One of the most exciting part of a foreigner’s stay in Thailand is the Visa Run. A visa run is the journey towards a neighboring country where a foreigner (whether tourist or professional) needs to apply a visa to stay legally back in the kingdom. Due to the government’s complicated visa laws and provisions, a falang (Thai term which means foreigner) is rendered to apply for it outside the country upon the visa’s expiration. Destinations practically include all the neighboring nations, but we will discuss the visa run to Malaysia in particular.
The Visa Run
Malaysia is located just south of Thailand’s border. One can travel towards it via land or via airliner. If you want to make the visa run from Bangkok on land, you can do it by train or by bus. A good chunk of your time will be spent on the traveling alone. The last major city of Hat Yai in the south is a good 15 – 18 hours away from Bangkok via the highways and the railroads. The city is the jump-off point for the travel across the border to Malaysia.
On the other hand, if you’re not much on long-distanced travel you can choose to enter Malaysia via an airliner. There are lots of daily flights from Bangkok to Malaysia, so pretty much the choosing for the cheaper plane ticket and flight schedule is left at your discretion. Depending on your Malaysian destination, the flight can range from about an hour or two, so it’s worth taking the option if you don’t want to spend more than half of your day in the confines of a train or a bus.
Before entering Malaysia of course, you have to exit Thailand. By land, you have to pass by the Sadao Immigration Post. There, your last day of stay is confirmed and stamped in your passport. Upon entering the Malaysian side of the border, your luggage and personal effects are screened through, and your passport stamped a 30-day tourist visa. By air, your exit is confirmed at the Suvarnabhumi Airport, and upon entry to an international airport in Malaysia your passport will be stamped with a Malaysian 30-day visa. Just make it sure you get yourself out of the country on or before the 30 days have passed.
Malaysia is a beautiful and nice country. People there are generally good English speakers. By looks, Malaysians are more of the Indian heritage than being of Chinese decency as the Thai people are. Islam is the main religion in the country, so it would be best to familiarize yourself with the Islamic culture first should you want to make friends with the locals fast and easy. Food there are a bit more on curry and spices, and those I believe should satisfy your taste for Asian cuisines.
Processing of Visa
There are basically 2 destinations in Malaysia for the visa runs from Thailand. One is Penang where the 90-day single-entry non-immigrant B visa is obtained; the other destination being Kuala Lumpur where particularly the 1-year multiple-entry non-immigrant B visa is issued. The consulate in Penang and the embassy in Kuala Lumpur also process the other types of visas (i.e, tourist, transit, re-entry, extension of stay, etc.)
The most important part of the visa run, however, is basically the planning. Make it sure you bring all the necessary documents and requirements with you to ensure the success of the application. The processing usually takes around a day or two. Keep a good amount of money (but not necessarily a lot of it) for the processing fees and for your own expenses as well. Bring yourself a local map, and check out the Malaysian and Thai holidays so you won’t find yourself closed out by the Thai consulate/embassy when getting there. Most of all, be on time!
There are lots of horror stories concerning falangs who were denied of visas just because of a missing document or a forgotten requirement, so it’s best to triple check! Malaysia is not necessarily a stone’s throw away from Thailand.
Make sure everything is in their proper places so your entry back to the kingdom will be as smooth as silk. Visa runs should be memorable, enjoyable and productive, not the other way around.