Understanding Visas, how long you can stay, and how to extend your stay
One of the key things when planning a vacation to Phuket is organizing your visa to ensure you are legally allowed into the country. There are options available to visitors, the 30-day visa exemption and the 60-day Tourist Visa. As the name suggest the visa exemption that has been negotiated between Thailand and a large number of countries including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia, allows you to travel to the country and stay for a maximum of thirty days without requiring a visa. It is important to note that although this means there are no visa requirements, one of the rules is that your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the time of your arrival, so when travelling to Phuket, renew early if that would cause a problem. You also need proof of your return flight ticket and a minimum amount of currency, 20,000 baht per individual or 40,000 baht for a family. If you are planning a trip that is set to last longer than 30 days, you can apply for the 60-day Tourist Visa, which last for, you guessed it, 60 days! You can obtain this from your local Thai Embassy or consulate before travelling, and it requires an up to date 6cm * 4cm photograph of your face, along with a fee of USD$ 30. Again, when you arrive in Phuket, you may be asked for proof of return flight and enough funds to cover your stay, as before, 20,000 baht for individuals and 40,000 baht for a family.
If you wish to extend your stay, whether on a 30-day exemption or a 60-day tourist Visa, you can obtain a visa extension at one of the two immigration offices on Phuket, either in Phuket Town itself or at Patong. Visa extensions give you an additional 30-days stay, and cost 1900 baht, giving you as much as 90 days in Phuket without having to leave.
If you want to spend even more time in Phuket, you can use multiple tourist visas to have 2 or 3 60- day stays, however, between each 60-day visa use, you must leave Thailand and return. For many years, this has simply involved a trip over the border to Myanmar and then immediately back again, however this practice, known as ‘visa runs’, is increasingly frowned upon and you may find immigration officials making thigs difficult for you if you take this approach.
It is important to be aware of visa expiry, as the authorities will impose a 500 baht fine per day you overstay the visa, and they will stamp your passport as such. Worse, if you are in Phuket beyond your visa expiry date, and for some reason police have to check your passport, you can be treated as an illegal immigrant, which not only involves deportation, but often spending a few nights in a local jail.
With visa exemptions and longer-term visas being so easy to get, there really is no need to get into that kind of trouble. Instead, keep track of your expiry dates, get an extension if you want to stay longer, and leave before it runs out.