All info is relevant as of March 2018
Whilst cycling through Southern Thailand, in March 2018, we have had the need to get a new visa-exempt stamp at a Thai/third party country border. For most people. the easiest way to do so is by crossing the marine Thai-Myanmar border at Ranong. Due to the lack of up to date information on the net and a crack down on visa runs by Thai authorities over the last couple of years, we were unsure if that was still a feasible option. With a few days left on our allotted time in Thailand, we ventured to Ranong to find out for ourselves. Bare in mind, though, that we could have simply walked in one of the many immigration offices spread across the nation and applied for an extension. However, the cost seemed to be a bit excessive for our means and for the few extra days we actually needed.
Many travel agencies organise the visa run for tourists starting at around 1400THB (US$45), which includes transport to the port, boat and the visa processing. Another option is to take the expensive organised tour through the Andaman Club/Casino (a hotel situated on a private island). However, the process is so simple that you can do it yourself for less than half the price!
Below is a detailed guide to obtaining a new 30 days visa exempt stamp and enjoy extra time in the Land of Smiles.
Note: A. We are an Australian and Italian nationals and we don’t need a visa when travelling to Thailand for up to 30 days. This visa run procedure applies to all of those nationalities who have a visa exemption. We cannot guarantee the process will be the same for foreigners who are not visa exempt. B. You ONLY get 2 land border crossings into Thailand per year (although you can fly in and out as many times as you want).
THINGS YOU NEED: Passport, 2 copies of passport, crisp and unmarked US$10.
TOTAL PROCESSING TIME: 2-3 hours.
TOTAL COST: US$18.
First up, you’ll need to get to Ranong’s port, a couple of kms out of town, armed with your passport and some cash. Along the main road, Kamlang Sap, you can take shared-taxis n.3 and n.4 directly to the port (fares are fixed; 15THB – US$0,50). There is a small printing shop in the car-park of the 7-11, nearby the immigration control, where you can get 2 copies of your passport’s main pages (5THB – US$0,15). This is also the place where you can get an UNMARKED AND UNCREASED US$10 note, which you will need to hand over on the Burmese side (they can’t be folded or marked, or they will be rejected). The exchange price is not the best: we paid 400THB (US$12.8) for a fresh and crisp banknote, but the chances of finding another place or bank in town issuing US dollars are so slim that we didn’t have much of a choice. We have heard that it may be possible to pay the Burmese in Thai Baht, although we didn’t see anybody doing it and, most likely, you will be paying well over the current exchange rate.
Once your papers are sorted, it’s time to find a boat driver although, most likely, he will find you! You’ll encounter many people outside the immigration control eagerly attempting to offer their services. Use your bartering skills, but don’t expect to pay less than 200THB per person for a return trip. You can sort a boat before or after getting stamped out of Thailand.
The boat driver will accompany you to the immigration window, whilst trying to gather more passengers. He will take one of the copies of your passport and ask you to sign a passenger list. Without a blink of an eye, the immigration officer will stamp you out of Thailand, after which it will be time to get on the longtail boat!
The journey lasts around 30 minutes, during which you’ll notice many checkpoints and heavy military presence. We never got stopped as officers tend to keep their eyes open for possible drug traffickers rather then sun-seeking farangs.
Upon arrival to the Myanmar border-pier, head to the small cream coloured building just on the right hand side. Even though the “immigration” sign can’t be easily missed, the local Burmese will help you out hoping for a little tip. The amount of time you’ll spend in that office is ridiculously short: they check your passport, ask you when you’ll return to Thailand (you don’t need to lie), take a photo of you, and finally stamp you in an out of the country upon paying your US$10 fee.
The $10USD fee permits you to stay in Myanmar for the day, during which you can roam within a 38km perimeter of the port. If you can, have a wander around the small port town, walk up the main road to visit the temple or simply buy some Duty Free products. You can then return to the boat for the way back to the Thai border-pier. You go through the same immigration control using, this time, the arrival window. Fill up the immigration card and don’t look too exhilarated when you get a fresh 30 days visa-exempt stamp on your passport.