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Ranong Visa Run – a few things you should know

Tim Newton

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From time to time we need to do those pesky visa runs. The nearest land border to Phuket is about a five hour drive north to the Thai fishing port of Ranong. Just a 30 minute long tail boat ride away is Myanmar, but more about that later.

There is a boring way to do the trip on an air-conditioned ferry with dirty windows or a more adventurous journey in a long tail boat. We felt adventurous.

Getting to Ranong from Phuket in the first place can be an epic journey, especially if you try and do the return trip and the visa run all in one day. You can do it commando-style in one of the many passenger vans that do packaged visa runs any day of the week. Honestly, you’re taking your life in your own hands with some of the van drivers. We drove a private car and had many, many of these turbocharged grey monsters passing us, some of them racing each other – and full of tourists. The road is good but it’s mostly twists and turns and only single lane in each direction.

(We should add that the drive is very scenic and the road conditions very good.)

We drove to Khao Lak, an easy two hours from our departure point of Kathu in Phuket. We stayed the first night in Khao Lak, did the run to Ranong on the second day, stayed in Khao Lak again for the second night and dawdled back to Phuket on the third day. A weekend away with a new visa stamp in the middle.

You’ll need to take the following things along with you on your journey. Your passport, your work permit (if you have one), a signed photocopy of your passport and a crisp, unfolded US$10 bill. If it’s not crisp and unfolded they will likely reject it when you get to the Myanmar passport office. Why they demand a crisp, pristine US$10 bill, and won’t accept a slightly used one, remains a mystery. I wasn’t going to test them on it.

You can buy a crisp US$10 bill at the port but you’ll pay 500 baht for it when it’s true value is around 340 baht. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to change your Baht for US$ on the way up – the money exchangers just don’t seem to have them. Do it at a bank or money changer in Phuket before you go.

Finding the Passport Control port is a bit of a search. They’re rebuilding the actual Immigration office building at the moment (August 2017) and some other new buildings next to the current passport office at the port. Looks like they’re upgrading the whole place. And it needs it. The actual passport control area and take off point for your long tail boat trip is tucked in behind a PPT petrol station and 7/11 (there’s also a toilet there, 5 Baht thanks, and squats only).

Waiting out the front of the entrance to the passport control area is any number of touts, motorcycle taxi drivers, thieves, scammers and other local thuggery. You will also get to enjoy the scent of rotting fish that pervades the entire precinct. Look like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t, as all these touts will descend on you to devour their latest prey.

Khun Don was my ‘point man’ and dragged me here and there to sort out the process. If you don’t have the US$10 bill, he’ll get it for you. If you don’t have the passport photocopy, he’ll organise that too (10 Baht). He’ll check if you have everything together then direct you to the right window. The passport check windows were designed for Munchkins or Ewoks, not 175 cm newsreaders. A series of questions will be barked at you so you need to dislodge a few vertebrae to lean down to bark back through the tiny window and then stand up to pose for a photo, strangely at eye level.

Then it’s off to the boat as you say farewell to Thailand and hello Myanmar. The journey across takes 30 minutes.

The boats are the usual long tail boats which are unlikely to survive waves of more than a few inches. There is a cover so you’re protected from the sun. There are a few stops as you head out into the bay, immigration stops as the boats are departing one country and heading to another. 30 minutes and a few photos later we arrive in Kawthaung. If Myanmar was Star Wars, Kawthaung would be Mos Eisley. “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Obi Wan Kenobi, Star Wars Episode IV. (I am rather proud to have combined Star Wars into a story about visa runs in Thailand). Krawthung is the most southern town in Myanmar and used to be called Victoria Point during British rule. Getting from your long tail boat to the Immigration Office is a walk of less than a hundred steps but not before you’re offered all sorts of trinkets, accommodation, transport and girls. I politely declined the offers.

As a fishing port and local take-off point for Burmese and Thai I think it would be a rollicking ride any night of the week. One of the local hotels was called The Honey Bear. I figured you’d pay by the hour there (with apologies to the proprietors if I under-estimated their fine accommodations)

The stamp in the office, once you hand over your pristine, unfolded US$10 bill, takes a couple of minutes. And you’re done.

Back to the boat.

I was in Myanmar a total of about four minutes.

The boats are met by ‘boat boys’, local Kawthaung youth who will hit you for 100 baht for them doing, well, nothing really. At least giving them 100 baht seems to shut them up as they scurry off to spend their bounty on hideous smelling local cigarettes.

And it’s back to Thailand we go, passing back through the Immigration posts and then to the port where we left around an hour before. The boat trip cost 600 baht, including Khun Don’s commission I figure. I’ve heard some people  negotiate the boat trip down to 400 baht but, hey, it’s a cheap boat trip and quite pretty. But I wouldn’t be heading out into open waters if it was windy. You’d either get very wet, or very drowned. All the boats have life jackets – a step forward.

Once off the boat, payments made, thanks offered to the skipper (he appreciated the 100 baht tip), we head back to passport control to re-enter Thailand.

Like any other time you re-enter Thailand you need to fill out the annoying blue and white Arrival/Departure cards.

And then time to hand your passport back to the waist-high window. A few stamps later and you’ve done your visa run.

COSTS:

• A tank of petrol

• Total of 10 hours driving (although we broke it up with the overnight stays in Khao Lak)

• 500 baht to ‘buy’ the pristine, unfolded $US 10 bill

• 10 Baht for the passport photocopy (photo page only)

• 600 Baht for the return long tail boat trip

• 80 Baht for the unrecognisable sandwich at 7/11 at the port

There are many professional visa run companies that combine all the above services with a roller-coaster trip up the windy road from Phuket. Not for the faint-hearted. If you are going to take the self-drive option, go with a friend so you can share the driving. The actual drive time was about 4.5 hours in each direction, taking it reasonably easy. There are quite a lot of roadworks between the top of Phuket and Khao Lak as they’re widening the roads so you have two lanes in each direction. Completion looks another year away at least.

Bottomline – get your own pristine, unfolded US$10 bill before you go and remember your work permit – you WILL be asked for it.

As for Ranong, there’s not a lot to see except an enormous waterfall or two. But the drive is very pretty.

Mission completed for another 90 days.

(We recommend you get advice from a qualified lawyer or the Immigration Office to ensure that you are able to complete a visa run in Ranong. I was told I could only do the run at Ranong twice and would have to do a flight out of the country next time.)

- Tim Newton

Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,200 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 360 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and now produces digital media for The Thaiger - Website, Radio, TV, Instagram and Facebook.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Honest Person

    November 12, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Better to fly Air Asia to K.L

  2. david t

    May 8, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    So the Burmese immigration checkpoint is on the Thai side, or what?

    What is the 10$ for? Burmese visa? Isn’t it actually 50$ and has to be applied online?

    And why do you need to go through the Burmese immigration checkpoint anyway, if to reset your visa you just need to exit Thailand and enter it back again? Can’t you just go through the Thai exit checkpoint, get a departure stamp, and then turn around and go through the entrance checkpoint, to get an entry stamp? Why do you need to take the ferry to the Burmese side?

    • The Thaiger & The Nation

      The Thaiger & The Nation

      May 8, 2018 at 5:10 pm

      No, you exit Thailand at the pier, take the boat over and then go to the Immigration office at the pier to get your Myanmar stamp. The $10 is for the Myanmar Immigration… must be new and crisp! Can do this by simply walking in, assuming you have the credentials and passport to re-enter Thailand when you head back over to Ranong. You can’t really ‘exit’ Thailand until you have a visa stamp from another country. In this case that means a 30 minute trip across the water by boat. You can’t just get your exit stamp and then hand back your passport for re-entry – if only it was that easy!

      • david t

        May 8, 2018 at 5:25 pm

        Ok, so from what I gathered, this 10$ visa on arrival is some kind of unofficial, under-the-table way of entering Kawthaung (I could not find any info about it on official Myanmar websites).
        Now, is it for all passport holders? And do you know how long are you allowed to stay with this unofficial visa (different blogs/forums say different things, from 30 mins to 10 days). Some people also say the immigration keeps your passport with them while you stay in Kawthaung!
        Why is it so hard to find real info about this…

        • serotonin

          June 7, 2018 at 7:24 pm

          Hi David, have you done this yet? is the $10 an under the table thing for not getting the e-visa?

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National

Same-sex civil union bill ready for Cabinet in two months

The Thaiger & The Nation

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A same-sex civil partnership law should be drafted and discussed before next year’s elections.

Pitikarn Sitthidech, the Rights and Liberties Protection Department chief, saystThe law, allowing same-sex couples to formally register as life partners, should be drafted by September.

It would then be submitted to Deputy PM and Justice Minister ACM Prajin Juntong, who would decide whether it should go to the Cabinet, she said.

Pitikarn says the sub-panel drafting the legislation that’s been hailed by some as a progressive step towards the legalisation of gay marriage would meet on July 25 to review its 63 articles. Panel members were likely to make adjustments, she said, some based on the experiences of other countries that have adopted similar legislation, such as Mexico, South Africa, Canada, Australia and Britain.


Pitikarn Sitthidech – Rights and Liberties Protection Department chief 

The bill will then be forwarded to the Rights Department’s law development committee for further tweaking in September, and then to Prajin, Pitikarn said. She pointed out that the process in some countries had taken up to 10 years, but Prajin wanted to fast-track Thailand’s version because of the many LGBT (lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual) citizens who deserve the same rights as everyone else.

Pitikarn said Prajin had insisted that the authors of the legislation understand the situation in society well and the sensitivities involved. He wanted guidelines set out to support the status of same-sex life partners registered in other countries who were now living in Thailand to ensure they enjoyed the rights to which they were entitled.

Prajin wanted it made clear which agency would handle registrations once the law comes into effect. And he expects the law to lay the foundation for the legalisation of gay marriage.

“Since the ministry began moving forward on this law, we have received good feedback from the LGBT community and a 60,000-name petition expressing support for the action, as well as much useful information,” Pitikarn said.

“I believe many more people are passively supporting this law – the many who haven’t yet expressed their LGBT status.”

SOURCE: The Nation

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Phuket

Global Green Hotel Report – the third annual edition launched

Bill Barnett

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by Bill Barnett of c9hotelworks.com

The Green Lodging Trends Report 2018 (the third annual report) has been launched and will remain open until August 10, 2018. To participate, which is free, hotels need to sign up using the link HERE.

Given the current influx of tourism to Phuket and all resort markets across Southeast Asia, this is a invaluable tool in measuring sustainability and best practices in the local hotel industry.

The Green Lodging Trends Report Survey has the support of C9 Hotelworks, Green Lodging News, Green Key, Travelife, Green Key Global, Horwath HTL, Green Seal, and Boston Green Tourism.

Survey participants have an opportunity to discover new innovative practices that hotels are implementing, use information to improve and ultimately outperform their competitors, and highlight innovations to showcase to the world in the annual trends report.

The goals of the Green Lodging Trends Report are:

  • Identify best practices in the industry that more hotels can benefit from
  • Discover innovative efforts by hotels that should be recognized and celebrated
  • Determine what is trending in hotel sustainability each year and over time
  • Increase awareness of the performance of individual facilities and the industry as a whole
  • Create a platform for discussion and spreading of innovation among hotels and their peers, suppliers and customers globally
  • Create a mechanism for tracking continuous improvement
  • Assist hotels in consolidating relevant sustainability information to provide customers

The Survey: Each year Greenview devises a survey of about 100 questions covering the latest in operational practices, facility attributes, and outreach programs to conserve resources, reduce carbon emissions, increase guest experience, and make positive community impact. There is no cost to participate in the Green Lodging Survey. Hotels participate by responding to the survey via an online portal platform where work can be saved and answers easily can be updated for the next year’s survey.

The Trends Report: Greenview analyzes the results with general trends and highlights exemplary practices and innovations that stand out, serving as a guidepost for the industry and especially the survey participants.

The Benchmarking Report: Greenview prepares a free compare report, confidential to each participant, to serve as a yardstick for a hotel to understand the status of each specific practice within the general participant universe.

The 2017 Green Lodging Trends Report is available at no cost by clicking HERE. The report is based on data from 2,093 hotels in 46 countries and provides industry trends on topics ranging from energy management to communication to – for the first time in its own category – Health & Wellness. The report includes results of 110 best practices in 12 categories.

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Business

Boeing says Asian region biggest growth area for aviation in next two decades

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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By Data Leads. PHOTO: Thai Airways Boeing 787

Asian countries are estimated to require 16,930 more airplanes by 2037, making the region the fastest growing aviation area in the world.

Boeing’s annual forecast, the Commercial Market Outlook, reveals that the world fleet of jet planes would need 42, 370 new planes valued at US$6.3 trillion. The forecast predicts that the global demand for commercial aviation services will create a market opportunity of US$15 trillion.

According to Boeing the region operators will demand 40 per cent of passenger jet deliveries in the next twenty years, more than double the amount as compared to other regions.

China will be a key player in Asia that will contribute to Boeing’s growing business in the region. Analysts predict that China’s growing middle class will eventually lead to the country overtaking the U.S. within 10 to 15 years as the largest domestic airplane passenger market in the world.  Airplane demands will be highest in the region at 16,930 deliveries valued at US$ 3, 365 billion.

North America is predicted to have second highest demand of airplanes with the requirement of 8,800 deliveries valued at US$1,850 billion.  The aviation industry in the region has been experiencing a steady growth in the last few years. Boeing forecasts that the total fleets will increase 44 per cent in the next twenty years.

Europe will be the third highest region in terms of demand of airplanes and estimated profit that it generates. Edging close to North America, the region is estimated to demand 8,490 airplanes in the coming twenty years. The market value is estimated to be US$ 1,240 billion.

Latin America and Middle East will see the demand in fleet deliveries at 3,040 and 2,990 respectively. The market value is estimated to be US$ 360 billion and US$ 745 billion respectively.  Russia, CIS and African region will see low demand as compared to other regions.  The market value is projected to be US$ 265 and US$ 215 billion respectively.

The Commercial Market Outlook is the longest running jet forecast and considered  as the most comprehensive analysis of the commercial aviation industry.

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