarnabhumi's extensive and frequent local bus services.
From Don Mueang AirportTo reach Don Mueang take a bus to Mo Chit and ask to get off when as it passes the airport. When going to Aranyaprathet, it may be possible to save time by boarding the bus at Rangsit, though the 1st class buses won't stop there if all seats are already taken.
From Khao San RoadKhao San Road tourist buses are more expensive and less comfortable than government services; those to destinations in Cambodia always involve a change of vehicle at the border, and are usually full of irritating people, plus plenty of scams are awaiting you.
By trainTwo trains a day in each direction connect Aranyaprathet with Bangkok's Hualamphong Train Station. To Aranyaprathet (i.e., towards Cambodia), trains depart at 05:55 and 13:05, arriving at 11:20 and 18:05 respectively. To Hualamphong (i.e., to Bangkok), trains leave at 06:40 and 13:55, arriving at 12:05 and 19:55, respectively. The fare is 48 baht; the surcharge for a bicycle is 80 baht.
There are plans for trains to soon go onward to the Cambodian border and eventually to Phnom Penh. Trains already are running (sometimes) between Poipet and Phnom Penh.
All trains are 3rd-class, which means no air-con (windows open for a substantial breeze). There are toilets and sinks. Seats are a mixture of padded benches, padded bucket seats, and wooden benches. If taking the afternoon train try to sit on the shady (north) side of the train (i.e., left from BKK, right to BKK). The morning sun isn't so bad and doesn't so greatly affect the early departures. The train is a great opportunity to watch people, countryside and wildlife. During the dry season, smoke and ash can blow through the windows from the burning rice fields.
Food and drink vendors work the cars, providing cheap sustenance and refreshment. Many of the things wrapped in banana leaf are fish/chili based and peculiar to Western palettes; Khao San Road pad Thai it ain't. If you're fainthearted, stick to the grilled chicken that can be found close to the station at either end. The thick bamboo tubes contain the imaginatively named "bamboo rice", a mildly sweet and savoury sticky rice, most easily eaten with chopsticks.
The train can provide cheap and scenic, but slow and often late connections with Suvarnabhumi airport. Go to Lat Krabang (ลาดกระบัง, about 1 hr from Bangkok). The station there abuts the airport and is directly under flight paths. Either walk upstairs to the Airport Rail Link train which will take you to the terminal (15 baht) or take a taxi (50 baht). If you miss Lat Krabang, Tab Chang, Hua Mak, and Makkasan also connect with the Airport Rail Link
For Don Mueang, you'll have to switch trains at Hualamphong, which given the congestion on the lines in Bangkok is only for serious train freaks.
Crossing the borderEntering Thailand from Poipet is straightforward for travellers who do not need a visa or have obtained one in advance. Visa-free entry is for 15 or 30 days, depending on passport, though a few countries' citizens get longer. Check official lists and consider getting a visa in advance if longer is required. Also be aware that at present Thailand allows only two visa free overland entries per calendar year.
Nationals of countries not permitted visa-free entry but who are entitled to a visa on arrival require proof of onward transport out of Thailand and a 1,000 baht fee. The visa is likely to be valid for 14 days (not 15 as sometimes stated).
Many Thais cross the border in the morning on one-day trips to gamble at the casinos in Poipet. However there's a separate line for non-Thais which moves quickly, except during the midday log-jam of tourist bus arrivals.
On the Thai side near the queues for immigration (both arrivals and departures) are vats of cool drinking water for anyone with a bottle to fill.
Heading to Cambodia, the formalities of leaving Thailand are simple enough. Those of entering Cambodia are another matter and are dealt with on the Poipet#Cambodian Immigration page.
Getting to the borderAranyaprathet is the scene of some of the world's great border scams, a major local industry. The Thai police are paid off to turn a blind eye, so will be of no help. Those heading into Cambodia may be subject to any of these:
- At the train or bus station you will be told you need to board a "government bus" to take you to "the right place" for your Cambodian visa.
- A man will approach you at the reception desk of your hotel, saying he works for Thai Immigration and can expedite your exit from Thailand and/or visa into Cambodia.
- A tuk-tuk driver will want to take you to a special visa office, to get a faster/easier/cheaper visa.
- There are offices set up to sell you Cambodian "visas" right next to the border (see Poipet article).
- If you need a passport photo (as you usually do for Cambodia) a tout at the border will take you to a "scanning shop" that will sell you a photo and fake visa, requiring a payment of US$35.
There are many more variations, both in town and at the border itself. Most of Aramyaprathet's hotels and tuk-tuk drivers are in on these scams.
The result? Lots of time and money lost. For example, instead of a 15-minute journey to the border, you will find yourself driven in circles - sometimes for as long as seven hours - visiting offices, shops and restaurants owned by relatives of the scam operators: and paying at each for spurious paperwork, fake visa stamps, food and drink. (To ensure the latter, your driver will simply disappear for an hour.)
All this can be easily avoided. Once you arrive in Aramyaprathet, getting into Cambodia is simple:
# Find a tuk-tuk to take you to the border. This should cost 60 baht, and will take 15 minutes maximum. Better still, take the songthaew (15 baht, see #Get around) which will go past all the scam offices and straight to the border.
# Go up the escalator and exit Thailand through Thai Immigration, go down another escalator, cross the bridge, get a Cambodian visa (tourist visa US$30) at the official Cambodian office across the street and about 50m onward, and then enter Poipet in Cambodia (ie, get your entry stamp) at the Cambodian Immigration another 100m further on.
Negotiate any tuk-tuk fare in advance, and insist the driver take you to the border (everyone knows that word). Refuse to get out at unplanned stops. Keep saying "Border!" A fallback is to say "Mee visa laeo!" (I already have a visa) or "Ba!" (Go!). This should ensure they drop scamming attempts. Hundreds of fresh victims arrive every day, and it doesn't pay for them to waste time on the non-credulous.
# No customs or immigration formalities take place anywhere but the border itself, and then only after you have entered Thai Immigration.
# Crossing from Thailand to Cambodia does not require intermediaries of any kind.
Extra large size songthaews run between the 7-Eleven in Rongkleu Market and central Aran. A ride costs 15 baht, and they can be flagged down anywhere along the main road between the Aranyaprathet RR station and the border market.
A tuk-tuk should cost 60 baht to the border after haggling and a motorbike taxi should be 40 baht after a haggle.
Motorbikes can be rented from several shops inside the Rongkleu Market at the border. Rates are usually between 100-300 baht (for 3 hours, 6 hours, or 10 hours, from 08:00-18:00). Bicycles and golf carts can also be rented at the market. Be careful when driving back to Aranyaprathet on Highway 33 (occasionally corrupt police set up road checks, and might confiscate your driver's license for a fee/bribe, regardless of whether you're driving legally or not). Better to drive on one of the side roads (running parallel to the highway).
- Bus Station, watch the departures to far and wide. There is also a market.
- Cement reservoir, a central focal point where people gather to drink and eat at food stalls.
- Rongkleu Market, a market next to the immigration office at the border. Traders are mainly Khmer from neighbouring Poipet.
- Train Station, never a dull moment train spotting. Each of the station's two daily departures have different rolling stock: a diesel railcar in the morning and an engine-hauled train in the afternoon.
Luck Gymaddress: opposite Mini Big C just off Ratuthit RdModern and friendly place. B70 per visit. Monthly rates available also.
Mini-marketNot as big as Tesco, but at least it's right in town. Has basic groceries/snacks at decent prices.
Rongkleu MarketHas a surprising range of goods that will interest those who like buying stuff.
7-Elevenhas set up shop in several locations, notably at the border in Rongkleu Market, in the town centre and near the bus station.
Tesco LotusNew shopping center has several clothing/accessory stores, as well as fast food restaurants and groceries. The songthaews from the border no longer go out here. Grab a tuk tuk or it's a half hour walk along the highway from the bus station.
- Night market - 2 blocks east of Aran Garden 2 Hotel, beside the 'cement reservoir', and offering the usual range of Thai food.
Aranyaprathet Walking StreetSide streets on both sides of the compound have food stalls, the one to the north during the day, and the one to the south evenings. The evening Walking Street is mostly for takeaway as there are very few places to sit.
Aran Garden Hotelphone: +66 37 231 105address: 67/1 Rat-U-Thit RdRooms start at 230 baht for a single with fan, en suite bath, balcony, Wi-Fi and TV. AC rooms from 350 baht. Clean, and quiet if no one leaves their TV on all night. Good value, and no sign of any of the "immigration service" scams reported in Aran hotels in earlier years. Note the hotel is at number 1 on this page's map - the key is wrong.
Aran Garden 2 Hotelphone: +66 37-231070address: 110 Ratuthit Roadexpensive considering how basic it is for small Thai towns. Tuk-tuk drivers know it by name, but agree on a price in writing or in Thai before you go. They know who stays here, so they're enthusiastic purveyors of the "you misheard me" scam. The reception can provide maps of the town. Note the hotel is at number 2 on this page's map - the key is wrong.
Aran Mermaid Hoteladdress: 33 Tanavitee RdA new "luxury" hotel catering to tourists on a higher budget. Prices vary by how and when you make a reservation, but you can expect to pay about 900 baht for a single, 1,550 baht for a double and 1,950 baht for a triple, which may or may not include breakfast.
address: on Suwannason (hwy 33)Wi-Fi/fridge/en-suite bath/garden.
Indochina HotelA quality option a little outside of town, 5 min by tuk-tuk. Clean and comfortable rooms has inviting pool surrounded by palm trees.
Inter-HotelClean rooms. Pool. The food is pretty good. Air conditioning.
Sintawee HotelEasy walk from the bus depot and easy to find. Motel-style, clean. Air-con rooms are Spartan but roomy and clean; they appear newly built or newly renovated. Two free bottles of water, Western-style bathroom with hot shower, and cable TV (don't expect any Western language channels, though). Free, fast Wi-Fi but no food on-site. Don't expect free breakfasts here.
The post office is on the road from the train station to the clock tower.