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The Thailand visa and all the information you could want about getting a visa, an extension, or a re-entry permit. Most people go to Ranong for a visa run. Try to get a multiple entry visa from a Thai Embassy


Visas & Visa Runs


"The Americans are credited with inventing pop culture and the industry which surrounds it.  The Thais should be duly credited for creating a visa culture.  Web sites, forums, and travel agents have sprouted wherever new confusing visa regulations have been planted."  Doug Knell, Doug's Republic


Thailand is not unique in having visa regulations.  Nearly all countries do.  What is unique is the inconsistency in the way these visas are issued, the mandatory 3-month exit rule for nearly all long term visitors, and the convoluted immigration rules for those non-Thais with the legal right to work and/or live in Thailand.  Web sites and forums have sprung up to discuss just these issues, and no one can be 100% of the answers as speculation and rumors are rife.

Thailand visa

Not as easy or as cheap to get as they used to be

For most visitors to Thailand, a visa won't even be required. They'll be staying two weeks to a month.  Most Eastern European nations, China, India, Taiwan, and some Middle Eastern nations can apply for a visa on arrival and stay up to 15 days.  The more stable wealthier nations such as the USA, Australia, Japan, the European Union, and New Zealand, can stay 30 days, along with Hong Kong, Laos, Macau, Mongolia, Russia, and Vietnam.   Argentina, Brazil, Chile, South Korea, and Peru can stay 90 days without a visa.  A complete chart is found here.  Information can AND WILL change without notice.

Here's what that chart doesn't mention.   Those staying periods only apply if you fly into Thailand.  If you come in overland from a neighboring country, most people eligible for a 30-day stay will now find they can only stay 15 days. 

You will encounter Thai bureaucracy when you intend to stay in Thailand as a tourist for longer than 30 days consecutively  You must then apply for a tourist visa.   If you've never been to Thailand before, getting a single-entry tourist visa, allowing you to stay a maximum of 60 days, shouldn't be difficult to acquire.  Regulations do vary between Thai consulates and embassies.  Most will just ask for your passport, visa application (downloadable from the precise consulate or embassy you'll apply from -- see list here), and the equivalent of around USD 35 per entry.  Later, you come back and pick up your passport.  If you don't live near an embassy or consulate, you seriously need to inquire among the ones in your country what their individual policies are.   My brother inquired about Thai visas in the USA and asked the Thai Embassy in Washington plus three other consulates.  Some would ship one's passport home by FedEx if one had a prepaid airbill attached to the application.  Others, like the consulate in Los Angeles, would not.  Some accepted cash, some did not.  Some took one day, some took three.  The only consistent thing from one consulate and embassy to another in a single country is the price and the way the stamp appears in your passport. 

Even the 90-days-without-a-visa visitors cannot pull off a visa-free trip ad infinitum. They are limited to a 90-day visa-free visit every 180 days. If a Korean, for instance, wanted to stay from January to June, he'd have to exit Thailand and come in with a visa the next time.

Types Of Visas You'll Be Concerned With

Tourist
You will be given 60 days.  Day 1 counts as the very day you enter.  If you enter at 10:30 PM on March 1, that one-and-a-half hours you'll spend in Thailand on March 1 is tallied as an entire day.  Because Thais round up a minute on a single day as a complete day, effectively you will have to exit Thailand on the sixtieth day.   These standard tourist visas can be extended to 90 days by paying a visit to an Immigration Office -- see Checkpoints option at the top of the page.  The current fee for "Application For Extension of Temporary Stay," as it's officially known, is 1,900B, but this should eventually go up, as all visa fees and bureaucratic fees have.  In real terms, 90-days in the Kingdom will cost you close to USD 100.  You can apply for your extension at any time before the expiration of your 60-day tourist visa. 

Remember that 90 days is not the same thing as 3 months and confusing the two could result in an overstay for which you will be currently fined 500B per day.  Here's the difference:  three months from March 1 is June 1.  90 days from March 1, including March 1 as the Thai authorities do, is May 29, a three day difference.   You are given a one-day overstay grace as long as you're flying out of Thailand. Otherwise, you're charged 500B a day.

Multiple Entry Visas
visa application Thailand
In today's Thai visa climate, you probably won't have a brilliant chance of getting a multiple-entry visa if you apply in a country close to Thailand.  As a general rule, the further you're away from Thailand when you apply and/or the more work required to get to the consulate where you're applying, the better chance you'll get a multiple entry, though some consulates and embassies just won't issue a multiple entry visa.  A multiple-entry visa allows you to stay in Thailand for a maximum of 3 months, leave, re-enter, and get up to 3 more months on the second visa. 

A multiple-entry visa doesn't possess the staying power it once had due to the strictness by Thai Consulates and Embassies about the length of their validity.  Let's pretend you drop your passport off at a Thai Embassy on March 1 after you apply for a double-entry visa.  The Embassy instructs you to come back in 3 days to pick up your passport.  Although you pickup the passport on March 4, the validity of the double-entry starts ticking from the date you drop your passport off -- the expiration date to activate the second visa is June 1, three months from the date you dropped off your passport.  If you enter Thailand on March 5 and extend your stay to 90 days maximum, you must exit Thailand by June 2.  But actually, you'd have to leave Thailand before your first visa expired and re-enter Thailand before June 1 to activate your second visa or risk it expiring before it can be used.  You cannot stay in Thailand 3 months, exit and travel a month or two in another country, and then return to Thailand with your second visa entry.  If you apply for your double-entry visa in a country far from Thailand, there's a chance they'll give you a six month validity on the visa, but the norm is three months.  Realistically, double entries (with 3 month validity) and triple entries (with 6 month validity) must be used back to back.  

Non Immigrant
These are great visas if you can score 'em.  The Non-Immigrant O allows one to stay for a maximum of 15 months.  They're good for a year, but if you exit Thailand just before the visa expires, you can get two more months, extendable to a third. 

But the problem is getting them.  Most Thai embassies and consulates won't give them out to anyone walking in. Thai visa When they are issued, they're done so at minor consulates, not the key embassies.  There've been stories that the consulates in Hull (UK) and Perth (Australia) issue Non Immigrant O's to most anyone.  By the time you read this though, that probably won't hold true any longer, and the ones in Madras (India) or Xian (China) may be the issuers.  Foreigners marrying Thai women -- a very trendy thing nowadays, some say more popular than snowboarding -- can apply for a Non Immigrant O.   The foreign national must still leave Thailand every three months and is not automatically eligible for a work permit. 

Non Immigrant OA's are otherwise called Retirement Visas or Long Stay visas.  You must be over 50 at the time of lodging your application, not just be a sun-burned beach bum who looks over 50, and have either 800,000B (USD 25,000 as of March 2010) in a bank account or proof of an income of 65,000B (about USD 2,000 in March 2010).  We're equally sure these numbers will change for the higher.  First, as Thailand becomes wealthier, its currency will appreciate against wealthier countries, so the baht amounts asked for will cost more to a foreign retiree.  Second, the Thais are likely to raise the absolute baht amounts because they can.

Someone sponsored to work or setting up a business in Thailand is eligible to apply for a Non Immigrant B visa.  Such a visa does not automatically confer visa privileges on the spouse and children.  A back door into the Kingdom is to apply for a Non Immigrant ED visa for little junior to further his studies in Thailand.  The spouse caring for the tiny tyke becomes eligible for a Non Immigrant O.  You can be certain the Thai authorities will be overjoyed to take money from you, your spouse, and your kid(s).

 Thailand re entry permits
Re-Entry Permit

Thailand re-entry permitThailand Immigration has thought of everything.  What if someone applies for a 2 month tourist visa, but 5 to 6 weeks into their visit decides to visit Malaysia for a week and then return to Thailand?  Their single-entry visa would become invalid once they departed for Malaysia.  The traveler might decide not to come back to Thailand and not to fork out another 1,900B to extend for another month.  Revenues for Thailand down the drain! 

Here's where the re-entry permit comes in.   You pay a visit to an Immigration Office before your departure and hand them (as of March 2010) your re-entry application and 1,000B for a single-entry re-entry permit.  They put a stamp like the one on the left in your passport, which allows your current visa to stay active during a single departure.   When you return to Thailand, it's as if you've never left.  

One used to be able to procure these re-entry permits at Suvarnabhumi Airport before departure.  Then, one day the booth there closed.   It may reopen, it may not; and if it reopens, who's to say if it'll be open consistently and at the time of your actual departure?  If you're in the market for a re-entry permit, it's advisable to take no chances.  Buy your re-entry permit at an Immigration Office well before your planned departure or risk watching your visas go up in smoke. 
Thailand visa run 
Visa Run

If you're staying in Thailand for a longer period on a tourist visa or a Non Immigration O, you'll eventually have to start running -- visa running.  A visa run is a departure from Thailand for the purposes of kicking in another visa already in your passport, procuring a new visa, or satisfying a Thai Immigration condition that you must exit the country every 90 days.   Foreigners married to Thais don't get permanent residence permits as a spouse might get in the United States if s/he married an American national.   These foreigners must go running. 

Many a foreigner complains about the infamous visa run.   The costs can vary from 2,000B for a simple exit and re-entry that'll waste about a day, up to 5,000B and beyond for travel further afield to locations of Thai consulates and embassies in other countries that can consume a week.   Entire industries, web sites, forums, social groups, and yes, even sexual contacts have evolved around the visa run. 

Stoking this raging fire of an industry is the lack of hard information.  For example, you're in Thailand with your visa about to expire, and you're considering going for a double-entry visa.   If you're like me, you'll want to travel somewhere halfway exciting and make a semi-vacation out of it, but you have to travel somewhere that actually has a Thai Consulate/Embassy and which offers you a good chance of scoring a double-entry visa.   In November 2007, I came up with the idea of accomplishing these goals in Penang (Malaysia), home to some great and inexpensive Chinese and Indian food.  I went online at the time to find out if Penang was double-entry visa friendly.  In the end, I could find out nothing solid and took the plunge and flew to Penang.  My loss.  I only got a single entry.   On another trip, I was able to obtain an unbelievably priced roundtrip ticket to Jakarta (Indonesia).  Surely this island nation which requires more effort to get to from Thailand than Laos or Malaysia would issue me a double-entry.   Wrong.  They only gave out single entries and demanded a plane ticket out of Thailand before they'd begin the processing. 

Soft drinks and lunch included while you run

Prior to the 2000's, visa runs were straightforward overland affairs.  Plenty of people stayed in Thailand without visas.  They got the one month on arrival and exited the country every month to extend.  No one cared.  In the late 2000's, this changed.   One could pull this in and out stunt three times in a six month period.   Two years later, Thailand sealed the overland visa run option by dictating that visitors re--entering Thailand from a border nation, coming in overland, only got 15 days on arrival. 

If you got deep types of pockets, you can do your running by flying out of the country.  Air Asia offers cheap flights to Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, and China.  Each of those nearby countries has at least one consulate/embassy where Air Asia flies.   The more common visa run is the overland run.   One journeys to the nearest land border by bus, car, or train, steps over the border, gets the passport stamped, then returns to Thailand. 

Thailand visa runWhere one runs depends on where s/he is located.   On the map to the left are 10 common visa-run border locales, designated by a .   For border runs that involve entry into Myanmar (Burma), you must pay USD 10 as a crisp, fresh-off-the-press ten dollar note or else an inflated price of 500 baht.  Into Laos, you must hand over USD 35 in U.S. dollar cash notes.  The Laotians aren't as finicky as the Burmese that the bills look pristine.  Into Cambodia, the official line is that you can pay USD 20 as U.S. cash.  The reality is that they'll accept the pickings only as 1,000 baht, which at current exchange rates is 50% more.   Malaysia, fortunately, requires no visas or fees from most wealthier country nationalities.   All of this information could AND WILL change without notice, probably in a way that'll make you poorer and more frustrated.

1:  Mae Sai-Tachileik (Burma)   For those in the Chiang Mai area.  It will only take a few hours to get to the border and from there, you can just walk across and, if desired, return minutes later.

2:  Mae Sot-Myawaddy (Burma)   Those in Sukhothai and central Thailand come here.  Numerous Burmese and Karen hilltribe workers reside here.   Mae Sot is meant to be a prosperous small border town.   

3:  Nan Province-Hongsa (Laos)   This is a rather new and little used border crossing. Travelers report that it's fun doing 100 meter dashes across the border here.  It could be a nice change for those coming back to Thailand from Laos who have their sights set on Thailand's north.

4:  Nong Khai-Vientiane (Laos)   A very convenient place for running at mad sprints.  Vientiane is Laos' capital, so you can get a new visa here, too, making it a very popular choice.  Those in the Thai region of Isaan cite this as their favorite visa run path.  Plenty of travelers come to Vientiane and elsewhere in Laos, acting pretentious and thinking they're breaking the travel mold, while watching reruns of Friends in their guesthouses and eating banana pancakes.  

5-7:  Mekong border towns (Laos)  On the Thai side, you could cross the Mekong from Nakhon Phanom (5), Mukdahan (6), and Chong Mek (7) by boat or various "friendship" bridges.  The Mukdahan crossing will take you to Savannakhet on the Laos side, site of a Thai consulate for you to obtain a new visa.  The Chong Mek crossing is the most lively.   A few hours west of Chong Mek is the bustling Thai town of Ubon Ratchathani and on the Laos side the ruins of Pakxe.

8:   Aranyaprathet-Poipet (Cambodia)  This is the easiest option for those in Bangkok.  The road from the Kok is 300 km and takes between 4-5 hours.   Thais love to run this route not for visas they don't need, but to gamble hard-earned bahts on the Cambodian side in the casinos set up specifically to attract Thai money.  Gambling is currently illegal in the kingdom.

9:  Ranong to Victoria Point or Andaman Club (Burma)  The single most popular visa run and not because it's pleasurable.  If you consider only the Thailand area south of Bangkok, Ranong is rather centrally located, so it functions as a visa run destination for those in a variety of populated areas:  Hua Hin, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Phuket, Krabi, Chumphon.  Click here to see how to navigate this visa run.

10:  Satun or Hat Yai to Malaysia  Those in Krabi could also utilize this option.   This is not a very popular visa run route, as few travelers hang out at length down in Thailand's Muslim south.  It's easier to get to the Malaysian border at point 10 from Hat Yai than it is to get to Satun further west, though Satun is the closer border area.  


 

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Insights From A Travel Mastermind

 Thailand is home of the infamous visa run to places like Ranong and elsewhere. Get the lowdown on a visa, a visa extension,and a re-entry permit. Multiple entry visas are harder to get at a Thai Embassy but Doug's Republic tells you where to get 'em and get 'em good.