Yup, quite the lesson to learn! I don’t know how we found ourselves in the predicament we did. In fact I don’t know why we didn’t realize or register while we were still at home. All I can think was that it was an oversight – A HUGE OVERSIGHT. Long and the short, we were only issued a one month visa to stay in Thailand, and of course our plan was to stay much longer than that.
Even when we arrived in Bangkok and got our passports stamped it only caused a slight raising of the eyebrows when we saw February 27th 2017 as an exit date – didn’t cause much more than that.
It wasn’t until one of our last days on Koh Lanta, when we were searching in their handy-dandy guide-book for information about the night market, that we stumbled on a warning about over-staying visas.
That warning was our warning bell, we pulled out the passports and of course the penny dropped, we only had a one month visa to stay in Thailand and it was about to expire in two days! Obviously we needed to get to an immigration office (not as easy as it sounds) and we had to do it fast, not only because we only had two days but we made the discovery on a Saturday – thus complicating matters further a everything is closed on the weekends.
As it turned out we were lucky, not only to make the discovery when we did, but to make it while we were on Koh Lanta. We had been planning to leave the Island within the next few days so we made a slight change in plan. After asking around, consulting guide-books etc. we learnt that there is an immigration office in Krabi Town so instead of going directly to Koh Phi Phi we planned a one day, one night detour to Krabi.
Bright and early Monday morning we merrily set off in a taxi to the pier to take the ferry to Krabi. We hadn’t got a clue what to expect but Tony and I were both secretly praying it wouldn’t lead to a longer detour of say, Malaysia, the closest border to where we were (sometimes you need to leave the country but Malaysia wasn’t in our budget).
Once we arrived in Krabi it became very apparent that going to the immigration office was a common occurrence as many of our fellow-travellers were also headed in the same direction. Thankfully we got a taxi straight away and arrived right before the office posted their sign to say they leave for lunch between noon and 1pm.
Thank goodness we already had some passport size photos – another lesson – always travel with extras! and though we didn’t have photocopies of our passports the office kindly offered to do it for a small fee 🙂
All said and done it was a simple process for us. We were applying right on the day our visa expired and we had all the documents needed. For us it was just a simple matter of cough up and pay (through the nose, I might add) and we were granted another month’s extension. It was the couple next to us that I felt badly for.
As we were waiting for our documents to be processed a young couple beside us were being read the riot act. Not only had they already over-stayed their visa but they would only be allowed to stay for 5 more days – they wanted longer. They were told they would already be fined at 500 B a day (equivalent of about $20 Canadian) and if they refused to pay they could be blacklisted from travelling to Thailand for 5 years or worse, arrested when they tried to leave. Can you imagine? I was trying to do the math on if we had to pay a fine for over-stay (2000 B for 4 – chching-chching). Incidentally, we also learnt that the Thai government takes no excuses, has no interest in hearing stories and makes no exceptions – rules are rules are rules.
Within an hour we were leaving the office with new visas in hand – lighter in the heart, and the pocket, and ready to continue our travels. Our one day detour turned into a wonderful day of torrential rain, riding a tuk-tuk with all four plus all our bags (Abigayle had to sit behind the driver!) a visit to the Tiger Cave Temple (mystical and beautiful) and fantastic Indian food for dinner. Never-the-less – the lesson I learned, do check that you have all the correct documents, visas, dates, paperwork etc., etc. before you leave home!