If there is something really hard to explain unless you’ve been experiencing it, it’s how the Visa works for who ever wish to visit Thailand for longer than a month!
For which Visa should you apply?
What about extending it?
Which paperwork do I need when applying?
Where do I go for a new Visa if I am in Thailand already?
We could mention all the questions we heard or we’ve been asked before…and the list would be really long!
Starting from applying for a Visa in your home country, let’s have a look at the options, the who, when and where questions frequently asked.
Applying from home, before visiting Thailand
With your nearest Thai consulate, if you plan to stay more then a month in Thailand, you will be able to apply for 2 different visa: Educational or Tourist
For Educational Visa, you will need a letter from the Dive Center (or Us!) you booked with stating that you will be doing diving courses, as well as for how long. The Educational Visa is only available for a duration of 3 months or 1 year.
In the past few years, the rules has changed and not all Thai Consulate offer this visa anymore. It is different from consulate to consulate and you won’t loose anything to give it a try.
Otherwise, you will be able to apply for a tourist visa of either 2 months or 2 times 2 months (Double Entry). As far as we know, there is not problem with applying for this Visa.
The day you will be applying, it wouldn’t a bad idea to bring your plane ticket with you, showing that you actually have a return ticket, back from Thailand!
**Please not that if you don’t apply for any visa before coming to Thailand, you will receive 1 month tourist visa on arrival, if coming by plane. If you cross to Thailand by land border, you will receive only 15 days.
Educational Visa 3 months
On arrival, you will activate automatically your Visa. Once the 3 months have been used, you can actually extend it for 1 month extra by either going to Burma or to the Thai Immigration office in Koh Samui (2 hours ferry from Koh Tao). This single entry visa cost about 70$.
Educational Visa 1 year
The lucky people that manage to get this visa will have 12 months, plus a possibility of an extra 3 months. It became pretty difficult to get, but some Thai Consulate might still offer it to those who has a proof of Diving Training program or internship.
With this Visa, every 3 months you will have to go out of the country to activate the next 3 months. You can go anywhere you want, land border crossing or flying to another country and coming back in Thailand if you want! The easiest is to do the “Burma Visa run” every 3 months. The good thing with this year Visa is that if you go out of the country before the end of the 12 months (at least 2 or 3 days before), you will receive an extra 3 months, meaning, you get to have 15 months in total!
This is Multi-Entry Visa and usually cost around 180$.
If you cannot get an Education Visa, once again, go for the “Double Entry” 2 times 2 months Visa.
Double Entry Tourist Visa
The double entry will give you 2 times 2 months. On arrival, you will activate the first 60 days. Once these 2 months have been used, you will have go out of the country, also by land crossing or flying to another country and coming back to Thailand. Once again, the “Burma Visa run” is the cheapest and easiest way to activate the next 2 months.
The good thing with this visa is that for each entry, you can actually extend it by an extra 30 days. You simply have to visit the Thai Immigration office (in Koh Samui for example) and pay the fee of 1900 baht. Make sure you go there before your actual “60 days” gets expired. We would go like 4 or 5 days in advance.
The double entry visa cost about 80$ and has to be activated within 180 days after the date from issuance.
Single Entry Visa
If you do not need more then 2 months, here is the Visa you should apply for. The Single Entry Visa will give you 60 days on arrival and can also be extended. The extension in that case will be different from Thai immigration office another one. it can be from 7 to 15 days extra.
It cost about 40$.
Once in the Country, how do I extend my visa or Apply for a new one?
Here comes the complicated part! It is actually simple to do, but definitely not to explain!
Let’s start with the free 1 month visa on arrival
Once this Visa has been used, if you want to extend it, you will have to do a Burma Visa Run where you will be able to get a new 15 days tourist visa. Otherwise, you can extend it in Koh Samui of a maximum of 7 days.
Extension or getting a New Visa once in Thailand
With 1 year Educational, you will have to go out of the country every 3 months. Wit a double entry, you will have to activate your second entry by also going out of the country after your 1st 60 days.
The most logical thing to do is the Burma Visa Run.
**The Burma Visa run is only to activate your next months on your valid visa. You won’t be able to get over there a new visa.
The trip is all organized and any travel agency on Koh Tao will be able to book it for you.
You will leave from Koh Tao with the night boat around 11pm. Nice and comfortable “AC Dormitory”, you only have to fall asleep! The next morning, around 5h00am, you will at the pier of Chumphon, on the main land, where a mini bus will be waiting for you.
Then it’s time for a 2 hours drive to the city of Ranong. Immigration is located right at the pier and you have to stamp your passport out of the country before jumping on a long tail with the rest of the group.
It will take about 20 minutes crossing the “river” to Mianmar where another immigration office will be right at the pier to stamp your passport “IN” Myanmar. 5 minutes later, you will be back on the long tail, ready to cross the river again. Back at Ranong pier, you will stamp “IN” with the Thai Immigration and, there you go, you just activated your next 2 or 3 months!
Back on the minibus and ready to take the road back to Chumphon, after another 2 hours drive, you will be at the pier of the “Lomprayah” ferry boat, right on time to catch the afternoon ferry leaving to Koh Tao at 13h00pm. Around 14h45pm, you will be back on the Island! Less than 24 hours and you just completed your “Burma Visa Run”!!
**Remember to verify your passport before getting back on the bus, to make sure the dates are right.
**The Visa you will get at the Myanmar immigration is only a visa giving you the access to a very small perimeter. It is not a Visa to use to explore the country!
How to get a new Visa?
If you Visa is expiring while in Thailand, you can go to any Thai Consulate from any Country and apply for a new visa. Some people take advantage of the occasion to discover new places, but of course, even if a visa run to Sydney is possible, when it comes to budget, not everyone can afford to travel long distance.
The most popular and cheapest places to go are Malaysia or Laos.
In Malaysia, you will be able to choose between Khota Baru or Penang. Personnaly, we would recommand Penang as there is more to do and see while you are there.
Penang Visa run
In Penang, you will able to get a 2 months Thai Visa only.
To get there on low budget, you can leave Koh Tao by ferry until the city of Surrathani where you will take a bus. It’s a long journey when you do it this way, but it will make you saving a lot of money.
You can also get to the main land by ferry and from there (Chumphon City) catch a train going all the way down. A bit more expensive, but with sleeper train, you will at least get a bit more rest.
Either by bus or by train, you will get down to “Butterworth” from where you will have to take ferry to the Island of Penang.
If you want to save time and a lot of energy, you can also fly from Koh Samui airport. By leaving with the morning ferry from Koh Tao, you will be able to catch the afternoon plane directly to Penang. Firefly is the company to book with. Great service, cheap price if you book in advanced and you leave Koh Tao in the morning and will be at you hotel in Penang around 18h00pm! Of course this option is more expensive, but definitely worth it.
Check out the http://www.fireflyz.com.my for prices and schedule.
Once in Penang, the best is to visit a place called “Banana Backpackers” who offers brilliant Visa Service. They are trustable and reliable. If you bring them your passport shortly after you arrived, they will sort out your Visa for you the following day and you will be able to pick up your passport around 15h30pm.
For the adventurous, you might be able to leave on the same day as you pick up your passport, meaning you will only have to stay in Penang for 1 night. Otherwise, you can spend a 2nd night and the next day, use whatever transportation you want (bus, train or plane) to get back to Koh Tao.
By plane, it is once again really practical as you can check out out from your hotel in Penang at 12h00pm and will be back to Koh Tao at 19h00pm! The place leave around 14h30pm and you will landing on time in Koh Samui to be able to ctach the last “Lomprayah” ferry to Koh Tao, leaving at 17h00pm.
What to do in Penang?
First EAT!!! The food is very good and cheap. The food center offers the typical Malaysian street food and the ambiance is brilliant. The is also “Little India” for those who love!
There is many bars, restaurant, but also shopping centers with cinema for those who have been on Koh Tao for a while and are desperate for a good film on big screen!
Laos Visa Run
In Vientiane, capital of Laos, you will be able to get 4 months with a “Double Entry Visa”.
Similar to Penang, there is multiple options to get there, depending on your budget. The bus is the most common way. But when it comes to Laos, you will need to get to Bangkok 1st to catch what ever transportation you want to use.
To reach the city of Nong Khai, located on the border between Thailand and Laos, you can do it by Bus. Plan about 9 hours to reach the border.
Once you get there, you can cross the border by foot and catch the “shuttle” bus to the Laos Border (5min) and cross the Laos border by foot as well.
If you take the train, it will be a night train from Bangkok to Nong Khai. From the train station, take a Tuk Tuk (10 min drive) to the Thai border.
Once you crossed the border, there is many taxi waiting for you!!!
A good option, once again more expensive, but nice and comfortable, is to fly wither directly to Vientiane or to Udon Thani. With Nok Air having daily departure from Bangkok (Don Mueanag airport), you will save a lot of time with this option.
Do not be surprise, your “plane” ticket might actually include a bus! You will land in Udon Thani where mini bus from Nok Air will be waiting for you. It will bring you to the Thai Border (1 hour drive), you will cross both borders your self and the mini bus will be waiting for you passed the Laos border to drive you to Vientiane (about 3-40 min drive).
Check out the http://www.nokair.com for prices and schedule.
To cross the border to Laos will require certain documents. First of all, make sure to have some US $ bills with you. They tempt to like you to pay for you Laos Visa with it. And they have to be in good conditions!
We cannot mention any price as it is different from Nationality to Nationality. US and Canada are usually the most expensive. Plan about 35 US$. The Visa is good for 1 month if you feel like visiting the country while you are there!
Have with you 2 passport photos, they will need them!
Now in Vientiane, it is important to remember to make your way to the Thai Consulate before 12h00pm. After that, they won’t accept any Visa Application.
Passport, paperwork, passport photos, as soon as you get in, take a number!! Once your will have given your application at the counter, they will tell you to come back the next day, at 13h00pm to pick it up. You won’t be able to obtain your visa in the same day.
You can always try with the people standing outside in the street…but promised…they will make you paying A LOT!
It’s then time to enjoy Vientiane, capital of Laos and the amazing french influences. Good Restaurant and bars and amazing Pâté! For those who have been on the Island of Koh Tao for a while, you will enjoy the food and the wine!
Next day, 13h00pm, you Visa is ready at the consulate. Once again, do not forget to take a number!!! You will have to pay the fee of your Visa as you pick it up.
After, once again, it is up you to choose what ever transporation type you like. It’s the same as when you got there, but there other way around.
A little tip, if you pick up your Visa as soon as the Consulate open in the afternoon, you will be perfect on time to make it to the border, cross it and take a tuk tuk back to the train station to jump on the last train back to Bangkok.
For the bus and train ticket, if you didn’t pre book it, you can do so with any travel agency in Vientiane.
If you ever have to over stay in Thailand, keep in mind that each day extra will be charge 500 baht.
We hope this will help you out a bit more…even if it might be still difficult to understand how Visa work in Thailand! Most importantly, remember that if you plan to stay for long time on Koh Tao due your diving courses or the simple feeling that the Island is now feeling like home, there will be a way to do so! It might make you discovering the surrounding countries as well!!
If you plan to do a diving course with us, we’ll be happy to help you with your Visa prior to come to Thailand.
***Please note that prices are subject to any change. But it should be around the one mentioned.