So I’ve been in Thailand a while, and my Visa stamp is running out on the 15th of April, which would ordinarily mean a visit to Thai immigration for a 1 month extension (which is now on Samui, as I’m based in Koh Tao). Unfortunately for me – its also smack bang in the middle of the Songkran holiday meaning a) everything is full transport wise and b) all government offices are closed.
So I’ve had to lose a month off my Visa and go an do a visa run in Burma, re entering the country to get another two months on my tourist visa. To organise this I visited Nat at Island Travel in Koh Tao.The trip starts at around 11pm on Koh Tao pier, with the 6 hour cargo boat (compared to a 2 hour day time Catamaran Ride) from Koh Tao to Chumpon. You are then met at the pier at around 5am by the Minivan drivers who will drive you approximately 3 hours to Ranong Immigration on the Thai/Burmese border. The border was busy due to to Thai new year, but as with most cases when you are on an organised visa run, everything is processed smoothly etc. Any overstayers must be prepared to pay a fine of up to 500 Baht per day (its best to avoid this, as technically you can be deported), before being allowed to leave the country. The border crossing is actually done by river/sea, so you must cross on one of the many longboats that service the border. With the package visa runs this is done by the “Visa Express” boat, a large blue boat that will be pointed out to you by your guide. It takes about 20 minutes from Ranong to get to the Myanmar border entry point.
Upon arrival at Burma, the process is simple, with the Guide handling the entry process, all you need to do is sit and wait for your passport to be stamped in and out of Burma, take a photo on their computers the first time you enter the country (those who are on their 2nd Visa runs did not have to get a photo taken) and wait for your name to be called out to collect your passport.
While waiting for others to finish, you can go to duty free (I couldn’t as I was the last person to get stamped) and then its back onto the boat for the trip back to Ranong In Thailand.
The boat stops at a couple of stops on the way back, I think Customs – in case of any duty free requirements (we didn’t have to get off) and then back to Ranong Immigration in Thailand. Providing your visas are in order you will be stamped into the country with 15 days (no visa, border crossing) or 60 days (Tourist Visa), then its back into the country, off to the 7/11 to stock up on food and back off to Chumpon in the Minivan. You should arrive at Chumpon at approximately Midday-12:30, then all you need to do is show your ticket and check into the Lomprayah ferry terminal, and you should be back on Koh Tao by approximately 2pm. All up the round trip takes approximately 15 hours, of which at least 6 you will be sleeping, so its a pretty easy visa run.