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Ranong Visa Runs – a few things you should know

Tim Newton

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Ranong Visa Runs – a few things you should know | The Thaiger

The situation for visa runs changes all the time. Check before embarking on your Ranong journey to see if you are eligible for a visa run at that destination.

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.

Ranong Visa Runs - a few things you should know | News by The Thaiger Ranong Visa Runs - a few things you should know | News by The Thaiger Ranong Visa Runs - a few things you should know | News by The Thaiger Ranong Visa Runs - a few things you should know | News by The Thaiger

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.)

Ranong Visa Runs - a few things you should know | News by The Thaiger Ranong Visa Runs - a few things you should know | News by The Thaiger Ranong Visa Runs - a few things you should know | News by The Thaiger Ranong Visa Runs - a few things you should know | News by The Thaiger

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Looking to jettison some items before jetsetting away or chartering a yacht? Look no further than Thaiger Classifieds where you can find and post items, work, property and more for free. Be sure to check out YonderTours for things to do in Thailand and tours across the country.

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 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 360 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now CEO and writer for The Thaiger - Website, Radio, TV, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He presented for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and provides stories for Feature Story News as the south east Asian correspondent.

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Business

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg

May Taylor

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Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | The Thaiger

Thai Residents reports that on Sunday, Bloomberg published an article on the world’s best pension systems, using information gathered from the 2019 Melbourne Mercer Global Pensions Index.

The survey looked at the pension systems of 37 countries with metrics including employee rights, savings, the number of homeowners, growth of assets, and growth of the economy. The purpose of the analysis was to determine what was needed to improve state pension systems and to gauge the level of confidence citizens had in their state pension system.

The Netherlands and Denmark were found to have the world’s best state pensions, with Australia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada, and Chile next. Out of all 37 countries, Thailand finished last, with what the report described as an extremely ineffective and ambiguous system.

“Thailand was in the bottom slot and should introduce a minimum level of mandatory retirement savings and increase support for the poorest.”

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | News by The Thaiger

Photo: WorkpointNews

Thai Residents states that only those employed within the government system in Thailand are eligible for a pension based on salary. For most Thai citizens, pension amounts vary from 600 baht to 1,000 baht a month, depending on the recipient’s age.

A report carried out by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) advises Thai citizens to have at least 4 million baht saved by the time they retire, but Thai Residents reports that 60% of Thai retirees have less than 1 million baht in savings, with one in three citizens who have reached retirement age are forced to continue working in order to survive.

SOURCE: thairesidents.com

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Bangkok

Tax on salt content being considered

Greeley Pulitzer

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Tax on salt content being considered | The Thaiger

The Excise Department is considering imposing a tax on the salt content of food to encourage food producers to reduce the sodium content of snacks, instant noodles and seasoning cubes.

The director of the Office of Tax Planning said that the department is discussing a limit on the amount of sodium food can contain, in line with the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is 2,000 milligrams of salt per day.

In reality, Thai people consume an average of 1,000 milligrams per meal, making their daily intake well above WHO guidelines, according to the director.

He said any tax imposed would be at a level which would encourage food producers to reduce the sodium in their processed food without being punitive, adding that the proposal isn’t intended to generate more tax revenue, but to help protect the health of consumers. Excessive sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Fish sauce, soy sauce and salt would not be taxed.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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News

Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces

Greeley Pulitzer

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Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces | The Thaiger

People living in 22 Thai provinces are being warned to prepare for shortages of drinking water during the upcoming dry season, due to start on November 1st.

The warning was issued by the National Water Resources Office, citing low levels in reservoirs, which are the main sources for tap water production waterworks in 22 provinces.

Areas at risk identified by the office are in northern, north-eastern, eastern and southern provinces.

Measures have been adopted by agencies charged with dealing with water shortages. including dredging water channels to allow greater volumes of water to flow into reservoirs, drilling underground wells, enlarging storage ponds and the purchase of water to supply to those in urgent need.

The Royal Irrigation Department has announced that people should use water sparingly.

There are currently about 6 billion cubic metres of usable water in reservoirs in the affected provinces, with 5 billion cubic metres reserved for consumption and ecological preservation, leaving only 1 billion cubic metres for use in agriculture.

This means farmers in the Chao Phraya river basin may not be able to grow a second crop of rice this year.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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