Currently living in Thailand as an Ex-Pat from England for the last 15 years, I frequently need to travel across the Thai border for a Thai Visa Application or simply just to get a stamp in my passport. I currently have a Non-Immigrant visa which enables me to stay in Thailand for no more than 90 days at a time. Being married to a Thai national and having a child in Thailand makes absolutely no difference to my residential status and I still require a visa to remain in the country.
Recently, I needed a new multiple entry visa which allows me to stay in Thailand for a total of 15 months. However I still cannot remain in the Kingdom for more than 90 days and will need to cross a border in order to have my passport stamped. I like this kind of visa because I am able to travel at any time within a 90 day period without the need to apply for a re-entry permit. On return, I simply get a further 90 day permission of stay which is stamped in my passport by immigration on arrival.
The best way to get to Savannakhet from Phuket
I have been to Laos for this purpose on a few occasions and on 2nd January 2019, I made a trip to Savannakhet by air from Phuket. Before booking any travel or accommodation, I searched online for a practical method to get there as the total distance from Phuket is around 1500 kilometers.
Most reports written by applicants for a Thai Visa suggest that traveling by bus from Bangkok is the best and easiest way. Although the trip can be done relatively cheaply, I value my safety and would rarely travel by bus for a long journey in Thailand.
As it would take around 21 hours by road on a good day, I decided to look at traveling by air which is much quicker.
On my last visit to Savannakhet I flew from Phuket 6:25-11:30 to Nakhon Phanom via Bangkok and then a 2 hour journey by road to “The Friendship Bridge” in Mukdahan in the north of Thailand. Once there, I applied for a “Visa on Arrival” at Laos immigration and continued to a hotel in Savannakhet which is only a short journey by road. I remember that it was a long day and not to be repeated. I finally arrived at my chosen hotel around 6pm the same day.
No direct flights from Phuket to Savannakhet
This time I decided to check out flights directly from Phuket to Savannakhet, thus avoiding the long journey by land. I soon found that there really is no direct route or easy way to travel and flights from Phuket to Savannakhet were commonly available at around 18000 THB. This was not only about twice the cost of my previous trip but involved leaving Phuket just after midnight with a long wait in Bangkok.
I then looked at flights available via Kiwi and found that if I booked the flights separately, I could save around 8000 THB. This method was also much more flexible as I could find flights at more convenient departure times. The only drawback was that the Phuket flight lands at the old domestic airport in Bangkok and all flights to Laos leave from the International airport which takes at least 30 minutes by road on a good day. Fortunately there is a shuttle bus for free travel between airports which leaves DMK approximately every 10 minutes.
I booked all travel and on the morning of 2nd January 2019, I was bound for Laos. Phuket Airport always seems to be busy even at 5am and not the friendliest of airports. It is also very cold inside the building as air conditioning is always on high. I’m glad that I packed a jacket.
Arrival in Savannakhet Laos
From Bangkok, I had boarded a flight to Savannakhet via Pakse on a small plane provided by Lao Airlines. I have travelled on these ATR-72s on several occasions and for short journeys, they are just fine if not a bit bumpy in bad weather.
My arrival in Savannakhet was trouble free and as it is a small airport, everything is very easy and with very friendly staff.
I had already filled in my “Visa on Arrival” form before I left home so I went straight to the counter next to Laos immigration and presented my documents. For 35 USD I now had a 30 day visa for Laos in my passport which only took 5 minutes to obtain. The Immigration counter was equally trouble free and a friendly welcome from all staff at the airport.
On passing through the airport, I looked for a place to get a taxi to my hotel. There is a small counter just before the exit and there only seemed to be one choice which I promptly took. There were two other people, also just arrived needing transport into town so we all shared the same minibus which seems to be the only taxi service.
After only about 10 minutes, I was checking in to Pilgrim’s Kitchen & Inn which I had previously booked online a few day’s before.
A convenient location and friendly staff.
I soon settled in at Pilgrim’s Kitchen & Inn which was to be my home for the next few days. Check-in was straightforward, the room was clean and well maintained. I had read good reviews about the food here and noticed a wide selection on the menu. A choice of Mediterranean, Mexican, Indian and Western food is readily available and a great selection of coffee.
The owner and staff were all very helpful and friendly and I had no major communication problems. I have stayed in many 4 & 5 star hotels but this being rated only 2 stars is easily comparable if not better than most. The first night, I ordered a burger and chips with a local beer which altogether cost about 7 US Dollars.
Not forgetting the reason for my visit to Savannakhet, I arranged for a Tuk Tuk to take me on the 10 minute journey to the Thai Consulate for the next morning which opens at 9am and not 8:30am as stated. So shortly after breakfast, I took all my paperwork to apply for my visa at the Consulate which I found a very easy process. I was back in my hotel within one hour and now had the whole day in front of me. Time to check out messages, social media and a bit more of the menu so I sat down for lunch outside Pilgrim’s. It’s really not a pretty location but I certainly wasn’t disappointed. A tasty vegetable wrap was my choice for lunch and I decided that I would probably spend the next few days going through the menu here. There really is no reason to eat anywhere else as there is a great choice to suit almost any diet all at an affordable price.
Thai visa application, the next day.
A Thai visa at most embassies and consulates around the world is usually processed in around 24 hours. Laos is no exception. You must apply before 11am and the next day, your visa is ready for collection at 2 pm. This is the reason for my recent trip to Savannakhet. At the very least the whole process takes 2 days and you will need to stay close to the Consulate for at least one night.
In my case collection of the visa was uncomplicated and very quick indeed. There was a queue of around twenty people waiting when I arrived for collection before the place opens at 2pm. 5 minutes later, I was on my way back to the hotel for a quick snack before checking out the local scenery.
What to do in Savannakhet
Savannakhet really has little to offer in the way of entertainment. There is a night market, small museum and some interesting colonial architecture. Expect nothing more and you might enjoy your trip with a quiet night drinking beer and a view of Thailand across the Mekong river. I was told that there is a casino and various clubs available if you look for them. However, it’s far from being a party place and if that is what you expect, you would be better off elsewhere.
Traveling back to Phuket
My return journey from Savannakhet was much the same as my arrival. I heard that a storm was expected in Phuket so I was a bit concerned about the status of my flight. My concerns however, were unfounded. My flight via Nok Air from Bangkok to Phuket was delayed by around 30 minutes and with very little turbulence before arrival it was uneventful.
I’m well aware that a Thai visa application can be done very economically. However, saving a few dollars is not my priority and I booked my hotel for 3 nights, deciding to travel back to Phuket the day after collection of my Passport/Visa. It just saves rushing around and I find the whole experience much more enjoyable.
Furthermore, I’m not concerned with haggling prices with local people in order to save the odd dollar on a meal or taxi. As far as I’m concerned, things cost what they cost and there is no point upsetting yourself about paying more than perhaps you should.
My whole trip cost around 20000 Thai Baht which currently is a little over 600 US Dollars. This includes all flights/travel, food, accommodation and Visa fees etc. I think it’s a good price and enables me to stay at least another year in “paradise”
Help with your Thai Visa Application
If you need any help with your Thai Visa Application or more information, feel free to comment below and I will do my best to help in any way possible.