Unlike more developed countries like its neighbor Malaysia, Thailand still has an antiquated travel visa system. Not only is Thailand’s visa system inconvenient and expensive for tourists to Thailand, it’s also benefiting surrounding countries like Malaysia and Cambodia – who are getting millions of dollars pumped into their economies every year from tourists. Tourists who, if it wasn’t for Thailand’s crazy visa system, would spend that money in Thailand. As someone who isn’t even that good at math myself, I’m amazed the Thai government hasn’t figured this out yet.
So….how does Thailand lose millions of dollars a year from tourists to the country? It’s easy. TWO big reasons –
If you come to Thailand as a tourist and want to stay longer than 30 days, you have to pay for a tourist visa. Currently tourist visas run 1,000 baht (around $33), which still only gives you 60 days in Thailand. Then you have to pay another 1,900 baht ($64.50) at immigration in Thailand, to extend your stay another 30 days. Total cost for a 90 day tourist visa for Thailand? $97.50.
Total cost for a 90 day tourist visa for Malaysia? Free. You get a free 90 day stamp at the airport when you arrive, as long as you’re a citizen of one of a long list of countries. Plus, you can extend it for another 90 days without leaving Malaysia. Also for free.
Needless to say, many travelers nowadays are going to Malaysia instead, particularly retirees, who don’t want to mess with Thai visas. Just think of the tens of millions of dollars Thailand is losing. Mind-blowing.
But…it gets worse. If you travel a lot in Thailand or you live in Thailand and are between work permits, you can’t get a new travel visa in the country when yours expires. Instead you must leave Thailand, travel to another country, apply for a new visa at a Thai embassy abroad, wait a couple of days, then come back.
For every person who does this, Thailand loses at least $300-$1,000 per person per trip. How? Because the $430-plus they would normally spend IN Thailand, is spent on airfare to a surrounding county, plus a few days in a hotel, food and miscellaneous expenses in a country like Malaysia or Cambodia, while their new Thai travel visa is being processed. The last time I went to get a new visa in Kuala Lumpur, I spent $900 on a two-day trip to KL. $900 I would have spent in Thailand if I hadn’t been forced to leave the country.
Meanwhile, countries like Cambodia and Malaysia absolutely LOVE Thailand’s system. They’re making millions of dollars a year of tourist income from tourists who, as lovely as Malaysia and Cambodia are, may not travel there if it wasn’t for the visa thing, as Thailand offers pretty much the same kind of things.
When will this crazy antiquated Thai visa system end? Probably never. The Thai government, no matter which one is in power, doesn’t seem to be good at calculating where the country’s potential tourist dollars are actually going.
Photo copyright – Malaysia LOVES Thailand’s antiquated visa system – Macisaguy – Creative Commons License