The Thai-Lao border at Nong Khai.
Make sure that you fill in the section that asks for the address in Thailand. They are very particular about this. Fill in the name of the hotel you are staying at. If I am staying in multiple hotels in multiple cities, I will fill in the place where I am staying first or the longest. If I am staying at a friend or a relative’s place, I will fill in their address. Some people ask me if they can print and use the visa form they find on some website. I would recommend that you use the form that is available at the visa on arrival (VOA) counter. I have had some travellers tell me that they did not accept the printed forms and requested the travellers to fill a fresh form.
A2. Your passport – Your passports needs to be valid for at least six months from the day you enter Thailand. Thai visa and the immigration stamps take up one full page.
A3. Your boarding pass stub – This is part of the boarding pass that has your seat number and flight details etc. The stub also has your flight number.
A4. Arrival-Departure card
The flight attendants will distribute this card before the plane lands in Thailand. Fill all the areas except the part that asks for the visa number. The second page of this form asks for your departure flight. The form also asks for some personal details. Fill everything that applies to you. The From/Port of embarkation is the city where you started your journey. Next City is the immediate next destination after Bangkok. So if you are going to say Phuket after Bangkok, then you should write Phuket. If you are only staying in Bangkok and going back to your home city (or the city you started your journey from) then put that city. Sometimes, they run out of this card in the plane. You can find this card at the Visa on Arrival counter too.
A5. Proof of ability to stay in Thailand
10,000 THB (about 340 USD) per person or 20,000 THB per family (people traveling together in one party) . They will not take this money. They just want to make sure you have enough money. This can be in any currency as long as it is equivalent to the Thai currency above. I have shown them Singapore Dollars and Chinese RMB in the past and they were fine with it. In recent years, they hardly ever ask you to show this money, but be prepared, just in case. They do not acknowledge credit or debit cards. In Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi) airport there are ATMs before the immigration where you can withdraw cash, if you have to.
A6. Your return or onward ticket or e-ticket printout.
Your return date must be within 14 days from the date of entry (visa on arrival allows 14 days stay). So say if you enter Thailand on 1 June, you must return no later than 14 June.
A7. One recent photograph
Thai immigration website recommends that the photo be 4 x 6 cm. I have used photo that is similar in size to the photo in Indian passports and they were fine with it. There is a photo booth nearby that will take your photo for small fee.
A8. The visa on arrival fee
Visa fee is 1000 THB (Thai Bahts). If you do not have the Thai currency, you can get it at the 24 hour money changers near the visa on arrival counter at Suvarnabhumi airport. If you decide to take the express (premium) queue, then you will have to pay 200 THB extra.
B. The procedure
Look for the Visa on Arrival signs, they will lead you to the Visa on Arrival area.
If you arrive on a plane from China or India, most people will be going to this area. Note the money-changers just before the Visa on Arrival Counter.
Below is the plan for the Visa on Arrival area at Suvarnabhumi airport.
Walk to the visa on arrival desk. (point A in the figure). Collect and fill the Visa On Arrival form. This counter is open 24 hours. The official at this counter can usually speak some English and Chinese. Give your photo to this official and she will staple it to your form.
Next, choose between regular queue (B) or premium or express queue (C). You will have to pay 200 THB for the express queue. You may use this option if you are in a hurry to get out.
While you are waiting in the queue, arrange your documents in this order from top to bottom
- Boarding pass stub
- Completed visa form (with photo attached)
- Return ticket printout
- Completed Arrival/Departure form
Procedure for regular queue
- If you have chosen the regular queue, your documents will be checked at (B). The officer here will issue you a token with your number on it.
- Sit down at the waiting area (D) until your number is called at the immigration desk (E)
- Once your number is called, proceed to area (E). This is where you will pay the visa fee (1000THB). The office here stamps the visa.
- Once done, you will find the baggage area just behind the immigration counter. (F)
Procedure for express queue
- If you have chosen the express queue, your documents will be checked at (C). The officer here will issue you a token with your number on it.
- Sit down at the waiting area (D). They will process your visa and once done, your number is called at (C).
- Collect your passport and head to the express immigration counter (C2). The entry stamp is made on your visa and you can proceed to counter (F) to collect your bags.
The above photo shows how the visa on arrival stamp looks like. Note that it takes up on whole page on your passport.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. How long does the visa on arrival take?
A. My wait times have ranged from 10 minutes to 2 hours. (Though in recent times – in 2015- they have become faster at this). It all depends how many flights from India and China arrive at the same time as yours. Before you leave your home airport, just check the flight arrivals at Suvarnabhumi airport for the day. You can check the arrivals at http://www.bangkokairportonline.com/node/129
(it shows departures but you can switch to arrival view). If you find some flights from China/India/Parts of Africa and Central Asia landing just before your flight then be ready to wait longer. The wait is a good opportunity to practice your Chinese/Russian language skills with folks around you. Load up some games on your iPad to keep the kids busy.
Q2. Is is worth joining the express queue?
A. If you happen to land at a busy time , the express queue will not help you much, as it will have the same number of people as the regular queue. But if you land at a less busy time and you are in a hurry then express queue is a good choice.
Q3. How long is the Visa on Arrival queue in Phuket, Chiang Mai and other international airports?
A. Much faster compared to Bangkok. The process is also much simpler. There is just one counter that handles all the process.
Q4. My ticket is from Dubai (or some other city) to Bangkok and then to Phuket (or some other Thai city) from the same airport. Should I take the visa on arrival at Bangkok or my destination airport?
A. If you have an immediate flight to other destinations in Thailand and this flight is also leaving from the same airport, look for a counter that says “Transfer to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket, Krabi, Samui, Hatyai”. Officers in this counter will process your visa. This counter is before the Visa on Arrival counter.
Some domestic flights such as Thai Air Asia leave from Don Muang airport. If your next flight is from Don Muang, then you will have to get a visa on arrival before you exit the Suvarnabhumi airport. Getting to Don Muang airport from Suvarnabhumi via shuttle bus or taxi will take you 2 to 3 hours so keep that in mind when you book your domestic flights.
Q5. Is it better to take a visa on arrival or should I apply for a visa at a nearby Thai embassy.
A. If you have smaller children or senior folks in your party, I would recommend getting the visa in advance. Otherwise visa on arrival is fine.
Q6. Are there other options for getting the Thai Visa in India?
A. You can contact the Thai embassy or consulates in India. VFS Global is also able to assist for resident of select cities. See http://www.vfs-thailand.co.in/
Q7. Is it fine if I show my bank statements, receipts of hotel etc in lieu of the spending money
A. It purely depends on how strict the visa officer that is handling you is. My adage is always do exactly what they say on their official visa on arrival rules mentioned at the Foreign Affairs Website page on Visa on Arrival (link at the bottom). If you check that page, you will notice that they do not mention hotel or bank statements. If the visa officer ignores your bank statements and insists on seeing the spending money, you will spend a lot of time arguing with her and the people in the queue behind you will get angry. I am sure you are planning to take some USD (or INR etc.) to spend in Thailand, just show this money. In the 55 odd visits I have made to Thailand over the last 15 years, only twice (once at Bangkok airport and once at Malaysia-Thailand land border crossing), I was asked to show this spending money. But do not take chances. Prepare this money so that you can show it, if they ask for it.
Q8. My travel agent or someone told me that you have to show 1000USD (or some other amount) or hotel reservations etc. Is it true?
A. Your travel agent is misinformed (or is trying to get you to book hotels or convert money to earn some more off you). You only need what is mentioned in section A5 on top. If your travel agent does too much drama, show them the official Thai ministry of Foreign Affairs Website page on Visa on Arrival (link at the bottom) . The visa on arrival form and the embarkation slip do ask for your address in Thailand. Fill in the name of the hotel you have booked or the hotel you intend to stay at. You do not need to show the hotel bookings at VOA counter.
Q9. Where do I pick up my bags? before visa on arrival or after?
A. After. The baggage area is immidiately after the counter where you get your visa stamped. If you find that your baggage belt is already assigned to a more recent flight, check the floor near the belt. Usually the airport crew will unload the unclaimed bags and place it next to the belt. Thailand is warm and it is much cheaper to buy clothes locally. Avoid bringing a big bag, it will slow you down. (I carry two changes of clothes and as hand luggage. I always head to UNIQLO store in Bangkok and buy their cotton linen shirts. They are inexpensive, suited for the hot and humid weather, look good, wash and dry fast.)
Q10. I am going to Cambodia/Lao/Malaysia etc. from Thailand and returning to Thailand for my return flight back home. Can I get a multiple or double entry visa?
A. Thailand no longer issues a double/multiple entry tourist visa. You need to get a visa on arrival on every entry to Thailand. Get your first visa at the Thai airport where you enter the country. Exit Thailand to visit the neighbouring country . Then get your next Thai visa when you re-enter Thailand. I have applied for visa on arrival at several border posts and airports, and it is not a problem as long as you can show a flight ticket out of Thailand to another country (and pay the visa fees etc.). A list of border posts where you can get Visa on Arrival is here at Thailand’s Foreign Affairs Website page on Visa on Arrival.
Do note that you will not be able to get Thai visa on arrival when you are crossing the land border from Cambodia into Thailand. So it is better to apply to for a regular Thai visa in Cambodia. Your hotel in Cambodia can assist you with this. I had Indian travelers tell me that they have had trouble getting Cambodian Visa on Arrival while crossing into Cambodia via land border (if you are taking the bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap). To avoid the hassle, get the Cambodian e-visa in advance from https://www.evisa.gov.kh
For Lao PDR and Cambodia, you can get the visa on arrival at borders or at the airport. For Myanmar, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia, it is better to get the visa in advance. Malaysia does offer visa on arrival but you must be flying in on Air Asia or Malaysian Airlines, and you should have a ticket out.
Q11. Do we need to show a marriage certificate to prove that we are a family
A. You do not need any documentation to prove that you are a family. Thailand is not that fussy. Having said that, it is a good idea to carry a photocopy or a digital copy of your marriage certificate, passport and other travel documents just in case. I keep a scanned copy on my phone another online on Dropbox. This way, even if you misplace your passport etc, you will have some backup to take to the embassy and get an emergency passport.
Other useful links
See the following link for mobile SIM cards that you can buy in Thailand.
Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs official Visa on Arrival site – http://www.mfa.go.th/main/en/services/123/15393-Visa-on-Arrival.html