Thailand Info (visas, culture etc.) - READ FIRST

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Thailand Info (visas, culture etc.) - READ FIRST

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Thailand
Visas, Culture and other useful stuff….

Sawaidee kap and welcome to all those who are planning on visiting this amazingly beautiful and popular country… Thailand is a very special place indeed and is loved by most people who visit, but there are always many questions asked and many worries to address for first timers. Therefore it has been decided that this info thread is needed as an introduction for the vast amount of travellers who visit every year, and to answer various questions that tend to be repeated over and over on the boards. So we hope you find all the information you need on here for your first trip, but if you still find yourself with an unanswered question, feel free to start a new thread on the board or PM either myself or Tommarvelle.

This thread is also meant for people who have been to Thailand to contribute with their own bits of useful information… so feel free to post any tips you may have, or even any useful websites you have come across. Eventually we will have an exhaustive collection of helpful material on here, and it will be built by us….

Khob khun kap!  :D

     
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VISAS FOR THAILAND

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You lucky gappers…... Tommarvelle has written an excellent piece here which explains the Visa situation in Thailand as well as it can be explained at the moment. If after reading this, you still have any questions (unlikely), then Tom invites you to PM him…. but really you will find everything you need to know here and on the informative websites he provides. So if you are going to Thailand and have a nagging feeling you will be deported back to the UK when you arrive… read this and relax, you (probably) won’t be!  :D

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**NOTE: UPDATED 1ST June 2009**

Tommarvelle:

“Right punks - sit down and pay attention. I’m gonna attempt to clear up the various misconceptions, myths and outright misnomers surrounding gaining entry to Thailand.

This post is banged full of undisputable and up-to-date immigration facts, but it’s also got a reasonably healthy dose of things drawn from my own experiences over the years, which I’ve thrown in for good measure and to help exemplify a few points. I’ve also tried to pre-empt questions, but if there’s anything you want answering that’s not covered here - try me.

I’ll happily hold up my hands if I’m factually wrong about anything in this thread and I’ll correct any mistakes, but I’ve been pretty thorough, so you won’t find many. For those folks who’ve been to Thailand before and who’ve had experiences different to mine, chill out. I’ve merely added a few bits of my experience to help out the uninitiated. I’m not saying my personal experiences are the be-all-and-end-all. It’s just included as general guidance, albeit taken from good and extensive experience.

This post will invariably be edited slightly from time to time, just because I always re-write stuff when I read it through again. Force of habit. Sue me.

After this post you’ll find some general info on Thailand, along with a few tips to help you on your way. The list will likely grow over time.

Right. Before I set out the facts, a few points…

*As with any country in the world, the entry requirements for Thailand are subject to change (LATEST CHANGE 1ST June 2009!). We’ll strive to keep this thread abreast of any such changes, because we’re cool. Please let mods know by PM if you think something in this thread is out of date. If we disagree, we may need to take the argument to the place known as ‘outside’. You’ve been warned.

*Where I talk about arriving in Thailand for your first time in this thread, I’m referring specifically to those people who are arriving by air on longhaul flights (i.e. flights from beyond the SE Asia region). If your initial entry to Thailand is by land (or any subsequent re-entries you make are overland), then my personal advice is to consider not bothering with a visa at all, especially if the 15 days they give you on arrival at a land border is enough for you ( it used to be 30 days, but it changed on 1st December 2009 ). Officially, the entry requirements at land borders are the same as those at airports - it’s a blanket immigration policy for all entry points to Thailand - however, the reality is that 99.9999% of the time, proof of onward flights are never asked for at borders. I can’t tell you why, only speculate (which I won’t do, to save causing confusion).

Even if you’re only interested in the visa exemption section of this thread and not the tourist visa section (or vice versa), I suggest you read the whole thread, because reading about both of these modes of entry will help you understand the whole picture. I cover the airport vs land border differences in a bit more detail later in the thread (including a slight warning about entering by land from Cambodia at the Poipet crossing), so read on and all should be clear. Or at least clearer. I hope.

*This thread will be closely monitored and moderated to ensure that any incorrect information added by members is deleted, in the interests of clarity. So if your input is deleted, then it’s because it was wrong or incorrect, no matter how good your intentions were. Don’t take offence. If this happens to you, push your bottom lip back in and forget about it. You don’t want to upset Lunny.

*The information in this post is the gospel truth as at 1st June 2009. The visa exemption rules changed on that date, so you may need to re-read if you read this prior to then. You might have friends, family members, enemies, pets etc, who’ve been out to Thailand before who think they know the score about entering the country, and so fill you in on the facts according to their tiny minds. They may well be giving you information that was correct at the time they visited, but if that out of date info makes it on to this thread, guess what? That’s right - a kitten will die. And it’ll be all your fault. (And that wrong information will be deleted.)

*A very important note: Thai immigration officers are experts at the art of randominity (I made that word up. I think). They enforce certain elements of Thailand’s immigration policy as, when and how they wish. More than often, this liberal attitude towards immigration policy manifests itself in not enforcing certain rules at all. So, if your brother or mate told you how they once drifted through Thai immigration without showing either a visa or proof of onward flights, then it’s because the immigration official chose not to enforce the rules on that occasion, and not because the rules permit you to enter at will. I can’t stress this enough.

The inconsistency of Thai immigration in enforcing their own rules is without doubt the main cause of confusion and general misinformation surrounding entering the country. Rest assured the info contained in this here post is 100% right.

*One last thing before kicking on. As with any country, there are loads of different types of visa for Thailand, and they’re designed to cover the requirements of most types of traveller. However, for the purposes of this thread, we’re only going to focus on two main areas: tourist visas and the visa exemption rule, simply because these are the modes of entry to Thailand that affect 99.9% of the folks that use this site, e.g. backpackers and independent travellers.

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So…

Arriving in Thailand without a tourist visa - The Visa Exemption Rule (this is NOT a ‘visa on arrival’, contrary to what you might hear).

Citizens of certain countries can travel to Thailand from outside the SE Asia region without the need for a pre-arranged tourist visa, provided they can show evidence upon arrival of confirmed flights out of Thailand within 30 days (or proof of onward flights within 15 days if you arrive at a land border… more on that in a moment).

(A list of those ‘certain countries’ is here: 30 day visa exemption country list )

NOTE: if arriving in Thailand at a land border without a visa, then as of 1st December 2008 you will only be stamped in for 15 days under the visa exemption rule. This is a brand new rule, so ignore what you read elsewhere. You no longer get 30 days when arriving at a land border without a visa. There is no exception to this rule, despite what you might hear on the grapevine.

Anyways, there’s two important things that need stressing again: it’s only confirmed flight tickets that are accepted as proof of intended departure - so no train, boat, bus or donkey tickets. Also, the flight must depart from Thailand itself. Not a neighbouring or nearby country. It’s Thailand only. And no, they won’t negotiate on this in the event that you are pulled. Immigration officers for any country rarely negotiate on any matter.

So, a confirmed flight ticket from, say, Singapore to Sydney for 12 days after you arrive in Thailand is not acceptable as proof that you intend to leave Thailand. Only flights out of Thailand will suffice as far as Thai immigration are concerned. Open ended tickets aren’t accepted either. However, e-ticket confirmations are fine, so you can happily push a print-off of a flight confirmation email under the immigration officer’s nose for perusal.

There are no exceptions to this rule, so ignore travel agents that tell you otherwise (and they will). They are wrong. But as said above, whether or not you even get checked for evidence of onward flights when you arrive in Thailand by air for the first time is another matter altogether. There’s every chance you won’t be. It’s this slackness in enforcing the rule that causes a lot of the confusion, because often people just get an exemption stamp and pass through immigration without any hitches, so they never even get to know about the rules that they could so easily have fallen foul of if the immigration officer had decided to enforce them.

Now, entries to Thailand under the visa exemption rule are governed by a different set of rules to entries made with a tourist visa.

The key points to remember when entering Thailand under the visa exemption rule are…

*The purpose of your visit is solely tourism (Same as entering with a tourist visa. See the additional notes on this in the Tourist Visa section below).

*You must possess proof of confirmed flights out of Thailand for within 30 days of your arrival, or 15 days if arriving at a land border.

*You must have access to 20,000 baht per person. (That’s about £315 presently - this doesn’t apply if you have a tourist visa.) Officially speaking, you might be asked to show proof of sufficient funds upon arrival, but I can 100% guarantee that you won’t have to. Don’t lose sleep over this particular requirement. It’s never ever enforced.

*Until recently ( 1st December 2008 ), under the visa exemption rule you could remain in Thailand for a maximum of 90 days in any 180 day period. So until 1st December 2008, gone were the days of the unlimited entry rule, which existed prior to the introduction of the 180 day limit that started in September 2006. In those days of unlimited visa exempt entries (pre September 2006), you could stay pretty much permanently, save for a quick ‘border run’ every 30 days, whereby you left the country for a few minutes and then got another 30 day stamp when re-entering. With the introduction of the 90 in 180 day rule in September 2006, the clock started ticking on your 180 period the first time you set foot in Thailand under the visa exemption rule. From this point on, you could still leave and immediately re-enter, but you couldn’t keep doing it. Once you’d racked up 90 days inside Thailand, then you couldn’t get back in under the visa exemption rule until the 180 period that started when you first entered under the visa exemption rule had passed. Got that? It’s quite simple, but it’s a fucker to read when it’s written down. Read this paragraph a few times and you’ll get it.

HOWEVER, as of 1st December this 90 day in 180 day rule was briefly abolished - but now (1st June 2009) they’ve introduced yet another restriction. The new restriction is that you now cannot have more than 4 consecutive 15 day visa exemption stamps at a land border. They’ve abolished the cumulative day counting rule and now have slapped a rigid 4 stamp limit on things. 

This is a pain in the arse, because it means you’ll need to do 2 border runs a month if you don’t want to shell out £28 every 60 days for a tourist visa (plus the cost of going to a nearby capital city to a consulate or embassy to get the visa, because you cannot get tourist visas for Thailand while in Thailand itself).

Remember that very few countries issue multi-entry tourist visas. The UK is one of the few countries that does (up to 3 x 60 day entries on one visa), and helpfully the Thai embassies in Vientiane and Phnom Penh are now issuing 2 x 60 day visas, but other than in those places you will not get a multi-entry visa in the region.

It basically means as a backpacker wanting to stay in Thailand for a while, you now have to either go to a land border every 15 days to get another 15 day visa exemption (with a limit of 4 consecutive stamps as of 1st June 2009), fly in and out of Thailand every 30 days to get another 30 day visa exemption, or go to a nearby capital city every 60 days to get another 60 day visa (or every 120 days if you go to Vientiane or Phnom Penh to get double entry visas). You can actually extend each of your 60 day tourist visa entries to 90 days upon payment of 1900 baht per entry at an immigration office when you’re atually in Thailand, but more on visas later.

Right, into the detail. This is where things have got confusing in the past, so bear with me and re-read as necessary. I’ve included details of the old rules for context, because it often explains away what you might have heard or read about elsewhere.

For a very short while in late 2006, the visa exemption rules stated that you could only enter Thailand 3 times in the aforementioned 180 day period. 3 x 30 day entry stamps = 90 days see. This applied regardless of whether you actually spent the full 30 days on each entry in Thailand or not. If you left after, say, 20 days, then under the 3 x 30 day allocation rule, by leaving you forfeited the remaining 10 days on that entry, in much the same way as you still do if you enter on a 60 day tourist visa (again, more on visas later).

However, this 3 stamp rule was abolished in early 2007 after only a few months in place, but it’s still the root cause of a lot of confusion today. They’ve actually changed things a couple of time since then. From when they ditched this 3 stamp rule (early 2007) until December 1st 2008, there was no longer a limit on the actual number of times you could physically cross the border into Thailand - but that didn’t mean it was unlimited. Instead they introduced a cap on the amount of days you could spend in Thailand (90 days in any 180 day period). The reason for this was because they decided to count your 90 day allocation on a cumulative basis, rather than giving you it in 3 lumps of 30 days. So they would only count the days you’re actually in the country. So you could leave and re-enter every day for 90 days if you wanted to, technically speaking. That was a good change from a backpacker’s perspective, because it gave you far more flexibility.

On 1st December 2008 they ditched the 90 in 180 day limit altogether, and returned to permitting a completely unlimited amount of border crossings and visa exempt days in Thailand, which was great.

However, as of 1st June 2009, they’ve re-introduced a cap yet again - but for land borders only. It’s effective immediately. The new rule states that you can now only have 4 consecutive 15 day visa exemption stamps at land borders. If you use all 4 and want to re-enter Thailand again, then either fly back in and get 30 days under the visa exemption rule (subject to the loosely enforced onward flight rule), or get a 60 day pre-arranged tourist visa from any of the Thai embassies or consulates in other SE Asia countries. The Thai consulate in Vientiane is probably the best bet for getting visas. They’ll issue a double entry visa (2 x 60 day entries), which is unusual for the region. All other Thai consulates and embassies in the region only issue single entry 60 day visas. In the UK and a few other western countries, you can get double and even triple entry visas.

If all of this sounds like too much hassle, then read the tourist visa section below in this same thread, because tourist visas might be a better option for you. But remember that tourist visas aren’t as flexible, in that when you step outside of Thailand, you lose any remaining days you may have on your visa.

A warning: if you come and go a lot under the visa exemption rule, then you may rouse the suspicions of immigration and you may find yourself being grilled or even declined entry, although you’d be unlucky if that happened to you at a land border, where traditionally things are a bit less strict. Airport immigration is different, in that they tend to be more strict about these things (although still very random), so you’ve been warned. Remember that bit. It’s important.

Finally for this visa exemption section, another very important thing to remember: As with any country, your entry into Thailand by any means - be it by air, sea or land and with or without a visa - is entirely at the discretion of the individual immigration officer who deals with you. They reserve the right to refuse entry there and then or limit your stay to less than 30 days (if arriving on a flight) or 15 days (if you’re doing a border run or arriving from a neighbouring country), if they so wish. They are empowered to do this off their own backs.

So if you arrive by air from the UK without a visa but have onward flight proof for 17 days time and so they only stamp you in for 17 days, then so be it. This could cause issues for folks with a flexible outbound flight date, who for example might have assumed they’d get the full 30 days and so intended on putting their outbound flight back from only 17 days to nearer the 30 day limit once they’d arrived in Thailand. There’s no rule that says they have to give you the full 30/15 days. The 30/15 day limit is merely the maximum they’re allowed to grant you and the buck stops with the immigration official who deals with you, so there’s no appealing. Same deal with getting 15 days if arriving overland - they don’t have to give you the full 15 days. But don’t get hung up on this at all, because backpacking Brits, europeans and ‘westerners’ in general will very rarely encounter problems here, unless they come and go a lot.

Confusion, randominity (not a word… I’ve checked) and contradiction are 3 words that describe Thai immigration. It’s the little things that confuse people, but the fact that there’s so many little things does nothing to help matters.

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Entering Thailand on a Tourist Visa.

This is a lot more straight forward (well, straight forward for Thailand).

You have 3 main options as far as tourist visas go: single entry, double entry or triple entry.

Some key points to remember are…

*The purpose of your visit is solely tourism. (More on that in a bit.)

*Each entry permits you to stay for up to 60 days. (Note: you can extend each entry to 90 days when you’re in Thailand by paying 1900 baht at any of the immigration office across the country.)

*No proof of funds or onward flights required.

*Each entry costs £28 if bought direct from the embassy or consulates in the UK, but add special return delivery p&p of about £8 if you apply by post . There are Thai consulates throughout the UK, and the embassy is obviously in London. (See end of this post for visa application info and links.)

*Single entry tourist visas are available from Thai embassies and consulates abroad (including from most countries in the SE Asia region), but you’re not able to get multi-entry visas abroad, except for in Vientiane and now Phnom Penh, where you can get 2 x 60 day visas (a double entry visa). Visas are cheaper when bought directly from embassies and consulates at home and abroad. If you want to keep costs down, avoid using travel agents or third parties and get visas directly at embassies and consulates when you’re in capital cities or regional capitals, where possible. Sometimes using an agent is unavoidable, but that’s not a bad thing. It just means that it’s gonna cost you a bit more. We’re talking a few quid in most cases, but it can add up if you routinely use agents or other third parties to get your visas for you.

As well as these key points, there are a few other things you should know about, but not lose sleep over. One particularly relevant point for some folks is that you’re not allowed to study while visiting Thailand on a tourist visa. When they say ‘tourism only’, they mean it. You might not think this is relevant, but the term ‘studying’ is quite general and applies to all scuba diving courses, Thai kickboxing schools and even stuff like cookery classes. Mental, I know. Will you ever fall foul of this rule if you do any of the above mentioned ‘study’ activities while in Thailand on a tourist visa? Of course not. Tourists are actually encouraged to partake in stuff like this in ‘official’ tourism literature. This is just one of the many contradictions I mentioned before.

Don’t worry about that at all, but just for the record, to do any of those activities completely legally, you need a type ‘ED’ non-immigrant visa. Like I say, don’t have sleepless nights over this.

However, and this is only a medium sized ‘however’, volunteering is also not permitted on a tourist visa. Again, this won’t be a problem for many volunteers, but my advice on this would be to speak directly to the people at your volunteer organisation or destination for advice, because they’ll more than likely be clued up on what you need to do. They might prefer you to arrange a different type of visa, so don’t just assume they’ll be as chilled out about not having the correct visa as you are.

Other visas are available for things like this, but I’m not going to go into them in detail in this thread. If you’re just heading out to Thailand as a casual volunteer with the intention of picking up volunteer work while you’re out there, then I wouldn’t worry about it. Tourist visas and visa exemptions are fine 99% of the time.

For those folks intending to teach full time, do TEFL placements or partake in any paid work completely legally, officially you need to arrange a different type of visa - most likely a type ‘O’ non-immigrant visa. Get advice directly from the people at your school or employer to save any hassle later.

Back to the plot…

Validity: Tourist visas are valid for three months from the date they’re granted, so just make sure you don’t cut it too fine or arrive any time after this, even if only by a day or so. You must commence it within the 3 months period, otherwise you’ll forfeit it altogether. The expiry date is stamped on it at the time of issue, and that date is non-negotiable. Obtaining these visas as a UK citizen is almost a ‘given’, so don’t entertain the thought of being turned down unless of course you’re a serial killer or international criminal. In short: don’t panic. If you apply and pay the money, you’ll most likely get the visa.

Just to clear up what I mean by ‘validity’ here. Validity means that once you’ve obtained the visa, you’ve got 3 months to travel to Thailand and activate it. You activate it simply by entering the country. The immigration official will shuffle through your passport, find the visa and stamp it. Validity does not mean that the visa is active for 3 months from the time you’re issued it from the embassy/consulate in the UK (or wherever you get it). So, validity refers to the activation period. If you arrive in Thailand after your visa validity period expires, then the visa is no longer valid. So the golden rule here is to not obtain your visa for Thailand any sooner than 3 months ahead of the date you plan to arrive in Thailand.

One slight pain in the arse with tourist visas - specifically the triple entry visa - is that you’ve only got 6 months from date of issue to commence your third and final entry. It’s not really as flexible as it could be I don’t reckon, but it’s only a minor gripe. Seems to me like it’s just a rule for the sake of having a rule, but hey ho. I hate rules.

A more significnat arse pain though, is that unlike under the visa exemption rule, once you leave Thailand your visa ends. Regardless of whether you’ve not used all 60 days on a particular entry, you lose any remaining days the moment you leave. It’s a bit of a shit, but that’s the way it goes. So whereas the visa enables you to stay longer in Thailand than the visa exemption does (60 days versus 30 or 15 days), it’s not as flexible.

Also, when you want to activate the next entry on your multi-visa, you have to haul ass to a border point, leave and then re-enter. There’s nowhere internally in Thailand that’ll do it for you.

When do you need the single entry visa?

If it’s your first ever trip to Thailand and you’re arriving by air, then it’s well worth getting a single entry visa in my humble opinion. Despite what some folks who don’t understand the rules properly might tell you, there is still a reasonable chance that you’ll be turned away from Thailand if you show up without either a visa or acceptable proof of onward flights from Thailand for within 30 days. You don’t hear about it happening a lot, but it does still happen. I know people who’ve been turned away. I’ve been checked at both the airports in Bangkok (the old and the new), which is why I nearly always get a visa if I’m flying longhaul into Thailand now. 24 months ago I’d have laughed in the face of someone giving this advice, but changes in the rules mean it’s worthwhile sticking to them presently.

When do you need the multi-entry visa?

If you’re planning on re-entering Thailand by air within 6 months of your first entry, then it’s worth considering getting a multi-entry visa. As touched on before, immigration at airports is often more strict than at land borders as a general rule, and even though folks arriving on flights from within SE Asia are checked even less than those arriving on international longhaul flights from europe and the west (i.e. hardly ever), they are still checked from time to time. For what it’s worth, I’ve never bothered with a multi-entry visa. If I were to decide to fly back into Thailand from another country in the region, I’d just kind of weigh up the situation and go to a local Thai embassy or even a travel agent and pick one up if I was really bothered about it. In reality, I personally just take my chances. Heroic, I know. Call me a wild child. I sometimes even listen to punk music.

If you’re planning on re-entering Thailand by land (or even entering by land in the first place on your initial entry), then my advice would be to not obsess about getting a multi-entry visa, because you will definitely get in under the visa exemption rule irrespective of whether or not you have the necessary proof of onward flights, but bear in mind that if you choose to not get a visa, you’ll only get a 15 day visa exemption stamp these days. The border with Cambodia at Poipet is the only place where things have reportedly been a bit sticky on rare occasions, but I’ve still never heard of anyone actually being refused entry for not having proof of onward flights at a land border. A couple of guys I know who practically live out there full time were once given warnings for next time, but not refused.

But yeah, and apologies for the re-iteration here, do remember that as of 1st December 2008, visa exemption stamps at all land borders will only be for 15 days. You no longer get 30 day visa exemption stamps for land entries. 30 day via exemption stamps are only given now if you arrive by air.

One quick note here… don’t come whining on this thread about how you shelled out £28 for the visa (or a cheap onward flight - see the ‘tips’ section at the end), but then weren’t checked. It happens. The potential implications of not having a visa or onward flights are much graver than £28 in financial terms. My advice is to look at the £28 as a legitimate cost of your trip, in the same way that your flight ticket is. After all, it’s the law. Budget for it when planning. Simple innit.

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Applying for visas in the UK:

Thai Consulate Hull

Thai Consulate Birmingham

Complete listings for all Thai Consulates in the UK and the Embassy

You can visit any of the consulates in person to arrange your visa. However, as is the case with embassies and consulates in general throughout the world, often they have strict drop off and collection times. And they can be really anal about these times, so make sure you check before you set off.

Also, you can apply to any of the UK consulates for your visa, regardless of where you live. It’s not a regional thing. Personally, I find the Hull consulate to be the best. They don’t f*ck around and often get your passport back to you within 3 days.

Applying for visas abroad:

As mentioned earlier, you can pick up single entry visas from Thai embassies and consulates anywhere in the world (and double entries from Vientiane and Phnom Penh). Some are better than others. If you’re elsewhere in Asia and there’s not an embassy or consulate for miles, then speak to a travel agent. They charge a commission, but they’re more than often very reliable.

Incidentally, leaving your passport with travel agents in order to get visas in SE Asia is actually far less dodgy than it might sound. Everyone does it. Travel agents in the region are more than often well oiled machines when it comes to arranging visas. Just make sure you specify very clearly what type of visa you want. And get a receipt.

Any questions, send me a PM.

Ta ta.

     
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Tommy’s Tips and Tricks!

(More pearls of wisdom and advice from Gapyear.com’s ‘Mr.Thailand’!)

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The cheap flight trick.

For those of you who are heading to Thailand but don’t want to shell out £30ish for a tourist visa, then you can just get a cheap flight with one of the region’s low cost airlines for within 30 days of your arrival. The trick is that you don’t use it. You just take the e-confirmation to show to immigration as proof that you’re leaving when you first arrive, and hey presto! You get your visa exemption stamp. What a rubbish trick. It’s not even a trick is it? It’s just obvious. A better trick would be to actually use it to fly to a neighbouring country, then head back to Thailand when you’ve seen what else the region has to offer. Laos and Cambodia are unmissable.

The only problem with this flight trick these days is that ‘low cost’ flights in SE Asia are going up in price all the time. Well, the actual fares are staying pretty low, but the taxes and fees when flying in and out of Thailand in particular are shooting up. Quite often the taxes alone are far more than the fare, and the airlines have no influence over them.

Bangkok’s a particularly expensive place to fly to and from, so bear that in mind. Sometimes Air Asia and a few others run promotions where they pay the taxes, so keep your eye out for those. Booking well in advance is nearly always cheaper with budget airlines. Cheap flights are still there to be found, you just have to look harder and sooner these days.

Given the gradual rise in air fares, the cheap flight trick looks increasingly less attractive compared to going down the visa route. It’ll likely only be a case of a few quid between them, and when you consider that the visa exemption only gets you 30 days, then it might not be worth it. It’s personal choice. Depends what you want.

Low cost airlines in Thailand and SE Asia:

Air Asia. Air Asia fly throughout Asia and also fly KL to Gold Coast in Oz. Super cheap.

Tiger Airways. Awesome. Tiger fly all over SE Asia and to cities in Oz. Uber cheap.

Jetstar. Internal flights across Asia and to Oz and NZ.

Nok Air. Many Nok flights depart from the old airport - Don Muang. Make sure you check before heading to the airport, because the two airports in Bangkok and not close to each other.

http://www.fireflyz.com.my/ rel=“nofollow” target=“_blank”]Firefly.[/url]

Always book on budget airlines’ own websites for the cheapest fares, without exception. Travel agents and other websites cannot get you cheaper deals with budget airlines. Even phoning the airlines directly is more expensive than booking on their website.

The train trick.

Again, not a trick at all. It’s just a bit of knowledge that’s probably worth sharing. When taking an overnight sleeper train, say from Bangkok to Chiang Mai or Bangkok to Surat Thani in south for the islands, travel second class and get yourself a bottom bunk.

Second class is more fun and cheaper. The windows drop all the way down and the coaches are generally a nice temperature and breezey all night. Bottom bunks cost 50 baht more, but they’re bigger and they’re well worth that extra 80p. First class is a more sterile experience in my opinion. The windows don’t drop, and as is often the case in Asia, the aircon is often just too f*cking cold. Not worth the extra money.

The bus trick.

Not a trick. Surprise! And it’s not even a tip really. But if you can find one on the route you plan to take, book yourself onto a karaoke bus. It can be hilarious. It can f*ck you off after a bit though, I suppose.

General Tips and Advice:

Airlines: If you’re travelling to Thailand without a visa or proof of onward flights, then be warned: more and more airlines are refusing to even let you board the plane at your departure point. If you read the small print when buying your fare, you’ll notice that all airlines - be they longhaul or regional in SE Asia - make it very clear that visas and other documentation are entirely your responsibility as the fare payer.

However, some airlines make double sure that the rules are observed and will ask to see that you have the necessary visas etc at check-in. If you don’t, then they may well not let you travel with them. This is real and it does happen.

Weather: Oh Christ. That’s another thread altogether, but I’ll just say this for now and then palm you off with a useful link: there is no single monsoon season in Thailand. Monsoon occurs across Thailand at different times of year, which is very convenient for backpackers. Even though they’re only a few hours apart, the east and west coasts and islands of Thailand have pretty much opposite monsoon seasons, so when one’s in wet season the other is dry. Well, pretty much anyway, although the monsoons can spill over from time to time. Northern and central areas are different again. It’s all good. It means that you can travel to Thailand all year round and still expect to find areas that aren’t getting a soaking - not that monsoon season is all about constant rain anyway. It’s not.

Here’s a link to a thread about the weather in Thailand and beyond:

Rough guide to weather in Thailand and SE Asia

Money: Thailand’s not as cheap as it used to be. Large swathes of Thailand are still cheap by western standards, very cheap in fact (especially in the north), but parts of Bangkok and some islands in particular are expensive by SE Asia standards, and are creeping up all the time. Bargains are still to be found pretty much everywhere, and often in abundance such as in Chiang Mai and Kanchanaburi provinces, but don’t go assuming it’s some kind of miser’s wet dream from north to south. If you’re coming in from India, then you’ll find it particularly expensive in comparison.

Bangkok is a capital city. Capital cities are expensive. As a fairly loose rule also, the west islands are more expensive than the east islands, with Phi Phi being especially expensive. You will find budget accommodation there, but expect to maybe spend a night or two in more expensive accommodation while you sniff out the bargains, especially in high season. (High season out west is Nov to April).

Also, the baht has been getting stronger over the last 12 months, so just bear that in mind. 18 months ago you got 72 baht to the pound. Presently, you get about 63, although the best exchange rates are to be found in Thailand itself, away from the airports. The exchange rate on the street in Thailand often doesn’t accurately reflect what you might see if you check rates on the internet, and more than often it works in your favour. The reason? I haven’t got a f*cking clue. It just does. There are tonnes and tonnes of ATMs all over Thailand, and credit cards are starting to be accepted in more places all the time, although you should never head out to an island or a remote beach expecting to pay for everything on your credit or debit card. There are still plenty of beaches on popular islands like Koh Phangan that don’t even have 24 hour electricity, thus stuff like credit card terminals and the like are deemed witchcraft. 

One last thing about money… if you have problems using your credit card online to book stuff like flights with the low cost airlines in Asia, then it might be because you need to activate some new online security features. Have a read here:

Visa Verified and Mastercard SecureCode

Internet: Available absolutely everywhere. More than often it’s fast broadband too. Considering how rural some places in northern and central Thailand are, the speed and quality of internet connections over there are insane. Grossly disproportionate to the UK. The village in Yorkshire where my Mum lives hasn’t got broadband yet, but a few huts perched on the edge of a mountain near Pai that I stayed in almost 2 years ago had the fastest broadband I’ve ever used to this day.

Have a flick through this thread about a few potential dangers of using public internet connections in SE Asia, and some useful tips too:

Internet stuff

The Thai people: Largely lovely, especially in rural areas, although you’ll inevitably meet ars*holes same as anywhere else. The famous smiles are still there in spades, but don’t expect every Thai person that you meet to be jolly and smiley.

Golden rule: Don’t mess with Thais. We do football and hockey in PE at school. The Thais do kickboxing. Even the girls. Remember that.

The police: Don’t expect them to want to help you, as a general rule. Even the tourist police. You can try, but you’ll most likely be disappointed. They’re not interested and they’re also largely corrupt. Do not mess with them. This sounds like a very generalised thing to say, but the police never fail to disappoint in this department. They are sh*t.

Haggling: Do it, but be respectful. Don’t always expect prices to come down just because you asked. The price of just about everything in Thailand is negotiable, but just have a brain. On the flipside, don’t let travel agents and the like rip you off. Most will try, of that you can be certain.

Useful websites:

GapYear.com (Obviously.)

Travelfish. Absolutely brilliant website covering most of SE Asia.

Obviously there are loads of other websites about Thailand, but I don’t do big lists. These are the only 2 sites you need, I assure you.

Over.

For now…

     
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Speaking Thai

I have lived in Thailand for a while now and I’m always surprised by how easy Thai is to pick up… it isn’t actually too difficult to pick up if you make a bit of effort (especially since there are no annoying tenses and plurals to deal with).I’ve put together a few useful words I learned that could help you along the way….

(The romanised Thai is by no means the perfect transliteration, it is written with your pronounciation in mind to make it easier if you write it down!)

I will add more to this over time… but feel free to add your own below if you feel it will be useful.

.......

Hello

Sawaidee Kap - Say ‘kap’ if you are a man

Sawaidee Kah - and ‘kah’ if you are a woman

You will hear ‘kap’ and ‘kah’ used very often and in almost every sentence when Thai people speak…. it makes words and sentences sound less harsh and abrupt to Thai people, and as a result failure to use them can sound bad and even cause offence… especially to people older than you. You can get away with leaving them out sometimes when you speak to Thai friends you have known for a while, but generally it’s best to be polite.

Goodbye

Lar gorn and sometimes you can say sawaidee kap/kah for goodbye too…

.......

How are you?

Sabaidee Mai - (when you ask a question with ‘mai’ it is a rising tone, similar to how it rises when we ask a question)

Answer:

Sabai Dee - I’m good!
Mai Sabai - Not good

.......

Thankyou (very much)

Khob kun (mahk) kap/kah

.......

Excuse me

Used pretty much exactly as we do in english… it can mean excuse me when you want to get past someone, or excuse me can I ask you something, or excuse me as in sorry for knocking you on the way past:

Khor toat kap/kah

.......

No problem/ Never mind/ No worries/ It’s cool etc.

Mai pen rai kap/kah

You will hear this a lot!

.......

Where do you come from?

If you want to ask a Thai person where in Thailand they are from:

Khun maa jark tee nai - Where do you come from?

maa jark (ung grit) kap - I come from…

.......

Where do you work?

Khun tham ngarn tee nai

(It’s quite hard to get that ‘ng’ sound at the beginning of the word ‘ngarn’ - practice!)

.......

Eating

hew mai - are you hungry?

hew kap/kah - yeh, I’m hungry!

mai hew kap/kah - I’m not hungry, thanks.

im leeaw kap/kah - I’m full already!

aroy mai - is it nice/good?

aroy kap - it’s nice/delicious!

mai aroy - it’s not nice…

checkbill kap/kah - Can i have the bill please? (strange one this, it isn’t the proper word for bill in Thai, but it is used everywhere)

.......

Romance (Obviously Mr. Bliss taught me most of these!)

chorp khun mahk mahk - I like you very much!

nah lak jang - what a babe!

jup khun dai mai - can I kiss you?

tee lak - darling

wahn jai - sweetheart

(‘mahk mahk’ is used a lot in Thai also, and it means ‘very much’. you can add it to other things like ‘aroy mahk mahk’ - it’s very nice…. or ‘im mahk mahk’ is very full - be creative!)

......

Do you understand?

Kow jai mai

Answers:

Kow jai kap/kah - I understand

Mai kow jai kap/kah - I don’t understand

......

Random words I learned…

You may or may not use these, but could be useful!

som nam na - serves you right!

kee gohng - cheat! (used quite often when people cheated at pool)

jep mai - does it hurt?
jep (mahk mahk) - it hurts (a lot)..

mau mai - are you drunk?
mau (mahk mahk) - yep I’m (very) drunk!

kang mau - hangover

ung krit - england/english

lek - small

yai - big

Useful for ordering beers… Chang yai kap - Large Chang beer please!

Very useful if you stay on the crappy Khao San Road…

mai ow kap/kah - I don’t want it… (use this liberally to rebuff the annoying breed of street sellers that only the KSR could produce)

.......

So I think this can be a useful for a first time visitor to speak a little Thai, but if you are going to stay longer or want to learn more I recommend the Lonely Planet Thai phrasebook. It gives you a good start in learning to speak Thai and also it’s an awesome ice breaker when you meet Thai people… just whip out the book, try some phrases and everyone ends up laughing - great fun!

 

     
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Wow yeah, lots of useful info there. Agree that Thai people are mostly lovely. Not obsequious…they consider Thailand to be the best country in the world, so naturally you would want to go - so don’t expect the servile attitude you may get in some parts of Asia. However if you are polite and respect them, they’ll do the same to you.

A few etiquette-type things that come to mind:

*Getting angry does not work in Thailand.
If someone is hassling you or you think they are trying to rip you off, stay calm, usually the best thing is just to walk away (if possible), or if applicable, politely refuse to pay the stupid price, give them the correct money, then walk away. (This works in most places. If they don’t follow you, you know you have paid enough. Always check with a local or experienced traveller how much stuff is when you are new and have no idea what things should cost).
If someone is rude and unhelpful, pretty rare, best to just try again later/ elsewhere. Another bank, for example, might be more inclined to help you.
But getting stroppy never, ever works and just makes you look like a twat in the eyes of the Thai people. A smile and politeness goes a long way.

*Do not, ever, diss the Royal Family.

*Do not point the soles of your feet at people.
(Sitting cross-legged is OK, just don’t direct them at anyone).
(Also, in respect of the above, do not, if you drop some money, put your foot on it to avoid it blowing away. Money represents the Royals, you see, and to the Thais you just kicked the King in the face. You will just have to run after your money and look like an idiot.)

*Don’t touch anyone’s head. Even a kid. It is considered to be the most sacred part of the body.
(As a 5ft nothing person, can I suggest this is made law. Everywhere. If one more drunk tall person patronisingly pats me on the head, I will not be responsible for the consequences :evil: )

*Women should not touch monks. Don’t even get close, cos if someone thinks you touched them, even if you didn’t, they will be upset. Best avoid them on crowded public transport, where you may get jostled/ lurched into them by accident.

     
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*Don’t touch anyone’s head. Even a kid.

This is a funny one… I think it is actually okay to touch kids on the head, as you see people doing it all the time, and I’ve been told by a thai friend that it’s ok. This even applies to foreigners.

The main thing to remember is never touch an adult on the head (unless you become very good friends), or even teenagers I’d say just to be on the safe side.

 

     
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Its all about believing, some old brain ppl think head is something that you have to respect, so if you are not close to them enough they will take it as you disrespect to them.

Just like when u been told about do not point your feet into Buddha image or into adult.

Some ppl (like me) would not mind about that, but could be easy offensive for some ppl.

so be aware

     
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Just changing the convo to visas…
Can i turn up in thailand…get a 30day visa stamp thing as i arrive…then leave after a few days and then recieve another 30 day visa on re-arrival?

Thats the impression i got by reading things but people are telling me iv gotta sort sumat out before i go..?
I leave in 11 days so yes i have left this abit late…

     
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Just changing the convo to visas…
Can i turn up in thailand…get a 30day visa stamp thing as i arrive…then leave after a few days and then recieve another 30 day visa on re-arrival?

Thats the impression i got by reading things but people are telling me iv gotta sort sumat out before i go..?
I leave in 11 days so yes i have left this abit late…

You need a visa before you arrive.

It is possible to get a 30 day visa exemption stamp when you arrive in Thailand, but it’s conditional. You must produce evidence that you are flying out of Thailand within 30 days of your first arrival. The only proof of leaving that they accept are confirmed flights from Thailand for within 30 days of your arrival. By the sounds of things, you can’t prove that.

All is not lost, though, but you need to be prepared to take a gamble…

Lots of people are given the 30 day visa exemption stamp without even having to prove that they are flying out within 30 days. It’s completely down to the immigration official who deals with you when you arrive and what kind of mood he/she’s in.

So they may well let you through without even checking. Lots of people experience this. But there’s a reasonable chance they’ll ask you to produce either the proof that you’re flying out of Thailand within 30 days, or alternatively they’ll want to see a pre-arranged 60 day tourist visa in your passport. They don’t issue visas on arrival anywhere in Thailand.

So, like I say, it’s a gamble. There’s a good chance you’ll get in without being asked to show proof of onward flights or a visa, but if they do ask… you may find yourself being sent home. At your own expense and possibly even after a period of detention until they can find an outbound flight for you.

Recently, it’s become apparent that they’re checking for proof of onward flights more than they used to. I’ve been stopped twice and asked to produce evidence of onward flights, but I’ve been over there a lot.

This is the bit from the infopost above that’s relevant to you…


Arriving in Thailand without a tourist visa - The Visa Exemption Rule (this is NOT a ‘visa on arrival’, contrary to what you might hear).

Citizens of certain countries can travel to Thailand without the need for a pre-arranged tourist visa, provided they can show evidence upon arrival of confirmed flights out of Thailand within 30 days.

Two important things there which need stressing again: it’s only confirmed flight tickets that are accepted as proof of intended departure - so no train, boat, bus or donkey tickets. Also, the flight must depart from Thailand itself. Not a neighbouring or nearby country.

So, a confirmed flight ticket from, say, Singapore to Sydney for 18 days after you arrive in Thailand is not acceptable as proof that you intend to leave. Only flights out of Thailand will suffice as far as Thai immigration are concerned. Open ended tickets aren’t accepted either. However, e-ticket confirmations are fine, so you can happily push a print-off of a flight confirmation email under the immigration officer’s nose for perusal.

There are no exceptions to this rule, so ignore travel agents that tell you otherwise (and they will). They are wrong. But as said above, whether or not you even get checked for evidence of flights in the first place is another matter altogether. There’s every chance you won’t be.

Now, entries to Thailand under the visa exemption rule are governed by a different set of rules to entries made with a tourist visa.

The key points to remember when entering Thailand under the visa exemption rule are…

*The purpose of your visit is solely tourism (Same as entering with a tourist visa. See the additional notes on this in the Tourist Visa section below).

*You must possess proof of confirmed flights out of Thailand for within 30 days of your arrival (Not the case with visa entries.)

*You must have access to 20,000 baht per person. (That’s about £315 presently - this doesn’t apply if you have a tourist visa.) Officially speaking, you might be asked to show proof of sufficient funds upon arrival, but I can almost guarantee that you won’t have to. Don’t lose sleep over this particular requirement.

*Under the visa exemption rule, you can remain in Thailand for a maximum of 90 days in any 180 day period. Gone are the days of unlimited entries, which allowed you to stay pretty much permanently, save for a quick ‘border run’ every 30 days, whereby you left the country for a few minutes and then got another 30 day stamp when re-entering. The clock starts ticking on your 180 period the first time you set foot in Thailand. In easy speak, this means you can be in Thailand for a maximum of 3 months in any 6 month period under the visa exemption rule. The 6 months starts counting down when you arrive for the first time.

One very important thing to remember: As with any country, your entry into Thailand by any means - be it by air, sea or land and with or without a visa - is entirely at the discretion of the individual immigration officer who deals with you. They reserve the right to refuse entry there and then, or limit your stay to less than 30 days if they so wish.

So if you arrive without a visa but have onward flight proof and they only stamp you in for 10 days - tough titty. There’s no rule that says they have to give you the full 30 days. The 30 day rule is merely the maximum they’re allowed to grant and the buck stops with the immigration official who deals with you, so there’s no appealing. But don’t get hung up on this, because backpacking Brits, europeans and ‘westerners’ in general will very rarely encounter problems here, unless they come and go a lot.

Confusion, randominity and contradiction are 3 words that describe Thai immigration. It’s the little things that confuse people, but the fact that there’s so many little things does nothing to help matters.”

On top of this, many airlines won’t let your board a flight to Thailand if you can’t demonstrate that you have either a visa or the required confirmation of onward flights for within 30 days. They have a duty to ensure everyone they carry meets the entry requirements for the country they’re taking them to. As it stands, you don’t meet the entry requirements by the sounds of things.

On the up side… you still have plenty of time to organise a 60 day tourist visa. It costs £28 + p&p and they generally get your passport back to you within 3 working days. You can even pop into a consulate in person and arrange the visa that way. There a Thai consulates all over the country, and there’s also the embassy in London. Have a look at the bottom of my first long post on this thread for details of UK consulates and how to contact them.

The nearest consulates to Sheffield are Hull, Liverpool and Birmingham. Personally, I use Hull. They’re dead quick and efficient.

     
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Hi,

I have tried my best to read this, and think it is really useful- but just have a quick question, that hopefully you good people can help with!

I am going to Thailand next year, and want to get a multi-entry visa.

From what I can get from the above, I will need to get this from the UK? and 3 Months in advance? However, I will not be in the UK 3 months in advance. I will be in Oz, about then. Is it possible to get a multi-entry Visa for Thailand, whilst in Australia, does anyone know?

     
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So from my understanding and in my situation I cannot get a visa exemption stamp as I don’t have out goign flight from thailand (from singapore instead).

Do I need to apply for a single point Visa ???

     
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I read the Thai Colsul notes and you do need a tourist visa if you don’t have a flight leaving from Thailand

so in my case I have to get a visa.

     
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I read the Thai Colsul notes and you do need a tourist visa if you don’t have a flight leaving from Thailand

so in my case I have to get a visa.

Yeah, that’s the rule mate.

But like I say in the thread, you would most likely get away with not having one. It’s a random process, and more often than not they don’t check and will most likely just give you a 30 day visa exemption stamp.

But my advice for first timers who are flying in is to get the visa. It’s just not worth risking it, even though the risk is small.

     
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Definitely hear ya. It’s £28 at the end of teh day and it’ll be safer than running the risk. My only annoyance is that I have to send my passport along with the application and send it to Hull of all places lol

     
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Thought I’d add a bit about being respectful, as this was something that annoyed me the most:

I know everyone says cover up at temples etc but the amount of people that I saw that didn’t follow this (or at least made only a token effort) was really shocking and then because some people aren’t covered, others think its ok. The thai people are very polite and will not approach someone to tell them to cover up, so the attitude that ‘no-one is stopping us’ doesn’t work. Show some respect and the locals will respect you back. (example- me and my bf went to a temple and despite the sweltering heat, we were covered head to toe. While the locals just let the other westerners walk past, they stopped us and made us join them in a feast, with everyone trying to get us to try the different dishes. They didn’t speak english, and we didnlt speak thai but they made us feel very welcome)

Topless sunbathing is frowned upon, and again just because some disrespectful westerners are topless doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable. Worry more about offending the locals than your tan lines!

Clothing in general should be modest (girls), you’re not on holiday in Spain, put your tits away and leave your minis for east coast of oz. Don’t go above the knee. This advice applies particularly to more remote, rural places. In some more touristy areas, a bit more on show is acceptable, just use your common sense. Buy local clothes not only beacsue they are cheap and appropraite for the climate but you’ll also be able to guage what is acceptable to wear and what is not.

Taking photos of people should only really be done if you ask permission. I know there is a langauge barrier but a simple smile and a point at the camera works fine. You’ll probably get a better picture for it. Obvioulsy, this doesn’t apply if you are taking a scenery picture that just happens to have some people in it. Also be careful of taking pictures of some religious symbols, although most places will have signs if it is not allowed.

 

     
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Aye, but they’re dead good at Hull. You’ll have it back in a blink of an eye.

The visa thing is worth doing also because of the policy of some airlines. If you’re found to not have a visa or proof of onward flights when checking in (i.e. you don’t meet the entry requirements), then some airlines will refuse to carry you.