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If you are visiting Koh Phangan and Thailand in general for a holiday, vacation, backpacking or whatever you call it. A trip where you are coming for leisure and pleasure and have no intention of working, volunteering or staying long-term which would also include studying or retirement, then you will need a Tourist Visa to enter.
When you come to Thailand without a visa but are from one of the 55 countries that Thailand allows entering without one, this is a Visa Exemption / Visa Waiver. When you arrive, you will be given a stamp in your passport and granted a 30-day stay. There is no cost or obligation to pay.
This mode of admission is sometimes referred to as a "Tourist Visa" or "Visa on Arrival," although this is incorrect and misleading. With this sort of entrance, you don't obtain a visa in your passport; instead, you get an entry stamp that tells you when you have to leave.
Tourists who come on a Visa Waiver / Visa Exemption can extend their 30-day stay by going to an immigration office and requesting a 30-day visa extension.
When you arrive to Thailand without a visa and are from one of the 21 countries that can purchase a visa when you get here, you will be eligible for a Visa on Arrival. The United Kingdom and the United States, as well as most of Europe, are not included in this list. The visa costs 2,000 THB (£45/$60) and entitles you to a 15-day stay. A visa is placed in your passport, which is then stamped with an entrance stamp indicating when you must depart.
Tourists who enter on a Visa on Arrival may be able to extend their stay by visiting an immigration office and requesting a visa extension. You're most likely to acquire a 48-hour or seven-day extension. Illness is an excellent reason to request a time extension.
You must apply for the Single Entry Tourist Visa in advance (outside of Thailand, visit the Thai Embassy website to identify your nearest Embassy/Consulate).
It's usually a two-day process – you apply one day and pick up the next – and costs roughly £30/$50.
To activate your visa, you must travel to Thailand within three months of receiving it. You acquire a visa in your passport, and when you arrive in Thailand, you'll obtain a stamp allowing you to utilize the visa right away, and you'll be able to remain for 60 days.
If you leave Thailand during the 60-day period, you will lose your remaining days unless you obtain a Visa Re-Entry Permit.
By asking for a visa extension at a Thai immigration office, you can extend your stay – which is usually 30 days.
The METV is a relatively new visa that was launched in October 2015 and for which you must apply ahead of time (outside of Thailand, in your home country or a country of permanent residence).
It's usually a two-day process – you apply one day and pick it up the next – and costs roughly £150/$175. The visa is valid for six months after it is issued. You will receive a visa in your passport, which will be stamped when you arrive in Thailand, allowing you to stay for 60 days. You may leave and enter Thailand as many times as you wish, as long as you enter before the visa's "Valid Until" date. Each time you enter, you get 60 days to stay.
You can only stay for 60 days at a time on any stamp, so even though the visa says "6 month visa," it doesn't imply you may stay in Thailand for that long. This is quite significant.
The key distinction between a METV and a SETV is that a METV allows you to leave Thailand, and when you return, your visa is stamped again, giving you another 60 days. You have a full six months to come and go in Thailand from the “Valid From” date on your visa, and you can receive a 60-day stamp at any time during that time.
The beauty of a METV is that it simply takes crossing a border to activate a 60-day stay — so you can travel to a land border, cross over, receive a stamp, and come back in for another 60 days. You can even fly to another country, return on a return trip, and extend your stay for another 60 days. Just make sure you do it before the six months are over; you can activate another 60 days if you do it a day or hour before the six months are done.
There are various disadvantages to a METV, but one of the most significant is the “Valid Until” date, which is usually set at 6 months after the issue date. This means that as soon as you have the METV, you'll be squandering days. The SETV can be used at any time within three months after purchase, but the METV must be used right immediately to receive the full amount of time.
By asking for a visa extension at a Thai immigration office, you can extend any METV entrance stamp for another 30 days.
Always check carefully the validity of the visa as in some cases it might be for a shorter time than 6 months. Always make note of the date that your visa expires and not on how long you can stay.
In some cases, people go to renew their 60-day visa a few days late. It happens because they go according to the stamp they received at immigration instead of what is written on the visa itself. In case you arrive in Thailand a week or more after you went to the immigration in your own country, your visa might expire before your length of stay expires.
All Thai entry stamps can be extended by visiting an immigration office within Thailand. This costs 1,900 baht and takes a few hours to obtain after completing some paperwork and presenting pictures.
Take your passport, Thai departure card, photocopies of your primary passport pages, your arrival stamp and your departure card, 2x current passport photos, 1900 baht exactly, and a pen with you when you go to seek an extension. If you forget, every office usually has photos and photocopies available.
The closest immigration office to Koh Phangan is on Koh Samui, however, they are currently making one on the island here but we don’t know when it will open as of yet. You can read this article about extending your visa on Koh Samui.
Residents of the 55 countries listed (in the Visa Exemption/Waiver section) can have their stamps extended for an additional 30 days. This means that you can stay in the nation for 60 days (30 + 30) on a Visa Exemption entrance, and for 90 days (60 + 30) on SETV and METV entries.
If you are not from one of the countries listed in the Visa Exemption/Waiver section, you may only be granted a 7 or 14-day visa extension. Check with the immigration information desk before applying and paying.
It is uncommon to have a request for an extension turned down, but it does happen. You will only be permitted a 7-day extension in this scenario. There is no right of appeal.
You can only extend a Visa Waiver/Exemption stamp, SETV stamp, or METV stamp once every 30 days. If you leave Thailand and return to receive a fresh stamp, you can extend that stamp for another 30 days.
You can request an additional “emergency” 7-day extension if you have already used the 30-day extension and still need extra time in Thailand. This is also a pricey way to gain more days, costing 1,900 baht (£40/$60).
There are no rules that have been published. There are a lot of rumours. Rumours abound that some Thai embassies may refuse to issue a fresh SETV if you already have a few in your passport; immigration will ask you if you have more than a few in your passport; and that having six SETVs will result in a ban. None of them is government-issued.
It's all a matter of interpretation in Thailand, as it is everywhere else. Just because an immigration officer queries you doesn't indicate it's because you have too many visas; if it is, it's possible they're simply curious; it's their job.
When your passport has more than 5 or 6 SETVs, immigration may question you, such as “why do you spending so much time in Thailand?” and "Are you working?" — they want to make sure you're not working for a company illegally and stealing a Thai worker's job.
On visa runs, you might see folks who have been told that they need to seek a long-term visa next time, despite the fact that they've been using SETVs for 8 years.
It also depends on who you interact with because there are no official rules. You might get different answers from one immigration officer to the next. But, unlike with admission to the United States or the United Kingdom, you don't typically hear horror stories, so if you're turned down, chances are you'll be able to try again at a different office or entry point with no problems.
This is when you travel to another country to obtain a new visa and stay there for a few days. A visa run entails visiting a country outside of Thailand that has a Thai Embassy/Consular/Official office, such as Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Vientiane, Bali, Hong Kong, or any other nation that has a Thai Embassy/Consular/Official office. Most people from Koh Phangan go to Penang in Malaysia. Once you've arrived in the country, simply follow the instructions for obtaining a SETV before returning to Thailand. It's simple. You can also use an agent to help you.
A border bounce as it is called by many is when you just cross a border and return. The most common mode of transportation is by bus/minivan to a land border. Arrive somewhere, turn around, and return.
Border runs used to be extremely common because a land border could be close to where you live, and you could receive a fresh entry stamp and stay for 30 days by crossing and returning. But that is no longer the case. The Thai government has been cracking down on this since 2014, therefore border runs have gotten less and less popular.
Border runs can still be effective, but only in two circumstances:
1) If you have a Tourist Visa with Multiple Entry. If you have a valid METV, you can pass any border, turn around, and return with a new 60-day stamp. There are no difficulties.
2) If you're desperate to stay in Thailand and have already applied for a 30-day extension, you can travel to a land border, cross across, and return to receive a 30-day visa exemption/waiver. Keep in mind that you can only do this twice each year, and the chances of you being denied entry due to how you dress, how much money you have, or something equally trivial grow dramatically. Of course, 30 days is from the perspective of a resident of one of the 55 countries that receive a free visa on arrival (see list above); other nationalities may have shorter or longer stays.
Overstaying a visa is not a good idea. Overstaying in Thailand is a severe matter, but it's only as serious as the money you'll have to pay. You must pay a fee of 500 baht each day if you overstay your visa. They may occasionally let you off the hook. Overstaying for more than a few days is terrible, and it could prevent you from visiting Thailand in the future and result in a big fine and a ban to enter the country.
As long as you are coming to Koh Phangan just for pleasure and a holiday then a tourist visa is all you will need to be here legally. The process is usually straightforward but do take note of all the things mentioned in the above article to make sure you don’t overstay or go outside of the law.