While there are some excellent visa run companies in Koh Samui if you feel like taking a drive down to Kota Bharu yourself there are a few tips that will help your trip run smoothly.
First of all it is a good idea to book the ferry, it is about a 7 hour drive from Donsak to the Su Ngai Kolok border and you don’t want to risk waiting a few hours for the ferry. You can book the Seatran ferry, that runs on the hour by calling 077251150, even if you are not a member of Seatran. The staff speak English and all you need to do is tell them when you want to go, the registration number of your car and your phone number. They will then give you code that you need to take to the Krungsri Bank (formally the Bank of Ayudhya or the yellow bank). The cost is 520 baht each way. When you get the green ticket the bank give you, you need to make sure that the Seatran appears on the top right hand corner, so ensure they have not mistakenly put the money into a different account. You need to book at least one day before you plan to travel.
Once at the ferry port you can go straight to the pier and hand in the green ticket and board the ferry. Passengers need to walk on so make sure that you take an umbrella because the staff insist on this even if you arrive during torrential rain.
After 90 minutes you arrive in Donsak, where you and your passengers can disembark in the car this time, take the 4142 towards Suart Thani. When you come to the junction of the 401 take a right towards Surat Thani (not left towards Nakhon Si Thammarat as this rout takes you through the town that is always full of traffic jams). You will find a massive PTT gasoline station on the left just after this junction, if you need to fill up with fuel, it takes approximately 1500 – 2000 bahts worth of diesel in your average 4 x 4 each way to and from the boarder.
Go towards Surat Thani for about 18 kilometers and then when you get to Kanchanadit take left onto the 44 freeway. Do not take the first sign for Nakhon Si Thammarat as it will take you back to where you came from, ignore all of the first lot of signs pointing south and continue on for about 40 kilometers until you get to the junction of the 41 and turn left onto it towards Thung Song, then Phatthalung and then the road turns into the number 34 that circumnavigates Hat Yai, do not go into Hat Yai unless you want to get stuck in endless traffic jams and get lost trying to find your way out the other side. From here say on the 34 road that links up with the 42 to Pattani, it is a good idea at this point to ensure you have plenty of fuel in your car as there are virtually no fuel stations south of this region. Continue along the 42. You will also encounter many road blocks manned by rather young looking Thai army guys who have machine guns, a friendly smile and a jolly hello is all you need to get through the road blocks. Continue down to Narathiwat, which is virtually the last place you will find a fuel station. From here take the 4084 town to Tak Bai and then what used to be the 4057 but is now marked as the 42 to Su Ngai Kolok to the border. Once at the boarder you can park outside the large immigration office and stamp out of Thailand. Then drive over the border into Malaysai, past immigration, you will find a large car park on the left hand side where you can park for two days for ten ringgit (100 baht). From here you will need to remember to go back up to the immigration house to stamp into Malaysai. On the right hand side of the road is a shop that offers photo services, scanning services and a money changing service. They give good rates and are happy to buy ringgit back. 10 ringgit is 100 baht.
Unless you have car insurance for Malaysia it is a good idea to get a taxi from here into Koto Bharu. A good hotel to stay at is the Tune Hotel. The rooms can be booked as they are for between 600 and 800 baht a night, depending on how far ahead you book them. The rooms do not come with towels, TV, air con, soap or wifi that all have to be booked separately. You can book wifi for a day at a time and air con in 12 hour blocks. The address for the taxi is Tune Hotel, Kota Bharu City Centre, KBCC Jalan Hamzah, 15050. The phone number is 09 7443822, you can book by calling that number with a debit or credit card or by becoming a member online. The drive to the hotel is around 45 minutes and will cost 30 ringgit per person (300 baht) if you arrive in the evening. The hotel is right next door to a large shopping mall that has McDonalds, Burger King and a rather dirty Pizza Hut as well as other fast food outlets. There is a 7-11 next to the hotel as well as a small convenience store where you can buy coffee, there is not kettle in the room so either take your own or use the hot water in the shop. There is also a 24 hour café in the hotel. Kota Bharu is not exactly renowned for being on the fine cuisine map so don’t expect to find anything that nice to eat.
Most of Kota Bhrau is completely dry in terms of alcohol and it is not sold in 7-11 so if you fancy a beer after your long drive you need to get to China Town. You can either take a taxi that will cost around 15 ringgit or you can take the 15 – 20 minute walk there. If you want to walk, take a left out of the hotel, on JLN Sultan Yahya Petra and turn left at the traffic lights, when you see the garage on the left hand side cross the road and take the right next to the garage on the other side of the road and walk past the big hotel that is lit up in pink and then walk past three sets of lights, just before the fourth set you will find China Town on the right and the Ambassador pub/ restaurant where you can buy large bottles of Carlsberg, Tiger Beer, Stout and Guinness for between 14 and 16 ringgit, you can also buy basic food here for around 5 ringgit for a dish of noodles or rice. If you get a road map of Kota Bharu do not be surprised when the roads are not laid out to scale in terms of distance or each other.
The following day you will need to take all of your visa paperwork from your accountant or lawyer along with two photographs and to signed copies of your passport to the Thai consulate that is open from 9am until 12pm from Sunday to Thursday. You can either take a cab, that will cost around 15 ringgit or you can walk, if you want to walk take the same rout as you took to China town but take a right at the second set of lights onto the JLN Tok Guru road and walk through one set of lights the Royal Thai Consulate is on the right hand side, this is about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. The address is 4426 Jalan Tok Guru, 15400. The phone number is 609 744 5266. You can pay for your visa in Baht or Ringgit but it is a good idea to have both as they sometimes change their minds. They will provide you with an application form.
Then you have the rest of the day to yourself as you can’t pick up your visa until 10am the following day. There are a few shopping malls in the area, to visit, a cultural centre, a state museum, the royal jetty, a few mosques, a war museum, a bird singing arena and a huge market, for some reason the hospital and the bus station are on the map as interesting places, but do not be fooled, they are not in the least bit interesting unless you have a thing about busses and sick people.
The following day you need to make your way back to the consulate and pick up your visa, this does not take long at all even if there are a lot of people, but it is unlikely you will get it much before 10am even if you do arrive early. Make you way back to the boarder. Pay for your parking, change any money back, if you have no fuel fill up on the Malay side there is only one fuel station open in town and it is virtually impossible to find. From here you can drive into Thailand, park up, walk back into Malaysia to stamp out, then walk back into Thailand to stamp in and then drive back to the ferry. Don’t forget the last ferry is 7pm and if Seatran is full you can use Raja just across the road.
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