So as most backpackers know, the VISA EXEMPTION RULE allows tourists from 52 countries, to enter Thailand without a visa. They are granted a maximum stay of 30 days, but only if entering Thailand via an international airport. If you wish to extend for another 30 days, you can, by visiting various Immigration offices throughout Thailand. I chose to extend mine in Bangkok
This is my story.
The plan was to go to Myanmar middle of March for 3 weeks to break up my time in Thailand, before heading to Chiang Mai to meet some friends for Songkran (A massive water fight festival to celebrate Thai new year) mid April. But as always, my travel plans changed.
Flights in and out of Myanmar were working out expensive and reports from fellow travellers and research on the internet had proved the daily living cost there to be a bit out of my budget. All of that plus the factor I bloody love Thailand led to the conclusion it would be cheaper and more time efficient to stay in Thailand. I would only end up with two weeks in Myanmar, so I concluded I should save it for another trip.
This left me with 2 months in Thailand. As I had not planned ahead, I only had the 30 day visa exception that you get free on arrival. If I had thought about this before entering Thailand I could have obtained a 60 day tourist visa from a Thai embassy in a neighbouring country. But of course I do not plan ahead!
So where did that leave me. I had to visit the Immigration office to extend my visa exemption for another 30 days. As this has only been possible to do from 29th August 2014 a lot of people were telling me I could not do this. A lot of people were telling me it was hard to do. I heard many horror stories about Visas and extentions being denied and in true Sally fashion I began to worry and panic!
Firstly I could not find my departure card. On arrival in Thailand they give you a arrival and a departure card to fill in. The first time I came to Thailand they stapled it into my passport. This time they did not. Oh OK, I am suppose to keep this tiny bit of paper safe for the next 30 days. It is a lot harder then it sounds. Thai airport Immigration please invest in some staplers! I would be extremely grateful and I am sure a lot of others would also!
I read online that you can get a new one at the Immigration office but they will send you to the back of the line to fill it in and you will have to wait your turn all over again!
I also learnt the night before I needed passport photos. Bad planning again from me. This leads to a late night trip to Tesco Lotus across the street and some amazing looking photos as I was already tucked up in bed when I discovered the need for them.
You also need an onward ticket to extend your exemption. Booking a flight back to England at 11pm, on a Bank Card that you have forgotten the pin too and blocked the night before is fun!
Oh and you need 1,900THB (£38). Off to the cash machine I go. Oh but yes, like I said, I have blocked my bank card! Good job I have the bank of Mum on the other end of the phone! She rang up and got my card all unblocked and sorted for me (Love you Mumma).
So I am stressed and panicked. It takes about an hour to get there and the whole way I worry. The taxi driver does not know where it is! We eventually find it. Go in, collect our application form and queue ticket and within an hour we are seen. I inform the Immigration officer I have lost my departure card and her reply… ‘Do not worry. Just get another at the airport when you decided to leave Thailand’.
Visa Exemption extension granted. Another 30 days! Pheeew! Easy Peasy!
Why was I worrying!
Below is a little guide I have written to help you if you too need to extend your exemption:
Getting there: There is an Immigration office in most of the big towns in Thailand including Koh Samui, Krabi, Phucket and Chiang Mai. The easiest way to get to the one in Bangkok is to take the BTS to Mo Chit or the MRT to Chatuchak Park and take a taxi from there. It is know as the Government Complex, Building B, Immigration office. The Taxi cost me 130THB from Mo Chit station.
What you need:
Passport and a photo copy of your passport (Main page and page with your visa exemption stamp photocopied)
Onward flight ticket
Passport size photo
Best days to go are Tuesday and Thursdays, about 1pm. The office closes for lunch 12noon-1pm.
Don’t panic! Everyone I encountered was really nice and helpful. Not scary at all. The King of Thailand likes tourist and can see the benefit it has on the country, so encourages tourism. This has in turn made the procedure for tourists to enter and travel Thailand are very simple and user friendly! A very mutual beneficial partnership!