Thailand Visa in Seven Minutes

My frugal-oriented mind should be responsible for any complaints if you have – for my ‘not so frugal’ Thailand visa process. Don’t get confused. I learned a great lesson how the results turn out if I let my penny pinching mind rule over my decisions.

Since several months before the trip, I have been making sure I receive all the required/ right documents for the trip – from every department of my college and from the Burmese embassy to issue an approval letter that I am a full-time student in the United States. What I forgot to make a double check is the most important part of my trip – visa requirements for the countries I will stop by. All are in my familiar region – South East Asia where I came from.

I have known for sure – I can get an on-arrival visa to Cambodia. However, my first stop before Cambodia is Thailand. I was scheduled to meet several officials in Bangkok to receive the briefings about the organization and projects I will get involved for the next four months.

The lady from the Bangkok office sent me a single email – “here, see the attached documents you will need and your hotel reservation. You can apply for the on-arrival visa at Bangkok airport. If you have other questions, I can answer you only after you arrive here.”

Oh – it is clear, huh!!

This is not my first time to Bangkok – I always needed to get the visa in advance. And I have checked several times about the visa requirements for Thailand during the summer time. However, I had no idea how come my knowledge and experience about Thailand visa requirements were blown out of my mind and I was convinced by that lady’s very short email – I can get the on-arrival visa. For that, I did not complain her, but I did on my frugally stimulated mind.

I want those visa processes as less expense as possible. I guess that my frugal-oriented mind blocked out all of my knowledge about the process involving with some extra costs.

Here comes how I managed to get the visa to Thailand in seven minutes

It was not fun at all. It was at the early morning of the day I was about to fly to Asia when I began to feel I was not really sure whether Thailand grants Burmese citizens on arrival or not. At 2:00 am in the morning, I woke up shakily and checked it on the internet and found out ‘no’. However, I sent several messages to my friends in BKK with a fading hope – to get ‘yes’. All of them reached me back and the answer was, of course, no.

Luckily, I was in Los Angeles visiting my teacher and her family. I found out that there is a Thailand counselor office in LA where visas to Thailand can be issued. It lives me up at a much needed time. Since it was on Monday, all of my friends were busy to go to their jobs. So, their plan was to drop me at the airport since the early morning. I had to make a quite risk involved decision. ‘Risk’ means – whether I got the visa or not, I had to take a taxi from the embassy to the airport. And it’s really pricey – obviously, it is against my frugal plan.

Anyway – I had to rely on my luck once in a while. Instead of asking them to take me to the airport, I requested my friend to take me to Thai embassy. I still need to print the visa application form and other documents to get the visas. Since there is no printer set up at my teacher’s house ready, she helped me get her old printer out of her store room. I plugged the printer to the computer and tried to download the driver software from the internet. I was still printing at the very last minutes after my friend got her car engines ready and my teacher telling me to get down. Otherwise, we would be stuck in LA’s Free-Way traffic. My teacher was not positive about my chances to get the visa in two hours. If my friend could manage avoiding LA’s heavy morning traffic and arrive at the embassy’s opening time at 9:00 am, I had to get out of the embassy by 11:00 am to catch my flight. We arrived there exactly at 9:00 am but on the way, we could not find Seven/Eleven stores where I can buy a money order form to pay for the visa fee since the embassy did not accept cash and of course, no credit cards. We had to drive around another 45 minutes to find a place which sells it.

My friend drove me back and dropped me at the stairs of the embassy building. I was already in heavy sweat after taking up my three heavy luggage up near the security gate and begged the security officer to let me leave those heavy loads just there. At first, he said ‘no’. After he seeing me – the very shaky face in heavy sweat – “You have to bring them up to that little corner.”  I thanked him million times – run up to the third floor right to the counselor session. I was literally running into the office while screaming “Please, I need a very urgent visa right now.”  Everyone in the office stood and starred at me – like a fire truck going into them.

The officer in the glass box said – “Calm down. Fill out the form first.” Only after that, I realized I was giving him a blank application form.” Of course, the whole process takes ONLY seven minutes. And you know what – the visa fee is FREE. They don’t charge for a three-month tourist visa since it is trying to attract tourists back to the country after the Red group protests.

I got out of the embassy before 10:00 am and got the taxi to the airport while still holding my unused $ 35 money order slip in one hand. The taxi charged me $ 50. If I would have thought I had had to pay for the visa fee, I still lost $ 15 in contrast – my frugal plan does not work. Anyway, I am now in Bangkok writing this blog after enjoying a two-dollar Tuk Tuk ride around the city and $ 1 beef soup for dinner at a street vendor stall on the roadside of Petchaburi Road.


About Wai Phyo Myint

Wai Phyo Myint is a senior at Green Mountain College, majoring in Political Journalism. She is now in Cambodia doing her senior studies and volunteering as an Communications/Advocacy strategy intern with International Labour Organiations in Phnom Penh.
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