We’ve all had those moments while traveling, everything is going just fine, you’ve got everything together, and then in a second it all goes to shit.
I had one of those wonderful moments at the Bangkok airport going through Thai passport control.
We were leaving Thailand to catch a flight to Indonesia, and Rob went through before me no problem. Then it was my turn, I walked up to the counter handed the agent my passport and ticket per usual. As I stood there, I realized this process was taking way longer than normal and the agent was calling someone over, he was say something to me in Thai that I couldn’t understand, and I started to get nervous. What was going on? I managed to decipher that the agent was saying I’d overstayed my visa, but I knew I hadn’t. I had a six month visa, and therefore could stay 60 days at time before having to leave the country.
In Thailand, when you come in on a standard tourist visa you get 30 days in the country then you have to leave. Many people will do “visa run”, taking a quick trip to one of the surrounding countries for a day, and then coming back into Thailand, starting their 30 days over.
We knew we would want to stay in Thailand for an extended period of time so we’d gotten a six month tourist visa. But even with that we still had to leave every 60 days for a visa run.
I tried telling that to the agent, I also knew we were on day 59 so that might not look so good. But he’d just let Rob through right before me and we have the same visa. Another agent came over and asked me to follow her to a small room behind all the agent counters. I could see Rob around the corner asking what was happeing. All I could do was shake my head and shrug as I was led into the room.
Once in the room the agent explained to me that I’d over stayed my 30 day visa. I explained again that I had a six month visa so I had 60 days. She shook her head and pointed at my passport, “your stamp says 30 days, you were supposed to leave in August”. I looked at her confused and stared down at my passport stamp, it did indeed say August 25th, and it was now September 24th.
I sat there stunned for a second, I was an illegal alien!
I managed to snap back into reality and told her to turn to the front of my passport, I did have a six month visa. The agent that stamped me in must have made a mistake, he hadn’t seen the visa and given me the wrong stamp.
She looked at the visa for a bit and then took me back out to an empty passport control counter. She started working away on the computer without saying anything to me. I stood there nervously, hoping I would be able to come back into the country after our Indonesia trip. She then started scribbling notes in my passport, and handed it back to me. She told me that she’d fixed the mistake and the next time I come into the country to make sure I hand the agent my passport open to the page with my visa on it.
And I was free to go. I walked away, heart pounding with adrenaline and relief.
So while my situation got resolved fairly painlessly, overstaying your visa is no joke. Depending on how long you overstay in Thailand, it can range from a hefty fine to being banned from the country.
In all my years of traveling I’d never thought to check my stamp to make sure I got the right one when entering a country. But I will from now on. If you have any kind of special visa it’s a good idea to check after getting stamped to make sure the date in your passport matches up with the timeline of your visa. You don’t want to find yourself trying to explain to passport control that you didn’t over stay, even if you technically did.