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The ‘Phuket to Penang’ visa run

The visa run. For most people who have made the trip to Penang to apply for a Thai visa, those three words don’t always bring the fondest of memories to mind. Yes, it’s a long drive (around 10 hours) but if you have your iPod charged and a neck cushion to stop your head rolling around while you sleep, it’s actually not that bad.

For those already in Thailand who need to leave the country to apply for a new visa, the visa run to Penang is a cheap, convenient option. For 4,000 Baht a minibus will pick you up and drive overnight to Penang. You’ll probably sleep most of the way and be woken up at about 6am as you pass through the Immigration points at the Malaysian border. When you arrive at your hotel in Penang a few hours later, breakfast will be waiting for you – so will a comfortable bed for those needing a few extra hours of sleep.

The driver will collect your passport, visa paperwork and help you with your visa application form – you usually don’t even have to go to the Thai Consulate, they do it all for you.

You’ll then have the rest of the day to explore. George Town is described by UNESCO as “… a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.” and is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make sure you make the most of your day and take a look around while you’re there!

What’s included in the package varies between the different tour companies so check when you book but most include lunch and dinner at the hotel. You’ll also meet people from all over the world on your trip – those working in Thailand, studying, travelling and retiring.

The next morning, after breakfast at the hotel, you’ll receive your passport with a brand new Thai visa and begin the journey back to Phuket. Most minibuses have a DVD player installed so you don’t need to worry too much about entertainment for the journey back. After stopping off for a delicious lunch (my favourite part) and driving through some spectacularly beautiful parts of Thailand, you’ll arrive back in Phuket around 8-9pm.

It’s that easy! Just make sure you have all the correct documents for your visa application (don’t forget passport photos!) and try to think of it as a mini holiday.