Border Beauracracy – Thailand to Burma and Back Again a.k.a Visa Run Fun.

When you cross into Thailand via a land border, you are only granted 15 days to stay on your UK passport. If you want to stay longer, you have a few options. You can pre arrange a 60 day tourist visa at a Thai embassy before you arrive, you can apply for a 7 day visa extension once you’re in Thailand or you can do a ‘visa run’.

I wasn’t sure if I would want to stay in Thailand longer than my 15 days until I started diving. If I loved diving, I would need longer but if I didn’t, 15 days was enough. Therefore, I didn’t want to pay $60 USD for a 60 day visa when I might not use it. A visa extension can only be done in Chiang Mai or Bangkok and costs 1900 baht so that was also not really an option. My only viable way to stay in Thailand, if I loved diving, was to do a visa run from Koh Tao which is exactly what I ended up doing.

I booked the visa run through one of the travel agents found in Sairee village. It cost me 1650 baht to travel by night ferry, minibus, long tail boat and catamaran. There were cheaper options but they took longer. My trip started at 8pm at night and was over by 3pm the next afternoon.

I was collected from Sairee at 8pm and taken to the ferry. It was a vehicle carrying, overnight affair to Chumphon. When I got on it I was very pleasantly surprised. You got an actual bed to yourself in a bunk bed style with a blanket. There was an electric socket, the toilets were western style and everything was clean. Hoorah! The ferry departed Koh Tao at 11pm and arrived into Chumphon at 6am.

In Chumphon, I hunted down the correct mini van and handed over my ticket and $10 USD to the driver. It was actually just over the road from the ferry port outside a restaurant. We got loaded on and off we drive to Ranong. The drive was uneventful. I read my book.

Once we got to Ranong we queued to be stamped out of Thailand. Make sure your exit card is filled in before you get to the desk or you’ll be sent away. Once we were all stamped out a long tail boat sailed us to Burma. During the ride we were given another Thai entry/exit card to compete and had our passports taken. It was about 15 minutes to Burma. When we arrived and disembarked my $10 USD bought me a stamp in my passport saying I’d been to, and exited, Burma that day. We simply waited for our name to be called by the immigration people then collected our passport. Then, it was back to the long tail boat for the 15 minute sail back to Thailand.

We were back in Thailand by 10am, back on the minibus by 11 and at the Lompraya catamaran jetty waiting for the boat by 1. By 3pm, I was back on Koh Tao with 15 more days to spend in Thailand.

Pain free and, for a change, well organised.

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