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How ( Not ) to Stay on Koh Chang Longterm – A Tale of Visa Woes

Thailand Tourist Visa

Thailand Tourist Visa

If you’re the type of person who has their plans and life mapped out in advance, this doesn’t really apply.  You’ll know how to use Google and will have already decided to get, for example, a Triple Entry Tourist Visa from a  Thai Consulate or Embassy in your own country.  You’ll then touch down in Bangkok knowing that you have 60 Days stay which can then be extended another 30 days at any immigration office.  Goviong you 90 days before you have to leave the country.  On the final day you then do a border run – a quick trip in and out of Thailand where a smiling immigration officer will stamp you in for another 60 days.  You then repeat this procedure and end up staying , aside from a couple of brief day trips out of the country up to 9 months in Thailand.  It’s not that difficult.

But not everyone plans that well. Sometimes circumstances crop up and people ( by people I mean almost always single, middle aged men )  end up staying longer than expected.  It’s then that visitors suddenly realise that time really does fly and their initial Visa on Arrival ( the 30 day stamp you get when you arrive ) is almost up.  And that’s when , usually after receiving advice from a sage ‘bloke in the bar‘ or ‘friend of the Thai girl they met two weeks ago but is Thai so obviously has an innate understanding of the whole Immigration process‘ the trouble starts.

I’ve cut & paste the story below from a recent Facebook post.  I’ve removed the names but everything else is original.  It’s quite a long read.  It should be noted that the guy who wrote this isn’t a newbie traveller on their first trip to the exotic orient.  Looking at his Facebook page, he knows his way around SE Asia.  Afterwards, there are my thoughts and how you can avoid this type of situation.

Bear in mind that this is only one side of the story.

Hello Everybody. My name’s Xxxxx, I’m from Xxxxx.
Your Group/Page may or may not be the place to be voicing my experience but I think It’s only fair to you all to alert you all to the fact that you have a Con-woman/Confidence Trickster/Thief amongst your Group.  Your Group Member Xxxxx
I’ve recently had to leave Koh Chang and Thailand Pennyless and in fear of the Police because of this disgrace of a Womans diabolical so called “Business” Practice.
Please allow me to crave your indulgence with the Facts :-
I’d been in Cambodia for 1 year and I’d began to run out of money so it was time for me to return to Scotland to work.
I love Cambodia and Thailand and I’ve never had a bad experience in either Country up until now.
I’m not a wealthy man. On leaving Cambodia for Thailand I had about $3000 left. Enough to spend a month in Thailand, buy a plane ticket and fly home.
I chose to visit Koh Chang. I met and fell in Love with a Lady on Koh Chang and I fell in Love with Koh Chang itself, the fantastic people and the Community Spirit.
I was offered a Job on the Island so I decided to stay but my 1 month Visa had expired by one day – it’s a 500 baht per day fine for overstay in Thailand.
I needed a Visa and through my Girlfriend I was put in touch with Xxxxx whom I was told could acquire a Visa for me.
I spoke with Xxxxx in Pattaya by phone and was assured that if I sent my Passport to her by Post and Bank Transferred the “Visa Service Fee” to her in Pattaya that I would have my passport back within 48hrs with a 2 month Visa.
I was Offered a 1 month, 2 month or 6 month Visas by Xxxxx, obviously at different prices.
I was wary to just post off my Passport and Transfer Money but after asking around about her it turned out she knew and is – or as the case is now “Was” Friends with so many of the Thais and X-Pats that I’d met on Koh Chang.
Apparently Xxxxx has in the past provided her “Visa Service” successfully for many Travellers and X-Pats.
I heard nothing but good reports about her, we were all in for in for a shock!
I spoke with Xxxxx again, I decided to trust her and posted my Passport to her. On The same day I Bank Transferred The agreed “Visa Service Fee” To her Bank Account.
The Cost for a 2 month visa was 17000 baht.
By the time she’d received My Passport and The 17000 baht I was on 12 days Overstay at 500 baht per day.
So – 6000 baht was to pay for the 12 days overstay fine.
The remaining 11000 Baht was the “Visa Service Fee” I was to receive my passport back in 48 hrs with a 2 month Visa.
You may be asking yourself why I never just travelled the 3 hours to the Cambodian border and did a visa run there? Why spend so much money when a Visa run would’ve taken a day and cost a fraction of the price? Well the answer to that question is that I had only 2 pages left in my Passport. The Cambodian Border cross would’ve taken a page up with their Visa sticker and on re-entry to Thailand I’d have been left with a full Passport. Not a great situation to be in. So I paid.
48 hours Came and went…1 Week came and went?
My Girlfriend spoke to her by phone for me, I was assured that there was no problems and that Xxxxx was herself coming to Koh Chang for Songkran (Thai New Year) and she’d be bringing my Passport with her. Hmmmmm…
Songkran came and went…more time came and went and I began to become extremely concerned about my situation.
I’m now on 25 days overstay!
Every time I tried to Phone Xxxxx the phone would never be answered and it’s the same to this day.
I asked my Girlfriend what was happening?
She said she didn’t know! Xxxxx had never done anything like this before to her knowledge?
I was extremely angry! We argued. I demanded that she retrieve my Money and My Passport Back from Xxxxx and I took my belongings and moved out of her House. Fear is creeping in!
2 days later I received a friend request from Xxxxx on Facebook. I accepted the request? I waited for a message??
Finally My Passport was posted to Noy – My “Girlfriend” There was no Visa in it and there was no sign of the 17000 baht!?
After more messaging between Noy and Xxxxx, we were assured that the money would be coming in a 3 days.
I’m now on 31 days overstay!
3 Days later on the day that the money was meant to arrive and Xxxxx couldn’t be contacted by Noy I began to send her messages on facebook.
I asked her to skype with me and gave her my skype contact details. She wouldn’t skype.
In reply to my request I was asked “How may I help you?
We messaged each other on facebook. I was getting nowhere with her.
I asked Xxxxx “Is this how you do Business?
After that she messaged me some strange weird metaphors about –
Rain and Thunder” ???
Then she said “Be careful, the Police can catch you at any time
Then she said “Yes you should know the safety of thunders
I didn’t know what to make of it???
Seconds later both Noy and Me were Un-Friended and Blocked on Facebook. Xxxxx wouldn’t answer her phone.
I asked Noy to phone the Police and report her and was told that Xxxxx’s Husband had to many high ranking contacts within the Thai Police and she wouldn’t call them! She was to scared!
I leave Koh Chang not knowing who to trust or believe and I’m concerned about being picked up by the Police.
By the time I reach the Border at Koh Kong to cross into Cambodia I have exactly 25450 Baht in my Pocket. That’s after maxing out my Credit Card and my Overdraft on my Current Account.
I’m scraping my barrel to get out of Thailand.
This money might have bought me a flight but it wouldn’t have covered my overstay fine at Passport Control!
I’m now on 37 days overstay!!!
Thai Border Police put me through the wringer. They informed me that under new Marshal Laws anybody overstaying more than 1 month is automatically Jailed! Maybe they were messing with me?
2 hours of pleading and begging later they allow me through.
It cost me 18500 baht to get through the border…500 baht per day for 37 days!
I was also Banned from crossing back into Thailand.
Thai Border Police said I’d need to contact the Thai Embassy and there was a possibility I might be able to fly back in! Great! Like I have the money for a flight anywhere now…never mind Home!!!
My Experience with Xxxxx has cost me a total of –
35500 baht about $1200 ! Never mind the fact that it’s turned my life upside down and put me on the street. The street in Cambodia!
I’m now living like a Rat Beggar Dog in Koh Kong Cambodia, relying on hand outs from Friends for my food, my water and a roof over my head!
Xxxxx is a Common Thief!
If Your going to do Business with this Disgrace of a Woman then beware!
I have my receipts for the Bank Transfer, The Overstay fine receipt from the Thai Border and I have my copy of the Facebook Messages where she threatens me with the Police. (and the rain and the thunder???)
And apart from that I have Nothing thanks to Xxxxx.
Now…Of course! I could be mistaken?
Maybe Xxxxx isn’t what I claim and I’ve got it all wrong? Maybe My Money and My Compensation for what she’s cost me i.e. 35500 baht has been lost in the Banks Cyberspace?
In which case when I receive My Money I’ll Be Happy to Post a Very Formal Apology and withdraw my Slanderous Accusations.
Until then all my spare time will be devoted to informing Everybody about Xxxxx.
I’ll make it My Mission…

OK.  So what should he have done or what should you do if you find yourself in this type of situation?

1)  The Overstay.  It’s best not to overstay.  If you are caught whilst in Thailand then chances are you’d end up in the IDC ( Immigration Detention Centre ) cells in Bangkok for a few days before being deported.   To avoid this you’d need to make a few voluntary payments to the right people, for which you wouldn’t receive a receipt.  Chances of this actually happening are very slim – unless someone dropped your name & address to the Immigration guys.  However, if you present yourself to Immigration when you’re leaving the country – especially if you are just  a few day over or if you are flying out, apologise and pay the 500 Baht per day fine, you’ll be OK.  You’ll get a ticking off but no black marks in your passport.  And a single day’s overstay is usually overlooked by Immigration.

Another issue in the story above was bad advice.  If you have a 30 day Visa on Arrival then you can get it extended for another 30 days at any Immigration office in Thailand.  But this must be done before you overstay.  In this case the advice that he got saying he needed a plane ticket out of Thailand to do this was incorrect.  You just need a couple of photocopies of passport pages, a passport photo and 1,900 Baht.  A quick trip to the immigration Office in Laem Ngop and you’re sorted.

But the initial reason he couldn’t go to the nearby border is that his passport was almost full and the Cambodia visa would take up a full page.

2) Passport Almost Full.  That throws an serious spanner in the works.  In  normal circumstances, you’d say get a Cambodian Evisa – as, apart from the entry and exit chop, don’t take up any space.  So easy to get out of Thailand and then come back in for another 30 days.  That’s dealt with the overstay and got you another 30 days breathing space to figure out what to do next.

Ideally, instead of coming straight back in to the country, you’d get a double entry tourist visa in a neighbouring country.  This would mean trip to Laos – as the Cambodian Embassy in Phnom Penh doesn’t have a good reputation for being helpful. ( Visa information from the Thai Embassy Vientiane.  )

Problem is of course that the passport is almost full.  So there’s no room for, say a Laos visa plus a full page for a multi entry tourist visa from a Thai consulate / embassy.   You have to get a new passport.

3) Getting a New Passport.  Gone are the days when British embassies around the world could issue new passports.  It may be different for other nationalities – if so, you’re lucky.  The UK passport service has been streamlined which means that an office in Bangkok takes a look at the paperwork and then everything gets sent to the UK.  ( Overseas British Passport Applications )  You have to allow 6  – 8 weeks to receive your new passport.  Although people report it taking around a month.

But given the situation above.  There isn’t going to be time to get a new passport when you cross back into Thailand and only have 30 days.  So the choices are:

– Try.  And hope that you receive it back quickly.  As soon as you have it leave the country on your old passport – pay the overstay ( again ).  Fly out.  Then fly back on your new passport.   Again, ideally having got a multi-entry Tourist visa to make things easier in the months ahead.

– Report the passport as lost / stolen.  Get emergency passport issued.  Use that until get the new one.  Plead with Immigration etc.  Probably not advisable

– Fly back to the UK.  Pay for the ‘Fast track’ passport renewal service. Get your multi-entry tourist visa whilst there.  Fly back to Thailand a couple of weeks later with everything sorted.  The best course of action but also the most expensive.

4) Avoid Visa Agents.  You’ll see adverts in the Bangkok Post for visa runs tours.  From Bangkok to the borders and also to Savannaket or Vientiane in Laos.  These are usually long standing companies who offer legitimate services.  They transport you, book you a hotel, take you to the embassy / consulate, do your photocopying & fill out the visa forms and generally make the process of getting a visa a whole lot easier.  This is useful, especially if you haven’t done it before.   But this is different from what the lady in the story above was promising.

She was offering a 2 month visa within 48 hours.  At this point it’s worth remembering that he’s on overstay so the current visa can’t be extended.  Also a Tourist visa can’t be issued from within Thailand.   And worth remembering that your passport can’t leave the country without you accompanying it. Regardless of what came back in the passport and where and how the visa was issued, it wouldn’t have been obtained legally if it were a Tourist visa.  Of course, she could have tried to get an extension of stay based on medical grounds.  i.e. – on the grounds of the guy being too sick to leave the country.  But it’s pretty clear that if that had been possible it would have to be obtained fraudulently – as he obviously isn’t too ill to leave the country.

Deep down, you should realise when someone says “Send me your passport and 17,000 Baht and I’ll get you a visa in 48 Hours”  – it’s not strictly legit.

5) Leave by Air not Land. When the guy left he chose the quickest & cheapest option.  By land into Cambodia.  Had he flown out of Bangkok – where to isn’t important ,  paid the overstay at the airport and thought of a good excuse for Immigration  then there’s a very good chance that he’d be fine.  As the Immigration guys at the airport only blacklist people in extreme circumstances.  Overstaying a couple of weeks is more common than you might expect.

Bottom Line . . .

* Try to plan in advance.  

* If you can’t plan in advance, at least make sure you have a few pages free in your passport.

* Avoid anyone offering help obtaining visas for large amounts of money.   

* Leave by air if you have a long overstay. 

 . . last but not least . .

* Don’t fall in love and trust implicitly someone you’ve known for less than a month.  No matter how hot she may be.

 

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