My goal: Obtain a multi-entry 1-year Non-Immigrant’ O’ Visa based on marriage to a Thai. I plumped for Savannakhet in Laos because the latest reports were that they had a swift “same day service”, and no financial records were required. The only catch is, you must submit your application before 11 AM.
Update March 20, 2020: The ever-changing visa and border situation!
Due mainly to the COVID19 coronavirus pandemic, I have to tell you things can change overnight. What I or anybody else reported as fact yesterday, last week or last month may not be relevant today or tomorrow.
Regarding your visa run to Savannakhet that means you need to know if the border is open at all, is a Laos visa on arrival still available, is a medical certificate required to enter Laos – or Thailand, is a medical certificate required by the Thai consulate when you apply for a visa, and so on, and so on.
All the latest requirements, I cannot help you with, I can only tell you how it was, last time I went. So please contact the respective embassies/consulates and ask. I suggest you also check the latest reports on the visa forum at Thaivisa.com.
I have to say my planning was far from immaculate, and the fact that I arrived in time to deposit my visa application owed a lot to Lady Luck and circumstance. If you are planning to arrive in Savannakhet and submit your visa application make sure you allow more time than I did, at least an hour. See below for details of my own process and schedule, this will give you a rough idea of how the process works.
Tuesday 16th September: Booked V.I.P Bus Ticket
I booked and paid for my ticket at the Yellow Bus counter at North Pattaya Bus Station on North Pattaya Road. I originally intended booking the Thursday night bus which, according to their timetable arrives in Mukdahan at 0815 on Friday morning. I was informed by the ticket seller that it would actually arrive in Mukdahan at 0900, I didn’t much fancy a standard seat for over 12 hours so I changed my ticket to Wednesday night so I could avoid a weekend in Savannakhet should I not arrive in time to submit my visa application.
Wednesday 17th: The bus departs Pattaya for Mukdahan
I arrived at the bus station half hour early as requested, showed my ticket to the lady at the booking counter and asked which bay my bus was at, she looked up and motioned with her thumb in an “over there now get lost” kind of manner. Sure enough, there was a yellow bus boldly displaying the words ‘Mukdahan – Koh Samui’, I know Pattaya is on the Mukdahan _ Rayong route, nevertheless I still had to confirm it with the attendant before I boarded, I love Koh Samui, but not today.
The seats were electric-powered recliners with elevating footrests, but they were far from being comfortable, and the only way I could stop myself from sliding off every time the driver touched the brakes was to jam my feet against the bulkhead. For your information: The bus makes 1 stop for food, at least 1 stop for fuel, several stops en route to Chonburi, and further stops approaching Mukdahan depending on your route.
Thursday 0915: Arrived at Mukdahan Bus Terminal
Being 15 minutes late already and not knowing how long it would take me to travel to, and clear customs at the Friendship II Bridge I was already resigned to an overnight stop in Savannakhet. The bus to Savannakhet leaves from the same terminal, there was 1 waiting to depart at 0930. The kiosk wasn’t easy to find but a kindly gentleman enquired where I was going and lead me to the kiosk. For your information, enter the terminal in front of the bay at which the bus parks, ignore the freestanding booths, bear right, and then left towards the main entrance/exit, the kiosk will be directly in front of you. Ticket costs 50 baht, I believe the bus service starts at 0730 and runs every half hour, BUT PLEASE DON’T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT, if in doubt you should ask the staff at the terminal. You can also take a tuk-tuk or a taxi to the Friendship II Bridge and purchase a bus ticket at the immigration checkpoint.
Thursday 0930: Bus departs Mukdahan for Savannakhet
There was between 15 and 20 people on the bus, the majority of which were Thai and Laotian.
0950: Bus arrived at Thai immigration on the Friendship II Bridge
Maybe we missed the rush hour, but besides 1 more farang there was only our busload, we were all stamped out within 10 minutes. Once you are stamped and through, the bus collects you on the other side, just show them your existing ticket and board.
1000: Bus departed Thai Immigration
You must take the bus to the Laos border checkpoint, walking is not permitted.
1005: Bus arrives at Laos immigration
The border crossings are potentially the time-consuming part of the process, if they are busy you could expect to be waiting an hour or more. On arriving at the Laos border immigration checkpoint there was obviously the same handful of people who traveled from the Thai side. Only 2 of us required a visa. The whole process of applying for and receiving the visa, and then getting stamped in took just 10 minutes. I was feeling a little more than optimistic about making it to the Thai consulate and submitting my ‘Visa application before the 11 AM deadline. For your information, you need to submit the completed Laos Visa on Arrival application form, 1 passport photo, passport, and 1,500 baht, but I have heard it is cheaper if you pay in dollars. They will also hand you the arrival/departure card, fill it in and hand it to the immigration officer when you are being stamped in.
1015: Through Laos Immigration
Once through immigration there was a choice of taxi or tuk-tuk. A taxi driver immediately quoted me 200 baht to the Thai consulate, I knew that was about the going rate so I accepted.
1030: Arrive at Thai consulate
Arrived outside the Thai consulate at 10.30, I made it with a half-hour to spare. I already had my completed application form, photos, and documents but I knew I made some mistakes which I never rectified at the time. There are a few agents outside the consulate offering to fill in your form, copy your documents, even take photos if you forgot to fetch them with you. I asked them to check the application form for me, they did, and made some corrections (on the same form) then attached my photos for me. They do charge for this service, but because they only made some minor corrections to mine they waived the fee. There is only 1 service window at the new consulate, and there was only 1 person being processed when I got there. I only waited a minute to hand in my documents, the official quickly checked them, gave me a ticket and told me to come back at 1530. All finished with 15 minutes to spare.
For your information: I applied for Non-Immigrant ‘O’ Visa based on marriage to a Thai, I myself am a British national. The documents I was required to submit were as follows.
- Completed application form (with 2 passport photos attached)
- 1 copy of passport front page (photo page) signed by you.
- Original marriage certificate (mine was Thai version).
- 1 copy of marriage certificate, front and back on single sheet of paper as it is on the original certificate, signed by wife.
- Copy of wife’s ID Card, front and back on single sheet of paper, signed by wife.
- Copy of wife’s house book (Tabien Bahn) signed by wife.
- 5,000 baht Non Immigrant ‘O’ Visa fee.
1045: Leave Thai Consulate
I had over 4 hours to kill so climbed into a tuk-tuk and told the driver I want to see the Mekong, eat, and drink some beer. He probably misunderstood me to a degree, he took me to a restaurant called the Mekong, alas they served beer and food, and I could see the Mekong. But we passed what looked like a bar come restaurant on the river, that’s more what I had in mind.
1500: Arrive back at Thai consulate and collect passport with visa
At around 2.30 the tuk-tuk picked me up and took me back to the consulate to collect my passport. It was about 10 past 3 before they opened the window and handed out the passports, there were between 20 and 30 people in the queue but everyone had their passport back within 20 minutes.
Out of Laos and into Thailand
I jumped back in the tuk-tuk and arrived at Laos Immigration Control at around 1540, got through within 10 minutes, bought a bus ticket and boarded the bus to Thai immigration. One or two passports were put under scrutiny by Thai immigration but for me there no questions or scrutiny, and I was back in Thailand complete with 1 year multi-entry Non-Immigrant ‘O’ Visa. Once through immigration, I boarded the bus again and arrived at Mukdahan bus terminal at about 1630.
1645: Bus leaves Mukdahan
I would imagine you can pre-book your seat on the Yellow Bus before you go to Savannakhet, but I never bothered because I wasn’t sure if I would make it. Needless to say, there were no V.I.P seats available, so I got a standard seat, on the top deck, at the front. I know I already had a whinge about the V.I.P seats, but the standard seats as you might guess were even more uncomfortable, and probably too small even for an average-sized Thai. I was dog tired by now and if my seat had been just the slightest bit more comfortable I might have slept and been spared the many occasions I thought death was imminent. I believe tailgating, slingshotting and high-speed cornering are best performed in a sports car on a racing track. Certainly not looking forward to the next visa run, and I hope I don’t have to use Yellow Bus.
Friday 19th 0600: Arrive at North Pattaya Bus Terminal
What a relief to get back, what a relief to see the back of Somchai Schumacher and Supoj Hamilton. I just spent 25 hours on the road, traveled 1,440 kilometers, and a total of 33 hours to get a 1-year visa.
The things we do for Thailand !!.
At the time of writing (19th September 2014) this information is correct. BUT visa rules and regulations change often in Thailand. If you are looking for the most up to date information on Thailand visas I suggest you search the forums on www.thaivisa.com.
PLEASE NOTE: As of the 1st February 2015 the same day service has finished. Passports will now be collected the next day
You might also be interested in reading my Pattaya to Savannakhet trip report of December 2015.