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Visa Run 2: 20 Minutes in Myanmar

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 20, 2018

March 27th-28th, 2018

Mark and I took an overnight boat from Koh Tao to get to Myanmar to renew our visa. This (border run) visa run did take a long time, but it was very easy. All we had to do was buy a ticket for a Myanmar visa run. Then we showed up in time for our boat. After that, all we did was wait at various periods and not stray too far from the group.


Around 10:30 on the night of the 27th, Mark and I made our way to the area where the night boats dock. We checked in with a lady playing on her smartphone in front of the boats. We ticked our names off a list on a sheet and then boarded. We climbed the stairs and found our bunks. I fell asleep right away while Mark watched a movie. We were both woken up early the next morning when the boat pulled into the dock at Chumphon.


At Chumphon we waited for an hour before our vans came to pick us up. By then most of the people from the overnight boat had left. There were only 15, or 2 vans worth, of us doing the visa run that day.

While we waited, some old French guy kept going on and on about the free coffee available in the waiting area. No one was really interested. He couldn’t understand how free coffee from a questionably dirty coffee pot had no appeal to anyone. He had about 3 cups while complaining about the snobbishness of the people around him.

He struck up a conversation with some French 20-something-year-olds who had the misfortune of sharing a language with the scruffy old man. “Blah blah blah… café,” the old man complained. I imagined the younger mens’ response to be something like, “Oh, no thanks. We’re from the part of France where people don’t drink terrible coffee from urns that have never been washed. We like our coffee to not taste like mud.”

The old man asked the boys something and one of them fished around in his pockets. The young guy held out his well manicured hand to the old man, holding a cigarette lighter within his grasp. The old man picked his nose and then took the lighter. “Oh, by the way,” the old guy asked in French, “blah blah blah?”

The guy who had just handed over his lighter gave the old man stink eye. His friends laughed and turned away from the old man in disgust. The young man took back his lighter and joined his friends leaving the old man on his own.

I looked down, not wanting to make eye contact. I don’t speak French, but there was a chance that the old man spoke English just well enough to harass me during the whole visa run. Just in case, I got up to “check on something”.

The old guy moved on to another group. They were speaking in English, but they had heavy accents. “Where you from?” the old guy asked. “Quebec,” one of the young ladies answered with a smile. Within 20 minutes the old man was chattering away in French as the Québécois sat around him being quiet and unhappy. The man had bummed a cigarette off of one of them and was asking for another when the first van pulled up.


All the Canadians jumped into the first van, leaving no space for the old guy. He would ride with Mark, me, and the French boys in the other van.  With his filthy feet up on the wall of the van, he snored the whole ride to the border. But, maybe that was better than him talking all the way.

Everyone slept for most of the ride. It wasn’t too bad as long as I closed my eyes and tried to forget about the old man’s grotesque feet perched at eye level.


The van parked outside of a 7-Eleven and we were rushed by a mob of Thais. They brought us over to their food stall. They kept barking words at us. “10 Baht cappee!” Most of the tourists had no idea what was going on. I wanted some iced Thai coffee, so I handed 10THB over. Then some lady yelled at me. “Passpoor!”


“Passpoor for cappee!”

I realized that I would get no iced Thai coffee. I gave the woman my passport for her to make a photocopy. Mark and the others did the same. After which, Mark and I crossed the road and stood in line at the Thai boarder control.

It’s not “safety time” right now.


With our exit stamps from Thailand in our passports, we all got on one of two long tail boats. I sat in front of Mark, who sat next to the French old man. The man asked Mark if he had any cigarettes, but Mark didn’t have any. Neither did I.

We were on the boat for about 10 minutes when the guy controlling the boat, the “captain”, yelled something. “What!?” many of us asked. The captain pulled at his shirt, like that was supposed to mean something, but no one understood. Then he cut the engine and climbed along the outside of the boat to make his way to the front. Standing at the front, he pulled at a life vest that was hanging from the top of the boat and said, “Safety time!” He dragged out the word “time” and cocked his head to one side to let us know that he thought we were stupid.

I pulled on the vest closest to me. It was ragged with a tear all the way down the side under the arm. Most of its stuffings were coming out or had fallen out a long time ago. There was no way this life vest was better than wearing no life vest at all. It couldn’t even work as a pillow.

Once everyone had their life vest on, the captain started the motor and we passed the border police. When the cops were behind us, the captain told us we could take off the vest. Safety time was over. I was glad to be rid of my vest; it smelled funny.


We got off the boat and entered Myanmar. We walked to the immigration office. In the photo above, it’s the building on the right closest to the water. We spent a good 10 minutes there. Everyone handed over their passports and a 10 dollar bill. Someone turned in all the copies of our passports we paid for in Thailand; maybe it was the captain.

When we got our passports back, we were given 10 minutes to do whatever shopping we liked before getting back on the boat. Mark and I ran to this park next to the immigration office for a few photos. This would be the shortest time we’ve ever stayed in a country so, we wanted to make the most of it.


We got back on the boat and headed for Thailand. This time Mark and I sat towards the front of the boat. Behind us was the old French guy, shirtless, and with a bottle of beer in each hand. During the “safety time” on the return journey, the captain asked him to hide his beer. He hid the beer in his belly by chugging both beers and mumbling French nonsense to himself.


We got through Thai immigration with no problems. Even the old drunk French guy had an easy time of it.


Everyone went to 7-Eleven for toasties, drinks, snacks, and cigarettes (to give the old French guy). The French guy went MIA. I didn’t see him in the 7-Eleven with everyone else.

When it was time to head back to Koh Tao, we got into the vans. Not everyone returned with us; some stayed. This meant that there was now room for the old French guy in the van with his new Canadian friends. So, that’s where he went, though I didn’t know this at the time.

I thought we had just left him behind. It wasn’t until the driver stopped for a smoke and a pee, that I saw him get out of the other van. He walked over to our driver and asked for a cigarette.


By the afternoon we were on a fast boat back to Koh Tao.


We were back on Koh Tao by 3:30 that afternoon.

Seasickness pills for when the fast boat is a rough ride and butter cookies for when it’s not

If you are staying on Koh Tao and need to renew your visa you might have some questions. Just remember to check government websites to make sure your information on the process is up-to-date. Things change often. Also, make sure the day you travel is not a holiday in either Thailand or Myanmar. Now, let’s go over some simple questions you might have about doing a Myanmar visa run from Koh Tao.

1. When should I buy my ticket?

If there’s a holiday coming up, tickets might run out. In this case, I advise that you get your ticket as soon as you know you need to renew your visa. Other than that, you can get your ticket right before the travel agency closes on the day you want to go. But, don’t push your luck.

Let’s say your visa expires on the 10th. I recommend, assuming there are no holidays involved, going to a travel agency on (or before) the 8th and buying tickets for a night boat leaving Koh Tao on the 9th. This will have you at the Thai Immigration office on the 10th, renewing your visa when it expires wasting no days with overlapping visas.

You need to renew your visa on the day it expires at the latest, to not have to pay a fine. The fine is only 500THB per day past the expiration date, but it’s best not to live life too far on the edge.

2. How much does the ticket cost?

About 2,300THB per person as of March 2018. Prices are about the same no matter what travel agent you go to. That said, it doesn’t hurt to shop around if you have time.

3. How long does it take?

The night boat is scheduled to leave at 22:30. You will return to Koh Tao by 15:30 the next day, assuming everything goes well.

my passport, 10 bucks, and a brand new arrival/departure card

4. What should I bring to get my visa?

  • a pen
  • Your departure card (or 100THB to get a new one)
    • This is the form you get when you arrive at the airport. You’re supposed to keep it, but if they don’t staple it in your passport for you, it will get lost.
  • Your passport
  • A photo copy of your passport photo page (or 10THB to pay for a photo copy)
  • Money for your Thai Visa
  • passport photos
    • I don’t remember now if we needed them. We had them and they took them, but they never asked for photos. So, they might take a photo if you have it.
  • A shirt and decent pants/ skirt.
    • Of course there was a “that guy” who had to be told to put a shirt on.

5. What else?

  • a book, mp3 player, smartphone… for entertainment
  • snacks & drinks (or money for snacks and drinks)
  • light jacket, towel, scarf, or fan… for when the van is too cold or too hot

6. What do I not have to bring?

  • 10USD for your Myanmar visa.
    • This is included in your ticket, so there is no need for you to bring any US dollars.
    • Do not fold the10-dollar-bill. The government of Myanmar do not like folded bills.

(Ratcha Anachak Thai)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to Thailand. But, you will need a visa to stay longer than 1 month or if you been to Thailand for at least 3 months already in the past 12 months.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Thai embassy in your country.
  • Visa laws change frequently.







Scams & Dangers:


  • Do not say anything negative about the king or anyone in the Royal family. And definitely do not write anything bad about the king or royal family. This offence could land you in jail. You don’t want to go to Thai jail.
  • Don’t use the city ferries in Bangkok during the peak hours. They fill those things past capacity and sometimes they sink. Use them during non-peak hours when they are not crowded.
  • Never eat female horseshoe crabs in Thailand. The roe of the horseshoe crab has tetrodotoxin (TTX) which is toxic to humans. It makes people very sick and some people have even died as a result.


Visa Information




  • I don’t recommend going to Myanmar.


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