Visa overstay on Thai border runs

Most foreigners in Thailand are obliged to make regular border runs for visa renewals. My passport is cramped with visits to Prum, the frontier nearest to Pattaya. Most trips are relatively easy other than the 6:30am departure, but the earlier the mini-bus leaves, the less people at the crossing and the faster the process of renewing your visa. 

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Prom is a dusty border town.

The casino is a rip-off frequented down-and-outers seeking to reverse long losing streaks. None of them wear good shoes and they drive old cars. Each one is a good argument against legalization of casinos in Thailand.

My activities at the border consist of buying a bottle of wine, a box of Viagra knock-offs, and waiting for my passport. There are no tours. The faster you get out the better, although you can continue overland to Phnom Penh by taxi ($25 – 5 hours.)

Until now the only problems have been the snoring of fellow traveler who decided to pull an all-nighter, the blithering idiots who want to gamble at the casino in Prom, or the maniacal minibus driver who thinks the route is a video game.

With the drunk snoring like a truck stuck on ice you can stick wads of paper into your ears, for the gambler you can squash his plans with a democratic vote of NO. The driver is more difficult, because they will drive the way they drive no matter how much you protest.

They have two speeds; death-defying and hell-bent.

I’m not the most organized person in the world, so every once in a while I open my passport to see that I’ve overstayed my visa for a day or two. Until this year that meant a 200 baht fine.

On March 31 this penalty was upped to 500 baht per day or 20 Khang beers at 7/11. With this price in mind I write my exit date on the calendar, but you also have to be concerned having heard about a disastrous visa run from Phuket to Ranong across the river from Burma.

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In February 2006 six farangs were arrested on a visa run for overstays ranging from 1-6 days. For two days the prisoners were under arrest in the local jail, then given a round trip to Bangkok to be processed for exile from the Land Of Smiles. The arrestees were saved this fate through negotiation of their embassies with Immigration officials in the capitol.

Back in Ranong they were escorted from Thai soil and then let back into Thailand on one-month tourist visas. Strangely the only minibuses stopped belonged to one company which had been running the service for six years.

I have never been harassed at the border or any of the stops in between Pattaya and Prom, however I have heard of farangs being detained for smuggling cigarettes and liquor. One rumor had a farang fined for 10 cartons of smokes. He paid 1000 baht for each. 10,000 baht. A very expensive smoking habit.

Several months ago I got on a minibus with a drunk Swede who had purchased over the limit. We distributed the cigarettes among the other passengers and at the first checkpoint the frontier guards asked to see our purchases. They were puzzled none of us were over the limit and had to wave us through the checkpoint without a sin-bon or bribe.

My advice on these visa runs is don’t overstay and only buy what is necessary.

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Jail here is no day in paradise unless you’re a masochist.

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