Ranong Visa Run
How to Visa Run seems complex but is fairly straightforward.
You have two options, the easier and slightly cheaper method is to pay Andaman Club 850 baht. In which case stop reading and visit this link here for more information:
The second option is to travel to Victoria Point, Burma by yourself. Here you'll get to experience what a 3rd world country really looks like!
BEFORE SETTING OFF:
You will need -
Your passport with an in-date visa.
$10 - (ensure you obtain this OUTSIDE Ranong, unless you want a crap rate of exchange)
A photocopy of your picture page on your passport.
You may want to consider:
An umbrella if the weather is bad.
Long sleeved clothing and a hat for the sun.
Make your way to Sangpla Pier. If you don't know the way from the highway click here for directions.
In times gone by this place was a real sht hole. It's still a wheeling-dealing place but a lot more polished and presentable from years before.
Go in through the entrance way and then turn left immediately before the pier itself.
Ok, this is Sangpla Immigration, make sure you have already filled out your immigration departure card which (should) be in your passport stapled. Once you've finished queuing the customs man will take your passport, check it and stamp you out of Thailand. He'll also take your picture using the 'big-brother' camera that peers at you from behind the glass.
Now comes the fun part! Using the nearest boat tout (they are crawling all over Sangpla Pier. Negotiate a rate for crossing into Burma. According to some 'oracle' you can get a return trip for 50 baht. These days (2008) this is unlikely. 50 baht will get you a one-way ride and you're looking at 150-200 baht for a return trip.
Once you've cut a deal jump aboard the longtail and enjoy the ride to you're first stop on the visa-trail!
You're first stop is at an islet for any Thai passengers who must stamp out of Thailand there (I know it's a weird state of affairs).
Then it's the main part of the trip to Burma, across the estuary you go. Hopefully you will have good weather and can glide along the water like a flying fish, otherwise you may regret not taking sea-sickness tablets!
You have to complete a passenger manifest to hand into the Burmese at your next stop, along with your passport AND a photocopy. If you don't have the photocopy you may be charged 5 baht or so.
After 15 - 20 minutes the longtail should reach the Burmese Immigration. It is here that you will be stamped into Burma.
It's changed a bit since this photo was taken and has a pier-mooring set up facing the building. We took this pic on max zoom when they weren't looking, if the Burmese spot you taking pictures they may get arsey and have you delete the photos. You have been warned.
In the old days you could go inside the immigration bungalow to have a mooch about. These days they are more cagey and only the longtail crews get to monkey up the pier legs and go inside. You will have to give your passport over to them for this bit unfortunately.
Once you've got the stamp of entry it's back on board for the next leg.
Arriving at Victoria Point
This is where the Visa Run gets down to the nitty gritty. If you check the above roll-over picture you'll see a classic photo Johnny got of a Burmese tout. These urchin boys will hound, harangue and hassle you for anything of monetary value. If you speak or show an interest they will re-double their efforts. They might not be refined at the cutting edge of sales psychology but they more than make up for it by being street-wise and able to procure contraband for the customer.
If you plan to stay overnight or longer in Burma then ignore the next two paragraphs until you want to leave (you have 14 days entry)
Some will feel sorry for their plight and give generously, others will ignore them completely and walk over the bridge to the immigration office on the left. Do this and leave the touts for later.
You'll enter a medium-sized office with two desks. One on the left and one on the right. Go to the one on the left and hand him your passport AND the $10 note. You will get a stamp out of Burma once the passport has been passed to the right-hand desk.
Now you can either hang around a wee while OR you can leave immediately.
The touts will be upon you again and now is your chance to place any orders you might have for luxury items. Be warned that if you take over the duty limits for cigs, booze or ANY viagra you're on your own. Don't come whingeing to OTRT if you find you're contraband has been confiscated by Thai customs and you've been whacked with a heavy fine. 9 times out of 10 customs have usually been tipped off. That's not to say every boat crew is crooked but you have been warned.
For the return journey you once again stop at the immigration bungalow on the islet (possibly the crew retrieving the passenger manifest) and then you're off again.
If have a pen handy, now is a good time to fill out the arrival card tucked in your passport (put there when you stamped out of Thailand). If you don't do this and end up right at the immigration window at Ranong you'll be politely told 'Pai Loei' or get to the back of the queue until you've filled it out.
Even though you've stamped out of Thailand there is one last visit the boat makes to 'Burmese' soil. You'll bear right to a small island which has a sheltered pier structure. A large group of Burmese conscripts will peer into the boat you're on, possibly to see if anything's worth 'searching' for. Once the hive-mind is satisfied you've not upset the left-wing balance of Victoria Point you'll finally be back in Thailand.
All that remains is to return to the immigration lines at Sangpla Pier, pay the longtail crew the agreed sum and you have completed your visa run!