Samui Wining & Dining
Stamp Collecting
You can extend your stay on Samui with a quick trip to the Malaysian border.

 

Stamp Collecting“I don’t want to leave!” How many times have you said that on the last days of your holiday? Quite a few, no doubt, and you’re not alone. Nor is it unusual for those passing through on extended round-the-world trips to change their plans and linger a little longer on Samui. But a few do forget one important point – their visa stamp. And that can lead to certain complications.

 

As a visitor on holiday, you’ll have a tourist visa. It’s quite different from the visas that those who live and work here have and a whole other set of criteria and conditions apply to them. Depending on which country you’re from will dictate the length of time you are allowed to stay in Thailand. But for our purposes here, the facts and figures apply to countries like the USA, Canada, Australia, the UK and around half of all EU countries. British passport holders arriving by air may enter Thailand for 30 days without obtaining a visa in advance of arrival. However, those arriving at overland crossings, say through Malaysia or Cambodia, will only be given a visa free entry that’s valid for 15 days. If you plan to stay in Thailand for longer than the time endorsed on arrival, or you intend to work, you must obtain an extension of stay or a valid visa.



And if you stay in Thailand for longer than the time authorised on your arrival then it’s an offence under Thai immigration law. You will be fined 500 baht (?) per day for every day you overstay up to a maximum of 20,000 baht.  Any foreigner found by the authorities to have overstayed their visa is also at risk of being held in detention, fined and deported at their own expense. The Thai authorities have stated they will always enforce detention of overstays of more than 42 days. You may also be black-listed from re-entering Thailand. The only legal way of obtaining a new visa, entry permit or extension of stay is from a Thai Embassy or Consulate, an Immigration Officer at a point of entry into Thailand or one of the Immigration Offices around the country. Visas issued by visa shops, travel agents or by any other means are likely to be illegal and lead to criminal proceedings, which may result in a large fine or imprisonment. You would also be prohibited from entering Thailand again, so be warned.

 

Foreigners who enter Thailand under the Tourist Visa Exemption category and would like to leave and re-enter may only stay for a cumulative duration which does not exceed 90 days and is within a six-month period from the date of first entry. Passport or travel documents must be valid for at least six months after the date of first entry.

And you may be asked to provide proof of adequate finances for the duration of your stay in Thailand at the port of entry (cash equivalent to 10,000 baht per person and 20,000 baht per family). Proof of onward travel (a return air ticket) is also required.

 

However, extending your stay here for short periods is relatively simple. On Samui, there’re several reputable companies that do a one-day ‘border bounce’ that enables visitors to leave the country and get stamped back in effortlessly. One of the most popular is known by everyone as ‘Julie’s visa run’. Over the years, Julie and her husband, Song, have made over 1,500 day trips to Malaysia from Samui carrying tens of thousands of people in a VIP luxury mini-bus. She’s a former British police officer who first came to Thailand as a volunteer helping with the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that hit the west coast region of the country. After spending a year in and around the Phuket area she moved to Samui after spotting a gap in the market for visa trips. Suffice to say, she’s now an authority on immigration laws and practices and how they apply to hundreds of different nationalities.

 

“We run a 9-seater VIP mini-bus three to five times a week down through Satun province and into the Malaysian border and back. It’s spacious, air-conditioned and very comfortable. And Song drives every trip. After all this time it’s safe to say he knows the way very well. We provide a free pick-up service at designated points along the Samui ring-road from 4:45 am and catch the 6:00 am Seatran ferry from Nathon. The ferry takes one and a half hours to Donsak on the mainland where you board the minibus. Around 9:30 am we stop for a break and get to the border about 11:45 am. It’s a quick turnaround at immigration where you just have to walk 100 metres or so across the border and back getting stamped out of Thailand and stamped into Malaysia. You then walk a few metres around the corner, get stamped out of Malaysia and walk back into Thailand and get stamped back in. It takes about ten minutes and we have a break for a light lunch that we supply. You can also buy some meals and snacks as there are plenty of street-food stalls around and get some duty-free goods at the shop. Then it’s a four-hour ride back to Donsak in time for the 5:00 pm ferry to Samui. Again, there’s a free transfer service to wherever you were picked up from and you can be back in your home/hotel by 7:30 pm.”

 

Julie does get booked up quickly and it pays to make arrangements with her as soon as possible. It costs just 1,600 baht for everything on the one-day trip and Julie will meet you before the day of the visa run to collect the fee and do all the necessary paperwork for you. It also allows her to see the stamp in your passport and advise on the best course of action for you depending on how long you want to extend your stay by. For instance, it’s possible to get a seven-day extension at the immigration office in Nathon for 1,900 baht and if that’s all you need then that’s probably a better option than a one-day trip. If you can’t sleep on the bus, take a book, an iPod or a laptop with you. She doesn’t play music or DVD’s as that can disturb some people. Take some water as well and it’s advisable to forgo numerous bottles of beer until the return ferry trip; the bus won’t make unscheduled stops for extra toilet breaks.

 

Taking a quick VIP mini-bus to Malaysia is relatively stress-free and you get to have a nice boat trip and see a bit more of the Thai countryside. But, most importantly, your stay here on Samui will remain legal. If you’re unsure at all about the status of your visa then just give Julie a call on 0 860 666 151 and she will tell you all you need to know. Alternatively, you can go to the Samui immigration office in Nathon during weekday office hours and make enquiries there though there are often long queues. Be safe, be legal and make sure the only bars you come in contact with are the ones that sell beer!

 

Johnny Paterson

 


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