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Gulf of Thailand: Our experience with Thai immigration and customs

By Cruisers prefer to remain anonymous — last modified Feb 10, 2014 04:05 PM

Published: 2014-02-10 00:00:00
Countries: Thailand

Entering Thailand at Ko Samui

We entered Thailand from Malaysia in early September 2013, at Ko Samui. We had already obtained a double entry Thai visa from Australia (2 x 2+1 months = 6 months, with a trip out in the middle).

The immigration officials in Ko Samui were nice as pie and we weren't charged anything at all (we had heard stories of big money demands there, but we had no hint of it). However, they said they'd been taken to task last year by Trat (E side Gulf) immigration, and so could not give us more than 30 days as we were boat crew. They made a lot of phone calls to try to honour the visas, but did not succeed. They did try, over a period of 4 hrs.

Customs didn't seem to know what they were doing, but were very jolly and just asked how long we wanted. We said 6 months and that's what they gave us. No hint of any charge there either.

Trat Immigration

We sailed to Ko Chang on the E side of the Gulf, and after our 30 days we went to the regional immigration office near Trat on the mainland (the nearest to here). They have a bad reputation for being nasty, but were fine with us. We expected to pay a bond so we could leave Thailand by bus to Cambodia, then return and get our visas honoured. In fact they never mentioned a bond, so nor did we. We bussed to Cambodia and back and got our visas honoured. No mention of boats or customs when we left or re-entered.

I might say that last year a German boat did just this to renew their visa, which they accomplished, but got a major telling off from Immigration in Trat when they went to check out. Trat said they were still boat crew when they came back and should only have got 30 days at the border instead of the 2 months, and tried to fine them.

We are still here so haven't done our final check-out.

Conclusion

I think what all this says is that even before the recent revision of rules (January 2014), Thailand is still a hotch-potch and it all depends where you are and who you see and when it is. You never know where you stand.

It is especially difficult in the Gulf of Thailand which hardly ever sees any foreign boats. In Ko Chang this season there are only 4 cruising boats. Actually one already left, one is leaving next week, and the other stays in the marina all the time. So that just leaves us and our 42 foot boat!

We have been thinking of coming back to Ko Chang next NE season, but it looks impossible if the new rules really have come into force everywhere. There is a problem of cost going into Cambodia with the boat as you have to use an agent. Another yacht got away with $100 for the boat plus $50 for visas, but all the others who've been there have paid up to $350 for the boat. This is just for a month. So you can't just go in and out every month with the boat in order to satisfy the new Thai rules. They have effectively put the E Gulf out of bounds.

Hope this helps other cruisers considering cruising in this part of Thailand.

Name Withheld

See report: Thailand - New Rules for boat/yacht stays

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Koh Samui
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