Thailand Visa on Arrival and Immigration Formalities
It all begins with a desire to travel around the world. The first step in this direction was taken on last year trip to Bhutan which was breathtaking. The second opportunity to travel was with my wife just after our marriage. I have been considering international travel since last year, and we zeroed upon Thailand in October 2015. The factors to consider Thailand were Visa On Arrival, inexpensive, easy to travel, beautiful, culture and heritage and diverse landscape. Thailand is an easy to travel great family destination and I would recommend any Indian Couple travel to Thailand for their honeymoon.
Since, it would be first such travel I tried to plan it perfectly with the help of Internet. Some websites I referred were Agoda.com, Momondo.com, Tripadvisor.com, DesiYatri.com, SoloBackpacker.com, RoughGuides.com, IndieTraveller.com, www.vfs-thailand.co.in (Information about VOA), https://extranet.immigration.go.th/voaonline (VOA Online Form), www.suvarnabhumiairport.com, indiamike.com, wikitravel.org etc. Travel dates (10 days including travel) were decided based on number of places to be visited, inexpensive flight tickets and sufficient time to prepare for the trip after marriage.
We started from Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi at 2130 hours on SpiceJet flight to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata. The flight was already delayed by two hours. We had our connecting flight to Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok at midnight which could have been missed if not for same operator and same PNR number for the journey. Our checked-in luggage was to be collected at Bangkok itself. There was another honeymoon couple travelling to Thailand. We chatted about our plans and the husband helped me by converting my USD 56 in THB 2000 which I could not do in advance. I thanked him, as THB 2000 was to be paid for me and my wife as VISA fees.
This was my first International Trip which included Immigration formalities like filling up immigration forms, presenting Passports and getting photo clicked by Immigration Officer. The Officer stamped my passport with departure date. In flight, we were handed over Thai Immigration Forms with included Arrival and Departure Cards. I filled up in the form in flight itself. The flight to Bangkok was full at this time of year.
Our flight reached Bangkok at 0430 hours as per Thailand Time Zone. First thing that impressed me was well laid out plan of the city from the plane’s window. Arrivals at the airport were plush and elegant. We found our way to Visa On Arrival section easily. While, other travelers were struggling with their VOA forms, we had filled Online VOA form available at https://extranet.immigration.go.th/voaonline and taken the printouts in advance. We did not had to wait in the queue for long, as most of the passengers were busy filling out their Immigration and VOA forms. I had following documents with me for VOA:
- Online Print-out of VOA Form
- 4 cm X6 cm photograph
- Boarding Pass of the arrival flight
- Return Ticket from Thailand
- THB 1000 for VOA fees
- Immigration Form (both Arrival and Departure Cards filled)
- Printout of Hotel Reservation Slip
- Money equivalent to THB 20000 as we were a family. This was not asked by the VOA Officer.
Since I was with my wife, I presented both (mine and her) VOA forms at VOA counter. After verification, the Officer placed both of ours passports with documents and fees in a transparent plastic folder with a Token Number. We were also give the same token number and asked to wait. After some time a person came to the waiting area with the transparent folders and started announcing token numbers. We collected out Passports, VOA stamped, allowing us single visit for fifteen days and the receipt for VOA fees. The procedure was so easy that all initial worries seemed trivial and unfounded.
Then we went to Immigration Counter where we presented out Passports. After checking the documents and VISA, the Immigration Officer stamped our passports with arrival date. We collected our checked-in baggage after crossing the Immigration counter. All this took about an hour.
Day – 1 Bangkok (Thailand) – Chao Phraya River and Wat Pho
After collecting the baggage, I soaked up the surroundings before taking next step. I had no Thai Baht with me, so first thing was to get some USD converted into THB. I had brought USD 1000 for day to day expenditure while all flights and hotels were booked in advance.
Somewhere I had read that currency conversion rates at Airports are not attractive and so it was here. I converted only USD 40 (~THB 1400) from a bank counter till I find another exchange in the city. The bank asked to scan the first page of my passport. We walked to Airport Line Metro Station located at the basement of the Airport. On the way we brought a SIM card from DTAC store. The card provided us 1.5 Gb data in THB299 with THB100 talk time. The card was activated immediately.
To my surprise and excitement, I saw Super Rich 1965 store at the basement near Metro Station, I converted about USD 303 at the counter at much better rates. In Thailand I did not see any exchange providing better rates that Super Rich 1965.
Metro train dropped us at Ratchaprarop station where I had booked hotels. I checked in Siam Star Hotel, a budget hotel which I had booked to take rest before checking into Berkeley Pratunam afternoon.
After taking lunch at Bombay Palace Indian Restaurant located at Ratchaprarop Road, we took a train from Ratchaprarop Road to Saphan Taksin changing trains at Phaya Thai and Siam (Later I realized we could also take direct train to Saphan Taksin from Siam or Ratchadamri). We boarded a tourist boat from Saphan Taksin pier located below the station in THB 40 each to Tha Tien pier. A lady was holding a mike in the boat and was trying to explain about the important places on the banks of Chao Phraya river, but nobody seemed to care. I could have better taken another boat used by locals at much cheaper price. We enjoyed the cool breeze and the scenery around the river. I caught a glimpse of Wat Arun which was under renovation, so I decided against visiting there.
After getting down at Tha Tien pier we walked to closely located Wat Pho temple. The temple enshrines a gigantic reclining Buddha.
We spent some time at the temple before taking a tuk-tuk back to our hotel in THB 150, we later covered the same distance in THB 120. Almost all the taxis we hailed for did not agree to drive on meter, so we avoided them to the possible extent. In the night we roamed around night market in Ratchaprarop and Pratunam area. We had our dinner at Chotiwala Indian Restaurant.
Day – 2 Bangkok (Thailand) – Grand Palace and Siam Niramit
We got ready by 0800 hours to leave for Ayutthaya at the earliest. Just outside the hotel we asked for Tuk-Tuk to take us to Victory Monument so that we can catch a Van to Ayutthaya. But, one of the Tuk Tuk driver diverted us to first visit a ‘government’ tourist information office or TAT Office (a common way to refer tourists to private tour agencies). One has to be careful about these touts. We were into the trap now. So, the tuk tuk driver took us to Thai AW Travel Co. Ltd located near Ratchaprarop Station. The agency was successful in convincing us that we are now too late to go to Ayutthaya and must either take a private car to Ayutthaya which will cost us THB3000 or book local site seeing tours.
I did not take both the options and instead booked a tour to Damnoen Sadauk Floating Market – JEATH Museum, River Kwai, Death Railway and Tiger Temple. This group tour cost us THB 5000 including vegetarian lunch, ticket to JEATH museum and peddle boat at the floating market. After paying in advance and booking the tour, I came out of the tour agency’s office and decided to spend the day visiting Grand Palace, Ocean World and Siam Niramit. I had to drop Ayutthaya from my itinerary.
I hailed another tuk tuk driver and he agreed to drop us at Grand Palace in THB 120. He started his story that Grand Palace is closed today, there is a Buddha festival and all such stuff. He then advised us to visit TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) Office. I asked him to doubly make sure that it is the government office and he confirmed. But, to our surprise he took us back to Thai AW Travel Co. Ltd office where we had earlier booked a tour. We told him that we have already visited the office and it is not a government office. He suggested that there is a souvenir shop nearby to which we strictly said NO. Then he complained that there is no gas in his vehicle and demanded us to pay THB 50 and take another Tuk Tuk to Grand Palace. He simply refused to take us. Tit for Tat, we got down and refused to pay him anything. I was disappointed the way he treated us and decided to be more careful next time.
We reached Grand Palace which had ticket price of THB 500 per person. Gentleman and ladies with sleeveless clothes and visible knees were not allowed to enter the Palace. The palace was beautiful and we spent about 2-3 hours admiring the architecture.
After visiting the palace we hailed a taxi to our Hotel. We took some rest before leaving for Siam Niramit show. From Ratchaprarop area, we took Bus No. 54 which dropped us at the gate of Siam Niramit with ticket price of THB 1500 per person at the counter.
I would recommend the show if one is interested to know something of Thai culture, history and the way of living. Before the show starts at 2000 hours, we visited the living replica of Thai village and witnessed folk dance and music. The one and half hour show in itself was brilliant, well choreographed, colorful, musical with amazing effects. Me and my wife loved the show.
Day – 3 Bangkok (Thailand) – Damnoen Sadauk Floating Market, River Kwai, Death Railway, JEATH Museum and Tiger Temple
The next day we woke up early morning for our tour booked the previous day. The van driver was late by half an hour but the van was comfortable (13 seater). We were first taken to Khao San Road and just like us there were other vans from different parts of the city. Here travelers are reshuffled based on their destinations. In our van, all passengers were going to Floating Market. Damnoen Sadauk floating market located about 98 kilometers south west of Bangkok is beautiful and a unique market in itself. The market is full of handicrafts, fruits and local food. The prices are a bit on higher side but one can always bargain hard.
After noon, we reached JEATH museum established in the memory of World War II when Japanese forces constructed railway to Burma and the bridge at River Kwai. The river was flowing silently and the iron bridge was flooded with tourists both Thai and foreigners.
We reached Tiger Temple at 1500 hours. We were informed of the rules to be followed while visiting Tiger Canyon. First, do not wear bright colored clothing especially red, yellow or orange. It seemed the motive of all tourists was to get pictures clicked with tigers. There were about fifteen tigers in the tiger canyon tied with iron chains. Most of them were sleepy and were sprayed with water to make them pose. Tourists paying THB 600 fees were separated from those paying THB 1000. The former could take pictures with tiger sitting behind them while the later can take tiger’s head in his/her lap and get a picture clicked in a group.
There was a monk sitting the entrance of the canyon supervising the staff. The staff were helping tourists click photographs with the tigers. To me, the tigers seemed unusually calm and the reason offered by the staff was that tigers like other cat species sleep in day time and are more active in morning and evening. Also since they are brought up by human beings, they do not mind being in their company.
For Days — 4, 5, 6, 7 of Indian Couple Travel to Thailand, read Indian Couple Travel to Thailand – Krabi