All you need to know about visa runs in Thailand (2)

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All you need to know about visa runs in Thailand (2)

If you are an experienced traveller in Southeast Asia, you have probably heard the term ‘visa run’ before, and know more or less what to do when your stamp date is coming closer. If you are new to this adventurous life style, you must be feeling a little lost. Don’t worry, in this little mini-series we will make things easier for you.

DISCLAIMERPlease bear in mind that we are NOT immigration law specialists and this information is purely based on our personal experience. There are different rules and regulations for different Nationalities and because things keep changing all the time, we highly recommend using a visa/travel agent, such as Island Travel on Koh Tao or Jim’s Place in Penang for example. Not only will they be able to book your travel tickets for you, but are usually up to date with the latest ins and outs of visa rules.

You can also visit this page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for more information on visa laws.


 

Last week we explained the different procedures for a regular ‘extension of stay’ or a so called ‘border bounce’. But what if you are actually travelling a bit longer and now you’re looking at getting another full tourist visa which allows you to stay another 60 to 90 days in the country.

In this case you need to leave the country and apply for your desired visa at a Thai consulate or embassy. With this new tourist visa in your passport, you will be allowed to stay another 60 days and can extend this stay by 30 more days with any Immigration Office within Thailand (see also the first blog post.)

The most popular destination to do your visa run is Penang, Malaysia. This is also where most of us expat divers go to start the process for our work permits. If you book your visa trip with a travel agent, such as Island Travel for example, they can help you with a sensible schedule for this trip so you don’t get stuck in Malaysia over the weekend and hey will also let you know exactly what you need for the visa application itself.

 

Travelling to Malaysia

This visa run is a bit more intense and you will need at least 4 days to complete your trip. If you however don’t check holiday schedules (for Malaysia AND Thailand) before you leave or schedule your trip over a weekend, you might get stuck in Penang a lot longer than necessary.

night-boat-koh-tao

 

There are a couple of different travel options, and you will have the choice between a daytime ferry + train ticket or the nightboat + minivan trip. If you choose to leave on the night boat, make sure to leave on a night where the newer (big) nightboat to the mainland is running. It alternates days with the old nightboat and trust us, a night on the old nightboat will most likely set you off for a bad start on your visa run, since you will be sleeping on tiny mattresses on the floor with zero privacy.

For the remaining trip in the minivan, make sure to choose your seat wisely as you’ll be stuck with your seat for quite some time. Also, as a general rule for all types of transportation in Thailand don’t forget to bring a jacket, warm hoodie or even blanket, as the AC usually runs on full power and you’ll feel like winter is finally here… Remember to use the bathroom before the van leaves, as it probably won’t stop on the way.

Once you reach Georgetown, Penang, the van will start dropping people off so simply ask the driver to drop you off at Chulia Street, which is usually their last stop, anyways. You will be dropped off right outside Jim’s Place, who’s our recommended visa agent for Penang.

person-on-a-bike-in-penang

 

 

Jim’s Place

Jim is a skinny Indian man who loves to talk, but also he gets things done.  He deals with all sorts of visa applications every day, so it’s safe to say that you should be fine leaving all your paperwork in his hands. The fee for his visa service is around 3,500 THB and you can pay in Thai baht at his office (and even exchange THB to MYR there). Once he has checked your visa application, he will tell you when you need to come back to pick up your completed visa.

Around Chulia Street you’ll find many hostels and hotels, also most of bars and restaurants are in that area too. Remember to take a copy/photo of your passport for the check in, as your original passport will be with Jim for your visa application.

While you are waiting for your visa (which usually takes a day and a half, depending on when you hand your paperwork in), Penang is a great city to have a wander around, check out the famous street art or do some shopping and watch a movie and most importantly you’ll find some delicious Indian food within walking distance to Chulia street.

When it’s time to head back, you can buy your return ticket directly through Jim. The ticket to Hat Yai costs about 40 MYR, which is around 300 THB, and you will be picked up from Jim’s Place.

streetart-penang

 

Sadao Border Crossing

Just like when you left Thailand, the van will stop twice, once to stamp your passport out of Malaysia and another time to be stamped back into Thailand, usually at the Sadao border. Be sure you have all the correct paperwork along with your visa:

  • Flight ticket out of Thailand
  • Local address of where you’ll be staying in Thailand
  • 20,000 THB in cash to prove that you can support your living in Thailand.

If you are missing one of these things, chances are that the Immigration Officers will stop you and take you to a separate room for further investigation. And unfortunately if you take too long at the border crossing, some minivan drivers might actually leave without you, to be able to still reach Hat Yai on schedule. Try to keep an eye out for your driver or have a little chat to him beforehand, so that he remembers your face and makes sure to wait for you…

 

Hat Yai

You are almost done now! In Hat Yai, Jim’s van will drop you next to the bus station – but make sure to ignore the touts there. Instead, go straight into the station and ask for the Chumphon counter. Your ticket should cost around 355 THB for the trip to Chumphon on the big (government) bus.

The bus will drop you close to the train station in Chumphon (again, make sure to ignore the touts) where you can buy your ferry ticket at the little Lomprayah ticket booth. The price is 700THB and it includes your transportation to Lomprayah Pier. And from there, you’ll be almost able to see Koh Tao in the distance…

Congratulations, you survived your first visa run! Welcome back to Koh Tao, our little rock!

 

What’s the best way to do a visa trip in your opinion? Let us know if we missed anything in the comments.


This was the second of two blog posts, explaining the ins and outs of visa runs. This week we will explain how to plan a full ‘visa run’ to a neighbouring country (Malaysia in our case). If you want to know more about the so called ‘extensions of stay’ and also ‘border bounces’ simply browse back to last week’s post.

 

boat-trail-koh-tao

(Photo credits: private, Master Divers & unsplash)

2 Comments on All you need to know about visa runs in Thailand (2)

  1. commented by phim nhat ban dit nhau on 23 February 2020

    I am always thought about this, appreciate it for posting.

    1. commented by Sarah Gladzewski on 24 February 2020

      You are very welcome. 🙂

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