Getting through Thai immigration faster
Immigration at Thai airports
We have all been there, waiting in line for over an hour to be greeted by the customs officer of the country we are visiting. This is often the worst part of any journey as this is where you journey will begin. If you do not get past this bit you will be going home. But how do you make this as quick and painless as possible. Here are my top tips for getting through Thai immigration faster.
Have the correct visa
This sounds very basic but is often the most important part of gaining entry to the kingdom of Thailand. If you do not have the correct visa you will be refused entry. There are a number of visa types and you should check which one you will need well in advance of any travel plans being made. Thankfully, most of us will just need the standard 30 day tourist visa, which will be issued on your flight. If you plan to stay for longer then you should apply for the correct visa for your length of stay. You should consult your countries embassy for any advice on visa’s as this can differ from one country to another.
Complete the visa before you arrive.
I do not want to sound like I am going over basic things here, but these are often the things that will slow you down at the immigration counter. The number of people I have seen that arrive at the counter and have not completed the form correctly grows every time I visit. As the counters are very small there is no room for you to stand and complete any missing information. You may even be shown back to the counters outside the immigration queues. This could mean standing in line again for some time and waiting your turn.
Have at least 10000 baht in currency on you
One of the legal requirements to enter Thailand is that you will have at least 10000 baht in any currency on you. This is not asked for very often, but if you are asked to show you have the funds to enter the country and have it on your credit card you may be refused entry. The Thai immigration officers will not allow you through to withdraw the cash either as that would breach their policy. There are no cash machines inside the arrivals halls until you have passed through immigration control.
Have all paperwork available in your hand when you arrive at the counter
In order to make it easy for the Thai official, you should have your passport, completed visa and any other paperwork with you when you arrive at the counter. Do not leave this in your bag until you arrive at the counter. This will make your entry to Thailand much quicker. Try to place everything in your passport on the photo page. By making it easier for the official, they will then save time having to check through it all. If you make them wait they will become impatient and could even make you wait whilst they serve the next person in line.
Wait to be called
The Thai Immigration officers do not like to be hurried by anyone. You should always wait to be called forward to the counter. Hand over your paperwork and stand on the footsteps highlighted on the floor. Remove any eyewear or hats as they will be taking your picture for their records. This is fairly standard in most countries now so this should not come as a shock.
Do not ask questions of the official
This sounds very weird, but the Thai border officials do not like to be asked questions. If you do have any questions you should ask the assistants that can be found before you enter the queue. They will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. The immigration officials will often have long queues and do not have time to be answering questions. Remember they want to get you through as quickly as they can, but they will not let you through if you have not passed all the checks.
Take the right hand queue
This is a piece of knowledge I have learned from going through Bangkok airport several times. There are 2 queues to the left and right. The right hand queue is meant for Thai nationals and those carrying a Singapore passport. This queue often passes much quicker than the others. But there are a couple of international desks that are served from this queue, meaning you could get to the front of the line much quicker. This is particularly handy if your flight arrives at the same time as another international flight. This could save you up to an hour of queuing.
Use the fast track system
The fast track system in Thailand allows you to pay to get to the front of the line in seconds. This costs around £28 per person and is a good idea if you are trying to catch a connecting flight. You will be met from your flightby a member of the airport staff and taken directly to the fast track counter. There is a separate queue queue that will take you through the fast track counter. Often you will have to show you have booked this service before you will be allowed to carry on along to the counter. You should treat this counter the same as any other immigration desk and have all you paperwork ready for inspection. I recently used this service and was shocked at how quickly i was able to pass through. in around 3 minutes i was able to progress through to the baggage collection area and catch my connecting flight.
If you think that the only time you will see the immigration officials is on entry to Thailand, then think again. Upon departing the country you will have to pass through immigration one more time.
Arrive in good time
This can be one of the areas that cause the biggest headache for travellers. When leaving Thailand the immigration officials will want to check to see if you have overstayed and are leaving the country. This can take some time to get through so you should always allow around an hour to get through here. You will have all you paperwork checked again.
Have all paperwork ready
Just like when you entered the country you should have all your paperwork ready. It is advisable to locate the entry stamp in your passport prior to arriving at the desk. The official will need to validate that you were in the country legally and will need to stamp the date of departure on this. This can often take a few minutes to find so save the official the time whilst you are in the queue. The easiest thing to do is place your visa in the page with this stamp. This will mean that you get through more quickly.
Have any overstay fees ready for payment
In the event that you have overstayed your visa in Thailand, you will be required to pay an overstay fee of 500 baht per day of overstay up to a maximum of 20000 baht. You will be required to pay this I full at the time of departure, in cash. If you are on a standard 30 day tourist visa you can extend this be a further 30 days to avoid this charge. But this must be done in person prior to the initial visa expiring at the local consulate office.
If you have followed this advice you will often save yourself a great deal of time getting through the Thai immigration system. Although this can’t be guaranteed as other passengers may not follow the same set of standards as you will have set. Hopefully you will end up getting through Thai immigration faster.