Since we are many to live or who will live this situation, I thought about posting about Visa renewal.
I will start by sharing my last experience to get my Visa Non-Immigrant ED (allowing me to stay one year in Thailand and registering in a Thai language school).
So basically this visa is quite expensive, mainly because of the school fees for the year (mine were 23,000฿ for 160hours of class) plus the actual cost of the Non-Immigrant visa (2,000฿ for single entry, 5,000฿ for multiple entries) and of course the cost of the trip outside the country (as I was already in Thailand on a 30 days visa exemption before applying for a visa).
Apparently it is not possible to apply for this kind of visa in Cambodia (which would be a cheaper and shorter trip) so you have to exit to other countries.
The place most people choose is Vientianne, Laos.
As there was a last minute complication with my paperworks, I was finally recommended to go to Savannakhet, Laos (which is a smaller town but a bit closer).
Basically, the Thai Consulate in Savannakhet takes care of the following visas: Tourist, Transit & Non-immigrant.
How to get there?
The cheapest way to go there from Bangkok is by taking a bus.
First of all, you need to go to Mo-Chit Bus terminal (or North Bus Terminal or Chatuchak Bus Station). Easy to reach by BTS: it's the last station on the line.
Once you exit the station, either take a bus (77 for example) or a taxi to get to the bus terminal. It is a 5-10min ride, 8฿ by bus, approx.55฿ by taxi.
Once you have reached the terminal, you'll have to find the companies that are selling the ticket you're looking for.
One of the easiest itinerary is to take a bus from Bangkok to Mukdahan (North Thailand), then Mukdahan - Savannakhet (we'll get to this one later)
Try to compare different companies as they have different kinds of buses and different class too.
Buses to Mukdahan are night buses and leave starting 6PM. The last departure is at around 10PM (the schedule can often change though).
The trip cost 533฿ for a second class seat, and can go up to 830฿ for a VIP seat.
As i was a bit anxious to the idea of staying more than 10hours in a bus, I chose the VIP seat.
Well, it was actually quite good, there are not much seats in this huge bus so you have plenty of space. You can lay down almost horizontally, a blanket, water and snacks are offered, and there's even a hostess in case you need assistance. So i actually slept like a baby for the 10h30min long ride.
Once you have reached Mukdahan, you will have to look for the international bus to get to Laos as there are no boats anymore to cross the Mekong river.
It's really easy to find as the Mukdahan station is really small. The ticket to Laos costs 50฿ and the bus leaves every 30min. However if you are not fast to enter the bus, you might end up standing in the bus alley with a bunch of other unlucky ones. Anyway, everyone will have to exit the bus at the first immigration post before taking the same bus again to cross the bridge.
Then the second immigration post where you will have to pay 1,300฿ for a Laos visa, fill in a bunch of paperwork, and then get a stamp in your passport by the Laos immigration officers.
(So basically, the trip Mukdahan-Savannakhet will take a small hour)
You are now in Laos!
Hop on the bus once again and let it take you to the Savannakhet bus station in the North of the town. Be prepared for a big harassment from tuktuk drivers as soon as the bus doors open. Refuse politely, punch them (your choice!) or find a busmate who would be kind enough to share a tuktuk with you to go to the Consulate.
40฿ for each passenger, 10min ride to reach.
Now is the perfect time to check if you brought all the necessary documents
The Consulate will open its doors from 9AM to 11AM for visa applications. So, prepare all of the paperwork, ask for the application form and prepare your money and 2 Passport pictures (so as mentioned previously, Non-Immigrant visa: 2,000฿ single entry, 5,000฿ multiple.. Tourist visa is about the same if i'm not mistaken).
Give everything to the agent as well as your passport and he will give you a queue ticket for the next day.
Because yeah, you will have to come back the next day when you can collect your passport from 2PM to 4PM.
Once you collect it, have a look at your passport, just to make sure everything is like you requested.
Then you'll basically have to do the exact opposite trip to go back to Bangkok!
What to do in Savannakhet during this waiting time?
Well, once you have dropped your passport, that would be the time to look for an hotel/guesthouse/bridge. The town is really small so it's actually quite easy to find a place to stay.
And anyway you'll have some time to kill.
Hotels are mostly cheap and far from luxury but good enough for a night. Some will have free wifi, mine didn't.. But i guess not having wifi in this kind of place makes you discover more things and meet more people so it's actually not a bad thing to just take a break from technology!
So as i said above, you can easily cover the entire town by walking in a few hours. There are actually 5-6 small temples (lao, chinese, vietnamese..) , markets where you can find awesome "fusion" sandwich (french baguette filled with asian dishes).
Having a beer with a view on the Mekong river is a must-do! Really relaxing and it's nice to see Thailand on the other side!
What i liked the most is that most of the locals are still genuinely kind and smiling. Little kids are happy and welcoming you.. That's something i missed in Bangkok or even Bali nowadays..
So.. Total cost?
-BTS to Mo-Chit (max. 45฿)
-bus 8฿ or taxi 55฿ to Bus Terminal
-bus ticket BKK-Mukdahan from 530 to 840฿ (One way)
-bus ticket Mukdahan-Savannakhet 50฿
-Laos visa: 1,300฿
(-overstay in Thailand: 500฿/day)
-tuktuk to Thai embassy: 40-50฿
-visa fee: 2,000-5,000฿
-tuktuk to hotel: 20-40฿
-hotel room: 300-600฿
-tuktuk to embassy then Bus station the next day
-bus ticket Savannakhet-Mukdahan
-bus ticket Mukdahan-BKK
As they made me pay for my overstay (so 500฿ extra) and I had a few beers here and there and well you also have to eat... I spent about 6,000฿ for this trip (Agencies usually offer 5,500฿ trip including everything except the Laos visa.. So basically a total of 7,000฿.. Not that much more expensive but more boring as you don't have to take care of anything).
I guess I have not forgotten anything so you should have all the information for this kind of trip.
Hopefully I won't have to write another trip report in the year to come!
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