Thai Visa = Headache

Bangkok Travel Blog

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A word about the new policy regarding Thai visas:

Sometime in the very recent past (within 2009, I believe) Thailand changed the length of visas granted to tourists upon entry.  If you enter Thailand via air, you get the standard thirty day visa as always.  If, however, you enter via land, you only receive fifteen.

I knew this months ago before departing and figured it wasn't a big deal; I would simply hop a cheap flight within the region and be done with it.  Clearly plans and routes change along the way, and I realized I'd be entering via land.  Even then it was no problem; Penang has a Thai embassy and I planned to obtain a visa there, before entering the country, thus eliminating the visa issue.  Seeing as I sped through Malaysia faster than anticipated, I arrived in Penang on a Saturday, which means the embassy was closed until Monday, and there was no way I was hanging around two extra days just for a visa.  Which brings us to my motivation for writing this post.

It is possible for tourists to extend their visas in Bangkok.  Please note that "possible" does not translate to "easy, cheap, and absent of the pleasantries of government bureaucracy."

Extending your visa involves a schlep out to "the American ghetto," as Romana calls it.  I think the word "bumblefuck" sums it up nicely.  It's a massive complex way out in the middle of nowhere.  Thai immigration (among other government offices) moved out there very recently, within the past few months.  Being lucky enough to be adopted by Romana this week, driving out there was a pain, but possible.  For the vast majority of tourists who would not have this luxury, I imagine it's a REALLY expensive cab ride.  One that involves getting lost and clinging to your last frayed nerve, seeing as I doubt very many cabbies know where this place is yet.

Considering Thai visas are otherwise free, the extension is EXPENSIVE.  1,900 Baht.  If it hadn't been the height of holiday tourist travel I would have simply flown to KL and back in an afternoon, seeing as a flight would ordinarily be cheaper.  The extension on a fifteen day visa is a meager seven days; the extension on a thirty is fifteen.  Wtf??  I schlepped out here and monkeyed around with your queues and xerox fees and exorbitant rates and the most you will kick me is seven days?  Stingy much?

For those of you needing to go through the rigmarole I did, bring plenty of cash, a passport photo, a copy of your passport as well as a copy of any entry stamps and your departure card, and as much patience as you can muster.  Don't hate on the cabbie, it really is a bitch to find.

The upside is there are dozens of western men with their Thai squeezes at their side, pleading for extra long extensions because they're "in love."  Oh no, not sex tourism -- they're different.  Just like all the other hundreds of men doing the same exact thing.  Add that to Romana's wicked sense of humor and it's wildly entertaining.  At least you have that to distract you while you're waiting.
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photo by: Deats