Satun, Thailand Visa Run

Most expats in the south of Thailand are living on the island of Phuket, so they shoot right up to Ranong, Myanmar (Burma) for their visa runs. There are many services that offer the runs. Many expats living in Krabi, Phang Nga, and Surat, also hit the Ranong border for their visa stamps.

This is the 2nd time I’ve been to Satun for mine – and it’s quite an easy experience. I debated whether to take the motorbike, but, since I couldn’t rent one on my wife’s passport, instead I just drove the car. It’s a little bit stressful drive – considering you’ll travel about 600 km in 8 hours, and there are numerous idiots driving cars in Thailand – maybe I was one of them? Eventually you get there and get it all worked out.

From Krabi, you head south toward Satun on highway 4. Before you reach A. Muang, Satun, you make a left at Chalung and right at Khuan Don you’ll see a couple signs for border – a right hand turn. Take it. It’s about 15 km from there. After just a couple hundred yards after making the turn there is a big soup sign on the left. I ate noodles with beef there – amazing and cheap (35 THB). They re-finished this road, and are nearly finished, so it’s quite a bit nicer than the mud it was last time I went to Satun for my Thai visa run (6 months ago).

Here’s a link to the Google Maps directions to Satun from Krabi:


View Larger Map

As I said, it’s possible to take a motorbike from Krabi to Satun and make it just fine. I did the roundtrip in 2 days last time on a Yamaha Nouvo 135cc motorbike. The car was easier in some respects, but the motorbike was probably faster. In a car you cannot easily pass all the time to get around slow-pokes. I went on a Tuesday and the traffic was negligible most places before 3 pm.

If anybody knows of a visa service for this Krabi – Satun border run, do let me know so I can post it here. I did see a van full of tourists getting their stamps here last time, but none this time.

2x Double Entry Tourist Visa in Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Alternative to Vientianne, Laos

At the risk of burning the bridge – I’ll try to help the local expats out that are trying desperately to stay in the country on tourist visas. The problem in doing so, is finding a place that gives the 2x (Double entry) Tourist visa which, after extensions in country, is good for a total of 6 months.

Up until March 31, 2011 these visas were free – for single or double entry. There were very few places you could count on getting one easily – Vientianne, Laos was the best place. Vientianne Thai consulate officials have started to cut down dramatically on who they are allowing to get these visas. It was quite expected. I have seen more asshole expats blow up at the Thai consulate staff in Laos than I could stomach. I don’t know how they put up with it on a daily basis.

There have been very recent reports that all or most or some expats with 2 previous tourist visas were getting rejected – and couldn’t get a third visa.

These guys/gals then had to either fly into Thailand and get the gratuitous 30-day visa or walk across the border and get 15 days, and do it again right after… or, they had to find another place that WOULD give the 2x tourist visa for Thailand.

Toward the end of March I needed to get another tourist visa. I had been to Laos and got the first one in this new passport. I became a little leery of Laos – and add to that the fact that I’ve been there about 5 times over the years… I decided to look into Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

After some research into Phnom Penh, I was undecided. It seemed to be iffy to get the 2x tourist visa in Phnom Penh. There were guys in Pattaya that were taking visa run tours – and getting theirs. They stopped in Poipet while a Cambodian (or Thai maybe) ran to Phnom Penh with their passports and got them the 2x tourist visa. It was done FOR them.

I tried, but couldn’t find an agent in Phnom Penh to do this for me before I got there.

I figured – someone at the consulate would be offering it for a fee. The average monthly salary for someone working their ass off in Phnom Penh is about $60. That’s 10 hours a day and 6-7 days a week. Surely someone would be standing at the Thai consulate with a special deal – and charge me 30-$100 to get the 2x tourist visa – right?

Right.

My plane arrived in the late afternoon so I got the overnight at the “Amari Hotel” on 130th street. Great place – strongly recommend it. I’ll have a video up of the room and street at http://www.youtube.com/user/thaipulsedotcom about it in a day or so if my connection holds. I made the ‘mistake’ of checking into my hotel first and paying for 4 nights – since all I’ve heard was that I had to wait 4 days to pick up my passport after dropping it at the Thai consulate.

I ate a leisurely breakfast and headed over to the Thai consulate about 10:30am. I didn’t want to arrive with any group – if the group of expats trying to get visas is large, or there are a couple of dickheads in the group before you – your consulate staff are going to be on-edge, and maybe start dicking everyone around because of it. I’ve seen that in Laos – and it’s not fun, wondering if you’re actually going to get a tourist visa at all because some dimwit expat fucked it all up for everyone behind him.

There was literally NOBODY there. I walked over to the far right guard stand. There were a couple of Cambodians standing there – and a guard in the shack.

I said, to anyone listening – and they all were – intently focused on whether I was going to make them a lot of money or not. “I need 2x Tourist Visa to Thailand.”

Can! Can! They all smiled and said in unison…

One guy took my passport and counted up my Tourist Visa Stickers – and said – OK. $50. See you tonight right here.

Cool. Let me take your photo so you don’t run away with my passport.

NO!

They all turned around as I brought out my camera – the guard in the shack too – covered his face.

I said – “I gotta remember your face if you take my passport and run.”

They handed it back and said – no, no OK – never mind…

Eventually I was able to convince them to do it for me anyway. I am always paranoid about someone running off with my passport. This is the first time I ever handed it to someone to do something for me.

Everything turned out well though. One of the guys actually delivered my passport – with the 2x tourist visa stamp in it – to me at my hotel.

How cool is that?

So now it is post 3/31/2011 and the tourist visas are not free – so Thailand expats are wondering what happens. Does Vientianne loosen up and start dishing out 2x and even multiple entry – 5x’s because now they are for a fee and they’ll make some cash instead of doing everything gratis – like they did for months and months?

Wait and see… is all we can do.

My hotel staff said they’d refund my 3 nights of stay if I wanted. I said, nahh, let me see what Phnom Penh is all about.

I had a great time… and came up with a couple of business ideas and a two book ideas. One of which I’m into now.

Cambodia is a VERY easy place to stay… $25 at the entry point for a visa.

Then $280 for a 1 year visa.

Expats looking for an alternative to Thailand’s nuttiness – Phnom Penh and some of the other Cambodian cities (I’ve only been to PP) seem to offer an excellent alternative.

Of course you’ll have to deal with Cambodian food… but there are plenty of awesome restaurants in PP – pizza, mexican, korean, vietnamese, indian… glorious indian…

OK – good luck to all you expats trying to get tourist visas to stay in the country because you don’t want to teach, learn Thai, or father a baby to get a different visa.

Thai Immigration CRACKING down… (some more)

The Phuket Gazette is reporting that there will be more crackdowns targeting those with criminal backgrounds as well as those working illegally in Thailand. Apparently the John Karr incident has embarrassed them SOLIDLY and they are attempting to do the responsible thing.

I’m all for removing the idiots… but the way they’re going about this… hmmm. My guess is it won’t be a very effective solution. The background checks probably won’t really be carried out – they are expensive and time consuming. The checks on schools to see if their foreign teachers have the right credentials were so far limited to private schools. The government schools have not been subjected to these checks. Correct me if you heard differently.

Article from 7 Feb 07 PG follows…

Foreign teacher crackdown to continue

Foreign teachers will continue to be the target of Immigration crackdowns, Thai Immigration Chief Pol Lt Gen Suwat Tumrongsiskul confirmed during his recent visit to Phuket on Monday.

His agency, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education (MoE), will continue to conduct strict background checks on all foreigners applying for teaching jobs in the Kingdom.

Gen Suwat said Immigration agreed with the MoE that such a crackdown was necessary to prevent crime and to protect students from the unqualified foreign teachers and those with deviant sexual behavior that could put children at risk.

Gen Suwat, in Phuket to attend a ceremony to lay the foundation stone for the new Phuket Immigration Office, confirmed that the new measures stemmed from the deportation last year of American John Mark Karr, a former suspect in the 1996 murder of six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey in Boulder, Colorado.

Karr, a confessed pedophile who falsely confessed to the Ramsey murder, was teaching at a school in Bangkok. He was deported under personal escort by Gen Suwat, who told reporters in the US that he sang the Bee Gees song Words to Karr to lift his spirits during the trip stateside.

On a more serious note, Gen Suwat told Phuket reporters said that random checks of 1,000 foreigners teachers had turned up 65 whose academic credentials had been forged.

“This convinced us of the need to be more strict in checking teachers’ qualifications. We don’t want unqualified teachers or sexual deviants teaching Thai children. This crackdown will help us to better screen the backgrounds of people coming here to teach,” he said.

Gen Suwat admitted that it is difficult to ascertain a person’s sexual proclivities though such checks, but said that police could gain valuable information about applicants by checking to see if they had criminal records back in their home countries.

On October 1, Immigration began enforcing a measure limiting to 90 days [over any 180-day period] the length of stay of tourists entering the country on successive “visas-on-arrival”. When asked if the new regulation had caused confusion and delays at Immigration checkpoints, Gen Suwat said the counting process was “no problem” for his officers, who could use a computer to help them count up the days.

He defended the new measure by saying it had little impact on legitimate long-stay tourists but was an effective way to prevent foreigners from using the free visas to stay in the country and work illegally.

“The 30-day tourist visa allows enough time for a tourist to travel around the country. If people want to work here, they should apply for a [non-immigrant] visa from the Thai embassy in their home country before coming,” he said.

Gen Suwat added that Immigration will continue to seek out and deport foreigners who overstay their visas and stay in the country working illegally, adding that nationals of China, India and Pakistan were among the most common offenders.

Regarding reports of long delays at Immigration checkpoints at Phuket International Airport, Gen Suwat said the situation has been improved by an increase in the number of Immigration officers posted there.

Additional officers could also be assigned there temporarily from other Immigration offices in the region if the need arises, he said.

Source: Phuket Gazette – 7 February 2007

Update – it’s now 1/2010 and there have been more and more and more immigration crackdowns over these couple years. It’s as if the Thai government doesn’t see the value of a resident expat population. Sure you can throw everyone in Pattaya out with the bathwater, but, there are some expats that contribute to the company – travel industry especially.

Planning on moving to Thailand to live?

Living in Thailand – What is it like to live in Thailand? Could you do it? Follow one man’s journey.

Moving to Thailand – What is involved in moving across the globe to live in Thailand? What is it like? All your questions answered.

The Ultimate Guide to Teaching in Thailand – There have been a couple attempts at books that cover this subject. We have reviewed them and found them seriously lacking. Here is a very complete book on the subject.