Extending Your Holiday In Thailand, Tourist Visas And Visa Extensions
If you have arrived in Thailand on holidays without a visa, you will be given a visa on arrival at the airport, this will allow you to stay in the country for 30 days. After 30 days, you can then apply for a tourist visa at one of the neigboring countries. There are several low cost airlines that fly to Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Laos. If you book a few weeks in advance, you can normally get flights for as low as 75-100USD return. You will have the option of a single entry tourist visa, that allows you an additional 2 months stay, or a double entry, that allows you to stay 2 months, and then do a border crossing and enter for another 2 months. A tourist visa can also be extended for 30 days for a fee of just under 60USD, at any immigration office in Thailand. So if you choose to pay to extend your tourist visas, you can stay for 3 months on a single entry or 6 months on a double entry.
If your 30 day visa on arrival has expired, and you only wish to stay a few more weeks, you can also in some cases leave at a land border crossing and then re enter with a permit to stay an additional 15 days. You can also fly out of the country on a short flight, and return the same day or the following day and then receive another 30 day visa on arrival. If you have been in the country for longer than 6 months, you can no longer enter without a visa. In some cases you will not be issued a tourist visa after 6 months. These rules are always changing, and in many cases they are applied differently depending on where you are.
You can usually fly to Kuala Lumpur from Phuket or Bangkok on the low budget airlines for a reasonable price. The embassy in Kuala Lumpur has always had a reputation for being fairly straight forward, and providing decent service. I have not heard of anyone having any problems with their visa applications in Kuala Lumpur. Penang is not as easy to fly to, however it is easy to get to by bus from southern Thailand. Penang used to be the best place to go for tourist visas, they used to give them away without asking any questions, this is no longer the case. Recently the embassy in Penang has been denying visa applications for anyone who has been in Thailand for more than 6 months. If you are applying for your first tourist visa after a 30 day visa on arrival, Penang is still an option, however if you have been in Thailand for several months already, you should not go to Penang.
You can get to Laos by train from Bangkok, and this is usually cheaper than flying. You can cross the border from Nong Kai, over the friendship bridge to Vientiane. You will want to avoid spending any time in Nong Kai if at all possible, as it has developed into a tourist trap for those passing though. The prices are horribly inflated in order to cash in on tourists that are passing through. The embassy in Vientiane has recently become known as the easiest place to get a tourist visa. They are also well known for giving out double entry tourist visas. The sad thing about Vientiane is that 10 years ago, it was an enchanting and romantic little town, and now it is a bustling city that is nothing more than a poor mans version of Phuket or Bangkok.
If you are in Chiang Mai, it is easy enough to do a border crossing at the Mai Sai checkpoint just north of Chiang Rai. This can be done in a matter of hours, and you will not want to stay any longer than you have to, as it is not a pleasant place to visit. If you are in Southern Thailand, you might be able to do a border crossing in Ranong, and much like the Myanmar border in the North, you will want to spend as little time there as possible. You will not be able to apply for a tourist visa at either of these border crossings, however if you already have a double entry visa, you will be able to use this as an exit point. If you do not have a visa, you will only get an additional 15 days.
You can fly from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City with Air Asia for 100-150USD. Cost of food and accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City is probably lower than any of the other surrounding countries. The only downside to travelling to Vietnam is that you likely need a visa before you can travel there, however you can make these arrangments online.
I would say that of all the places to go, Singapore is my least favourite. The flights are usually quite cheap, but you will spend more on hotels and restaurants. On the positive side, the embassy in Singapore has a great reputation for providing decent service. It should be no problem to get a visa in Singapore.
UPDATE: JAN 11, 2011
Vientiane Laos: This morning I went to the Thai Consulate to apply for a tourist visa, just as I have done several times over the past few years. I witnessed the Thai staff being quite abusive to many tourists, and when I walked up to the counter I spoke to the lady in fluent Thai. She asked me if I had a wife (I said yes even though I am not legally married). She told me to get lost, told me that I can not have a tourist visa because I have a Thai partner. It seems as though Laos is no longer the place to go for tourist visas for Thailand. Aside from the abusive staff at the Thai Consulate, the city of Vientiane is a shadow of its former self, corrupted by growing tourism, it is now a 3rd world city trying to charge the same price as a modern western city. The cost of food, accommodation and transportation is similar to Phuket or Singapore, and Laos has none of the attractions that these places offer. I no longer recommend anyone visit Laos, you will get 3 times more for your dollar in Vietnam, and it is a much nicer place to visit!
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