Fastest Thai Visa Run

June 24, 2012

thai visa run

I hoped to be writing a post about my four day adventure to Vientiane, Laos, but instead I am going to tell you about arguably the fastest visa run possible from Bangkok, or at the very least the most comfortable you can do for less than 2,000 Baht.

I had booked a trip to Laos but something urgent came up in BKK that I had to be back the same day for. So, I woke up at 10am that morning, and here’s what I did.

- Arrived at Don Muang airport via taxi at 11am.

- Went to the check in desk and changed my flight – which was booked to return on the 25th – to later that day at 18.35; leaving from Udon Thai.

- Caught my flight as scheduled at 12.20pm.

- Landed in Udon Thani at 13.25pm.

- This, by the way, is the Nok Air “fly n’ ride” service to Laos that lays on a minivan to the border in Nong Khai, over the bridge and then from the other side to Vientiane town centre. Awesome value at 1,700 Baht.

- I got in the minivan which took off within 5 minutes.

- Jumped out after 45 mins at friendship bridge and took the 15 Baht bus to immigration control.

- First to the window, I filled in my forms and paid my $35 (never pay Baht, you will lose money).

-  A Nok Air lady with a clipboard spots me and says, “Are you xyz? you are supposed to be with me on the bus to Vientiane, right?” “I wish I could be, believe me, but I have to go straight back to Thailand”. I sign a piece of paper stipulating that I refused the service. She leaves, baffled.

- Walked through passport control into Laos within 20 mins.

- Came back through into Thailand – no queue and no one even x-rayed my bag.

- Now I had a predicament. I needed a minivan back to Udon Thai airport but all I had in front of me were hustlers trying to get 1,500 Baht for a 200 Baht trip. I couldn’t see any reputable minvan service desks.

- No problem. I bought a bus ticket to Nong Khai for 4,o00 Kip from the window and joined the rest of the group on the public service. It would be easier to find a car/bus on the other side in Thailand.

- Just as I start waiting to board the bus, a sweaty man appears huffing and puffing; “Where you go”? “Udon Thai airport, where you going”? “Okay okay, come on”. “I need to get there quickly (in Thai)”. “Hmmm, quickly, 800 Baht”? “No way, this is a 200 Baht trip in a minivan”. “Okay, okay, quick, this way…”

- Something about this guy wasn’t legit, but all the same I had to get back or risk missing the flight. I turned the corner to see a pretty old skool minivan. “Quickly, quickly!” “Alright, alright, but I want to go to the airport for 200 Baht, right!” I said making my intentions very clear. “Yes, yes, I know, get in”.

- I saddled up in the back.  It then suddenly occurred to me that all the passengers were young women under the age of 25. No one spoke English. We crossed the bridge and hit the checkpoint. I was ushered out quickly and told I could leave my back inside. I wasn’t that stupid.

- I did the immigration thing while the driver waited with the van on the other side. The girls were in a real hurry, too. I was last to get back in the van and the guy was visibly stressed. Before I got on I asked again, “Udon Thani airport, right”? “Yes, quickly”! 

- As the driver and a strategically placed policeman nodded at each other upon exit, it became obvious that this was an ilegal run of sorts, and I was an unexpected addition picked up on the way for extra cash.

- I was then driven to a shop where I was sold a bus ticket for 150 Baht. The driver asked me for 50 Baht for his trouble.

- No worries. That is all of a UK pound.

- Minutes later, a lowered Toyota, boy racer style, with blacked out windows and a fluorescent pink lightning stripe on the side pulled up outside. “Go with him, he will take you”, instructed the lady in the shop. I opened the car door to be greeted by a woman who appeared to be the mother of the driver, a fairly young Thai-Chinese looking guy.

- Another Thai guy jumped in the front and off we went. He drove safely and the woman was really friendly. I was hoping this was the last leg.

- I was wrong.

- After approximately 5 minutes we pulled over behind a brand new minivan. The driver jumped out and took my bag. I saddled up in the brown, mock-leather style back seat, stuck my headphones in and cruised to the airport.

- Checked in. No queue.

- It had just gone 4pm.

- Time for a cappuchino and some work.

- Caught the 18.35 flight back to BKK.

- Straight out of Don Muang airport (no baggage to wait for).

- Home in 15 minutes by 8pm.

…What a day. What a visa run. And all in relative comfort. Only in Thailand :)

*Note: Ideally you could book a night in Udon Thai for 500 Baht somewhere and have an evening out. It’s a great city. Doing so would make this a border run, on a plane, with a night’s stop over for 2,400 Baht. Beat that!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Martyn June 26, 2012 at 3:05 am

Peter, that’s one very quick visa run but what a pity you couldn’t have enjoyed a bit of daytime in Nong Khai and an evening out in Udon Thani. I was at Udon airport last week but supped a 150 baht JD and coke instead of a cappuchino. It’s not too bad an airport.

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TheThailandLife June 28, 2012 at 10:28 pm

I quite like the Udon airport; very relaxing vibe. I also like Udon Thani as a city; I spent 5 nights there once and had a nice time. Never walked around Nong Khai though.

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Peter Jay June 28, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Hah, great story! Can’t believe you were part of a people smuggle. Only in Thailand :)

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TheThailandLife June 28, 2012 at 10:26 pm

It seemed that way….and it wouldn’t surprise me. I dread to think of the goings on across that border on a daily basis :)

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dave August 19, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Nice run. can almost beat it with this one.
Leave from suvarabumi bus station to poi pet at 1:00 (200) bus goes right to border. walk out of Thailand. (do this on a thursday and no lines). Go get Cambodian Visa (800). Go into Cambodia. Hang out for 10 15 min. Leave Cambodia. Go back into Thailand. (still no lines) Go get bus (green one leaves about 6:15) in front of 7-11 (300 or 200 if they know you, or you speak a bit of Thai). Get off at Homepro Bangpli about 9:15. back home on my motorbike in 5 min. total about 1200.

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TheThailandLife August 22, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Hi Dave. Are you saying leave at 1am or 1pm? Sounds great; fast and inexpensive. Thanks for sharing that.

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dave November 27, 2012 at 1:56 am

The bus to Poi Pet (actually Araanyapratet) leaves the airport bus staion at 1PM. There are others also (7AM, sometimes a 3Pm).
Also to clarify the original posters visa (for Ben). He already had a multi-entry Visa (valid for 6 months) and was just doing an exit/re-entry and getting another 60 days. He also could have spent 1900 at local Immigration office and gotten an extension (probably 30 days).

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Bangkok Ben November 26, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Did you get 15 days (land entry) or a full 30 days extension? I wonder about that since you left by plane when you were stamped at the airport, but returned by land.

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TheThailandLife November 27, 2012 at 12:47 am

Hi Ben, I left by domestic flight to Udon Thani, and crossed in and out via land. I got 60 days on a 6 month visa.

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brandon March 9, 2013 at 8:51 pm

is this a 30 day visa run or a 15 day visa run?

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TheThailandLife March 9, 2013 at 9:06 pm

This was to get a stamp for 3 months on an non-immigrant O visa. You can get 30 or 15 days on this same route, I’m sure; just depends on your visa.

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Kenneth March 17, 2013 at 7:21 am

You start your story but then you make a short story saying to make a long story short but he you make a short story long. Too much babble and attempt at being some kind of travel journalist to understand what you have to say. If I was going to write about this I would keep to the point so others will find it easy to follow what was your attempt to advise others on a visa run. Who cares about your having to change your travel plans blah blah blah…….

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TheThailandLife March 17, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Thanks Kenneth. I appreciate your kind words. It was quite a day.

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Melissa H. Pucci August 26, 2013 at 1:19 pm

ohhh thailand is wonderful place to visit and i love the Udon airport. When our family first time visit for holidays we were facing lot’s of problem regarding visa but luckily we got an extension. Miss u Thailand!!

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Blorg September 21, 2013 at 10:14 pm

For pure speed and cost Aranyaprathet/Poipet is definitely quickest/cheapest from Bangkok if you don’t need to get a visa. Bus is 200B each way, 4-5hr, visa into Cambodia is $20 (600B) plus some small change for a tuk tuk from the bus station to the border (6km) gives you a total cost of barely over 1,000B.

The only advantage of Vientiane is that there’s an embassy there with next day processing if you need a new visa. The visa into Cambodia IS $20 which is under 600B, I sometimes give them an extra $1 but as ever if you pay in baht you’ll be ripped off.

If you’re looking at flights, budget airline domestic to Hat Yai (for Malaysia, free entry) or Chiang Rai or Mae Sot (for Myanmar, $10) are good options, the airport at the latter is literally 2km from the border. Or sometimes you can find a cheap flight to Penang or KL and just turn around and come straight back.

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