Visa run in the South of Thailand, Ranong to Kawthaung an easy and accessible option
02/07/2014 IMPORTANT UPDATE (READ THIS FIRST UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE): VISA RUN RULE CHANGES
Ranong, located in the south of Thailand on the West coast of the Andaman Sea is a gateway to Myanmar and an ideal place for visa runs for those living in the South of Thailand.
Just a 20 minute long tail boat ride across the Kraburi River and you will be stepping into the bustling border town of Kawthaung, Myanmar.
View of Kawthaung from the temple
Being 290km (4 hour drive) North of Phuket makes Ranong an obvious place to do those all-important visa runs from the popular islands.
Long term visitors in Thailand’s favored resort towns of Hua Hin, Samui and Phuket will more than likely be finding themselves renewing their visas via Ranong to Kawthaung, the southernmost point in Myanmar.
Ranong Immigration – Saphan Pla / Phalar Jetty
Long tail boats are ready and waiting at the Saphan Phalar Jetty in Ranong where you stamp out of Thailand at the small immigration office.
More than likely there will be an eager and enthusiastic boatman ready to escort you to his wooden long tail boat to take you across to the Myanmar immigration. Here is a map of where the Saphan Pla / Phalar Immigration is located:
View Ranong Immigration Saphan Pla Pier in a larger map
To charter an entire boat yourself across to Kawthaung and back to Ranong will cost 300-400 baht each way, though we saw one man take an entire boat for 300 baht return, so these prices can be negotiated with the boat owner. We paid 300 baht for one way as we were not returning on the same day, and then had to pay the same amount to get back to Ranong. There is an option to join a long tail with Thai/Burmese locals where the price for this is usually 50 baht per person (one way).
Long Tail Boats
J Long Tailing it across from Ranong to Kawthaung
Half way across the water the boat stops at a small wooden hut where the driver will take your passports to show the officials, this is just a check point for the driver to show who his passengers are, you don’t need to get off the boat at all and are not required to do anything at this point.
Kawthaung Immigration Myanmar, Burma
Once you have arrived at Myo Ma Jetty in Kawthaung, also known as Victoria Point, you will either find yourself directly outside the immigration office if the driver knows that you are doing a visa run, or the boat will go to the local docking point if you are traveling one way. From the local dock you need to take a left turn and walk 30 meters down the road to immigration.
Location of Immigration Office in Kawthaung
View Kawthaung Immigration Myanmar in a larger map
The fee for renewing your visa in Kawthaung is USD10.00 or 500 baht, though the officers prefer to take the USD10.00 here. (Correct at time of writing Dec 2013) You can change up baht into US dollars at street vendors opposite the local jetty. We wouldn’t have known this had our boat driver not taken us straight to a money exchange vendor, not realizing we already had dollars on us. The stall looked like a cigarette stand and had no sign indicating it was a currency exchange. If you do need to change up baht to dollars, your boat driver will know where to go to do this, though it is best to take the cash with you so you know you have the best exchange rate for your money.
Once you have your new stamp you have the option to either take the boat straight back to Thailand or you can spend a short while in the town and shop in Kawthaung, which many choose to do. There was a steady stream of foreigners heading to the shops to buy cigarettes and whiskey while we were there. If you do want to enter the town, the immigration officers keep your passports and issue you with a temporary permit. You just hand it back when you leave in return for your passport.
Entry permit for Myanmar
Once you have your Myanmar stamp you can officially stay in the country for up to 10 days although you are not allowed to leave the town and can only travel up to 5km from immigration.
When we were in the office a young couple arrived and wanted to continue their journey into Myanmar from there and they were refused. At present you cannot use kawthaung as an entry into Myanmar, only to stay in the vicinity of the border town and to renew your visa.
Staying in Kawthaung-Hotel and Accommodation
We stayed in Kawthaung for a couple of nights as we were joining a boating trip and had to wait for the boat to arrive in the port. We stayed at the Penguin Hotel which provided clean rooms with private bathrooms for 1,000 baht a night.
Location of Penguin Hotel in Kawthaung
View Penguin Hotel Kawthaung Myanmar in a larger map
1000B was rather expensive for the standard of the hotel, and what we are used to paying in Thailand but it done the job for while we were there. I would avoid the free breakfast though.
Seriously moldy bread for breakfast!
Things to do in Kawthaung
The two main things to do in Kawthaung that we discovered were pretty close to town. Firstly the Public Park which is located around 30 metres to the left after leaving the Immigration office is a rather pretty place to sit and take in the view of the islands close by and the passing boats coming in and out of the harbour.
Sacha taking a break in the shade at Kawthaung Public Park
The view from the park
The park itself is at the base of a short walk that leads up a tiny hill overlooking a portion of the town and water. Here is the location of Kawthaung Public Park:
View Kawthaung Public Park in a larger map
The second thing to see is the temple on the hill which is much higher up and overlooks almost all of the west side of Kawthaung. The view from there is pretty good at sunset. We spent 45 minutes or so watching the monks and locals praying and taking photos of the temple and town.
Burmese Temple Authentic View of Kawthaung from the temple Viewpoint
Local Burmese Man praying at the temple
View Kawthaung Temple Viewpoint in a larger map
The Town itself holds quite a lot of photographic value as well. Just walking through the back streets we saw a lot of local Burmese life and it was nice to explore a new part of Myanmar for us.
Real Burmese Local outside his home wearing a Longyi
Sacha walking the backstreets of Kawthaung
We had a nice time exploring Kawthaung, visually it is certainly a nicer place to do a visa run than Mae Sai. With the locals, boats, islands and water as a back drop we had plenty to keep our cameras occupied.
Ranong to Kawthaung Visa Run – Step by Step:
– Go to Saphan Phalar Jetty in Ranong
– Stamp out of Thailand at the small immigration office (walk in and turn right)
– Take a wooden long tail boat across to Victoria Point in Kawthaung (if you are just doing a visa run and not intending to stay in Kawthaung tell the boat man you want a return journey and he will wait for you and bring you back)
* Note – We’ve been told apart a larger boat service offered by www.andamanclub.com, apparently you can have a nice lunch in the hotel at the other side and the cost is about the same. I suspect you have to organize this with The Andaman Club before arrival at Ranong Pier however.
– Give your passport to the boat man so he can show the officers at the checkpoint once you are on the boat
– When you get to Kawthaung enter the immigration office and hand over your passport to the staff behind the desk
– Pay the $10.00 or 500 baht fee
– Either opt to go straight back to the boat or leave your passport in the office while you shop in Kawthaung
– Pick up your passport from the officers and get back in the long tail boat to head back to Ranong
– Remember to check your passport and stamp before leaving the office. If you have not been given the correct entry stamp you will have to go back to Kawthaung to redo it before you can reenter Thailand.
Renewing visas in Kawthaung was a simple and straightforward process.
Sacha El-Haj – 8 Miles from Home