Time for a Visa Run!
What is a Visa Run you ask? Well, let me enlighten you on this funny little immigration loophole! As a background, all countries require foreigners to have some type of visa to enter their country. The most common visas for travelers in Thailand are 30-day visa exemptions, 60-day tourist visas, and 1-year work visas.
Since I didn’t apply for a tourist visa before I came to Thailand, I received a 30-day visa exemption at the airport. This simply meant I had 30 days to leave the country or apply for a formal tourist visa. Although, there are a couple of ways around this if you know where to look!
First, before the 30-day exemption expired, I went to the immigration office and requested an extension, and they granted me another 30 days. You can only get away with that once though! So when that time was almost up, I found an agency that specialized in extending visas, and that’s where the adventure began! So to answer the original question – A Visa Run is where you go to a country’s border, take a step into another country, and then step back (hence, having left the country within the 30 days)!
The closest border to the beautiful island of Ko Samui is Malaysia, which is still a good seven hours away. The agency’s instructions were straightforward: pay us ~$90, and show up at our office at 4:00 am with your passport! Okay then!
So on the day they instructed, I showed up at 4:00 am and got into a van with five other foreigners.
They then kindly handed us a bag with a light breakfast and lunch, and off we went! The first part of the journey was to get off the island, and it was a short 30-minute drive to the ferry. I always love the ferry rides so I definitely didn’t mind this part! The ferry took about an hour and a half, where I tried to get some sleep on one of the benches on the top deck.
At the dock, we got back into the van and started the long trek to the border. Time was of the essence, and the driver was definitely stepping on it! The drive was smooth overall, and the scenery was full of lush greens.
And then we were there! Not a single hiccup. At the border, there were quite a few of shops of course trying to capitalize on all the visa runners pouring into the border checkpoint.
So, now for the fun part! It was hilarious. Not joking – this is how it went down. There are two lines right next to each other at the Thai border, one for departures and one for arrivals. I stepped in the departures line, and they stamped my passport out. Then, I walked through the gate to Malaysia, where there were two similar lines. I walked up to arrivals, and they stamped my passport into Malaysia. Then, I took TWO STEPS to my right into the departures line and stamped out of Malaysia. Lastly, I walked right back through the gate to the Thailand arrivals line and stamped into Thailand, receiving a fresh new 30-day visa exemption! What?!? The entire process took under five minutes! It was great. Alright then… Back into the van!
The ride home was restless as the excitement was over, but it could have been worse. It seemed the driver was bored as well, and it got a little worrisome when he started watching tv on his phone while driving!
We made it back to the ferry in one piece though! The home stretch! And nothing cheers you up more than a beautiful day on the water.
“Make haste to live, and think of each single day as a single life. The one who has equipped himself like this, who has had a whole life each day, is free of care.”Seneca
And that’s the wrap folks. Ready for another 30 days in paradise!
Have you done a visa run? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!