Flights are booked, jobs have been left and our Flat’s well on its way to being cleared out. It’s time to get the visas.
For Thai tourism there are basically three ways to enter the country:
Types of visa for Thai tourism
Visa exemption (trips to Thailand under 30 days long)
For trips of fewer than 30 days, you can get a visa exemption. You can find the full list of countries for which this is possible here (UK, Canadian and US residents can all get the visa exemption). http://www.thaiembassy.com/thailand/changes-visa-exempt.php For this you don’t need to do anything – just show up at Thai immigration with details of your outbound flight and accommodation while you’re there. You may also need to show funds of at least 10,000TBH per person (roughly 300USD). They’ll stamp your passport and away you go.
Single entry visa (for trips over 30 days long)
Single entry visas last for 60 days from the point of entry and cost £25. You can also extend them whilst in Thailand for a further 30 days, for a total of 90 days in Thailand.
Multi-entry visas last for 6 months from when the visa commences (not when you first enter the country). They cost £125 per person and you have to show a lot of extra documentation to get them.
We’re hoping to stay for 75 days, with the possibility of doing a couple of trips to nearby countries during that time.
Choosing a suitable visa for our trip
We considered all three types of visa/visa extension.
Assuming we’d do at least one trip out of Thailand anyway, the cheapest option for us would be to get a visa exemption stamp, leave the country and then get another when we came back in.
However, we were a little concerned about that as:
a) We currently only have an outbound flight booked for 75 days after entry so we wouldn’t be able to show that we were leaving Thailand within 30 days
b) We didn’t want to risk them refusing us entry to Thailand for whatever reason when travelling with two kids!
c) There’s a chance we might want to come back to Thailand in the new year and we weren’t sure how it would look to keep getting visa exempt entries to Thailand. From what I’ve read online it’s very much up to the particular Thai immigration officer you get – some will wave you through, some will query your entry a lot more.
Single entry or multi entry visa to Thailand
We then considered the single entry visa, with the intention of extending it in Chiang Mai.
To be honest, this one would probably have been fine for us. However, we were still concerned about not having an outbound flight booked for within the 60 days.
We also didn’t really want to faf about trying to get new single entry visas in other countries or risk coming in on a visa exemption stamp immediately after having a single entry visa run out.
In the end we went for the multi entry visa as it was the only one that gave us a visa for the duration of our stay. If we were braver we probably could have saved a bit of money, but in the end we wanted the assurance of having visas for our whole family for the whole duration of our stay.