Thai Visa Run to Penang, Malaysia:
The Process Explained
Thailand is without a doubt the most popular destination in Southeast Asia, but unfortunately, the current visa situation can be limiting. Currently, Thailand offers a 30-day visa on arrival to most nationalities flying into the country, and a 15-day visa if you cross the border by land. However, if you are a citizen of one of the G8 countries which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, you will get a 30-day visa even if you cross overland.
The problem is that one month in Thailand isn't enough for most people. There are many reasons why somebody could get stuck in Thailand for longer, amazing beaches, friendly locals, and exotic foods to name a few.
You can apply for a visa in most countries in the world, your own home country included. But, that doesn't mean that you need to go home to get a visa. If you're already in Asia and need to do a visa run, one of the easiest places to get a new Thai visa is in Penang, Malaysia.
Why You Should Get Your Visa in Penang
In Penang, Malaysia you can get your hands on a long-term visa for Thailand and also eat some of the best Indian food in the world. A win-win-win situation to say the least. Not to mention that Malaysia offers a free 90-day visa on arrival to most nationalities, meaning you can take the time to travel around a bit before returning to Thailand.
A few years ago we both did visa-runs to Penang from Thailand crossing overland and returning the same day with a new entry stamp. But since the military took over in 2014, it has become increasingly more difficult. Because of this, we looked at other options for obtaining a 60-day tourist visa to Thailand. We thought that we would share the process of what it's like to apply for a visa in Penang so that you can come prepared.
It can be overwhelming to apply for a visa the for the first time, especially because some consulates have silly little requirements you might not even be aware of like having to provide a bank statement or an onward flight. But compared to other places we've gotten a visa in, Penang has been easy and hassle free. Once Victoria applied for a Philippine visa in Kathmandu and a transportation strike forced her to walk a long distance across one of the world's most hectic cities to retrieve her passport.
Another time we applied for an Indian visa in Sri Lanka and the visa got delayed so we missed our connecting transportation and had to book another hotel night in one of most overpriced cities in South Asia, we're looking at you Colombo.
Thai Visa Application in Penang
The Thai visa process in Penang is as easy as a visa application can get - and trust us we have applied for many visas. There is no need to even visit the consulate. Instead, you can use one of the many visa agents in Georgetown. However, you can also apply in person at the Thai embassy in Penang but we recommend that you save yourself the time and the hassle and use a visa agent's office. That's what we did and we'll explain on this page.
You'll find most of the Thai visa services in Penang around Love Lane where the majority of hostels and guesthouses are located. The agents are reliable and legitimate so choose whichever one you think is most convenient.
We opted for the one located next door to 7-Eleven at the corner of Love Lane and Lebuh Chulia, across the street from the Reggae Bar. The Thai lady working there the day we showed up was very efficient and got us our visas within 24 hours.
What You Need for the Thai Visa
There are three types of Thai visas you can apply for in Penang:
- Single Entry Tourist Visa
- Single Entry Non Immigrant Visa
- Multiple Entry Non Immigrant Visa
For the purpose of this article we will focus on a single entry tourist visa since this applies to most people doing a Thai visa run. A single entry tourist visa is valid for 60 days and can be extended one time in Thailand for an extra 30 days for a total duration of 90 days.
To complete the Thai visa application for a single entry tourist visa you’ll need the following:
- A passport that’s valid for at least 6 months with an unused page for the visa.
- A filled out visa application. You can download the form online or pick it up at either the visa agent's office or at the Royal Thai Consulate General.
- Two passport sized photos.
- One copy of your main passport page.
- 150 RM in cash ($36) for the visa as well as a fee for the visa agent if you decide to use one.
The agent that we applied through offered to make copies of our passports and also took the pictures we needed for a small fee. Remember to keep the passport photos since you can use them for future visa applications.
*If you apply for the visa on your own at the consulate you will be required to bring “proof of exit” which is a ticket out of Thailand. This might not bother you if you already have your departure trip planned and booked. But otherwise, it can be a costly hassle, especially if you aren't sure what your exact plans are which seems to be the story of our lives. Though there is the option of booking a refundable flight you will have to look into the details of how long you have to cancel it. You will also have to fill out the form on your own, bring pictures, and return the day after to collect your passport. The Thai consulate has stricter requirements for those applying in person instead of through an agent.
Save yourself the hassle and use one of the Thai visa services instead so that you can spend your time enjoying the street art and amazing food in Georgetown. The cost of using an agent is roughly 50 RM ($12) which is not much at all if you factor in the transporation costs going back and forth to the consulate on your own.
The Application Process
When all the needed items are sorted the process is super easy. You will have to fill in your name, date of birth, profession, address in Thailand, as well as an address in Malaysia. You can use the address of your hotel for both countries. The lady at the office helped us fill in the rest of the information.
After that, you will pay the lady the processing fee which is 150 RM for the visa and roughly an additional 50 RM for the service. Then, you will be given a day and time to return. The application takes less than 24 hours if you apply before lunch meaning you can return to pick up the visa the day after. If you apply later, you will have to wait an extra day. Be aware that the consulate only operates Monday through Friday and not on public holidays - both Thai and Malaysian holidays will affect the operating hours.
The process if you decide to apply for the Thai visa in person at the consulate is very similar. The application window at the consulate is Monday through Friday from 9am to 11:30am and costs 150 RM at the time of writing this for the 60-day tourist visa. You will then have to return the following business day to pick up your passport with your new Thai visa between 2pm and 4pm. The address of the Royal Thai Consulate General in Penang is: 1, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Taman Barat, 10350 George Town, Pulau Pinang.
In both instances, remember to double check that all the information on the visa is correct when you pick it up. Check the dates, your name, passport number, and the validity to ensure there are no errors.
The Indonesian Visa in Penang is No Longer Being Issued
Last year we also applied for an Indonesian visa in Penang before heading to Bali for a few months. At the time, the consulate in Penang was the only place in Southeast Asia where you could get a 60-day tourist visa to Indonesia. Our plan was to share that process with you in this post. However, while doing research for this article we found out that the Indonesian consulate in Penang stopped issuing the 60-day extendable tourist visa as of August 2017. We have heard from a few sources that they still might consider it if you have a sponsor, but we can't confirm this. We have also heard that they still issue 30-day extendable visas, but at the moment we can't confirm this either.
So please be aware that it is no longer possible to get a 60-day visa for Bali in Penang anymore, even if it says so in other online guides which may not yet be updated. It is an extremely disappointing situation and we hope that the Indonesian embassy will reconsider issuing the visa again. Until then we are all stuck with the 30-day visa on arrival offered at all airports in Indonesia.
Remember that you have to pay a fee of $35 dollars when you arrive in if you want the visa that can be extended once in Indonesia for 30-days, totaling 60-days. The 30-day visa extension will cost you an additional $30 in person and around $50 if you use an agent. If you opt for the free visa on arrival you will be limited to a 30-day stay in Bali.
*We will update this if the current situation changes with Indonesian consulate in Penang.
Applying for a Visa in Georgetown, Penang
Penang's tactical location is just a bus ride away from the Thai border making it the perfect destination for a visa run, especially for all expats living in Southern Thailand on the Thai islands. But Penang isn't too far away even if you're further north - there are daily overnight trains from Bangkok to the Malaysian border and further. You can also fly cheaply from Chiang Mai to Penang with Air Asia.
In fact, many of the tourists in Penang and the rest of northern Malaysia are there because they are waiting to return to Thailand, either with a visa in their passport or with the plan of getting a visa on arrival.
For whatever reason you need a visa, Penang is a good destination. The application process is quick and easy, and if you plan it accordingly you can get in and out in a matter of three days. Although, we do recommend that you plan to stay for a few extra days, because there might be unsuspected delays in the application process and mostly because Penang is a great place to linger. Case in point: Georgetown is a place where we've eaten some of the best food in our lives. Masala dosa lovers unite!