You’re quite fortunate to have several options to do a visa run, many of which are cheap and easy. If you live in Bangkok, you have the fortune of being close to two airports, making the process smoother than you might expect. From Pattaya, Phuket, and other cities in central Thailand, you can choose to get to Bangkok or use one of the options around town.
The first option for many people is the Thai consulate in Vientiane, Laos. The Thai consulate is located No.15 Ban Ponesinuan, Bourichane Road, Vientiane, and is near the Lao-Singapore Business College. The Consular Section is NOT located within the premise of the Embassy chancery, which is over on Kaysone Phomvihane Avenue. You should apply for the visa from 8:30am-noon on weekdays, and you can collect your visa the next business day from 1pm-3pm. Note they are closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays.
If you’re flying to Vientiane, things are a bit easier. If you’re saving some money by taking a bus, you’ll arrive in Nongkhai and need to get to the Friendship Bridge (in Thai, “sa parn mit ta parb”). After exiting Thailand, get on one of the shuttle buses to cross the bridge. You can walk across it, but it’s rather long and the bus fare is only 20 baht. Once you’ve entered Laos, you can use a taxi to get to Vientiane, or you can look around for a bus. When in doubt, watch the locals! For more information, visit http://vientiane.thaiembassy.org.
Another popular option is Penang or Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia. While a bit further away, it’s a great opportunity to see all the historical sights around town. The Thai consulate in Penang is located at No. 1, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Penang, 10350. It’s open from 9am-noon and 2pm-4:30pm, but visa applications are only accepted from 9-11am. For more information, visit http://www.thaiembassy.org/penang.
If you’re going to Kuala Lumpur, head to 206 Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, 50450 for the Thai embassy. There is a consular section, but if you need other embassy services you’ll want to come here. Visas can be applied for from 9:30am-11:30am and collected the next day from 2:30pm-4pm. Note that it’s closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays.
Thailand has embassies and consulates throughout Asia, and visa runs provide all the excuse you need to travel somewhere new! Whether you’re looking to get back to your home in Thailand or explore a new country, visa runs are flexible.
Should you use an agency for your visa run trip, or go it alone?
Most do-it-yourself visa runs require a fair bit of planning and research – two things you won’t need to do with an agency doing it for you. Before you send money to just anyone, however, there are a couple of things to consider.
First, most visa run companies will have a reputation. Listen to what’s being said on forums, social networking sites, and by other travelers when you meet them. The biggest things to pay attention to include how easy they are to work with, and the value you get for the price. If there were any delays or issues, were they caused by the company or the circumstance? It’s not fair to blame the company because you ran out of empty places in your passport, or because weather conditions delayed traffic.
Second, how much value are you getting for your money? If all they’re doing is a round-trip in a basic car or van, it shouldn’t be costing much more than a standard bus. AC buses or vans will cost a bit more, and other services or itineraries will naturally add to the price. However, what you pay may be a fair tradeoff for the convenience and English speaking.
Third, is there any flexibility to the trip? While some visa-run companies offer the simple itinerary of ‘get to the border’ and ‘get you back’, some may offer other travel destinations as well.
Going on your own has some advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage, of course, is the chance to design your trip exactly as you like. Whether you just want to spend more time in the country or are looking for a faster turnaround than their itinerary calls, it’s one reason to go your own way. It’ll also be the cheaper option in most cases, but it’ll take more time to plan. You’re also taking a few more chances that things won’t happen exactly as planned. Figuring out local transportation – and not getting ripped off – does require a sixth sense most travelers don’t have. There’s also the matter of trying to get to the foreign country, and tour guides have figured out the best ways to get around.
So which one’s the best? It really depends on you. Do you feel comfortable with booking hotels, arranging transportation, and doing the research to get around? Or would you rather pay a little extra to let someone else handle the details and get you around so you can get your obligations done?