Visa on arrival to Thailand used to cost 1000 Baht not too long ago, equaling about INR 1900/USD 30. Last year, in August, the country decided to double the price of the Visa on Arrival to 2000 Baht or INR 3800/USD 60, something I was caught off guard with during my trip there in November. Nobody bothered updating the online VOA forms so it still showed THB 1000, and if you have ever been to BKK airport, there are absolutely no ATM’s pre-immigration. Your only option is to either convert money at a horrendous rate or pay a steep surcharge to withdraw money from the exchange counters. I was carrying about 40 USD and was short and wound up converting a whole bunch of different currencies to just barely reach the 2000 THB for the fee. At the same time, they killed the priority processing queue which used to cost 200 Thai Baht extra, which really sucks because the lines can get pretty long. Adding insult to injury, the online VOA line was not being manned meaning there was literally no point to even having prepped in advance. The plus side to increasing this fee was that it looked like it had taken its toll. The regular line was only about 20 deep instead of its usual snaking all the way into the main terminal deep.
Now $60 is a pretty steep price to pay to enter any country, much less as a VOA fee. A family of four pays almost $250 and they haven’t even entered the country yet. And all this during a period of political turmoil. Wonder which dimwit’s idea this was? To put it in perspective, $250 in Bangkok can buy you 5 nights easily at a decent hotel, and close to 10 nights at one of the lower end budget hotels which are still very comfortable. The hotel I stayed at, Aloft Sukhumvit was charging about $60/night.
Anyhoo….somehow I missed this but it looks like some common sense has prevailed and visas in advance are now free (and has been since March 1st). Yes, in advance. Note that VOA is now back at the reduced rate of 1000 THB. This new price is payable for visitors of 18 countries who can avail the VOA option: Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Taiwan. Also supposedly, they bring back the priority line inconsistently when it gets too busy. I guess at this point you are essentially bribing your way to get to the front of the line since there is no guarantee that the priority lane will be there when you get there.
Through August 31, 2017, one can get a free Thailand Tourist Visa if you are from one of the following countries: Andorra, Bulgaria, Bhutan, China including Taiwan, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Essentially, the same countries who were being charged more earlier.
The Free Visa needs to be processed ahead of your visit to Thailand and can’t be on arrival. If you want to get a visa on arrival, the VOA fee is now at THB 1000 but only until August 31, 2017.
Getting the Free Visa
To get the Free Visa issued, you need to be applying via a service provider to your nearest Thai Embassy. You need the following documents to get the Visa:
- Confirmed return air ticket with trip itinerary
- Original passport
- Visa application form, duly filled and signed
- 3 recent passport-size photographs
- Cover letter
- Proof of employment
- Bank statements for the last 3 months reflecting a minimum balance of Rs 45,000, that has been attested by a bank official, or a photocopy of international credit card
- Hotel confirmation letter mentioning the applicant’s name, number, full address and stay duration