A rewarding visa run

How to get a double-entry tourist visa in Savannakhet, Laos


I recently changed jobs, and as part of the process had to leave the country to get a new visa… again. Apparently, if you have a “valid teaching license” (not the temporary ones you can renew 4 times), you can get your existing Non-B visa changed over to your new school… but if you don’t, it can’t be transferred and you have to leave the country to get a new visa.

I’ve already done this, gotten a single-entry tourist visa in Savannakhet, and changed it at Bangkok immigration to a Non-B (again)… next step, work permit, then immigration AGAIN to get that new Non-B visa extended to a year.

Anyway, here’s a rehash and update of my very first blog for Ajarn.com back in 2012 about how to get a tourist visa in Savannakhet, Laos, among the most laid-back places I’ve ever been and with far less people than Vientiane. The biggest change since 2012 has been the apparent relocation of the Thai Consulate and some other minor details; I hope this can help make the task of going for a new visa less daunting!

I won’t claim to be any kind of expert on the matter, but from everything I’ve heard from the many people and agencies I’ve talked to, Laos is the only country you can easily (relatively—without flying) get to from Bangkok that will grant you a double entry tourist visa. And, after a bit of last-minute research, I discovered that the Consulate in Savannakhet is far more relaxed than the Embassy in Vientiane both in the ability to smoothly go through the process and the atmosphere of the town itself.

After going, I have to agree. I’ve never been to Vientiane, but I don’t see how the process could have been easier… considering it’s an odd procedure in the first place.

Keep in mind that this is just my experience. I was trying to be relatively as cheap and quick as possible getting to and from Bangkok being that my visa was about to expire.

The largest area where you’ll find discrepancies are in the travel; there are countless ways to get to Savannakhet, but I chose what I think is the cheapest and easiest way to go.

I’ll do the down-and-dirty version first, then details after. This is a long article mainly for me to remember my journey (and it helped me my second go-round too), but I’ve tried to keep the important bits short first and expand on them later.

First, here’s what you need before you leave Thailand:

-A valid passport (good for at least 6 months past the date you go)

-2 Passport photos. Any photo shop in Bangkok/other cities will make; just tell them you need passport photos for a Thai visa, as there are different sizes. Get at least two—you’ll need one for your Laos entry visa and one for your actual Thai visa. I got something like 8 made for 150 baht at a little photo shop near Phahon nYothin, across from Central Plaza mall and next to Union Mall.

-2 signed photocopies of your passport. Black and white worked fine for me. Technically, you only need one, but if you go to check into a hotel while the Thai consulate has your passport… you’ll obviously need a copy to fill out the booking paperwork. You can probably get around this, but I hate being without any copy of my passport. This is Thailand (and Laos), after all…

-Patience. We’re in Thailand. Just go with the flow!

Second, visa fees needed as of August 8, 2015:

-1500 baht for a Laos Visa on Arrival. You don’t have a choice, even if it’s just for a day.

-2000 baht for a double-entry tourist visa OR non-immigrant-B visa, or 1000 for a single-entry. From everyone I’ve spoken to, teachers or not, I’d go with the tourist visa. I’ll make a few notes on what I wrote on my visa application form later.

-50 baht for a “visa stamp” when you leave Laos. It appeared only the Farang were told to pay this, but it’s not like we have much of a choice.

That’s it for the actual visa costs, which totaled me (single entry) 2550 baht this go-round. But, remember this: after 2 months, you’ll have to visit the immigration office in whatever town you are living in and pay another 1900 baht for a 30 day extension.

After that, you’ll have to pay travel costs to and from another international border to initiate your “second entry,” and after another 2 months, repeat the process… PROVIDED you don’t get a work permit, which allows you to extend your visa to the length of your contract.

Third, travel costs: (assuming you’re traveling to and from Bangkok)

-About 1400 baht for bus tickets to and from Bangkok to Savannakhet: about 1100 baht for the long stints from Bangkok to Mukdahan, 100 baht (50 baht each way) from the Mukdahan bus station to and from Savannakhet, and roughly 200-400 baht total costs for taxis throughout the trip.

This will obviously vary from person to person depending on what class bus you take, where you take it from, and/or whether or not you decide to fly. I will note here that you shouldn’t have to pay more than 100 baht if you have at least 2 people taking a tuk-tuk from the Laos boarder to the Thai consulate.

You won’t be the only person at the border needing a lift to the consulate when you arrive, so if you’re not shy, you can save yourself some money by traveling with others.

Fourth, various tidbits to know:

You will have to spend a night in Savannakhet to get a visa; it takes 24 hours for them to issue visas, and there is no getting around it.

Don’t worry too much about changing currencies. Everywhere I went in Savannakhet took Thai baht, and I believe that most will take US dollars, too.

You MUST present your visa application from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. You can then pick it up the following day from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. Be sure to keep the receipt ticket they give you at the counter when you turn in your passport; picking them up relies on the numbering system indicated on the receipt you get.

Don’t expect anyone aside from the bus ticket vendors and Thai Consulate staff to know any English. They don’t. But they’re all quite friendly, so just be friendly in return and you can usually find out what you need eventually.

Remember the name of the hotel/guesthouse you stay in while in Savannakhet. For some reason, the agents want to know this when you leave, and it should be written on your departure card.

I roughly calculated how much I spent, including visa fees, travel costs, and food/accommodation, and I came up with around 6,000 baht. I’m sure you could spend less, and I’m positive you could spend more.

The basics, getting to and from Bangkok to Savannakhet:

-Take a bus from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit or Chatuchak, depending on who you ask) to Mukdahan, then from Mukdahan to Savannakhet.

-Be sure you are prepared for the various entry/exit procedures both in and out of Thailand and Laos. Each border has duplicated procedures. Details are listed in the sections below.

-Once you get your visa, simply retrace your footsteps back to Bangkok!

My itinerary:

This is basically how it went down for me, just to give you an idea of travel times involved in the whole process.

Wednesday August 5

8:00 p.m., depart for Mukdahan

Thursday August 6:

7:00 a.m., arrive at Mukdahan bus station

7:30 a.m., depart on bus for Laos border (Savannakhet)

8:00 a.m., arrive at Thai border to exit

8:20 a.m., arrive at Laos border to enter

9:10 a.m.,  arrive at Thai consulate

9:30 a.m., free time until the next day at 2:00 p.m.

Friday, August 7:

2:00 p.m., pick up passport with double-entry visa

4:00 p.m., arrive at Mukdahan bus station after clearing both Thai and Laos borders

7:20 p.m., depart on bus for Bangkok

5:45 a.m., arrive at Bangkok Mo Chit bus terminal

Total time spent: about 60 hours.

To get to Mukdahan (before Savannakhet) from Bangkok:

You can fly direct from Bangkok to Savannakhet through Laos Airlines (and possibly others); Savannakhet has a small airport. But, I talked to several people I met there that said the flight isn’t exactly comfortable, and it cost somewhere upwards of US $150 for the 2 hour flight. That’s not ridiculous, granted, but considering I got the bus there and back from Bangkok for under US $40, it’s all a matter of how much you want to spend.

That said, if you want to take a bus from Bangkok, you have a few options. First, get to the Mo Chit Bus Station (although the sign above it actually reads Chatuchak Bus Terminal). You can take the MRT to KamphaengPhet (which comes up in part of the Chatuchak Weekend Market) and take a motorbike taxi to the bus station for 30 baht, depending on your driver. A meter taxi will probably run under 60 baht.

Alternatively, go to the Mo Chit BTS station and take a bike taxi from there.

Once you get to the bus station, find the third floor (it’s a huge bus station by my standards). You’ll want the bus that runs Bangkok to Mukdahan, the Thai town just across the river boarder from Savannakhet, Laos. If memory serves, the company is around booth number 96. If you get confused, the information desk on the ground floor is very helpful.

There are several options: first class, second class, and VIP. Basically, VIP buses typically have leather seats with more leg room than the “first class” tickets I bought my first time going to Savannakhet.

Whatever the meaning, it cost me 650 baht from Bangkok to Mukdahan, first class, on a relatively comfortable coach bus. Second class was something like 460 baht. There are several options; have a Thai friend look up VIP buses and it’ll be 200+ baht cheaper than buying at the bus station.

My understanding is that there is a bus that runs to Mukdahan every night around 8:00 p.m. (I’m sure it varies a bit), but this being Thailand, we didn’t actually leave until almost 9 p.m. The bus coming back was relatively on-time.

Keep in mind that the travel time is between 10-12 hours (depending on traffic and your driver), so no matter what you’re riding on, it’s going to be uncomfortable. If you’re on a budget like me, you’ll just have to suck it up. Both buses I took, there and back, had great air conditioning, a bathroom (which I didn’t use, so I can’t say as to its usability, but my acquaintance in the seat next to me had no complaints), and you’re given a little light blanket for the trip.

The seats do recline a little, but again… remembering that this is a really long trip, it’s going to become uncomfortable. Personally, I can’t sit still for 10 minutes, much less 10 hours, but that’s just me.

The bus stops about halfway through the trip for 20 minutes at a bus rest area, so you can get out, stretch your legs, get some food/drinks if desired, etc.

Getting from Mukdahan to Savannakhet:

This bit is easy. If you take the 8:00 p.m. bus, you’ll arrive somewhere around 7:00 the next morning, and there is a 50 baht bus that leaves from the same small bus station to the Friendship II Bridge every thirty minutes or so starting at 7:30 a.m. This bus will get packed fast, so unless you’re lickedy-split, you can expect to stand packed in like cattle. Or, basically just like every time you take the BTS at rush hour in Bangkok.

Luckily, it’s only about a 10 minute ride from the Mukdahan bus station to the Thai border. You’ll have to get out and go through Thailand’s exit procedures, get back on the same bus to cross the bridge, and get off again at the Laos boarder, at which point you’ll have to get a tuk-tuk to the Thai consulate (or other transportation).

Exiting Thailand and crossing the border procedures:

You’ll get off of the bus at the Thai border just before the modern Friendship II Bridge and have to go through a passport check. You’ll need a “departure form” that you may already possess; if not, you’ll have to ask for one and fill it out. Make SURE you get a stamp on your existing visa or other documentation saying you actually left the country; otherwise, as I’m told, you could have problems actually getting into Laos.

The passport agent should give you a re-entry form into Thailand when you leave as well as a Laos entry/exit form. These are all simple forms, but I’d suggest you fill them in ASAP to avoid bottlenecking the lines at all of the border checkpoints.

The border appears to open at 8:00 a.m. judging by the playing of the King’s Anthem at around the time our bus arrived there, which was around 8.

Once you’re through this easy bit, it’s back onto the bus. Be sure to say “moo” to show off the cattle that you are.

Entering Laos and crossing the border procedures:

Once you’re off the bus, unless you already have a Laos entry visa (which is unlikely), you’ll need to go up to a little counter titled “Entry Visa” or something similar. It’s just before you get to the entrance booth for passport control.

Here, you’ll be given a form to fill out (again). Once you’ve completed it, give it, one of your passport pictures, your passport, and 1500 baht to the agent behind the window. I’ve been told it’s slightly cheaper if you use US Dollars, but I used baht and had no problem.

This will take a moment; the agents in this particular line of the process aren’t in any great hurry. This last trip, I had to wait about 30 minutes for someone to bother showing up.

After you have your Laos visa, make sure you have your Laos entry form filled in and your passport out. They’ll want to take your picture, and without much fuss you should be on your way.

Small note here: the visa and entry forms both ask your purpose of entering Laos. I just put “visiting.” No sense in being too descriptive. Similarly, various fields in both the Thai and Laos visa form and entry/exit form ask purpose of stay, address, and/or contacts within the country. Being that you’re applying for a tourist visa, having a physical address may raise eyebrows. I left the address fields blank on all of those forms, and for any other fields in question, I was just vague.

For example, on the Thai visa application, it asks something along the lines of what you’ll be doing during your stay. I simply said that I intended to visit Bangkok, Phuket, and Chaing Mai. We all know (the authorities included) that this is just paperwork for the sake of paperwork.

Getting to the Thai Consulate:

I went up to a random fellow filling out visa paperwork and asked if he wanted to share a tuk-tuk to the Thai consulate. There’s one way of making friends. He agreed, and after haggling the tuk-tuk driver down from the outrageous 200 baht he wanted per person to 100 baht per person (still a lot for the short trip), we were on our way.

Luckily, in my brief experience in Laos, everyone is quite nice and generally helpful. Obviously, taxi drivers are going to want to make as much money as possible, but just be nice and polite and do what you have to do. Let’s keep a relatively good image for foreigners in this little town; otherwise, we’ll end up making Savannakhet the same as Vientiane and getting multiple tourist visas will become impossible.

The Thai Consulate moved since I last visited in 2012. Now, it is closer to the boarder entry point, just off of whatever the “main road” would be. It’s less than a 10 minute taxi/tuk-tuk ride from the border, and is a nice new brown building with full security. It’s on the way to “old” Savannakhet, so if you get there, you’ve gone too far.

Once you’re at the Thai Consulate, just to the left of the entrance there is a little visa application stall with a nice lady working for the Consulate handing them out. At least, there was when I went; I did not have to pay for one. It is possible to get scammed by the many little stands right across the street from the consulate, but before giving into them, check at the consulate itself first. You can make copies and whatnot for a nominal fee.

Here’s the important part: it’s only 1000 baht for a single entry tourist visa, but 2000 for a double entry. Make SURE you hand-write next to the “tourist visa” box the words “double entry” clearly, and when you turn in the form to the agent at the window, make sure you politely ensure she/he knows that you want a double entry visa (if that’s the case). There is no box or field to write this, so make sure you remember to indicate it!

Other than that, the form is fairly self-explanatory. Be vague when needed, and hand it in with your passport, a photocopy of your passport, a passport picture, and 2000 baht (double; 1000 single). You will get a receipt to pick it up the next day between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. I’d recommend being there at 2:00 p.m. the next day if you plan on making it back to Bangkok (or wherever) that evening; it gives you plenty of time to play with.

Staying in Savannakhet:

Like I’ve said, there really isn’t much to the town. It’s a quaint little French-influenced spot next to the large Mekong River, and not much is going on. Seriously, it’s the exact opposite of the insanity of Bangkok. It’s actually a bit like a vacation… a welcome vacation mandated by the government, but a vacation nonetheless.

I only looked into two hotels last time I visited: one right next to the river whose name escapes me, and one that I’ve seen recommended elsewhere called Leena Guesthouse. I’m not big on planning, so I hadn’t bothered trying to book in advance, nor did I have any idea where hotels (if you can call them that) would be. Luckily, the town is so small that I literally walked around until I found a sign for Leena Guesthouse.

This time, I opted for what would be considered opulent foreigner-friendly hotel… the Avalon Residence. It’s not far from the consulate, and is about a 2-3km walk from the little night market/church in the middle of the old part of town. 650 baht/night, nice AC, hot shower, wifi, the works. Somewhat English-speaking staff too, and has its own decent coffeeshop/restaurant right next door.

Note the difference between this “posh” (for Laos) hotel at 650 baht/night and my last stay at 350 baht/night; it’s all in what you want. Both have generally the same accommodations, but Avalon is far easier to get to and definitely designed with foreigners in mind, whereas Leena Guesthouse (my last stay) is far more… barebones.

Note here that I paid in Thai baht with a 1,000 baht note and was given change in Lao kip. Interesting.

There are a number of other small guesthouses, but after talking to other travelers, I’d say Leena is about the cheapest and most acceptable of the lot. Avalon Residence is most convenient and cheap for what you get (now that I’m not as poor as my last time in Laos).

You can also opt for a full-fledged hotel, as I’ve heard from others, with a pool and other amenities, but someone told me that costs over 1,000 baht. Again, like anywhere, you can pretty much spend as much as you want to spend. The bottom line is that the prices aren’t too different than what you’ll find for similar accommodations in Thailand (in most places).

If you’re like me and don’t like to plan much, though, don’t worry; you are almost guaranteed to find a spot to stay. I was lazy; I told a tuk-tuk driver “farang hotel” and he took me right to Avalon. HA! I’ve gotten hiso in my old age…

Eating in Savannakhet:

I won’t lie: I splurged on food during my short stint in the little town… both visits. But, whereas accommodations aren’t much cheaper than they are in most places in Thailand (in my experience), the food is definitely cheaper.

This being a former French colony, there is both old French architecture and food to be enjoyed. I’ve been on a raging craving for French food, and I must say: outside of France, which I visited last year, I haven’t had better French food.

There are a number of small French restaurants around the town. I stopped in Lin’s Café (I stumbled upon it while wondering, actually) and had a lovely club sandwich, Vietnamese-style spring rolls, a banana smoothie, a hot tea, and a large bottle of water between my tuk-tuk friend and myself, and it was under 300 baht.

My splurge came in the evening and the next day at another French restaurant called Daosavanah, located in the long square that leads up to the Christian church. You can’t miss the church… it’s quite beautiful, albeit out of place in my eyes.

For 65,000 kip (250 baht, $8 USD), I got a 3-course legitimate French meal: pumpkin-vegetable soup, beef bourguignon, and two scoops of coconut ice cream, plus a few Beerlaos. And as I said earlier, it was delicious… as close to perfection as I’ve had. I did something similar this go round (2012, now 2015); the owner/cook, Marjorie, is excellent, and the place has wine! Not good wine, but wine! Sorry; BeerLaos is a first-class ticket to a miserable hangover. Trust me.

Seriously, this is a very sleepy little town. I’d go so far as to say village. I can’t remember the total it came to, but it was cheap. This is impressive considering the use of real butter.

You can also get Thai/Laos/Vietnamese foods at any number of places throughout the little city. During my first evening in Savannakhet (in 2012), I spent a few hours with my newfound tuk-tuk friend in a pavilion right on the river enjoying several Beerlaos and a light dinner. Peacefulness is the name of the game.

Thoughts on Savannakhet:

There’s really not much to say about the town itself. It’s tiny by Bangkok standards. The joke I heard several times was that the town’s one stop light wasn’t even really needed.

It was certainly hot while there, so I spent most of the daylight hours sitting under shade and fans. Don’t expect to be necessarily blown away by the presence of the French architecture; it’s mostly poorly maintained and looks pretty much like you’d expect a poor border town to look.

Even so, Savannakhet has a certain character to it. The people are nothing but nice. None of them will have any idea what you’re talking about in English, so make sure you bring your acting skills. It’s still a relatively new thing for them to deal with foreigners; the Friendship II Bridge that connects Mukdahan and Savannakhet, as I understand it, was only completed in 2007, and there are not many foreigners wandering around at all.

I did meet one Australian family and one American who were living in the town, but all the other people (I say “all” as though there were many… about a bus-load’s worth) were doing the same thing as me: getting visas.

It’s not my cup of tea, really, being that I’ve been living in Bangkok and am used to having things to do any time I want. Savannakhet is the complete antithesis of this. I’m told there are a few little night spots, but everything I saw closed at 10:00 p.m. or so.

So while you shouldn’t expect to have a raging party while there, my suggestion would be to simply enjoy the change in pace of life. Especially if you’re coming from a place like Bangkok or even Chiang Mai, this little town is a good day’s worth of fresh air.

Returning to Mukdahan and Bangkok:

It’s quite simple, really. Once you pick up your passport at the Thai consulate, try to pool into a tuk-tuk back to the border with some of your fellow visa-runners, and it’s back through the gates again on both sides of the river border. Make sure you have checked that you got a double entry visa (if that’s what you wanted), and make sure you’ve filled out your departure card that you should have received when you entered Laos the day before.

I’d recommend being quite friendly to the agents at both border checkpoints; they have a quite mundane job, and I got the distinct feeling that you could easily piss them off. That would be bad for you; remember, we don’t have any true legal rights in Laos or Thailand, so our lives are in their hands.

For example, during my 2012 trip while standing in line next to a random Norwegian who told me all about what it was like to trip on acid during my 15 or so minute wait in the line to clear the Laos border, I had to help an old man who had obviously been drinking for quite some time to not arouse suspicion. Well, I didn’t have to, but I felt I should. My recent trip was likewise.

I love the random people you meet on little outings like this. Seriously, it’s quite an experience!

Also on that note, there are clear postings at each border saying something along the lines of punishments for drugs being lifetime in prison, and punishment for intent to sell being death. How’s that for swift justice?

That said, I really didn’t get checked… so I guess, if you’re willing to take the chance, you could probably get away with it. I believe the official limit on “legal” goods going back into Thailand is one bottle of booze and a carton of cigarettes per person. I hear both of those items are hot tickets in Laos being that they’re ridiculously cheap across the border. It never occurred to me to buy any, so all I can say about re-entering Thai customs is that they ran my bag through a scanner that I don’t think anyone was looking at.

Remember here that you’ll have to do the same get-on, get-off of the bus routine. You can buy the bus ticket back to Mukdahan literally right after you go through the exit Laos passport control. This passport control booth, by the way, is where I had to pay the 50 baht visa stamp fee. I didn’t ask; I just went with it on my first trip, but for whatever reason didn’t have to pay that stamp fee this last go-round.

If you play your cards like I did and pick up your passport at 2:00 p.m. at the Laos Thai Consulate, you can be across the border (and both border controls) and back to the Mukdahan bus station by 4:00 p.m. The process really doesn’t take too incredibly long, all things considered.

I decided to head on back to Bangkok that night, so I bought a return ticket with the same bus company (which has a clear sign posted in the Mukdahan bus station with times leaving roughly between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. depending on the service you choose) and killed a few hours at a nice little coffee shop inside the Mukdahan bus station.

The ride back to Bangkok was long as ever, but I was back at the Mo Chit terminal just before 6:00 a.m., which worked perfect being that the MRT and BTS systems in Bangkok don’t start until then anyway. Keep in mind here that, at least during this time of morning, getting a taxi directly from the point of disembarkation is next to impossible. I’d recommend walking either to the main entrance of the bus station and trying to catch one there or walking across the street from the station a ways to catch one.

So… that’s the long version of a short story! It was almost exactly the same story as my first trip there 3 years ago. It’s not bad, but hopefully it’ll be my last “mandatory unpaid vacation” for quite a while to come…


 I have some photos from my trip as well if you want to look at them


Comments

@Victor,

I'm not sure about your previous visa and how that would impact you, but I do know that (as of this past August) you need to have at least 21 days remaining on your current tourist visa for them to consider letting you apply to convert it to a Non-B. That's assuming any previous visas and/or work permits have already been cancelled with the relevant agencies. Otherwise, last I heard, you have to leave and come back.

Keep in mind, though, that Thai visa laws change by the day, so you'll want to confirm that with immigration.

Good luck!

By Sam, Chatuchak, Bangkok (2 months ago)

Hi Sam, thanks for the very informative and detailed information on this mini-adventure called a "visa run".

I have an unfolding situation that I hope you can help me with.

I have taught in Thailand before (2011 to 2013) I arrived from South Africa on a tourist visa (employment prohibited).

I came via a Tesol school/agency(Teach Travel Asia) and after I secured a job but I got my Non-B visa in Bangkok with the outstanding help of my old boss who accompanied me.

I am back in Bangkok and have been offered a job at a very prestigious school here. I entered Thailand on 30 day Tourist visa.

My question is, would I need to leave Thailand and go to Laos for a Non B visa or would I be able to get it done in BKK like I did before?
Remember the very 1st time I came (2011). I didn't need to go outside the country for this.

Please advise.

Thanks.

By Victor X, Bangkok (2 months ago)

@Guy,

Thanks for that update! I did this run again in August 2015, but a) applied for only a single-entry that time, and b) they obviously hadn't yet posted that change to the "rules." I guess that means that you can't do double-entries from Laos at all anymore? I'm assuming that means flying from Malaysia is the only option now for a double entry, unless you get one from your home country...

Although, this being Thailand, the rules will likely change tomorrow. haha

By Sam, Chatuchak, Bangkok (6 months ago)

My girlfriend and I, both Americans, just tried to apply for a double entry 2 month Thai visa in Savanakhet (the date was August 10, 2016) and we were told that as of late November 2015 they no longer offer the service (they had a printed sheet with this announcement in English, too). No amount of pleading, arguing, or bribing would change that reality. They still offer single entry 2 month visas and also said that Thailand offers "multiple entry visas" that seem to allow more entries/exits over a 6 month period for 5000 baht. However, even these multiple entry visas cannot be gotten in Savanakhet, they insisted. Just posting to prevent future disappointment for others.

By Guy, Savanakhet, Laos (6 months ago)

Did this visa run and also visited Pakse and Champasak. You can talk to anyone in Laos if you speak Thai as Laos language is a Thai dialect really. The alphabet has less characters and a few squiggles added to some letters. Readable for anyone who reads Thai.

By John, Bangkok (8 months ago)

@Doctor Evil, interesting comment; might I suggest you submit that to the Ajarn Postbox instead? Readership as a comment will be limited.

By Sam, Chatuchak, Bangkok (1 year ago)

No wonder all the visa regulations have become so uptight here in Thailand. I partially would blame those who spend their time slandering their tongues on online forums, not to mention disrespecting the Thais in their own country and talking about all kinds of things which have become a taboo in todays world.

Thais are seeking disciplined, neat, clean, organised, mentally stable and responsible foreign people to actually "live" here in Thailand. As long as you are not a pedophile hoping to score on your twisted fantasies and a drunk just trying to get laid while actually live here in Thailand, then you won't have any problems "living" here.

Thailand is evolving and it craves role-models, not drop-outs and ex-convicts. Living here is well worth it, if you can even begin considering getting married and having kids with a Thai woman, instead of just crawling around pubs and getting laid with every single floozy that you meet.Asean will make inter cultural exchange even more possible. If you are a foreigner in a relationship here, but refuse to get married, then consider this. You are in competition with ten other South-East Asian countries for your wife. The Ministry of Education recently had a meeting, It would be no fun at all if I were to predict the outcome of that specific meeting. Only employing foreign teachers who are married to a Thai lady with children could become a rare possibility. Thailand wants 80%of the foreign rubbish out of here by March next year.

It isn't just about being legal, it's about not being a possible criminal as well. All foreigners are being scrutinized as we speak. They have an entire database of every foriegner living in Thailand. I wouldn't be surprised if they know what you eat for breakfast. Our biased judgmental comments online and bad behaviour within the country, being it on or offline played a big part in this.

If you are a sought after blackmarket dealer, or have any links in the fields of oil between say Turkey and the Islamic State. If you are here for some perverted sexual fantasy trip of a lifetime, or just to view Patpong. Be it to scam a foreign national or Thai out of money. You will be held accountable eventually.Thailand doesn't need face-losing investments with foreign countries anymore starting the 31st of December this year.

Transnational crime within the Golden Triangle, be it in the English exchange community with regards to Thai students studying abroad or be it Hell's Angels activities in Thailand, is finally in the lime light and now Thailand has had enough. The military has realised that Thailand has been invaded since the early 1980's by trans national criminals and they have finally figured out what is going on underneath that red and white umbrella.

Are foreigners are systematically being removed in a nice way.

So either shape up or ship out. Being legal isn't impossible.5 years of legit visas without gaps inbetween and you can apply for citizenship.

By Doctor Evil, Valhalla (1 year ago)

@jonnc, Keeping in mind that I went to Savannakhet, the assumption is that most people are doing land border crossings. Although there IS an airport there, I personally don't know anyone that has flown there; Laos airlines or whatever it is seems a bit sketchy (not to mention expensive) to me.

I never needed a return itinerary of any kind, just the boatload of documents mentioned above. As far as I know, the same goes for Vientiane... although, this being Laos/Thailand, you well know these things are subject to change at any moment. haha

By Sam, Chatuchak, Bangkok (1 year ago)

Thank you for the time and effort putting this article together. Just one question though: Do you need to have a future departure flight to qualify for a visa extension - as you do upon very first arrival?

By johnc, Nakorn Pathom (1 year ago)

Check out Jollys Guest House near the comedy 7/11 copy in town. Nice rooms and a wonderful family who own the place. Not the easiest place to find but the tuk tuk guys know it.

By angsta, United Kingdom (1 year ago)

Well done to Sam for such a detailed article! I admire your patience and commitment to your Teaching profession.
Let's get real, and as Del said some time ago, get all the paperwork/permits/stamps in order or go home! Until Thailand reduces this insane paperwork flow/process to Teach, they will never improve their International communication skills . ( i.e. English Language)
If you are there to Teach, that is your function/profession, not doing all the paperwork drivel!!

I had enough of the admin crap some time ago, and I have real respect for those Teachers who go through all the hoops!!

Regards, Neil.




By Neil Wragg, U.K. (1 year ago)

Thanks Sam for the article. It was very useful. Just completed Mukdahan/Savannakhet visa run and stayed at Mekong Hotel for 200 baht/50000Kip. Small room but OK for 1 night.
No queues at immigration like Nong Khai, no crowds at Thai consulate like Vientiane. Much more hassle free way of doing visa run.
If I have to will do this run again.

By David Murphy, Bangkok (2 years ago)

Glad the comments and article are somewhat helpful. I went on this same visa run about a month ago, and nothing has changed aside from the tuk-tuk drivers getting to the Thai consulate in Savannakhet being a bit more of a pain. Surprise.

I haven't tried the Vientiene run yet, and am HOPING to get the "correct paperwork" to not have to go on another new visa run for awhile. We shall see. :)

As for Non-B, yes, you can get that in the consulate in Savannakhet; just make sure you have all the "correct paperwork," which I'm not sure what exactly you'll need. As far as I know, you can get double entry Non-B visas, depending on your passport nationality. Hopefully someone else has more information on that than me... sorry!

I am going to submit an entry to ajarn.com about the paperwork you need to CHANGE your tourist visa to a Non-B at Bangkok Immigration in the next few days... stay tuned. :)

By Sam, Chatuchak, Bangkok, Thailand (3 years ago)

Currently on visa run in Vientiame...will reflect on the experience on my return. So far so good...

By Andrew Burns, Thailand (3 years ago)

Are Non-B's available?

By angsta, (3 years ago)

All above was incredibly useful information, thanks all, especially main article author Sam. I enjoy real life adventures...doing it next week for first time!

By Andrew, Visitor to Thailand (3 years ago)

I'm in much the same situation as you and just did this process, but went to Vientiane and used a visa run service. Journey began 8:30 PM Sunday night Nov. 25 not far from BTS Phra Khanong, arrived 4:00 AM Monday morning after 8 hours in a cramped mini-bus. I hate those things. Left 3:30 PM Tuesday, arrived 11:00 Tuesday and was dropped off at Central Mall, close to where I live. I didn't keep close tabs on costs, but it was around 7,500 baht for everything: transportation, visa fees, hotel, most meals, some small incidental costs. Comparing it to your costs, that doesn't seem too far out of line, it doesn't seem they really make that much off me. It was efficiently handled and I felt well taken care of. There were a remarkable number of foreigners, for instance maybe 50 waiting in the overstay fine cue alone. The service normally runs on Sundays and Wednesdays, but the previous Wed. was cancelled due to a Laotian holiday, so it was most likely about double the usual number of foreigners. The visa run service seemed to grease our passage through somehow. I'm not sure if I'd do this again or try your method...I do hate those mini-buses, and I bet there are far fewer applicants in Mukdahan.

By claaay, Bangkok (4 years ago)

I agree with the suggestions for using US dollars. I believe you can save about $10 by using US dollars versus baht, but I didn't think to get any exchanged before departing. Most places in Savannakhet will take kip, baht, and dollars. It's a free for all!

As for the work permit, like I said (sorry if I wasn't clear), I am supposedly getting one in the next couple of weeks. I was told there is always at least a month's delay in getting the permit, and the school and authorities are supposedly aware of it. I'm simply saying that, this being Thailand, I wouldn't be surprised if the whole issue is swept under the rug.

Again, it's not my intention to work without a permit, but it's something that I'll have to wait out and see what happens.

I certainly agree, Philip, that I enjoy life much more in Thailand than I did in the US, even if I'm not making as much money. The new experience is exhilarating, and even with its little hiccups, I wouldn't have life any other way!

By Sam, Bangkok, Thailand (4 years ago)

The Laos Visa fee is something like 32 or 33 US dollars or 1500 Baht for Americans. If you want to pay less use crisp new US dollars for the Laos Visa.

By Bangkok_teacher, New Mexico USA (4 years ago)

Just to mention that you should pay with US dollars at the Laos border for a visa because it works out cheaper. (Sorry if this has already been mentioned)

Also, get on to your agency to get you a work permit. If they don't, leave and it should be easy enough to find someone who will.

As for the check on teachers on tourist visas, etc - I can't remember the last time I read of people being caught working on a tourist visa in a school. If the authorities were really serious about this, they could easily walk into the closest government school and nab at least one or two teachers.

I get the impression the authorities are happy to let this slide as many schools don't wanna pay much.

You pay peanuts, you get unqualified teachers. Unqualified in Thailand usually means weird.

By Liam Gallagher, Manchester (4 years ago)

"Isn’t the idea of staying in a foreign country to enjoy a better standard of living than you do at home?"

Not always. I think a lot of people move to another country to sample something different - for however long the novelty or attraction lasts. I wouldn't say for one moment I have a better standard of living than I did in the UK, but I certainly enjoy life more here than I did there.

By philip, (4 years ago)

Wow, you must be really desperate to stay in Thailand to put yourself through all that! But whats the point? Isn't the idea of staying in a foreign country to enjoy a better standard of living than you do at home? Either that or at least a more laid-back lifestyle!

For me that certainly doesn't include the time and expense of a visa run, including slumming it on buses and staying in 300 Baht guesthouses. You shouldn't have to do it - so why put yourself through it. There are plenty of schools (and even some agencies) who will supply you with a teaching permit, work permit and non-immigrant visa so that you can avoid having to make these visa runs.

If they don't - ask them for the documentation and do it yourself! You carefully calculated the cost of doing such a visa run, now deduct it proportionally from your monthly salary and see where that leaves you.

On top of that you are working illegally, and the day will come when schools will be looked at for illegal workers -just the same as they looked at dive instructors a few years ago. Many were locked up, fined and then deported with no chance of return.

So, my advice is to get yourself legal or stop working until you do. Oh.... and I certainly wouldn't blog about working illegally - you never know who might be reading this! People like yourself, who work illegally, are only helping schools and agencies to keep salaries and benefits lower. If people didn't accept such poor conditions they wouldn't be able to get away with it, so do us all a favor and get legal or go home!

By Del, Thailand (4 years ago)

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