Koh Phangan Tourist Visa Guide

7 Jul 2022
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Suppose you are travelling to Koh Phangan (and Thailand in general) for a holiday, vacation, backpacking trip, or whatever you choose to call it. In that case, you should know the following: you will require a Tourist Visa to enter the country if you are travelling for pleasure and have no intention of working, volunteering, or remaining long-term, including studies or retirement. Here are your options.

 

The different options for Tourist Visas are:

 

Visa Exemption / Visa Waiver Entry

Visa Exemption / Visa Waiver refers to visiting Thailand without a visa if you are from one of the 64 countries that Thailand permits visa-free entry. Immigration will stamp your passport when you arrive, and you will be permitted a 30-day stay. There is no obligation or expense to pay.

However, you must satisfy the following requirements:

  • The goal of the visit is solely touristic.
  • You must have a confirmed return flight ticket indicating that you will depart Thailand within 30 days of entrance. Open tickets are ineligible. The use of a train, bus, etc. to travel overland is recognized as proof of exit . If you do not have a ticket showing your departure from Thailand within 30 days of entrance, you will likely be denied entry. 
  • You must show that you have at least 10,000 THB worth of funds for the duration of your stay. 
     

Although inaccurate and misleading, this manner of admittance is frequently referred to as a "Tourist Visa" or "Visa on Arrival." However, you do not receive a visa in your passport with this type of admission; instead, you receive an entry stamp that indicates when you must depart.

The 64 Countries allowed to enter the country under the Thailand VISA EXEMPTION RULE are:

  • Andorra
  • Argentina (90 days)
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bahrain
  • Belgium
  • Brazil (30 days and 90 days)
  • Brunei
  • Cambodia (14 days only)
  • Canada
  • Chile (90 days)
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Korea (30 days and 90 days)
  • Kuwait
  • Laos
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macau
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Mauritius
  • Myanmar (14 days only)
  • Monaco
  • Mongolia
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Peru (30 days and 90 days)
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • Russia
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Vietnam
     

The exemption is limited to a maximum of two times per calendar year when entering by land or sea, however there is no limit when entering by air. However, from personal experience, I was nearly denied admission when I attempted to stamp in at an airport for the third time in a row. 

Tourists with a Visa Waiver or Visa Exemption can obtain a 30-day visa extension at an immigration office to prolong their 30-day stay, although sometimes, you may only get seven days. Visa extensions on a Thai Tourist Visa are usually very straight forward. You will simply need to go to a Thai Immigration Office and fill in a TM. 7 visa extension form, and pay the fee of 1900 Thai baht. For this visa extension you will need the original and copy of your passport (identification page and pages with Thai visas and stamps) and a passport sized photo (4 x 6 cm).

Visa on Arrival

The VISA ON ARRIVAL permits citizens of 19 countries to enter Thailand if they meet the following requirements:

  • The purpose of the visit is solely touristic.
  • The passport must be authentic and valid for at least thirty days.
  • You must have a verifiable address in Thailand, such as a hotel or apartment.
  • You must have a confirmed return ticket to prove that you will be departing Thailand within 15 days of entrance. Open tickets are ineligible. Not accepted as proof of exit from Thailand includes travel by train, bus, etc. 
  • If you do not have a ticket showing that you will leave Thailand within 15 days, you will likely be denied entry. 
  • You must also demonstrate that you have at least 10,000 THB (and 20,000 THB per family) worth of funds for your stay.

The 19 countries include:

  • Bulgaria
  • Bhutan
  • China
  • Cyprus
  • Ethiopia
  • Fiji
  • Georgia
  • India
  • Kazakhstan
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • Nauru
  • Mauritius
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Romania
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Taiwan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vanuatu

The entrance charge is 2,000 THB and is subject to change without notice. You can only pay for it in cash (only baht are accepted).

A visa is inserted into your passport, which is then stamped with an exit date entry stamp.

Tourists who enter with a Visa on Arrival may be able to prolong their stay by requesting a visa extension at an immigration office. Most likely, you will be granted a 48- or 7-hour extension. 

Those ineligible to enter Thailand under the VISA ON ARRIVAL and VISA EXEMPTION RULES may enter the country by obtaining a visa in advance from the Royal Thai Embassy. Also, those who want to stay longer than 30-60 days should obtain a tourist visa beforehand. 

 

Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV) '60 day tourist visa'

A Thailand tourist visa is a document permitting a stay for a set amount of time (60 days) for tourism purposes only. A Thai embassy or consulate in your home country (or whichever country you are in) issues it, places it in your passport, and then immigration stamps it upon arrival. If desired, you can extend the tourist visa at an immigration office within the country, giving you an additional 30 days.

You must apply for the Single Entry Tourist Visa in advance, and it takes two days – you apply for it one day and pick it up the next. To activate your visa, you must travel to Thailand within three months of receiving it. If you leave Thailand during the 60 days, you will lose your remaining days unless you obtain a Visa Re-Entry Permit. You can get a re-entry permit at an immigration office. 

When applying for a tourist visa, specific documentation and payments are required. 
The paperwork and the cost are subject to change at any moment and without warning, so it would be prudent for a would-be Thai tourist to check the current requirements before departing for Thailand.

Documents required include:

  • Passport or travel document with a minimum six-month validity
  • Visa application form (filled out)
  • One (1) contemporary 4x6cm image of the candidate
  • Proof of a departure ticket to show you will leave before your visa expires
  • Documentation of financial capability (20,000 baht for individuals or 40,000 baht per family).
  • Hotel or private accommodation documentation

Important Note: Now, with Covid-19 regulations, there are additional requirements! 

The single-entry tourist visa fee is around $30 but is subject to change without notice.
 

Multiple Entry Tourist Visa (METV) '6 month multi entry visa'

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.

Tourist Visa

Important Note

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.

 

Extending your visa

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.

There is an immigration office on Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. You can read this article about extending your visa on Koh Samui.

Residents of the 64 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).

 

Can I keep getting single entry Tourist Visas to stay longer?

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.

Visa Extension Stamp

Visa Runs

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.

 

Border Bounce

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 64 countries that receive a free visa on arrival (see list above); other nationalities may have shorter or longer stays.

 

Never Overstay Your Visa!

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.

 

Summary

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. When you travel to Thailand for pleasure, you are a tourist. In Thailand, tourists are not permitted to work or do business. 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.