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Thailand - The Magic Kingdom
 
     

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Visas The Thais tinker around with the visa regulations fairly regularly, but in principle, they never really change in any subsantial way.

There are basically two types of visa - the Tourist Visa, and the B-class visa. The B class is the one you need if you are working in Thailand.

Thailand is effectively an open country, and most westerners can stay as long as they like. The only catch is that the Thais are sticklers for regulations and the visa system can be irritating at times.

   
         
         
 

Tourist Visa Amazingly, there are many westerners in Thailand who have lived there for years and years on a plain old tourist visa. I myself lived there for three years with only a tourist visa, and the authorities never once asked me what I was doing in Thailand.

Here's how it works. A Tourist visa is valid for sixty days, and you need to apply in the country where you live at your local embassy or consulate before departure. European Union citizens can arrive without a visa, but in this case you will only be stamped in for 30 days. If you're planning a long stay, apply for a DOUBLE ENTRY VISA. This means that when your time is up, you can just cross the Malay or Lao border and walk straight back in (using your second entry permission). Alternatively you can fly out to say, Cambodia or Singapore, stamp out, and come back on the next plane. Thai Immigration officials won't give you any hassle on your return

When your sixty days are nearly up, you can get a thirty day extension. At the time of writing, this cost 500 baht (about $15.00). I always used to use the Pattaya immigration office in Soy 8. Even on busy days I was never in there for more than an hour or so. I was never refused an extension, or questioned about what I was doing in Thailand. Once the thirty day extension is up, you have to leave the country. Further short extensions of about ten or fifteen days are possible, but really they're not worth bothering with.

So its now time to go on what the local farangs(foreigners) call a visa run. I always did my visa run to Penang, an island just off the north west coast of the Malay peninsula. You go by train from Bangkok main station (Hua Lampung) to a town in Malaysia called Butterworth. The train departs every day mid afternoon and arrives in Butterworth around midday the following day. Make sure you book about ten days in advance - its usually full, and book the air-con sleeper. Round trip is roughly 2,000 Baht (about $60.00).

The train journey to Malaysia can be great fun. There's always a restaurant car and you can buy Thai beer, whisky, and get a meal. I've had some really great times on this visa run. You nearly always meet other farangs on the train, have a few drinks together and generally have a good time. You can keep on going on visa runs for many years and the Thais will never ask you what you are up to in Thailand. Strange but true!

B Class Visa

I never had one of these so I won't say too much about them. Most farangs that I knew who had a B class visa had a B2. These aren't really much of an improvement on the tourist visa. You can get a B2 if you are married to a Thai. Instead of 60 days, they're valid for 90 days. I'm not sure if they are extensible or not, but it certainly won't be for long if they are. Personally, I couldn't see much point in applying for one, since you still had to leave the country every three months. If you're working legally in Thailand, your B class visa will probably be valid for one year. You can also get a B class visa if you're retired, valid for 12 months, but you have to sign on at Bangkok immigration office every three months. Just before I left in July 99 they brought in a new regulation for retired people, requiring them to have a minimum of, I think it was 600,000 Baht - I think about 15,000 dollars - that sort of ball park anyway. Obviously check first if you're thinking of retiring to Thailand.

   

 

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