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Free tourist visa for Indians, more reason to visit Thailand


Thailand is full of beautiful temples like the Wat Chalong in Phuket. Couldn’t resist clicking this beautiful door

Indian travellers to Thailand can get a visa free of cost now, making it one more reason to visit the country if you were sitting on the fence. The government has made the single entry visa free for Indian citizens till 31 August, 2017. Visa on arrival is not free but the fee has been halved to 1000 Thai Baht for the same period.

Most people would prefer the visa on arrival as it’s convenient, but if you are travelling as a family even four visas means 4000 THB or 8000 rupees (1 THB = 2 INR approx.). If you save that, it could go a long way in Thailand. So make sure you apply for visas beforehand.

Here is the lowdown on all you need or want to know about Thai visas in general and for Indians in particular.

But before that, if it’s your first time traveling abroad, here’s a post on documents and other necessary things to take care of before you travel. If you’re a seasoned traveler, links are provided below to help you apply online for the visa, and the check the current visa fees.

The single entry visa allows you to stay in Thailand for up to 60 days and the validity is 90 days. This is the visa that most tourists take and it’s the one that is free now. The multiple entry visa which is valid for six months costs 10,000 THB and a medical tourist visa, valid for 90 days, costs 2,000 THB. In addition to these fees, the visa processing charge is also to be paid.

If you’re in the Western region (includes Mumbai), you have to apply through Cox & Kings link  while those in the North, South and East should visit VFS (link here).

The visa processing fees is 260 rupees per applicant individual and small group in the West. More details are available on the Cox & Kings and the VFS websites.

A list of documents needed for a visa can be found on the Thai Embassy website under ‘services’.

If you are travelling at short notice, the visa on arrival will work for you. The fee has to be paid in cash at the Visa on Arrival counters before you proceed to immigration. The requirements are the same. You could read this post from desiyatri.com

It’s important to ensure passport validity of over 6 months (on the date you leave, not enter, Thailand), having the amount for visa fees in cash, and carrying photographs of each traveller, proof of hotel stay, and enough foreign currency. The single entry visa needs you to carry proof of having currency of 20,000 THB per person or 40,000 THB per family.

(Should you plan to visit Phi Phi and/or James Bond Island while you’re there, you could get some tips, and important information like cost etc. in this post. )

Here’s what happened when my husband, daughter, and I visited Thailand recently

We were to do our visas on arrival. Frankly, keeping 40,000 THB in hand was a little disconcerting so we did a bit of investigation on the internet. Turned out, we could also have a forex card loaded with that amount and carry a printout of the currency balance on the card. But when I spoke to the Thai Consulate, I was advised to keep the required currency in cash to be on the safe side.

We had taken a multi-currency charge (forex) card, so we took a printout of the balance and got the bank to stamp it. We kept some currency too. Incidentally, we weren’t asked for proof of currency at the visa counter, but there is no guarantee that it can’t or won’t happen. Also remember that visa on arrival fee has to be paid in cash.

The cost of a visa on arrival is the same irrespective of which city in Thailand you first arrive at and get this visa processed. We entered Thailand through Phuket while the usual port of entry is Bangkok. We did a search for visa procedures at Phuket and saw some chatter about the immigration process being slower compared to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.

That isn’t unusual as a smaller airport has fewer staff members and when planeloads of passengers disembark, immigration takes time. What caught our attention though was a post titled ‘Thailand Visa Scam at Phuket International Airport’ which said officials at Phuket airport immigration charged an extra 200 Thai Baht for a visa on arrival, compared to the normal charge of 1000 THB.

Now when we visited Phuket in end-October, the visa on arrival rate had doubled to 2000 THB. Paying 200 THB more on that might seem like a trifle, but principle matters. Forewarned, we filled our immigration forms, but went to the immigration queue by mistake. This proved to be a fortunate error as an immigration official told us to go to the visa counter, pay 2000 THB for the visa, and come back.

At the visa counter, another official glanced at our forms, took out a calculator, and a few jabs later showed us a screen that had ‘6600’ blinking on it. I politely told him the visa cost is 2000 THB per person and there are three of us, so the total should be 6000 THB.

He recalculated and showed us 6600 again. We repeated that we had checked on the embassy website and the immigration official had confirmed it too. Then, this one smiled and asked if we meant we wanted a normal visa and not an express/fast track one?

Of course! He pointed at another counter just a little ahead and told us to go there. Both the counters look the same and there were no signs, saying ‘normal’ or ‘fast track’. At the ‘normal’ counter another official came, checked our documents, took 6000 THB, stamped our passports, and waved us on.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a lovely stay in Phuket and all the Thais we met were very warm. But such an experience at the point of arrival didn’t exactly set the right mood. If we hadn’t stood our ground, we would have paid 600 THB extra for no reason at all.

So, how do you avoid paying more than the normal visa fee? One, politely ask them to direct you to the normal visa fees counter. Being polite is a must. If they insist on the fast track supplement, don’t lose your cool. Keep smiling and ask for the normal counter. If they still don’t understand, pull out a printout of the Visa on Arrival charges. You will find it on the Thai Embassy. As of now, here’s the  Thai embassy notification regarding the reduced visa charges.  That should do the trick.

This is what the Thai regular tourist visa and on arrival visa look like

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