First of all, let me congratulate you on making a good choice. Going to Vientiane Laos for your Thai visa run is like competing in the Hunger Games. By contrast, heading to Kuala Lumpur is like taking your dog on a walk through the park, sometimes there are unsure moments, but overall, it’s a breeze.
Who Am I?
- I traveled solo through Air Asia from Chiang Rai (to Bangkok) to KL.
- I’m an English teacher who has worked in Thailand for years.
- I’ve gone to the KL Thai Embassy twice before: once for my tourist visa ages ago and secondly to help my mom get hers.
Some basic information:
- Malaysia has a free visa on arrival. No forms to fill out. Immigration at the airport both ways was quite tame for me.
- If you book your tickets through Air Asia, you’ll fly into KLIA2 which is an hour away from the city.
- Even though Malaysia has decent public transportation, and Uber was advertising everywhere in the airport, I used Grab. It’s the cheapest option out of Uber and taxis. This was confirmed with the hotel front desk clerk, an airport staff and through my own experience.
- The Thai Embassy in KL is open from 9.30 – 11.30 for visa applications and pickups the following day at 2.30 – 4.30pm.
- High season for this Embassy is June, July and August.
Where I stayed:
- I stayed at the Holiday Place which is across from the Thai Embassy. (I’ve stayed at the hotel near Vientiane’s Thai Embassy and it was a lifesaver as I needed to contact my school. They let me use the hotel phone and I was able to quickly run back with the information the Embassy wanted.)
- It was about 50 (Malaysian ringgit) MYR per night. And while I thought that was bit expensive, I met a nice Filipino couple who lives in Malaysia who seemed keen to stay there the next time they were out here.
- The hotel is used to folks staying there for their visa runs. They had the visa forms, checklist printouts, and told me if I need to make copies that there would be no problem.
- There’s actually a nice pool there despite it being an old building. It also has a pizza pasta restaurant in the lobby and a convenience store out back.
- It’s also located only 1km from the Petrona Towers. You could walk there, but I chose to take an Uber and they charged me twice as much (10 MYR) as Grab on the way back (5 MYR).
- Crossing the street to get to the Embassy was scary because the cars were going fast and there’s no crosswalk. I’d recommend turning right, (the hotel is behind you), and after a couple of minutes you will see a foot bridge and also a grocery store, DHL copy/photo store, restaurants and a little mall which has a 7-11, Domino’s and even bicycle rentals. Trust me, you’ll end up waiting for traffic to clear in probably the same amount of time it will take you safely use the pedestrian bridge. And why risk it?
The day of the Embassy:
/1/ The front desk recommended this time of year, early March that I arrive at 8.45, but I decided to get their earlier because I had an early flight on the day of my pickup. Stressful! So I thought I’d be smart and be one of the first there. (It doesn’t matter you get a different number when you pick up your passport.)
/2/ For better or worse, I could see the Embassy from my hotel window, so I saw people there as early as 7.45. This was on a Wednesday. Anyway, by the time I got there at around 8.20, there were about 10-15 people sitting down in various places so I asked a nice looking woman, “Uh, where does the queue start?”
/3/ The nice thing about going here is you will be waiting in the shade and you can sit on the sidewalk or the ledges around the trees. In Vientiane you will wait in the HOT sun beside a dirty road, and the line will be much longer.
/4/ The other crazy thing was when we decided to make a proper line, folks who were there before me let me cue up before them. Unheard of in Vientiane. Over there folks will be screaming and ready to ‘throw down’ over any holding the line, cue cutting, etc. Now, you might be thinking, I was sneaky, but no. The Filipino couple insisted I go first and the other random cats just lined up, they couldn’t be bothered with who was there first. So I got lucky. Or this is normal because there weren’t many people there.
/5/ Sometimes they open the doors at 9, but on the day I was there, they opened at 9.30.
/6/Afterwards, they will ask you what kind of visa you are applying for and you will get a number accordingly. At this point there were maybe about 30 people lined up.
/7 You enter a courtyard area with chairs. There’s a clean WC to use. No Gladiator games. It’s cool and calm.
/8/ When they officially open the doors, you head inside into the inviting AC. The whole process was about 30 minutes for me from the time we got in.
/9/ While I’m waiting, I get my packet of papers out and then realize that my new passport sized photos are in my other purse back in Thailand. A dump of adrenaline hits my body and I try not to panic. Luckily I had old photos tucked in my pocketbook and the Embassy took it without any problem.
/10/ The windows had an ‘assembly line’ going on which allowed the visas to be processed in an efficient manner. You’re called up, they look at your paperwork, and then asked you to sit down. When you are called up again, they take your payment in THB or MYR.
/11/ I decided to take a chance and ask if I could collect my passport early because I booked a flight the next day that was cutting it a wee bit too close. To my surprise after some discussion and sitting back down again, they said yes and wrote, “12.30 pm pickup tomorrow”. I was over the moon elated. But I wouldn’t recommend taking this chance in the future.
The following day at the Embassy:
- I arrived at 12.10 because the hotel checkout is at noon.
- After I showed the security guard/gatekeeper my receipt stating that I was there early to pick up my passport, he let me in without a number.
- There were about 10 people still around. I went up to one of the windows to let them know I was here and I had to wait until they processed everyone else which was fine. I expected that, but it was good to let them know that I had arrived because I could see them talking about it.
- My school told me to make sure that they had written that I worked there on the visa. It wasn’t so I asked them and they did it. In fact, the Embassy employee said it was a good idea to do so, but not all schools requested this.
- Finally, I do want to share that the Embassy checklist did not exactly match what my employer gave. For example, I didn’t need a criminal background check because I work for a private school. This is a new requirement from government schools. However, I had mine with me just in case. It’s really the telex number that the Thai Embassy wants which is confirmation from both the Thai government and the school that you are legit.
At the airport:
- It kind of sucks in certain ways, just to warn you.
- When you arrive into KLIA2 be prepared to walk the length of several football stadiums.
- Don’t use the first SIM card kiosks that you see, wait until you reach the ‘mall’ part of the airport. There you can receive a free tourist SIM.
- There are NO money exchanges until you are outside. However, Thai baht is accepted. When you finally see the line of cars and taxis, the banks are located on both ends of the arrival doors.
- When you fly out, the interesting thing is your carry-on will be weighed before you go through security, but after you have checked any bags through. Defies logic, but there you go. Why not weigh your carry-on at the ticket counter just in case you are over and need to make some adjustments?
- You will go through security twice. Once before the gates and then again after you have done shopping or eaten and say have a full bottle of water with you.
- The thing about this airport is there is no bottled water for you to purchase once you are at the gates unless you count the plastic covered cups you can buy. Air Asia also does not give complimentary water, so you need to have an empty water bottle to fill up at one of the water stations located by the WCs.
Have I missed anything? What was your experience with the Thai visa run? Or any visa run!