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#Passports, #Customs, #Immigration

City/Country: Advice: Saving:
Thailand You CAN get a Thai driving licence (car or motorcycle) on a Tourist Visa. This is how:
1) Go to the local immigration office, the place where you extend your visa, and tell them you want a Thai license. They will give you a form to prove your address in Thailand, which you need your landlord to sign. Take the form back to immigration with your passport and 2 passport photos and they will give you a letter declaring you are eligible for a Thai license. 2) Get a Medical stating you are fit to drive/ride from any hospital or clinic. This will cost about 200 baht and takes five minutes.
3) Find the nearest Department of Land Transport (DLT) headquarters, the same place where Thai people do their driving/riding tests the first time. The Immigration office will tell you where it is.
4) Take the Immigration letter, Medical letter, your passport and home driving licence to the DLT. Ideally make at least two photocopies of each before you go, otherwise they will do it for you. Bring a Thai person with you as they are unlikely to speak much English at the DLT.
5) Be polite. Often the DLT people will just look at the license from your home country and allow you to have a Thai license without needing to do the full driving/riding test. Likewise, if you only have a car licence from home they will sometimes let you have a Thai motorcycle licence without doing the bike test.
6) If you don't have to do the full test, it's just an easy color blindness and reaction test to pass. That's it.
7) You'll get your photo taken, then they give you the finished licences.
Because you only have a Tourist Visa the licences are valid for 1 year at a time, but renewing is easier than getting the first licence.
So why bother if only for 1 year? The obvious reason is for travel/health insurance. It may say you are covered to ride a motorcycle up to 125cc on your insurance, but you almost certainly still need to hold a motorcycle licence somewhere.
Car and Motorcycle Licence

Thailand is clamping down on people who make lots of consecutive visits. The main target seems to be those who have used the one month visa waiver option to repeatedly go in and out. The authorities fear people are working illegally but outcome is that if your passport has lots of these visa waiver stamps you could now attract unwanted attention from immigration.
So what to do? First of all get an official Tourist visa from an embassy in your home country (you can get up to 3 visits per visa, and each visit can be extended from two to three months) whenever possible. It looks much better than a visa waiver. Secondly, if your passport is full of visa waivers or lots of back-to-back Tourist visas you should consider applying for a new passport so you can start from a blank passport again. Even western countries struggle to keep a record of who is coming in and out, so Thai immigration are unlikely to do any more than look at what is stamped in the passport you are carrying when deciding to grant you entry or investigate further.

What is a Vietnam visa on Arrival?
Vietnam visa on arrival is only applicable for those traveling by air to Vietnam and your visa will be stamped at Vietnam airport. For visa on arrival, you apply online at our website and wait 1 working day (urgent service) or 2-3 working days (normal service) to get approval letter. With this letter, passport, 2 photos and stamping fee (45 USD for single entry, 65 USD for multiple entry), your visa will be stamped at Vietnam airport.
This is probably the easiest way to obtain your visa without having to chase down embassies, consulates and the like prior to your trip. It is a valid alternative when applying for a tourist/business visa.
Visa service
In case some people don't already know this, the protests in Bangkok have caused massive delays with passport applications across Thailand. Apply in a province if you can, not BKK, and leave plenty of time.
The way things are in Thailand, you should encourage any Thai friends/relatives to have an active passport...
Passport problems
Udon Thani - Thailand
Just a note to say that there has been a shake-up at the Udon Thani immigration office since my post after last visit. They now seem to have a new boss and it is much better.
Don’t be surprised if they still try their luck with a small photocopying fee - ‘pay what you want’ - but they actually told me I didn’t need to fill in one form, confirming my residence (not needed for tourist visa extension), that they told me was required last time!
I now suspect even more that the endless list of forms last time was to clear the way for a nice tip when I inevitably didn’t have something filled in correctly. Thankfully that practice looks to have been stopped by the new boss.
Beware the office was quite busy and that they shut for lunch at 12pm.
Visa extension update
For anyone who has partners running businesses in Thailand please be 100% certain about your visa status.
Most Thai visas will not allow you to work in any shape or form. This doesn’t just mean doing something where you are paid a wage, but covers paying the bills or running costs for a wife/girlfriend’s business or doing anything where you get something back in return (such as free rent).
It’s OTT and in the past immigration seemed to turn a blind eye to the many situations where foreigners were effectively bankrolling a business. Even though, if it was a big business like a hotel, some of the profits were going to make their way back to the foreigner in some shape or form.
Now they are cracking down. What’s changed is that the Eastern Europeans took things too far and, rather than employing Thai people and putting money into the community, they only employing their own and also pushing Thais out of business in areas like taxis and hotels.
As a result the police are checking up on everyone. There have even been unconfirmed reports of foreigners on a tourist visa being deported because they were spotted doing a bit of minor DIY building work (unpaid) on a wife’s restaurant.
Remember other jealous foreigners/business rivals will often tip off the police. So be ready for a spot-check just in case. For those without a work visa:
• Do not sit behind a desk or in an office at the premises.
• Do not walk around in a suit or uniform, or clearly be supervising/instructing the staff. If you are on a tourist visa, look like a tourist.
• Make sure that any staff understand that you are not the boss. A common question police ask them “Who is the boss here?” Guess who most of them will point to...
• Never handle money in public.
• Never get involved in businesses like English teaching without the right visas.
• Do not hang pictures that include you in the public part of the business.
• Never transfer money to the business bank account or the official owner’s account (wife/girlfriend) directly from your bank. That’s clear evidence. Withdraw cash instead. Same for any money flowing in the other direction (profit).
• Get clued up on Thai tax law if you are making reasonable money. Most Thai small business simply don’t bother to pay any, but that’s a risky game...
(By 'Bahtman and Ringgitt')
Avoid deportation!
Thailand Reports in Phuket based newspapers are causing a stir among the Expat community. The police have warned that they will start to enforce the rule that says anyone who has foreign guests (Hotels/Guesthouse/Private Villas/Residences) must report the details of each foreigner when they arrive. The penalty for not reporting is 8000 baht per day.
Such laws are common in Vietnam and other communist countries but seem a little extreme for a so-called Land Of Smiles. It is down to the owner or manager to file these reports, and they receive the fine (not the guest), so most guests on holiday need not worry.
But the concern for Expats is that a new report will need to be filed on their behalf each time they return ‘home’ after more than a day away, or their wife/girlfriend - whoever the home is registered with - will be hit with the fine. The same applies if an Expat friend comes to stay in the house and is not reported by them.
Also, many Expats rent from private Thai landlords. Do these landlords declare the income to the tax authorities? If not, they are going to find it hard to hide if they must now file reports that foreigners are staying with them. End result: Rent will go up.
Will the crackdown really happen? Probably not outside of the main tourist areas, but be aware, especially if you plan to extend your visa whilst in Thailand. The form to fill in a report is 'TM.30' and can be downloaded from the Immigration Website.
Potential fine for not reporting address
Bali - Indonesia If you don’t have a visa already, like most people, you have to pay the Visa On Arrival fee BEFORE you go to the immigration queue. If you don't pay and just walk straight to the Visa on Arrival queue, like a lot of first time visitors, you'll be sent back to start all over again. The price is 25 USD for a 30 day stay.
Unlike the departure tax, you can pay this fee in just about any currency. Once you’ve paid you take the receipt with you to the Visa On Arrival queue.
The booths to pay the visa fee are on the left as you enter the main immigration room at Bali (DPS) airport. (Luke)
Visa Information
Bali - Indonesia AIRPORT SCAM I’ve been to every country in Asia but have only seen this scam at Bali airport.
After getting your visa and collecting your suitcase, and just before you go through customs, you will sometimes be approached by young men who will ask where you are from and if you have filled in your customs declaration card.
They are dressed relatively smart and look semi-official. Natural to assume because of where they are - a restricted area – and what they ask that they work for customs or immigration. They’ll say ‘this way please’ and wheel your suitcase through to the x-ray machine, then tell you to give the customs card to the official.
But after you clear customs, which is only a walk of about 10 meters in total, they will take you to a money change booth, ask if you want to change any money - and also ask for a massive tip of 100,000 for helping you! They are just touts! Ashamed to say I fell for this once. Didn’t pay the big tip they wanted, just a small tip to avoid any problems.
It’s amazing these touts are allowed INSIDE what should be a secure customs area. They could plant drugs in your bag while they are ‘helping you’ and then ask for a payoff. Anything. Scary. Someone is letting them into the area so there’s cash changing hands with officials.
If anyone approaches you that isn’t in full customs, military type uniform tell them you don’t need any help. (Luke)
Bali - Indonesia AIRPORT Exit tax. You must pay 150,000 in LOCAL currency at the airport when you leave, using special counters located on the way to immigration, after you have checked in. Unlike the Visa on Arrival fee counters you can’t miss these as they literally across the centre of the walkway.
They put a sticker on your boarding card to say you've paid. Immigration is just after where they check and stamp your passport as usual, but unlike most places they do not take the departure card from you until you go to the gate just before boarding the plane. (Luke)

Udon Thani - Thailand
Udon Thani has an immigration office where you can extend your visa. It used to be at the airport but has now moved to #95 Phosi Road, near the fairground area. Same road that leads to the government hospital.
It’s classic Thai bureaucracy to extend the visa - to get the original (tourist) visa you filled out1 side of A4 paper, but to extend it (one month per entry) you need to go through handfuls of forms, photocopies and signatures.
The reason I’m posting is you should expect to pay an extra ‘tip’ if something is not correct and with that many forms, in Thai, something will not be if they look hard enough. A missing signature from your landlord? They’ll hint at 1000 baht, but from experience they will settle for 500.
Do some subtle negotiating - look surprised, apologise, saying you really need this sorted today and you’ll see from their reaction if they are actually serious about making you go away and get whatever is ‘missing’..
Don’t hand the immigration guy money, they’ll probably just point to a jar on the desk and you subtly pop it in there. They also sometimes ask for some tea or biscuits for their staff, so perhaps best to come bearing gifts if you don’t want to hand over cash. Maybe that has been my mistake.
I’m not sure if having a Thai person with you helps or not. Many times I’ve escaped Police attempts for backhanders (‘water money’) by shrugging that I don’t understand what they are saying.
Visa info
Malaysia Okay, this is some information about arriving in Malaysia.
Foreigners don't need to fill in a paper landing card like you do for most countries and Malaysia before. Just go straight to passport control when you arrive and show your passport (and maybe the flight ticket you arrived with if they ask).
I've seen so many people asking for landing cards from the staff on the plane flying in and also getting stressed when they arrive at immigration because they think they need them, that I thought I'd explain it here.

 Thailand You can save about 10-20% on the price of your Thai visa by checking which embassy to apply at. Australia is one of the most expensive places, with each entry costing 45 Australian dollars. So if you went for the maximum 3 entries you’d pay 135 AUD, which works out at 140 US dollars.
But the same 3 entry Thai visa would cost you 120 USD if you applied for it in Vietnam, or around 108 USD in Malaysia.
So you’d save 30 dollars if you applied for exactly the same visa in Malaysia instead of Australia. The application form is exactly the same, the only difference is the fee.
Even the UK is cheaper for a Thai visa than Australia at 121 USD. The more expensive the visa the more you can save by shopping around in this way.
You can check the Visa fee at Thai embassies around the world at this official link:
10-30% of Thai visa fee
 Thailand If you are a westerner you can arrive in Thailand without a visa and get a 30-day visa stamp on arrival. Just go straight to immigration as normal.
If you plan to stay longer you can get a tourist visa before you go, which allows 3 x two-month visits. So you stay two months then have to go out of Thailand for a day or two before returning. But when you get within one month of each stay finishing, you can then apply for a one-month visa extension, while inside Thailand, at a cost of 1900 baht.
That gives you a total of nearly nine months in Thailand on one tourist visa.
Visa info.
 Malaysia Visas for Malaysia are so much easier than Thailand. UK citizens can get a (free) 90-day Visa on arrival and most western countries will get 60-days. So there's no real need to get a tourist visa before you go. FYI Asian citizens get 1 month visa on arrival.
Check they give you the correct length of stay stamp at the airport as, with so many different stamps for different countries, they have been known to get it wrong! Another good thing about Malaysia is they seem to have ditched the landing card system, certainly for some flights. You just go straight to immigration with your passport.
Vietnam Westerners need to apply for a visa before traveling to Vietnam and you will need to show the visa approval letter (saying you are allowed to enter the country) when you check-in to fly.
The easiest and cheapest way I've found is to use to sort the paperwork for you. You supply some basic information online, pay a small fee and they then submit your application and, if successful, email you the approval letters that you need to enter Vietnam. There are lots of these kinds of visa businesses which have very close unofficial connections to the immigration department.People use them because they work (never heard of anyone denied).
When you arrive in Saigon airport follow signs for immigration and on the left side of immigration room is where you hand over your passport, a completed visa form (myvietnamvisa will give you this in advance or you can do when you arrive) 2 passport photos and 25 USD. Then you sit and wait while they print the visa in your passport, after which you can go through immigration. If you don't have photos they will do for you and charge! Tourist visa is 1 month.
Vietnam This is for those interested in teaching English in SE Asia. You should seriously consider Vietnam, in particular HCMC. If you factor in everything, it comes out surprisingly highly, relative to the usual places like Korea and Thailand.
It's possible to start on 20-25,000 USD in the private schools around Saigon and there is not so much competition. Remember you will get usually accommodation free as well and living costs are very low in Vietnam. You will need to have completed a short teaching course (I see some ads for it on here or search google) and then you need to apply for a teaching visa for Vietnam, but the teaching visa can 'speeded-up' if you know what I mean.
You could always go as a tourist first and see what the options are before applying for the teaching visa anyway and the school will help.
 Thailand-Laos Some words of advice if you are arriving in Laos over the 'Friendship Bridge' from Nong Khai in Thailand. Get a taxi to the Thai side of the border then you pass though 'immigration' (a kiosk) and then get on a bus that drives you over the Mekong to the Laos immigration.
The Laos side is Communist queuing at its very best. Lots of pointless forms, a fee, waiting around and then a huge visa that takes up a whole page. There is no aircon and the border guards do nothing to stop the pushing in by some locals. So be prepared to be patient... That said Laos is cheap compared with Thailand and has some great countryside.
How to get to Laos
 Thailand-Laos When you arrive at the Thai/Laos border there are lots of people who will offer to help you get across (for a fee). I don't normally bother with that sort of thing, but if you can get the price cheap enough it's worth thinking about as you will get through the form filling and waiting quicker.
They will tell you where to go at each stage and help you fill the forms in. Mine also arranged a taxi to Vientiane and took me to a hotel (I had nothing booked). I think it was about 500 baht in all (from Thai side to Vientiane hotel). 
 More money but less hassle