My Visa expires in 6 days and I’m in Chiang Mai. We are looking into doing a visa run but it seems to be nothing more than a hassle, you don’t really save any money and because of the current deal at the Thai border, a land crossing only gets me another 15 days extension.
The length isn’t an issue but we were told that we can extend for up to 30 days if we just go to immigration and they’re quite easy going. It’s not worth the hassle of the visa run when you can get an extension within a couple hours.
They are constantly changing requirements at their Immigration office, so there is always the possibility that this will not be the case by the time someone reads this blog and decides they want to extend.
We arrived in September and were issued a 30 day visa on arrival. The better way to do it is to apply for your visa in advance and try to get 2 or 3 months. Some people have gotten 3 month but the max at the time of writing this seems to be 2 months. There is a lot of grey information and because it changes so often, you rarely get the same answer when you ask someone.
Sometimes I think I should plan a bit more… but where’s the fun in that?
If you think 30 days is enough in Thailand, pick a small part of Thailand to see. Long hours on busses and trains can take away valuable days in what is quite a large country. I first thought “I don’t want to pay to stay here. Eff them. We’ll do it in 30 days.” By week 3 of going going going I was starting to burn out and not enjoy myself the way I should be. The visa extension was the best decision I’ve made in Thailand. I get to see so much more and take my time doing it.
We are in Chiang Rai and they have recently opened a new immigration office. We grabbed our passports, jumped in a metered taxi and headed there. The taxi driver gave us his number to call when we wanted to go back. They charge an extra 20B for a phone call pick up. Our taxi there from our hotel very close to the clock tower was 70B
When we got there around 11am, there was no line up. Perfect.
The guy looks at us and tells us he needs photocopies of our passport, the stamp inside, and our declaration card. They don’t have a photocopier in this building. They also want a passport photo of us. They also don’t take these at or around the office. He tells us to go outside and walk down the street.
So we do. Two buildings over is a huge building. This has to be it. We go in and nope. No English inside the building. We find a guy downstairs that does photocopies. We get all of our pages copied for a cheap 6 baht. No problem. We’re over halfway there. We ask for passport photos. He doesn’t understand. We decide to go back to Immigration and tell them about the photocopies but nobody seems to do passport photos.
Back at immigration, we show him the photocopies but tell him we can’t find anyone to do passport photos. He says “okay” and smiles. I get excited that the “okay” means no problem, we’ll process you anyways. That’s not what it means. He tells us it’s a big transport building about 200m down the road. We walk 200m down the street and end up at the same building. There is a drivers licence place upstairs… but still, nobody does passport photos. When we ask people they point us in a different direction each time. This isn’t really fun anymore.
We decide it to walk further down the street and see what happens. Another 300m down the road we pass a taxi. On the other side of the taxi is a small store with a couple snacks. The guy looks at us and first thing he says is “Passport photo?” WTF?!? This is the guy that we have to see? This is the big transport building? The guy with a pop up store and a small hut behind it. Inside the hut is a blue screen and a stool. This is where we get our passport photo. We decide to get 6 for 80B since we will need some in the future.
It took about 10 minutes to walk back from the stand to the Immigration office. It’s now 12:30pm and the office is closed because everyone leaves for lunch at the same time because it would be a crime to stagger the lunches and keep the office open… They get roughly 90 minutes for lunch because there is nothing good to eat nearby. We learn this because we went for a walk to find food. Kristi ended up eating a bag of chips and I had a cup of instant noodles. Tom Yam flavor. It was pretty depressing.
We showed back up at Immigration around 1:15pm… still not open. We hung out a bit and a crowd started to form around the door. Great.
About 1:30pm, someone showed up to open the door. Surprisingly, the lady looked past everyone near the door and spoke with us first. My guess is she saw us in there twice before lunch.
She got us the form we needed to fill out so we quickly did that. Then back up to the counter. The guy filling in our information asks us for a phone number. We don’t have one. He looks at us like we’re crazy? I should have just given him any number to avoid the questions.
Then they want the address for the hotel we’re staying at. We don’t know it. We know the name of the hotel. Not good enough. He wants the address. I tell him to Google it. I’m glad his English wasn’t very good. Luckily we had a screen shot of our Agoda booking so we gave him that address. I don’t know why they need this. We are checking out tomorrow. If we rented an apartment, I understand wanting our address… the address of the hotel that we booked 3 nights at seems pretty useless to me.. I guess I just don’t understand governments.
This gets sorted and now we have to wait. There is a sign that shows the “6 easy steps to getting your visa extended for tourists”
Step 1: Fill out Paperwork (1 minute)
Step 2: Give to Officer (2 min)
Step 3: Wait for approval (4 min)
Step 4: Pay for Visa (3 minute) Fast and convenient because we accept credit cards
Step 5: Officer inputs information (6 min)
Step 6: Get stamp and leave (1 min)
So this should all be under 20 minutes… Who timed this shit?
25 minutes later we are called up to the desk one at a time to get our picture taken with some ghetto webcam… but I just gave you a photo?… We go back and wait another 10 minutes and they ask us to pay. We ask if we can pay with our Visa. He says “No” and “it’s not convenient”… there’s literally a sign in front of him advertising that they accept Visa… We end up paying cash… 1900 baht each. We asked if there was a lower fee for less days. No. Same price and you can get 30 days or 30 days. I guess we are extending for 30 days.
We go back to sitting down for another 5-10 minutes. Finally they call us up, stamp our passports and extend us from October 10 to November 9. Perfect. Except one thing… the extension stamp is the size of an entire page in my passport! Fuck off! A lot of countries won’t let you in if you don’t have a certain number of pages (I think Thailand is one of them) and they stamp an entire page! Ridiculous.
Oh well. All we can do now is laugh about it. Their simple 20 minute process took us a few hours. I guess we’ll do a bit more research next time and hopefully come more prepared. We left our Hotel at 10:45am and got back close to 3pm. Good thing we didn’t have plans today.
So as a Canadian getting your passport extended (as of October 2014) in Thailand you will need:
Photocopies: Passport page with your info, your entrance paper, and your original stamped page
1900 baht (in cash unless you want to make an inconvenient payment)
Good luck fellow travelers! I hope your extension is smoother than ours. I have no one to blame but myself. Do as I say, not as I do.