Photo: Interesting snacking.


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Aranyaprathet is the Thai town leading to the most popular border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia. Decent accommodation and food are available if you get stuck here for a night, and those with time to kill will find a few attractions outside of town. But for most, the main draw is the border crossing and its proximity to Angkor.

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“Aran” has grown in recent years as increasing amounts of cash from tourism and commerce cross the border and enter the local economy. Khmers pop over to shop while busloads of Thais get funnelled to casinos in Poi Pet on the Cambodian side, usually spending a night in Aran along the way. Lodgings now include cushy modern digs along with a standby cast of older hotels and guesthouses.

Traffic ahead. Photo taken in or around Aranyaprathet, Thailand by David Luekens.

Traffic ahead. Photo: David Luekens

The border area remains hectic—really hectic—so do keep your guard up when crossing (more on that below). On the Thai side you’ll find a huge, loosely organised sprawl of stalls selling knock-off handbags, cheap clothing and kitchenware, to name a few. Known as Talad Rong Khlua, we reckon this is one of the largest markets in Thailand.

Six kilometres west of the border, Aran town is a more laid-back affair with a large community of Vietnamese-Thais dwelling in attractive old houses on Mit Samphan Road. Lots of Khmer-Thais also live in the area, which was a stronghold of both the Dvaravati and Angkor civilisations centuries before it become part of Thailand.

Grab a bite to eat at Talad Rong Khlua. Photo taken in or around Aranyaprathet, Thailand by David Luekens.

Grab a bite to eat at Talad Rong Khlua. Photo: David Luekens

You can explore this history at a couple of ancient sites found outside of town. Located 35 kilometres to the north, Prasat Sadok Kok Thom is an 11th-century Khmer sanctuary from the 10th century that began drawing Thai tourists after a major restoration was finished in 2018. Set on a hill 12 kilometres south of town, the smaller Prasat Khao Noi Si Chomphu displays its original sandstone tower built by the Dvaravati in the seventh century.

Add these sites to the lush mountains and waterfalls of Pang Sida National Park, and Aran starts to make a case that it’s more than just a place to cross the border. If there’s no time to explore the area, don’t lose sleep about jumping straight from the border to a bus or train bound for someplace else—that’s what most travellers do.

Wandering the Vietnamese Quarter. Photo taken in or around Aranyaprathet, Thailand by David Luekens.

Wandering the Vietnamese Quarter. Photo: David Luekens

Aran is part of Sa Kaeo, a small province straddling not only Cambodia but also the loosely defined line between Thailand’s northeastern and eastern regions. From here you could head north to Phanom Rung and Nakhon Ratchasima, south towards Chanthaburi and Ko Chang, or straight west to Ayutthaya and Bangkok. Most travellers heading into Cambodia jump straight on a bus to Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor, but you could also check out Battambang or the lesser-known ruins at Banteay Chhmar.

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A clock tower and traffic circle mark the centre of Aranyaprathet just south of the train station. Some 300 metres west of the train station and just northwest of the clock tower, the town bus station sits off the west side of Thanavithee Road. The police station and hospital are both found just southwest of the clock tower.

Head south from the clock tower and turn left (east) on Santiphap Road, and after a half-kilometre you’ll reach the photogenic Vietnamese quarter on Mit Samphan Road. A little further south, the fresh market and a couple of budget hotels are found on Ratuthit Road.

Explore Prasat Sadok Kok Thom. Photo taken in or around Aranyaprathet, Thailand by David Luekens.

Explore Prasat Sadok Kok Thom. Photo: David Luekens

From the train station, Suwannason Road (Route 33) cuts east for six kilometres to the border crossing. Just north of the crossing stretches the vast Rong Khlua Market. The Rong Khlua bus station is found off the south side of Suwannason Road, about one kilometre west of the border.

You’ll come across banks and ATMs at Rong Khlua Market and at a few places in town, including near the bus station. Exchange Cambodian riel for Thai baht before entering Thailand—it’s non-transferrable outside of Cambodia.

Aranyaprathet Hospital: Southwest of the clock tower; T: (037) 231 180
Aranyaprathet Police: Southwest of the clock tower; T: (037) 321 203

Crossing the border
If heading to Cambodia, expect people to approach you at various places—the bus stations, hotels and especially just after you pass through the Thai immigration checkpoint—and attempt to scam you. Ignore them all. If your tuk tuk driver tries to make you get out at an office on the way, insist on going straight to the border. All of these scammers attempt, often with success, to take travellers to fake “visa offices” to get fleeced.

Many scammers seem honest and sincere, attempting to “befriend” travellers by striking up conversations. Others rely on insistence or a feigned appearance of officialdom to lead travellers into their traps. The official Thai and Cambodian immigration checkpoints are the only places where you should take out your passport. The only people you should look to for assistance with getting a Cambodia visa are actual uniformed officers at the Cambodia arrivals checkpoint.

Thai immigration is located on the left side of the main road near Rong Khlua Market. After stamping out of Thailand, which is straightforward, you’ll enter a strange “in-between zone” where impoverished Khmers push carts as backpackers huddle and wealthy Thais mill around the tacky casino. This area is scammer central—don’t let your guard down.

After around 50 metres you should spot the small Cambodia “arrivals” checkpoint on the right, where uniformed officers will check to see if you have a visa. If not, you will be given a one-page application to fill out and submit along with one passport-size photo and 1,000 baht or US $30 in cash. Once you receive the visa, proceed to an immigration desk in the same arrivals area.

After being spit out into Poi Pet, Cambodia, you’ll be met by another wave of “new friends” offering money exchange, taxis and minibuses to a long-distance bus terminal found outside of town.

If coming from Cambodia, the process of entering Thailand is simpler although the same rules apply—don’t follow strangers to “offices” for any reason. If you don’t already have a Thai visa, which you’d need to acquire beforehand at a Thai embassy elsewhere, Thai immigration will stamp in most Western nationalities with a free visa-exempt stay of 30 days. For many other nationalities, 15-day visas on arrival are available.

Once through the border on the Thai side you could grab a tuk tuk to Aranyaprathet town, or walk up the road and catch a minibus from the Rong Khlua bus station. The border opens daily 07:00 to 22:00.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Aranyaprathet.
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 Read up on where to eat on Aranyaprathet.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Aranyaprathet.
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