Thai Visa Run to Kuala Lumpur: A Practical Guide

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.
Damn. I should have bought that bathing suit at UNIQLO.
  • 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.

Guess which line I was in? [Vientiane, Laos, 2014]
/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.

See the people? All under the shade… [view from Holiday Place hotel]
The following day at the Embassy:

  1. I arrived at 12.10 because the hotel checkout is at noon.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Look at this beauty from the hotel bathroom.

 

Have I missed anything? What was your experience with the Thai visa run? Or any visa run!

15 thoughts on “Thai Visa Run to Kuala Lumpur: A Practical Guide

  1. Hi Lani.

    Going/coming to Chiang Rai in May (just for a week) and was wondering if you could suggest any “must do’s” whilst there. I’ve been to Chiang Rai a couple of times before (for about an hour) on a “golden triangle” tour – but really want to see more of the real place. Any suggestions from you or any of your readers would be really appreciated and if you are in Chiang Rai when we are there we will buy coffee and cakes for you.

    Thanks

    Steve n Noi

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Steve. If you do a search on my blog for ‘Chiang Rai’, these are the posts that I’ve written about CR so far…

      https://lanivcox.com/?s=chiang+rai

      I’d also recommend Puchi Faa which is a few hrs out of town. I haven’t been, but I’ve been wanting to!

      In fact, lots of stuff to do out of town, day trips kind of things. Happy planning 🙂

      Like

  2. I’ve never done a visa run like the expats do, so this was blow by blow account was interesting to read. It did seem to me the people queuing up at the KL place were very nice that day. In my experience in Malaysia, people like to cut queues and get ahead – and from my experience they are the locals. Not surprised to hear the place opening half an hour later. Usually things go slow in Malaysia…so luck seemed to be on your side when you got to pick up your passport midday.

    Didn’t know carry-on luggage was weighed going out of KL. It’s been a while since I went there… I’m always struggling to meet carry-on weight limits 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think what you remember about Malaysia might be the way things were done in the past. Or it might be city versus small town life. From my travels there I have not experienced anything particularly slow or had queue cutting…now in Laos or in Ecuador, yes, even Thailand. But maybe living there versus visiting makes the difference.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never had to do a visa run. Probably because I’ve only been overseas in Europe. I wonder if that will change as Trump starts trade wars and pisses every rational country off, one by one?

    But it was fascinating to read your story. And how helpful for everyone visiting. Especially about the shade.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, recently China made their visa more difficult when the US did for them. I think most foreign countries just follow suit of what we do – like a tit for tat. Then again, there is a more generous Chinese visa for Americans if you are interested in doing business with them. But these things can change quickly, and I don’t know if things have changed again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah, visa runs! I have to do them every few months and have three to do this week, in fact – part of my day job is doing all the paper/legwork for visas for the company I work for. Yours in KL sounds pretty good though I agree KLIA2 isn’t exactly a walk in the park. I too have experienced the illogical carryon weighing after checkin; cynical Filipinos often say it’s a way for the airline to make extra fees happen. Either way, they’re a pain!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, cynical Filipinos would be right 😉

      Wow. You’re job sounds endlessly fascinating and hard work. I imagine it’s challenging getting all these visas sorted out and knowing all the requirements. Once again, I have to ask: How do you do it???

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I started out as a PA so the experience of not panicking while meeting some strange requests has been a big help. I just remembered the time my boss’s visa had to be out in 24 hours cause he was flying somewhere the next day. Now that was crazy – I remember calling until I got to a higher up then sending someone to get the stamped passport from him while he was having dinner after work. I sent him a little present afterwards – cookies, I believe – as an apology/thanks for putting up with me lol. True story and one of my more extreme visa runs.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I have done a couple of visa runs but in Hong Kong, which is the default place for Chinese visas, hehe. I like HK but hotels there are very expensive and once I had to stay 6 full days while my work permit was being processed… luckily my ex company was paying!

    Glad to read some hate directly towards KLIA2. That airport is just stupid, ha ha. I guess at least your flight was not announced as closed on the screen when it was still boarding and you were stuck in the second security control. Ah, and the thing about weighting your carry on after check-in is also done by low cost airlines in Europe. They are pure evil…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’ve heard about HK being the default visa run place for China. The BF was no impressed. But one day I’d like to see it for myself.

      Hahahhaa. Yeah, KLIA2 also had us in the tiniest gate. There wasn’t enough room for everyone to sit. Not even 3/4 – so folks started to queue up and this created everyone starting to queue up well before boarding.

      That airport defies logic.

      Like

  6. Although this is not a trip I will ever take it was so interesting to see your blow-by-blow account. I was so curious after watching your Instagram I had to pop over to your blog to see what you were doing these days!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. HI Lani,
    Hope you are doing fine.
    I did not follow your blog for quite awhile.
    Have you left Cambodia and and is now back in Thailand?
    Perhaps, we can meet up.

    Wendy

    Like

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