I like Thailand. In fact I liked it there so much, that I decided to extend my stay by one week. Normally people get a 30-day permission to stay on arrival, unless they apply in advance at the embassy and request a 60-day visa. If you do get a regular short-term permission, but wish to stay longer, than there a a few options available.
You can overstay by a few more days, but it is frowned upon and you would end up paying 400 baht for each day overstayed. You can apply for an extension at the embassy, which will cost around 1500 baht and you will be granted a leave to remain for up to 2 weeks. And then there is another popular solution – a visa run, exiting the country and re-entering again. Even though Thai government decided to cut down on serial visa-runners, this practise is still very much in use and can be done either independently or through an agency. There are a few borders opened for foreigners and you can run for your visa at a location suitable for yourself. Keep in mind, that not all borders are suitable for the task, therefore checking a little in advance could be helpful. As I was heading for Phuket, Ranong boarder was on my way. I have done the border crossing in a DIY style. It wasn’t completely smooth, but then i had only myself to blame. I’m one of those people, who put everything aside till the very last minute. I got myself in trouble so many times because of that, and yet I never learned. First of all I reached Ranong on the very last day of my visa. I arrived at the town around midday, found a guesthouse and then it started raining. Of course I didn’t want to cycle to the pier in the rain, so I spent a couple of hours indoors waiting for it to stop. For some reason I had this notion that the border doesn’t get closed until very late, or ever, like at the airports. I also thought that it would only take a few moments to cross the border and then to quickly jump back. What was I thinking??! Thai-Myanmar border at Ranong is not a land-crossing border. You need to get a boat to cross to the nearest Myanmar island.
I arrived to the pier after 3pm, got my passport stamped and crawled into a public boat, loaded with locals and baskets. For some reason the boat wasn’t leaving. Probably they were waiting for it to fill up. When I said, that I was kind of in a rush, I was explained, that there was no way for me to return on time, as the immigration office on Thai side was closing at 5. I would only have a chance, if I took a private boat for 500 baht. As soon as I got out of the public boat I was approached by a man, who ushered me into his boat and we were on our way in a matter of minutes. I have to say, these guys really know, what they are doing. Ranong is a poor fishing town and tourists’visa-runs make a big difference to their livelihood. My boatman seemed to know all Thai immigration officers, he managed to get me through without queuing up, which was of a paramount importance, as I only had 1 hour and 10 minutes to complete the whole process, and the boat trip took 30 min each way. On Myanmar island border they asked me, if I wanted to stay for one day and shop, or if I was leaving straight away. I was obviously leaving, therefore they stamped me in and out straight away. I ran back to my boat as quickly as I could, and then we found out that the boat was out of petrol and we needed to get some. I almost had a heart attack, as I was waiting for my boatman to dock again and buy a canister of petrol from a local market. We reached Thai immigration office at 5.10 pm and I was afraid to see a dark window in front of me, but a kind lady-officer stayed behind especially for me, as she knew, I was coming back shortly. My boat man was waiting for me next to the office and as I was reaching for my wallet, he showed 600 on his fingers. The originally agreed 500 baht were going to his boss’ company and he wanted extra 100 baht as a tip for his trouble. Fair enough, if it were not for him, I would be stuck on Myanmar side for the night. To sum it up, that’s how you do a Ranong visa run.
You do need to get there early.
1. Go to the pier, which is situated behind a big petrol station with 7/11.
2. Stamp out at the emigration office, which is situated right at the pier. There is another office a short distance away, I saw a sign on the way, but some say, that it’s a wrong one.
2. Take a cheap public boat to the other side. They are plenty, you will find one easy. It costs 200-300 baht for a round trip.
3. Bring $10 for Myanmar one-day visa. Make sure it’s a new, crisp and pristine note. Everyone stresses the importance of that, and I went to a great length to preserve mine from wrinkling or being splashed by the water in a boat.
4. Get stumped in at Myanmar side. You can spend one day at the island, if you like.
5. Go back and get a renewed leave to remain for 30 more days.
It works just find, if you are in the area. On the other hand, If you don’t want to trouble yourself with getting there, you can easily buy the service from an agency. Many street tourist agencies offer this service for 1000-1500. You can also book online. They would pick you up from your hotel in Phuket (or somewhere else) in the morning, walk you through the whole process and deliver you back in the late afternoon. Very convenient.
The trip between the borders was educational for me. Only after short half an hour you get taken a few years back in time, as you cross the border. Myanmar did look less developed to me, and I seriously started thinking about going there.
On the other hand Ranong really didn’t make a lasting impression.
It has always been a fishing town. But It was not a good-looking town in my opinion – so very dark, grim and wet. It was raining all the time, probably due to the rainy season. Also I could judge the humidi level by the appearance, that so many buildings had. They were all covered in black mold. The town looked like Edinborough of sorts, with non of its architectural magnificence, of course, only with the dark tarnish, that very similarly covered buildings of that Scottish city. It did look like the citizens tried to make an effort and add some colour to the buildings around them, but they were failing miserably, and soon enough the houses were devoured again by that unsightly, dark substance.
My guesthouse in Ranong was pretty good, with beautiful green grounds. I booked it online for 350. Probably it would be possible to find a place for 200-250 once you went around, but I was on a mission that day, therefore had no time to waste on trivial things like that.
I went to bed with a feeling of satisfaction. I had more time to spend in Thailand, and In the morning I was to set out in the direction of Phuket.