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Pattaya To Cambodia Visa Run
Any foreigner who lives in Thailand for any length of time will find that eventually a 'Visa Run' is essential. Various visas for Thailand can be had at embassies in countries around the world but sadly they eventually expire. In most instances it is necessary to leave Thailand to obtain a new visa. This may mean flying to a different country and visiting the Thai embassy or simply flying out and flying back again. The nationals of most countries entering Thailand by air without a visa are granted a 'Visa Exempt' stamp which grants a non extendable stay of 30 days. Those entering by land are granted just 15 days.
Anyone entering on a Visa Exemption and planning to stay more than a month will have to do a visa run of some sort.
Often though the easiest and most economical option is the 'Visa Run' to Cambodia. This is especially true to those in the Bangkok and Pattaya area.
Although it is possible to do a Visa Run privately it is quicker, easier and more hassle free to utilise the services of one of the many visa run companies.
One of the most popular Thai Visa Runs is the one from Pattaya to Ban Laem on the border with Cambodia. In the South a trip to Myanmar is the sensible choice.
The run starts with a visit to one of the numerous agents representing the visa run company. These may be a plush office or a roadside booth. They are numerous and very easy to find. Most hotels will arrange a visa run on your behalf but some will add on a hefty premium. Typically the cost of a run is 2000 Thai Baht. If you are lucky you may find an agent who will charge you a couple of hundred Baht less. There are 'luxury' visa runs which offer more comfortable seating and DVD movies.
The agent takes details of your name and address and tells you the time that you will be picked up. They should also tell you to bring two passport photos and a photocopy of your passport details. If they don't tell you, do it anyway because you will need them. It will prevent grief later on.
The minibuses used are all modern, clean and in good repair and most are fitted with seat belts. They will normally hold up to fifteen passengers. As to how many passengers there actually are will depend on day of the week and time of the year and the company you use. Sometimes they will be full and at other times have just three or four people on board.
The number of people will affect the time that you actually set out on your journey. You will though be given a time of collection which you must adhere to. This could be any time from 06.30 to around 08.00.
There is an advantage to being one of the first people to be collected and that is that uou have a choice of seats. It is best to ask the driver at time of collection as to '"How many people?". If he says 4 or 5 then choose the back seat and you can sprawl out and sleep. Any more than five then choose one of the two single seats. At least then you won't be sharing a seat with some unknown.
On collection you will be expected to hand over your passport, a photocopy of your passport, two photographs and the receipt from the booking agent.
Choose your seat and be ferried around whilst others are collected. Not everybody is nice. Some are still in bed when the minibus arrives, others have forgotten. This can necessitate some lengthy waiting and if you were picked up at 06.30 it may actually be an hour or more before you actually hit the road towards Cambodia.
The road to Cambodia is in good repair and travel is quite safe and comfortable. Halfway there, or approximately two hours into your journey there will be a stop so everyone can use the toilet, or smoke a cigarette or have quick snack and a drink.
These stops are usually at a modern service station with clean toilets and excellent facilities.
There are two border posts to Cambodia used for visa runs. You do not get a choice of which to go to. The main one in use is Ban Laem.
Depending on the journey, people collected and other circumstances you can expect to arrive at around noon. When you arrive you will be handed your passport back and you will queue to approach one of four immigration windows. Here your passport will be scrutinised and you will be stamped out of Thailand.
If you have overstayed your time allowance in the country you can be expected to pay 500 Thai Baht per day for every day you are over. Don't do it. Not only can it work out as expensive but it could get you locked up as well.
If you decide to do the Visa Run yourself please be aware of the borders opening times or you may have to find overnight accommodation.
Just a short walk through immigration and your agent will take your passport from you once again and also have you sign the few pieces of paper needed to process your visa for Cambodia.
Papers signed you then walk over a very plush new bridge and into Cambodia. As recently as early 2010 this bridge was a rickety construction made of bamboo. On the bridge you are likely to meet the first of a number of Cambodian beggar children who will pester you continuously for a few Thai Baht. Most are good natured and friendly. They have very little and some may lack even a single item of clothing.
Like the Thai people the Cambodians are very friendly people and should you travel in the country at some later date you will find it a rewarding and interesting experience. Cambodia though lacks much of the modern infrastructure which visitors to Thailand take for granted.
There is a beautiful new gate to match the bridge. But where the beauty ends the truth begins.
This is the real Cambodia just beyond the bidge. All the paved roads stopped in Thailand, here it is just beaten earth and when it rains it is thick red mud. There are good roads in Cambodia but not here. This is a very dirty and unattractive little place. Not unusual however. The four different border posts I have entered or exited Cambodia have all been a mass of rubbish and dirt.
Here you are in a sort of 'No Man's Land'. You are in Cambodia and yet you are not. You cannot pass under the red and white bar into the country proper because you do not have your passport. You are able though to enter the plush modern casino. Here it will be busy with Thai people playing cards and roulette as gambling is illegal in Thailand.
Here too you can take advantage of the Duty Free.
Duty Free in Cambodia is the usual cigarettes and alcohol but with the added interest of Viagra, Cialis, Kamagra and similar.
Usually hidden under the counter in a Pharmacy, here the range of sex products are on open display. There are some sex toys too but caution is advised. The dildo is illegal in Thailand so it may well be confiscated. The Thai authorities are also quite hot on the amount of alcohol and tobacco you can bring into the country.
There are around nine shops here all selling much the same thing.
Here in Cambodia various options may be presented by your agent. It may be simply a case of shopping and the toilet and back to Thailand or you may have a set or buffet meal in the casino.
Shopping over your agent is now busy processing your Cambodian Visa. This takes up a full page in your passport.
When you do get your passport you will be expected to sign an entry form for Thailand. Here they want the address you live at and your telephone number. Passport in hand you will note that you have already been stamped into and out of Cambodia.
You then walk back over the bridge into Thailand. Once again you queue to go through immigration. Depending on the type of Thai visa you have in your will determine how long you are granted. It will not be less than two weeks with a Visa Exempt stamp and with any type of 'real' visa it will be more.
The area around the border can be very busy. There are lorries leaving the country and others leaving. There are also people bringing produce from the fields, families on the move and contingents of Cambodian workers heading off to work in Thailand. Then there are all the other people in other groups on visa runs.
Depending on the efficiency of the staff and the number of people at the border you could start your return journey a little after noon.
If you did not lunch in the casino then you will lunch on the way home. Again there is a choice of food which is good to excellent. You also get the opportunity to visit the toilet yet again.
You can expect to arrive back in Pattaya any time between 15.00 and 16.00