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If you're crewing a foreign vessel, the boat will
be given an initial six-month permit, but you personally will receive
only one month (actually 29 days), which cannot be extended, barring
exceptional circumstances, so you must make monthly runs for the border.
First, make sure you have a white
departure card in your passport.
Ranong, about 300 km north
of Phuket Town, is the easiest and quickest visa run destination.
From Ranong, you cross by boat to Victoria Point (Kaw Thaung) in Burma,
check in, then cross back to Thailand and receive a fresh one-month
There are a number of companies offering visa runs,
typically 10 passengers and a driver packed into a mini-bus. Cost
is around 900-1,100 baht, including breakfast, lunch, bottled water,
and the boat to Victoria Point and back. They take a full day, leaving
early in the morning, usually arriving back after dark. Some advertise
daily service, but this is a myth, even in high season, so book ahead.
Mini-buses leaving Ao Chalong stop at various pick-up points, including
on the highway near both the Boat Lagoon and Yacht Haven marinas.
At least one heavily promoted visa run company was charging
an additional 500 baht for Burmese formalities, when in fact the Burmese
charge individuals only US$5 (must be US currency and must be in good
condition, without the slightest tear) which converts to about 220
baht. So shop around.
Note: The easiest place in Phuket to buy US currency in
small denominations is from money changers upstairs in the departure
area at Phuket airport.
Just as easy, and much cheaper for more than one person,
is to do it yourself. Car rentals start at about 600 baht a day. Drive
to Ranong. Follow the signs, sometimes difficult to see, but most
people know where it is, to the immigration office. Check out. In
the unlikely event a boatman doesn't appear at the immigration gate
offering to take you across to Burma, then go out the gate, turn right
and walk about 200 metres, where you will see a "Visa Run"
sign pointing to the right down an alley to the pier. If there are
no boats there, another pier with many more boats is about 300 metres
farther south along the main street. Longtails cost 300 baht for the
return trip, but boatmen are known to press for more if there are
four or more people. If you don't have US currency, many boatmen carry
crisp US$5 bills for which they will ask 300 baht.
Note: Some of the cheaper car rental companies won't rent
to you if you are taking the vehicle off Phuket. Some won't ask. But
it's a good idea to read the contract to see if you will be stuck with
a hefty bill to get the car back to Phuket if it breaks down.
The trip to Victoria Point is fascinating, as is the
town itself. If you hire your own boat over, you can arrange to stay
for a few hours. But chances are you will be swarmed by young boys,
who call themselves "bodyguards" and cling to you regardless
what you tell them, making the visit less than pleasant. The people
are poor and there's little work. Most who come just check in, check
out and return to Thailand, perhaps taking a moment to stock up on
Note: A bottle of light Mandalay rum should cost no more
than 20 Thai baht at the little corner shop just to the left and across
the street from the immigration pier, especially if you buy in bulk,
though the shopkeeper might initially ask four times that.
The Thai immigration office in Ranong closes at 1630.
The return trip to Victoria Point, depending on delays and the boat
you hired, can take up to two hours, so make sure you leave the Thai
side by 1430 or you may end up having to stay in Ranong overnight.
People often take a few days to do the Ranong run. There's
lots to see along the way, including the beaches at Khao Lak and Khao
Sok National Park.
So-called no travel visa runs
are against the law. They involve giving your passport to an agent,
found at Phuket's Patong Beach and elsewhere, and it is returned to
you a couple days later with a new one-month entry stamp after being
passed through the hands of various "helpful" officials.
Cost is 2,000-2,500 baht. These operations have been busted in the
past, and likely will be in the future. If you are caught, you will
be arrested, charged with illegal entry, and fined and/or expelled,
and possibly blacklisted.
For information on Thai visas, including tourist, business
and work visas, in excruciating detail, visit thaivisa.com.
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