Passport & Visa
There are two types of visitors to Samui - the first sort comes here for an average stay of 10 days or so and then returns home. But there are an increasingly large number of people who come here for much longer. Retired people coming for the worst half-year of weather back home. Or seasonal workers, say, in the construction industry or such like, when the weather in Europe brings things to a halt in the winter and who come here for 10-12 weeks each year.
The 30-day 'Transit Stamp'
First point: most nationalities (see list below) do not need a 'visa', and will be issued with a 30-day stamp on arrival - a 'transit visa' as it is called.
If you are coming to Koh Samui from one of the following countries, you can visit the island for up to thirty days with your passport and a visa is not required:
Other nationalities need to apply for a visa first.
The 'Tourist Visa'
Second point: You can obtain a 'Tourist Visa' (note that there are many types of visa) in your own country before you come. This will either be a 'Single Entry' visa lasting 90 days or a 'Double Entry' visa of two lots* of 90 days.
But please be careful and check your passport upon entry. You will expect that your 90-day visa will last for 90 days, but not so! Upon entry you will find that you have been given a stamp on your passport that runs out in 60 days time! Although your visa allows you to stay here for 90 days, your entry stamp does not! And you will need to leave the country (yes, really!) and come back again to quality for the last 30 days. Treat it as a short holiday and head across the border somewhere - or fly off out of the country for a few days.
If you are planning to stay for half a year - the 'double entry' tourist visa* - then you will need to repeat this process twice over. (60 days and across the border; 30 days more and across the border to access the second 90 day period - which lasts only 60 days before you have to go out and come back again. Got it? Good!)
Extending your Visa
All visas and transit stamps can be extended. Normally this is not necessary, other than in cases of ill-health or prolonged business negotiations. But the Immigration Office will give you a 7 day extension if you apply for this. The office is just outside Nathon and there is a standard fee of about 1900 baht for this service.
It is tempting to ignore the odd few days over the date of your visa or stamp if your return flight leaves a day or so later. Do not do this! Firstly you will have to pay a fine of 500 baht for each day over the limit. More importantly you just might find yourself with something written in Thai by hand on your passport. And what this will say is along the lines of 'undesirable - no more entry visas'. There is no hard rule for this. It's entirely up to the immigration official who you deal with, what he ate for breakfast and if he had a row with his wife. Don't risk it - unless you are happy never to return to Thailand again.
NOTE: Legally, if you are in Thailand with a passport in which your visa has expired (ie past the date stamp) then you are officially an illegal immigrant. You risk having your passport confiscated, being remanded in jail until the court reviews your case and then deported at your own expense. It has happened before. Don't even think about chancing it!
Tip: the price you pay for being overweight on your baggage here is a tiny fraction of what you'll pay in the West. It's something like 50 baht per kilo - a little more than one Euro. This will allow you the indulgence of filling to the max with local clothes and mementos and souvenirs at a very low extra cost. But - unless your baggage goes direct (ie - if you change planes but your baggage is automatically taken care of) you may find yourself paying big fees if you have to carry it on again in Dubai or Dubrovnik on the way back.
You will be checked by customs. Probably not on Samui, but there's a high chance of this in Bangkok as you leave. There are certain items that you cannot take out and others that are restricted, so check before you have to suffer an hour in an office worrying about your flight!
NOTE: laptop computers have been attracting the attention of the Thai customs in the last year or so. There's been reports that laptops have been checked - not for concealed drugs - but for the contents of the computer. if you confess to the odd Web excursion for harmless softcore entertainment back home please remove all traces of this. It probably won't happen. But don't chance it.
A no-no will be antique Buddha statues. These can only be allowed with a permit and the shop you bought these from will - should - take care of this for you. Normal, small, plastic or plaster reproductions should prove no problem.
If you have any questions regarding immigration, customs, passports or visas you can make a trip to the local Koh Samui immigration office, just outside Nathon, and they will be able to advise you. (But be prepared to queue!) Hours: 9:30 until 4:30 but with a lock-out at lunchtime!
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