Ranong & Myanmar - The Standard Visa Run.
Okay, this is just the standard visa run but we might as well recap it before moving on to the alternatives.
There are several companies running visa trips to Myanmar (Burma). Every morning several minibuses leave Phuket for the 4 to 5 hour drive to Ranong. A fact which when you multiply it up, suggests that thousands of people are doing this trip every month.
So you book yourself onto a visa run and in the morning you join a busload of disgruntled people. Each and every one is wondering why Thailand continues to ignore this obvious money making opportunity. The standard visa run costs around 1500 baht. Most people on the bus would happily pay 2000 baht to not have to go. Instead of paying money to the visa run company and Myanmar, why not a trip to the local immigration office and pay the money to Thailand?
Anyway, I have done the trip many times and it never fails to bore me. So much so that I can hardly bear to do it again. I know some people who take sleeping tablets so they can sleep and zombie their way through the whole routine but that is not for me. I now look for alternative ways to get my next passport stamp.
When you arrive at Ranong, the first stop is the Thai immigration office to get your exit stamp (opening hours 08:30-16:30). If anyone on the bus has overstay then you will likely be delayed while they get a grilling from the immigration officers.
Then you go to the dirty old pier and board a boat for the 20-minute trip to Kawthaung in Myanmar, a small border port town. Your passport is stamped in and back out of Myanmar. You may or may not get off the boat. If you do get off it will be for a 10-minute shopping trip where your every step will be dogged by Burmese boys offering guide services. If you don't get off then these 'guides' will climb on board to offer their services. You can buy cheap cigarettes, spirits or Viagra.
Then you return to Ranong and the Thai immigration office where you stamp back into Thailand and hey presto, another 30 or 90 day stamp. Now all you have left is the 4-5 hour drive back to Phuket!
Of course, you can go yourself and organise your own boat. A longtail should cost 300 baht for the return trip. You will also need a crisp 10 US dollar note for the Burmese immigration fee. You can buy them at the piers for around 500 baht.
Here are some contacts for visa runs:
Phuket Visa Run Company - Visa runs to Ranong by minibus and Penang by minibus or flight.
Ezy Visa 083 105 7398 / 085 785 5389 (big bus or mini bus with personal DVD players)
Eve Visa - 076 289201 / 081 535 2637 (minibus and stamp at Andaman Club rather than Kawthaung).
F1 Visa (Mikes Bikes) 076 282354 / 081 569 6026 (minibus starts at Chalong with several pick up points on the way out of Phuket)
(If you have a visa run company and you want the contact details included above then please send them to us.)