Let’s just say the experienced that just happened to me is one I will never, ever, ever repeat on a visa run in Thailand. I will attempt not to use every explicative in the book while describing what happened today, so let me just get this one out…ndsnvbeinfdnxgjebuvnxuenfdgvhuidsbv (that’s my nice way of saying everything I’m “thinking” about the immigration office in Thailand. Just a heads up, I wrote these several hours on the way back from the border, so you want to talk about some emotion, so prepare yourself for the ride… lol. Phew, now, I can begin.
Table of Contents
Thailand Visa Run Gone Wrong
So, my shirt and pants are soaked thru and my face I think has almost sweated off because it appears I was clueless about the visa process for Thailand. I thought after reading through everything time and again, everything would be fine, fine, fine. It—was—not—fine. So, here’s how the story goes.
Entering Thailand through Bangkok
About 2 months ago, I entered Thailand through the international airport in Bangkok, Thailand. I knew I would be staying for a period of 2 months but had just made that official decision on the flight over. Yes, I have a spontaneous side, and yes, this is the way I tend to travel. I pick a spot and just go and figure it out as I do. It works out well on most occasions, but then again, there are some days when I question every choice I’ve ever made. So, I knew, since I’ve been here before, that Americans are allowed to stay in the country on their passport alone for a period of 30 days. Because I knew I would be staying for 60 days but decided too late to start the process before I popped into the country. I knew I needed to apply for an extra 30 days somewhere, and I knew I could do it either through the e-visa process or, from what I was reading, directly at the airport. So, when I arrived in Bangkok, I walked up to the e-visa desk after my 10-hour flight and received the blank stare of I don’t understand you and you don’t understand me.
Ok, so that wasn’t going anywhere, so I popped over to the individuals at the information counter (you know, the one that is directly before going through immigration) to ask exactly what I needed to do before I ever even walked through immigration. There were three people sitting at this desk, and not one of them knew my answer. It could have been the English/Thai barrier, or the translator not working properly, or who the heck knows. The overall answer was, you’re American, you can just go on through. Well, I knew that was enough to get me into the country for 30 days. So, being as jetlagged and misunderstood, I just said, ya know, let me go on through and I’ll apply for the e-visa as it I’m waiting in line just in case. I finished applying for the 60-day e-visa as I was milling through the immigration line, but of course, it takes time to process, so I entered the country on the traditional passport stamp.
The Thailand E-Visa
The next day I received the notification that my e-visa was set and we were good for 60 days, no problem. I’m thinking I’m the same person, with the same passport information, the same everything, (minus that one little thing), the e-visa number. At this point, I thought that e-visa automatically connected me, my passport stamp, and my current visa to this e-visa. Let’s just say I was not even close to being right on this one. That logic thing somedays gets me in serious trouble.
Experience on Renewing My Visa (that failed)
As I finished my fitness retreat in Phuket and traveled up to Chang Mai, I changed my plans and decided to stay in Thailand for another 2 months. I’ve already been in the country for 52 days. I’m thinking I’ll take the Chang Mai, Thailand visa run to Burma, and get my new 60-day visa once I’m there. Let’s just say, 8 of us walked in, and only 7 came out. That one person left was little ole me. The Thailand immigration officer told me I had overstayed my visa for 22 days. I showed her the e-visa and let her know I had put the information into the system on the day of my arrival and received the e-visa back approved and it showed it was good to go. This way I knew I was covered, and it would ensure that I wouldn’t have any issues staying the original two months. This is where it all went south.
The e-visa does not tie directly to your passport visa, nor really anything else. It was a $50 piece of paper that they told me wasn’t valid because that’s not the document I came into Thailand on, I came in on the little teeny, tiny stamp in my passport. I said yes, I understand I received my passport stamp, but I thought this was the process to extend my current visa to cover all my bases. This was absolutely not the case. Throughout all of this, I remained happy, pleasant, and non-combative as I knew they had my future in their hands (always good advice for any kind of customer service).
Reality of Renewing
I thought we were getting somewhere, and I was asked to have a seat. No problem. Then three of their officers then put their heads together to come back and tell me the only way I’m getting out of the country and back in is the pay the overstay fee of 500 baht per day (times 22 days) for a total of 11,000 baht or $315. On top of that, I’ll have to pay the extra 500 baht to Burma for the stamp to come back through. They had to tell me all this through another civilian crossing the border who could translate better than the app. I know my mouth dropped at that point.
From there, the Thailand immigration officers provided a few other steps and forms to fill out telling their government how horrible of a person I was for overstaying my visa (which was not in English-so knowing exactly what I signed, I’m not sure. Once the papers are being signed, we then have the icing on the cake as I asked her if they took credit cards to pay for this 11,000 baht. You already know the answer–(no, we only accept cash). WTF over!! So here I am, I brought enough cash for the driver, my daily expenses, and that was that. My one bank account said $13 and it appears I know a ripe ole total of ZERO of my pin codes for my credit cards. They held my passport as they waited on me to find a way to get cash. As a long-term traveler, yes, I know I should always have plenty on me for a contingency, but it didn’t even cross my mind to carry that much with me. I left it in my room to be safe rather than sorry (which was 4 hours back to the AirBnB).
So, I go to the ATMs and try every one of my 8 credit cards to try for a cash advance. I happen tried every last one of them and it appears I either haven’t set a pin code or I plain ole just don’t know any of them. I then call Chase and Citibank and have to go through their non-human systems (zero was not an option for customer service), and when I finally get them on the phone and they tell me there is no way I can change my pin code if I don’t know my current one.
I explained the situation and they told me they could mail it to me. I’m like OMFG… I’m about to come through this phone. What, are you snail mailing it to the border where I’m standing, or where they may have me behind their little jail cells till I can get the cash? You have got to be kidding. You can’t take every last piece of my information to validate it’s me and we can work through this? Nope, we sure cannot. She asked if there was anything else she could help me with…let’s just say hanging up on her was the nicest thing I could do at this point. My stress levels had gone through the absolute roof. So, back to putting on my thinking cap which had also melted.
There was no actual bank around, our driver doesn’t speak English to be able to explain exactly what was happening, and I’m dripping profusely from every pore of my body as 7 other people waited on me to figure out my S*it. Then, I just reached into the far depths of the infamous purse that eats everything and found one last card, and OMG it worked!!!! It was like I hit the lottery of my own money, but I will absolutely take it.
The Hardest Things
I walked back through the 4 officers to get back to the to second immigration officer who was holding my passport and she says she can’t take my e-visa from my phone, but I needed to cross back into Thailand again to go have it printed because it would take her too long to enter the information. I truly would have cried at that point, but I think I sweated it all out. She tells me there’s a print and copy place right next to the border crossing where I could get it printed at for 10 baht (you think this has happened a time or two)? About 50 ATMS and a copy/print place with a line of people trying to get copies to hand over to immigration. She still held my passport, which made me even more nervous that the other officers wouldn’t let me get back to her to go get it back. So, I exited immigration, and 10 baht later, another long line and the struggle became even more real.
The Wi-Fi at the copy place wasn’t working properly and my phone was refusing to send it, but another turn the phone on and off and the magic happened, and thank my lucky stars, it sent. Phew, one more thing down. Now I’m an hour and a half into what should have been a 15 min stop for the group and still needed to go back to immigration to present my Thai e-visa. This time the line was quite a bit longer, but I had to head to the back of it, and once I did get up to the front and she tells me, “Oh wait, there’s one more problem”. I think you could have caught the largest of flies in my mouth at that point.
She tells me “You still need to go cross into Burma”. I’m like.. I didn’t do that already? I crossed what I thought was the correct bridge, found 2 separate immigration officers and still no dice, Burma was still a bit of a walk. She pointed to the general direction with my passport this time, and back out of line I go. By this time, I think the rubber on my shoes is melting in addition to my face and my thinking cap. As I walked back out and past a few buildings I could see the huge Burma this way signage. I crossed over, their immigration stamped it, I paid my 500 baht, and within 2 min I was out the door and standing back in that Thailand’s immigration line, only to have to wait another 10 min.
Chiang Mai Visa Run Company
By this point, the people from the Thailand visa-run company are texting and trying to call me and I can’t use my phone while standing in line, as they were on the verge of leaving. Thankfully, I managed to make it back up to the officer and after all of that, she finally put the big ole Thailand visa stamp of approval on it. I am now able to use that original e-visa I applied for since it was still in the window for use for 60 days (why that couldn’t have been applied originally and I paid for an additional e-visa, well, let’s just say I think $$$ had something to do with it). Let’s just say I will be out of the country several days before this particular 60 days is complete to ensure I don’t accidentally miss the date and overstay my visa. I think my nerves have about had it for this trip.
So, for what should have been a 9-hour day, $68 dollars later, and a super simple process turned into an absolute nightmare costing around $400. Hell, I should have swapped it up for the year-long visa that you can study and train Muay Thai under for around $800, but I wasn’t about to try to figure that out with them on this day. Personally, I now have that little blemish on my passport for Thailand visa purposes and I will have to figure out how that may affect future travels. They let me back in and it doesn’t seem to be an issue now that I’ve paid my fee, but let’s just say my paranoia still hasn’t resided as of yet.
My 60-Day Thailand Visa Recommendations
To all of you out there that want to visit Thailand on a 60-day visa, here are I will only recommend 2 ways of doing this, as these will definitely work, and I’ve learned from experience. For anything else, I’ll have to leave it to your own trial and error, and you can always leave me comments as to what a better solution would be. I’m fully open to hearing all the options as long as we know they work!
Thai Visa Option A
So, if you know you are going to be in the country for more than 30 days (as an American—sorry everyone else, there are too many rules to list for each country) up to 60 days, apply for your e-visa before you get into the country. It also has a “you have to use it by date,” so don’t apply too early, but maybe a week ahead of time, and make sure you print out the copy and show it to the immigration officer as you enter the country. DO NOT forget to show them or they will only stamp your passport for 30 days, and you know how well that turns out. Here is the official Thailand website for the e-visa. That’s option A.
Thai Visa Option B
Option B, if you don’t know how long you’ll for sure stay, get your passport stamped within the 30 days, figure it out, and find the appropriate consulate or visa office to ask ALL of the questions you need to ask. You can always conduct a Thailand visa run prior to the end of your 30-days so don’t overstay or screw it up, or you will be fined, you could be deported, or you could even end up spending a really long time with your brand spanky new immigration officer friends in their cozy spaces.
While, yes, one should already have an onward ticket planned, and they say it’s one of the rules prior to entering a country, I can’t personally say I’ve ever been asked for an onward ticket as I rarely ever know how long I’ll stay in a particular city or country for that matter. This time though I did have my ticket to Australia planned for the 58th day (to ensure I wouldn’t overstay my visa), but they didn’t ask and the issue never came up, or maybe right there and then this entire issue could have been avoided. Note to self. Talk about one of the most stressful days I’ve had in a long time. Let’s just say tonight… I need a drink (or 5).
If you do need a company, and you have your options handled, Chiang Mai Visa Run did do its job. They will take you from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Mae Sai, Burma (around 9 hours round trip if all goes well for 1890 baht + the 500 baht for Burma’s stamp), approximately a total of $68. The vehicle was decent (not perfect but decent with AC). The driving was crazy, but it appears that is “Thailand normal,” and at least for me, no matter how horrible my trip was, it wasn’t the company’s fault. So, if you need a recommendation for a Thailand Visa Border Run Service, check these guys out:
So, if you loved learning what the hell not to do on a Thailand visa border run from Chiang Mai, how about we tackle what the hell not to do on a European visa next? Oh, if that wasn’t a good time as well, I don’t know what was. Yep, I’ve screwed that one up as well. Their visa rules are also much different and can certainly get very confusing, especially when you’re just not used to dealing with it. If you think you understand it, make sure you stay tuned for my next article on immigration to the Schengen area in Europe. If it’s not informative enough, at least it’ll be mighty entertaining. I think after all of this I can say I Traveled Till I Dropped!