If you're going to be teaching in Thailand you will need a Non-B visa. This is how I got mine. Enjoy.... By TEACHER GEOFF Education Center Teacher in Suphan Buri and Teaching Guru ;)
After receiving all the relevant documents from Education Center or your school, there are basically two choices to do a visa run from Thailand to a neighboring country – either using an agency or to do it independently.
From recent experience, the going-it-alone option is far better and here is why.
I needed to shift over from a tourist visa to the so called ‘Non-B visa’ which is the substantial first step in being able to work legally here in Thailand. It gives a three month window so that a work permit and a teacher’s license can be obtained.
I ended up choosing to go to Savannakhet, Laos’s second largest population center situated just across the border from Mukdahan in north-eastern Thailand. I got to Bangkok from Suphanburi where I am teaching and flew from there. Most everything worked well, and there are a few things I would have done differently. This is both an account of what worked out well and what was learnt along the way.
There are several benefits to doing the across-the-land-border-visa-run independently:
Here is a suggested way to get the Non-B visa from Savannakhet done with the minimum of pain.
The most direct and painless way is to fly with Lao Airlines from Bangkok to Savannakhet, the cost being about $170 each way. If the cash is available, this would be the best way. Just fly in and fly out. Simple and fast. Seemingly, only Lao Airlines does this trip. Seemingly, one cannot book through their website. A travel agency would be needed in getting a ticket.
Alternatively, the cheaper option is to install the Air Asia app on your phone. Make sure that the currency is in Thai baht as this will allow you to use 7/11 to pay for the tickets. If the currency is in anything but Thai baht, the 7/11 over the counter option will not appear. The Air Asia app is really easy with the pay over the counter option. No need for a credit card. Once a flight is decided upon, there is three hour time limit to get to a 7/11 and pay for the flights. A specific Air Asia ticket receipt will be issued at the store. Thus, be somewhere where there is a 7/11 nearby when you book. I booked a flight that would allow me to leave on the last day of my Thai tourist visa. If working for a school, this gives the most time for the necessary paperwork to be done. In May and June in Thailand when most teacher visa runs will be done the flight costs are low and remain low until three to five days before the flight.
There is a flight path toward Mukdahan from Bangkok, the town near the entry point into Savannakhet, Laos is found. Air Asia actually flies into Nakhon Phanom, the next town to the north of Mukdahan. From there you can catch an Air Asia van down toward Mukdahan, but the van will stop 10 kms or so before the town at the border crossing. Super easy. The cost of the ticket includes the van trip to the border.
Find the Bangkok - Mukdahan flight on the Air Asia app. There will be either two or three flights depending on the day. Choose the 15:00 departure time. It is the only time that will work. There is no point in catching the morning flight. That would mean having to stay overnight near Don Muang airport.
The airport at Nakhon Phanom is tiny but efficient. The flight is 1 1/2 hours – arriving at 16:25. The Air Asia van will be waiting out in front; the driver with a passenger name list. Again, the flight payment includes the van ride to the border crossing. Having the van right there at the airport makes everything so easy. The van leaves at 16:50.
It is suggested to get to the van quickly and choose to sit in either the front seat next to the driver or in the first row in the cabin as the middle windows are heavily tinted not allowing for what windows usually do. There is no view whatsoever when sitting in the middle or back rows. The van arrives at the border crossing after about an hour and twenty minutes.
The Air Asia van drops you at the border crossing. Just tell the driver you want to go to Savanakhet. They know.
You will be in plenty of time to hop on the last bus across the border into Laos leaving at 7:15pm.
The ticket stand and the Thai immigration booths are about 10 meters from each other. It is a small affair. The bus ticket booth opens about 10 – 15 minutes before the bus arrives. You need to present your passport to the immigration booth to get your Thai exit stamp before getting on the bus. It is not possible to either walk across the bridge over the Mekong or get a motor bike taxi guy to take you across the border. It is not permitted. You must take the bus.
Bus times from Mukdahan to Savannakhet. For teachers doing the non b visa.
Mukdahan to Savannakhet bus ticket booth
Mukdahan to Savannakhet bus ticket booth
The bus will wait for you while you fill in your immigration paper work and get a full page visa sticker from Lao immigration. This costs 1,500 baht unless you are from an ASEAN country (no cost). It is all rather laid back with only a few travelers, visa run people, and locals to chat to. Most Laotians speak Thai well enough.
Please note that the visa run process for a non B visa requires three new pages in your passport and six month validity. One full page sticker for the Lao tourist visa, one page for the Thai non B visa sticker, and another fresh page upon re-entry into Thailand. The Thai immigration woman said they need a fresh page for the future stamps.
By the time the bus arrives, nightfall will have descended. The town of Savannakhet is not far. Google maps helps a lot. Lao sim cards are cheap and readily obtainable from any phone shop without the need to show your passport. Savannakhet is a sprawling town. It is not a good walking town. Some locals showed me this guesthouse at 400 baht a night.
It is an option to book something online for the at least the first night. The Xangphuak Hotel is also good because it is within walking distance of the consulate.
Perhaps there will not be any phone shops open after you arrive, so it is best to spend time with Google maps whilst in Thailand and become familiar with the town and save the useful places with stars or hearts on where you are planning to stay and where the Thai consulate is. Then scan some maps so that they can be used offline.
The Visa process when in Savannakhet
This is important. One needs to be at the Thai consulate early the next morning because there will be a lot of people lining up well before it opens at 9:00am Monday to Friday. It closes at 11:00am. There is a two hour window to get your paperwork deposited. People were arriving and lining up from 6:30.... The trick is to be there at this time and be amongst the first 10 people there. There will be a long wait anyway you do it.
The view of the Thai consulate from the restaurant across the street at about 6:00am.
Those first in line in the early morning – 6:45am
Everything is done outside the building. The Thais have built the consulate so that the visa seekers do not actually enter the building. The window where the paper work is deposited is a low horizontal slot with a one way window from the Thai side. Unless you squat down and look up, you cannot see who you are dealing with. Only hands and paper work.
The lower slot window through which the paperwork is deposited
There is a basic restaurant right across the street from the consulate with a rustic outhouse squat toilet out the back. Bring some water with you or buy some there. If you need to use the loo, someone will keep your place. There is a toilet available in the consulate compound once the gate is open. Right there next to the restaurant is a stall setup where you can get the visa application forms and use their photocopy machines if you need them. You need to have TWO passport sized photos. They have glue. If you get there at 6:00, you can order a beverage and/or something to eat and fill in the application form. When the first people begin to arrive, just wander across and line up with them. Pay for the coffee etc. up front, as perhaps a van or two will suddenly turn up and you can just hop across and line up in front of them.
There will be a long line forming of perhaps even hundreds of people well before opening time. It is much better to line early and be done with it shortly after 9:00. Because you will not be entering a government building, there is no need to wear any kind of decent clothes. There is the option for the first arrivers to sit on the driveway curb. A Singaporean fellow was wearing a pair of dress trousers which precluded him from taking a seated rest. Also, there is a small enclosed area in front of the gate that would fit maybe eight people if were to rain. It did indeed begin to spit at one point. If it began to rain, the only option for most everyone would be to huddle in the open restaurant across the street. Another benefit of arriving early is not having to put up with or confront people who in various ways try to skip the line.
The depositing of the paper work does take some time. Some people don’t have the correct documents and this can take time for the Thai immigration staff to deal with. People told me that they close at exactly 11:00am. Some late arrivers invariably can't make it in time and have to come back again the next day. They will give you a number ticket for the passport pickup. Best to take a photo of it then and there whilst inside the consulate area.
Visa Pick Up
This is important. There is no need to line up all over again the next day for the afternoon pickup from 2:00 – 4:00pm. There is no option for a morning pickup. I got there an hour early at 1:00 for the pick-up and there were perhaps 80 people in front of me. 1:00pm heat. People were visibly stressed out. I got my passport at 2:30pm. By 2:45 there was nobody lining up. Everybody had got their passports. The pickup is fast. The number ticket is given, the correct passport is found from a tray right there at counter, and they ask you for your name. All over in less than 15 seconds. The 1 ½ hour wait standing in line by the road was completely unnecessary. I went back to ask if indeed the consulate would accept passport pickups until 4:00pm – and the answer was yes.... Just go at 3:00pm and walk right in and get your passport. Zero waiting time. The option is there to just sit in the restaurant and have a late lunch and wait for the line to dissipate.
Long line in the hot afternoon sun
At 2:45 the long line has disappeared.
IIf you are wanting to leave that same afternoon for the return trip to Thailand, check out of your hotel or guesthouse and take your backpack with you to the consulate. There are plenty of tuk tuks around. The bus station is down toward the Mekong River on the same side of the main road. The dedicated Savannakhet – Mukdahan bus is very convenient.
Enjoy the trip. I’m looking forward to visiting Ubon Ratchathani on the way back to Bangkok the next time around. The return flight from Ubon Ratchathani to Bangkok costs only 625 baht.
A big big thank you from Education Center to Teacher Geoff of Suphan Buri for being a fantastic Author.
Do you want to work with us? at Education Center or Teach in Suphanburi, Thailand