Border crossings to Thailand
Where to get stamped in and out
Types of border crossings
Thailand has two types of border crossings -- international and local. As you may suspect, international crossings are generally open to all foreign nationalities who are in possession of a valid passport and visa (if necessary), while local crossings are open only to locals (on each side of the border) who are able to cross back and forth using some form of border pass. The international crossings are the only ones covered in this section.
Thailand has over twenty international overland border crossings. These allow overland travel to Malaysia (seven crossings), Burma (three crossings), Laos (six crossings) and Cambodia (six crossings). You can also arrive by air at a number of international airports, including Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, as well as Phuket, Ko Samui, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai and Krabi.
The most popular overland border crossings to/from Malaysia are the Padang Besar and Sadao crossings. To Cambodia, Aranyprathet/Poipet is the most popular, followed by Had Lek/Koh Kong. To Laos the most widely used is Nong Khai/Vientiane and Chiang Khong/Huay Xai, though Nakhon Phanom/Tha Khaek and Mukdahan/Savannakhet are also widely used.
The main thing to watch out for is Thailand's newish regulation regarding the visa-exempt entry -- unless you're Malaysian or from a G7 country (Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and the US), if you're arriving via a land crossing, you will be granted only 14 days visa free -- not 30 days (as was previously the case). Malays and G7 citizens get 30 days visa free.
Chong Mek / Vang Tao
For those planning on visiting far southern Laos from Thailand, the Chong Mek / Vang Tao crossing is the most convenient. From Thailand a regular bus runs from Ubon Ratchathani to the border town of Chong Mek taking 1-1.5 hours. Sometimes you may be required to change buses in Phibun Mangsahan depending on the bus caught. Once deposited at Chong Mek it's a five-minute walk through each crossing and regular songtheaws run from Vang Tao to Pakse, taking about one hour. Visa on arrival is available.
Mukdahan / Savannakhet
With the construction of the Friendship Bridge II over the Mekong, all foreigners planning on travelling between Thailand and Laos at this crossing are required to use the bridge. Coming from Thailand, a bus from Mukdahan takes you across the bridge itself and on to the bus station in Savannakhet. Alternately, you can catch the bus just for the ride across the bridge and then take a tuk tuk on the other side. Visa on arrival is available.
Nakhon Phanom / Tha Khaek
The old riverine crossing is no longer open to foreigners, who now must use the Friendship Bridge III via international buses that can be caught at the bus station in Nakhon Phanom and run all the way over to Tha Khaek. Visa on arrival is available.
Bueng Kan / Paksan
From Laos, follow the sign off the main road, just passed the Manolom Guest House and follow the sign that says Port. A boat across the Mekong River costs 60 baht when full (seven to ten people). Arrive in the morning to catch the day-tripping Lao crossing to shop in Thailand to be sure of a full boat, otherwise it's 360 baht per boat to cross. No Lao visa on arrival is available when crossing to the Lao side from Thailand, so be sure to get one ahead of time if you plan to use this border.
Nong Khai / Vientiane
Lao visa on arrival is available at this crossing, the most popular means of entering Laos by land via the original Friendship Bridge. The crossing is actually around 20 km north of Vientiane and a few km from the centre of Nong Khai, but regular and affordable transport is available in both directions via international buses and private tuk tuks. Beware of tuk tuk drivers on either side insisting that you must arrange your visa paperwork at a "visa office," which will undoubtedly be the office of a regular travel agent who will fill out your application form on your behalf and charge a fee, giving a commission to the driver.
Ban Mo / Vientiane
Just about unheard of. Travelfish reader Tilapia reports it is possible for foreigners to cross at the Thai village of Ban Mo to Vientiane. The convenience being the village, just west of Si Chiang Mai, is opposite Vientiane. Less conveniently, the ferry across only goes twice each week, both days at the same time of day (6:00 pm ... so, in the dark!) Sunday and Tuesday. No Lao visa on arrival is available.
Tha Li / Nam Hueng
This fairly remote crossing now serves a daily international bus running all the way from Loei to Luang Prabang. In late 2014 officials at the Loei bus terminal confirmed that foreigners may use this service, and that Lao visas are available on arrival. Songthaews also run to Tha Li from Loei, though we cannot confirm the existence of onwards transport once you're on the Lao side.
Chiang Khong / Huay Xai
Lao visa on arrival is available at this popular crossing, which now uses the fourth Friendship Bridge rather than the old cross-river ferry boats. Expect Lao officials to charge an $1/40 baht fee for doing their job -- if you arrive at the weekend it's called a 'weekend fee'; if you arrive after 16:00 it's called an 'after hours fee'; and if you arrive on a week day before 16:00 it's called a 'processing fee'.
Thailand / Cambodia borders
Aranyaprathet / Poipet
This is by far the most popular, and the most dysfunctional border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia. Cambodian visas on arrival are available and eVisas are accepted. Crossing times can be in excess of three hours depending on the whims of the border officials, but crossings can also be mercifully fast. Poipet (the Cambodian side of the border) has a major touting problem; take care to ignore anyone who approaches you and tries to lead you to any office other than the official Cambodian border checkpoint. Also be wary of currency exchange services on the Cambodian side, which often charge extortionist rates. For more details, see the Aranyaprathet page.
Had Lek / Koh Kong
The Had Lek / Koh Kong crossing is most convenient for those planing on travelling between Thailand's Ko Chang and the Sihanoukville beach area of Cambodia. There are numerous reports of the Cambodian officials here being particularly troublesome and asking ridiculous amounts of money for visa on arrival -- the easiest way around this is to arrive with a visa already in hand. If you need to get to an ATM, there is one in the Thai town of Had Lek. Expect to pay 80 - 100 baht for a moto from Koh Kong town to the border -- this should include the bridge toll. Most travellers use a cross-border minibus service, which can be arranged in Trat, Ko Chang and Sihanoukville.
Chong Jom / O Smach
This crossing is convenient to Surin in Thailand and Siem Reap in Cambodia. Regular minibuses run from Surin to the border (and back) with the trip taking a couple of hours. On the Khmer side you can either grab a share taxi to Siem Reap or get to Samraong first from where you can either continue onto Siem Reap by share taxi or head east for Anlong Veng.
Chong Sa Ngam / Anlong Veng
This crossing is very convenient to Anlong Veng but little else. If you are heading to Thailand via this crossing, there is no public transport from the border to any sizeable Thai towns; you will need to hitch a ride from the border for around 20 km to a sealed road from where there is then occasional public buses, though you are better off to hitch at least as far as Route 24 along which there are very frequent buses.
Ban Pakard / Phsa Prum
This little utilised border crossing is a 30-minute motorbike ride from Pailin and from the Thai side there are frequent minibuses to Chanthaburi an hour or so away. Cambodian visas on arrival are available.
Ban Laem / Daun Lem
Close to the Ban Pakard, Chantaburi / Phsa Prum, Pailin crossing, this very little utilised border is about 45 minutes from Pailin and on the Thai side there are songtheaw services to Chanthaburi. The Ban Pakard / Phsa Prum crossing is your better bet.
Thailand / Malaysia borders
There are at least seven border crossings between Thailand and Malaysia which are open to foreigners. Running east to west they are: Ban Ta Ba (actually at the border village Ban Ta Ba), Sungai Kolok, Betong, Sadao, Pedang Besar, Wang Prajan and Langkawi. The four most popular crossings are the boat crossings to Langkawi, Pedang Besar, Sadao and Sungai Kolok. The border crossings at Sadao and Pedang Besar and open 24 hours, the others, daylight hours only.
Ban Ta Ba / Pengkalan Kulor
This tiny crossing is a few kilometres south of the Thai town of Tak Bai in the far south of Narathiwat province. From Ban Ta Ba it is easy to arrange onwards transport by songthaew to Tak Bai, Sungai Kolok. Narathiwat and further afield. On the Malay side there are regular buses to Kota Bharu. If you're heading to the Perhentian Islands, this crossing is closer to Kota Bharu than Sungai Kolok.
Sungai Kolok / Rantau Panjang
This popular crossing (though less so due to the strife in southern Thailand) is a straightforward "walk over the bridge" style border crossing. There is loads of transport from the Sungai Kolok side to transport throughout Thailand, including the train station, which is a ten minute walk from the border. On the Malay side, there are taxi and bus services to Kota Bharu -- most likely your next stopping off point.
The Malay frontier is around 7km and is easily reached by share-taxi from Betong town. We've never crossed here so can't help on the niceties on the Malay side.
Sadao / Changlun
This is one of the most popular crossings used for visa runs in southern Thailand, but for onwards travel it isn't a great choice because of lack of transport on the Malay side. From Sadao, in Thailand, it is straightforward to take a bus or songtheaw onwards to Hat Yai. This crossing is open 24-hours.
Better than nearby Sadao, Pedang Besar can be reached by bus, train or taxi from both sides. Like Sadao, this crossing is open 24-hours. If you're crossing on the train, you will need to disembark to clear customs.
A pretty obscure crossing, Wang Prajan is near Taleban National Park in Satun province -- in fact the park entrance is walking distance from the border. There are irregular songtheaws from Satun to the border, though as we've not crossed here we can't help on transport on the other side.
This crossing entails catching a boat from either Thammalang pier (a half dozen km south of Satun) or the island of Ko Lipe, and on to the Malaysian island of Langkawi. While in Satun in early 2015 we were told that only Malay and Thai citizens can now use the boats from Thammalang to the mainland town of Kuala Perlis in Malaysia.
See the visa and border crossings section of the Travelfish forum for reports from travellers how have used the above crossings.