Cross the border

I may have made it sound like living in Thailand is easy. You can show up, walk around, ask a few people about houses for rent, and next thing you know, you’ve got yourself a home. But anybody… no, I take that back… everybody who wants to live or stay long-term in Thailand has to face the problem of how to legally stay in the country. Today that day has come for me — my 30-day tourist visa is almost up, and I am about to embark on my first ‘visa run’ — a trip across the border outside of Thailand in order to come back in and get a few more months to stay.

See, although Thailand is dependent on tourism and definitely benefits from it, they are an extremely proud people who are not about to let farangs (foreigners) come in, take over their country, marry all their women and buy up all their land. Visitors to Thailand are allowed to stay only 30 days; much shorter than Japan or Malaysia which lets tourists stay for 90 days. Once that time is up, you have to figure out how to stay longer.

There are many ways to extend your stay in Thailand. You could either fly out and fly back in, which gives you another 30 days, or travel by land to one of the nearby countries — like Malaysia, Cambodia, or Vietnam — but under the new rules coming back by land only gives you a 15-day stamp in your passport.

Thankfully in Thailand, where so many foreigners are determined to live and stay, visa runs have become a well organised trip. I’ve joined up with a ‘Herbert Visa’, run by a crazy German guy named Herbert who knows how to do the process efficiently and quickly and has set up a business to do so. We leave this afternoon, take a ferry to the mainland of Thailand, and head in a big air-conditioned bus to the border. We stay a night in a hotel, and in the morning we cross the border into Malaysia, the bus takes everyone to the Thai Consulate, where we get wonderful three-month visas to keep in our passport. Then it’s back to the border again and we’re back to Thailand the next day.

Easy?

I hope so.

This is definitely one downfall of Thailand — their refusal to let people stay longer. But, if you want to stay in paradise, you’ve got to pay the price….

Next post: how it all went down.

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