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A 12 Step Guide to the Penang ED Visa Run by Train

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1) Pack light and bring Malaysian ringgits (RM):

Your time may only be 2 or 3 days in Penang so pack light; a few changes of clothes, your visa documents, a tablet or e-reader, a good book, and necessary toiletries. Bringing some snacks and water is also a good idea. Tip: save yourself the hassle of finding somewhere to exchange money in Malaysia and go get at least a couple thousand baht exchanged. 30 baht is about 4 RM (Aug ’17).

2) Procure transportation to Nathon pier:

Taxis, vans, songthaews, and motor taxis are all options but they may cost a few hundred baht and up depending on your location in Koh Samui.

3) Nathon ferry to Donsak pier:

This should cost about 220 baht an should include a transfer to the center of Surat Thani. The ferry to Donsak from Nathon is about 1.5hrs. If you didn’t bring snacks, some light refreshments are available on board. Ferries typically leave early half hour to one hour but to save you hours of waiting in Surat Thani, it is advisable to take the last ferry to Donsak.

4) Donsak pier to Surat Thani train station:

Tell the bus transfer staff that you want to go to the train station and they should stop the bus for you to be switched onto a songthaew which takes you to the train station. That should cost between 100-200 baht depending on how many people are onboard. Failing that, if the bus goes to the bus station then from there you can take a cheap public bus, taxi, songthaew or motorbike taxi to the train station which is a little out of town.

5) At the train station:

At the ticket booth you should ask for a ticket to the Malaysian Pedang Besar on the sleeper train, with upper and lower berths costing 630 to 730 baht respectively. This train is scheduled to leave at 1:50am but don’t be surprised if it is late. While waiting for the train, there are a few street side restaurants selling cheap Thai food and a 711 not far either. I recommend settling in somewhere to eat and having drinks to while away the time.

6) On the train:

When the train arrives, staff should help direct you to the right carriage and assist with any luggage you have. On board the seat numbers are clearly marked. Settle in, pull up the blanket, and get some sleep.

7) At Pedang Besar station:

After arriving in Pedang Besar you will proceed to exit Thailand by following the signs to the Thai immigration booths and then following the path to the Malaysian officials to be stamped in. Please note that while most countries are given a 30 day visa on arrival, some are not so it is best to check if your nationality is cleared to receive the VOA. Depending on what time you arrive, the express commuter train to Butterworth may be waiting to depart or arriving shortly, so I suggest heading quickly upstairs to purchase a ticket lest you be left waiting a couple hours with nothing to do. The ticket to Butterworth is very cheap and comes out to a few dollars.

8) Pedang Besar to Penang:

Once the train arrives, I recommend getting a seat at the back of train in the corner otherwise you will find yourself uncomfortably surrounded by people for the duration of the 2 hours to Butterworth where the train terminates. At Butterworth you will follow signs to the ferry, which again is very cheap as it is used on a daily basis by locals. On the ferry you can take some great pictures of the Penang city skyline.

9) Arriving in Penang:

From the ferry terminal it is a short walk to the bus terminal and taxi stand. Here you can take public buses to almost anywhere on the island or a taxi for a more direct way to your hotel. Comfortable hotels can be found for under 1000 baht and there are hostels for those looking to stay in Penang on a budget. I recommend staying in the downtown historic area of Georgetown, Penang for its variety of local foods and rich colonial history. The Thai consulate is not far from this area which makes it especially ideal.

10) Morning visit to the Thai consulate:

You should aim to get to the consulate at least a half hour earlier than the opening time of 9am to avoid long lines. At the gate a worker will ask you to sign in before entering the grounds of the consulate. At the windows you will be given a standard visa form to fill in, if you haven’t already filled it in. This form basically just asks for your basic information, what visa type you’re applying for education (ED) visa, where you will be staying in Koh Samui, etc. Once you’ve filled this in you should line up at the ‘Non-Immigrant visa’ window as the ED visa falls into this category. The ED visa costs 3000 baht but the staff seem to prefer to be paid in RM. Having said that, I had no problem when asking to pay in baht. After handing over your documents and passport you’ll be given a receipt to be used to pick up your passport and ED visa the next afternoon.

11) Picking up the visa:

The next afternoon you will return to pick up your passport and ED visa. It typically isn’t very busy and it shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes to be in and out if there are no unforeseen visa problems.

12) The journey back to Koh Samui:

If expediency is your main concern in regards to returning to Koh Samui, there should be travel agents outside the Thai consulate offering van rides from the consulate to Koh Samui and other locations in Southern Thailand. This should cost about under 1000 baht and includes a van to Hat Yai and another van to Donsak pier, where you will have to wait until the first ferry at 5am. If however you have some time, you can take the train back to Surat Thani. This train leaves Pedang Besar, which means you would need to take a van, bus, or express commuter train, at 5pm and should arrive in Surat Thani station at 11:15pm. At that time you could then get a hotel and sleep in before taking a ferry in the morning the next day feeling refreshed and ready to return to Koh Samui, education visa in hand.

Thai ED Visa Run to Penang Thai Consulate: What to Expect

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Location:

1, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Taman Barat, 10350 George Town, Pulau Pinang

The Thai consulate is located near the heart of historic Georgetown and can easily be reached by taxi or walking from this area. Getting a hotel in this downtown area is recommended.

From the outside:

The Thai consulate building is a re-purposed house on a large lot with an empty swimming pool out front of the building with the gate, driveway, and guard point located on the right side of the property.

At the consulate:

You should arrive at least a half hour earlier than the 9am opening time to avoid long waiting times. When entering the consulate grounds you will sign in with a guard in a small booth at the gate. You will write down your name, passport number, and the reason for your visit; visa. From there you follow the pathway up to the house. At the house you will be given a standard visa form to fill out. The can be filled out quickly as they entail just basic information, such as your passport number, what visa you are applying for, you destination in Thailand, etc. If you have any questions you can fill out as much as you can and ask the staff once you reach the window. Alternatively there are people who wait outside and for a small fee will help fill out the form for you and even take pictures.

 

Once you have filled in the form, you should look for the ‘Non-immigrant visa’ window, it shouldn’t be hard to spot. The education visa is 3000 baht and although it can be paid in baht, they may ask for Malaysian ringgits instead. At the window you will hand over your passport, standard visa application form and education visa documents to the official. They will quickly look the documents over and if nothing is awry then you will be given a receipt and a time to come the next day to pick up your passport and education visa.

Picking up the visa:

Pick up time for the visa the next day is 1 or 2pm and if you get there on time you can get your passport and visa in no time if there is no problem with the paperwork.

Where to Stay and What to Do on an ED Visa Trip to Penang

An Introduction to Penang

An ED visa trip from Koh Samui to Penang shouldn’t be viewed with exasperation; Penang is an island rich with history, culture, diversity, and cuisine. Penang has long been a haven for traders of all kinds dating back to the first trade routes from the Middle East, India, and Asia. Penang was particularly influenced by the British since it was first colonized back in 1786 when the British East India Company came ashore to claim it, their influence today is seen in the continued prevalence of the English language and the imposing colonial administrative buildings dotted around the capital of Penang in Georgetown. Prior to British colonization and in the postwar era there have been multiple migrant waves of ethnic Indians and Chinese to Penang. These ethnic and cultural groups came to dominate certain types of trading goods such as spices and gems. Nowadays you can see the legacy of the Indian and Chinese diasporas in Penang through the use of Chinese in certain business circles and most prominently on shop signs. Whereas the Indian legacy is encountered in the Little India district where most locals are of Indian heritage, elaborate Hindu temples stand side by side with older mosques and Buddhist temples, not to mention the Indian food market in this area. Quite simply, Penang is rich in culture and worth exploring. With that in mind, here are some recommendations on where to stay and what to do.

Where to Stay

As the Thai consulate is located in the capital of Penang, Georgetown, it makes sense to book accommodations in this area.  Just as Koh Samui is brimming with top quality accommodations, so is Georgetown. Not only that, Georgetown is rich in culture and cuisine for those looking to get out and explore their local surroundings.

Budget: If you’re staying on a budget there are a multitude of hostels to choose from in the downtown Georgetown area. A typical dorm bed in Georgetown should cost about 300 baht and private rooms at these hostels range from 600 baht and up. The Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hotel, Magpie Residence, and Tipsy Tiger Party Hostel are three of the most highly rated hostels in the downtown Georgetown area and only a 5 or 10 minute drive to the Thai consulate.

Mid-range: Again, you’re spoilt for choice in the Georgetown downtown area. Mid-range hotels start from 600 and go up to a couple thousand baht. That is not to say there aren’t cheaper hotels that are not hostels, you just have to do your own research to ensure the price you pay is worth it! Personally, on my ED visa run I stayed at a new boutique hotel called Ink Hotel which was situated not far from the embassy and within walking distance of food markets, McDonalds, shopping malls, cinemas, and bars. I paid 700 baht but it seems you can get a slighter better deal when you book online. For around 1000 baht a good choice seems to be the Red Rock Hotel which is located a mere 3km from the Thai consulate and has pool free of charge for guests. At slightly more luxurious and twice the price at around 2000 baht is the Berjaya Penang Hotel, which again has a pool to relax in, and is within 1km walking distance of the Thai consulate.

No Limit: If price really isn’t a concern then you will have no problem from choosing among the top hotels in Georgetown. These hotels range from 3000+ baht up to 9000+ and include the Hotel Penaga, Eastern Oriental Hotel, and the Eight Rooms – McAlister Mansion, all within a 10 minute taxi ride to the Thai consulate and all with a pool to while away the hours if you should choose to simply relax and soak up some sun from the comfort of your hotel.

What to Do in Penang

As an island rich with culture from the various ethnic groups that have traded, colonized, conquered, and de-colonized, there is lots to see and do.

Architecture: If you’re one to marvel at the record of the past left behind by the British, Chinese, Indian, and Islamic influences, look no further! The city is dotted with grand and imposing white colored British colonial architecture including City Hall, Fort Cornwallis, the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Clocktower, and the Eastern Orient Hotel to name a few. Chinese and Islamic architectural legacies can be seen in the form of the many buildings, temples and mosques around Penang, most notably the Chinese Khoo Kongsi clan hall, the Blue Mansion, and the Kapitan Keling Mosque.

Eat: Penang is a foodie’s paradise with Indian and Chinese culinary influences being most prominent. For Indian food look no further than the area of Little India in the downtown heart of Georgetown. Delicious Indian dishes for a fraction of the cost back home! Similarly, Chinese food can be found in abundance in Chinatown, not far from Little India or Little Armenia. If you’re a fan of street food in Thailand and wondering what they have on offer in Penang, head to the Sunway Hotel. Just out front on the right side of the hotel every night is a gathering of food stalls selling delicious food at bargain prices. Failing that, Western fast food places such as McDonalds, Burger King, and Dominos are common and at the several large shopping mall food courts you’ll be spoilt for choice. Premium dining options can be found online, at the malls, or in the luxury hotels.

Drink: Downtown Georgetown has more than its fair share of bars for all tastes. Most of the reputable establishments can be found either on the coast or near it. These include Hong Kong Bar, Georgetown Wines, and Beach Blanket Babylon. If you go to Times Square at the base of the mall you will see a big bar called Beer Factory complete with a large outdoor patio, they typically have specials when you order more than one beer and have a wide selection of local, international, and craft beers.

Shopping: Again, you’re spoiled for choice. Just as there are in much of the rest of Southeast Asia, Penang has more than its fair share of markets. Some of the most prominent night markets in Georgetown are the Macallum Street Night Market, Cecil Street Market, and the Little Penang Street Market. At these markets you should expect to see similar trinkets as you would in Thailand but with a local twist. If you wish for a more familiar shopping experience, check out the Penang Times Square or Prangin malls, they’re within walking distance from each other and contain a multitude of top designer boutiques, restaurants, cafes, bars, cinemas, and much more.

Excursions: If you can arrive in Penang on a Thursday, a great option would be to drop your paperwork off at the embassy early Friday morning and then hop on a ferry to Langkawai; Malaysia’s premier tropical island destination. That way you can have a half day there on Friday and stay even until Monday morning, getting to the Thai consulate in the afternoon. You could even substitute a ferry for a bus and head to Kuala Lumpur for the weekend. For those that would like a beach day without the hassle of ferries, look no further than Batu Ferringhi, the widely considered the best beach on Penang. You can reach easily reach Batu Ferringhi via public transportation. If you’re adventurous there are half day treks through Penang National Park or snorkeling trips to Pulau Payar Marine Park. Half or full day trips out to small local islands can also be arranged. Traveling with kids? How about Escape Adventureplay! It is described as a huge outdoor playground in a natural environment with a variety of attractions for all ages. More interested in learning about Penang and its vibrant history and culture? Try the Kek Lok Si temple or the Penang Colonial Museum. Whatever your interests are, Penang will surely have something for you.