From infamous Visa Run to Family Fun! Crossing the Thai-Malaysian border

There’s an adventure in everything

We could have taken the easy route and pay 50 Dollars for a stamp, instead we undertook a ten hour journey to the border, and loved every single minute of it.

Crossing borders have never been, and probably never will be, my favorite pastime. Unfortunately, they are part of the word traveling life-style that is rapidly taking over the globe now. 

We entered Thailand on a sixty day tourist visa, and as our time was now almost up I contemplated on extending our visa at immigrations or going for the infamous border run. Extending your visa for another thirty days is relatively easy. It costs about 50$ and can be done at most of the local immigration offices. For the South of Thailand, Phuket (Patong), and Koh Samui are an option. Bangkok, and Chiang Mia also issue thirty day tourist visa extensions.  

Being a bit of an idealist however, I often find myself in a moral dilemma paying border crossing related fees. Isn’t this beautiful planet mine too? Add to that my adventurous nature, and you’ll understand our one week trek to the South.

Breaking down the budget

In short, the trip (by local transportation) goes from Phuket Terminal Two busstation to Hat Yai, and from Hat Yai to the Malaysian border. We preferred the Sadao bordercrossing over the Pedang Besar crossing. The last leg of the trip goes from Sadao to Changlun Malaysia.

The bus from Phuket to Hat Yai costs 250 Baht (kids half price), and takes about eight hours. Remember, it pays to do some windowshopping before buying a ticket, as prices vary and buses are basicly all the same. Buses are mostly airconditioned, and quite comfy. The bus also stops in Krabi.

From Hat Yai there are mini vans going straight to the border crossing of Pedang Besar or Sadao, taking about one and a half hour. Tickets are sold at office #24 and #26. We preferred Sadao, as it’s a lively (and slightly) chaotic town where you’ll have no trouble finding a place to eat or sleep in case you arrive late. The fare was 60 Baht. Bonus, on the way back to Hat Yai they will drop you off anywhere in Hat Yai. Once in Malaysia you can take a taxi to Changlun, which takes about twenty minutes, and costst 250 Baht.

Local Songthaew bus In Phuket and Hat Yai

When I told the children we would be off to another adventure, they were ecstatic.

By now, they have traveled many ram- shackled buses all over this beautiful planet, through the jungle, over the Andean mountains, and along dusty roads. The prospect of nine hours in a bus to Malaysia, to them, is a walk in the park. We packed two little backpacks with clothing, a board game, and some sarongs for the blazing air conditioning. For the most part, the children either slept through the nine hours, or enjoyed the beautiful scenery. We didn’t stop over at Krabi this time, but you could easily incorporate this into your trip. The limestone cliffs and beaches are an absolute must-see in this area. From Krabi town busstation, transport to these popular beaches is easy. When traveling straight to Hat Yai, bring some food or drinks, as the bus only makes one stop at Trang, where you can stretch legs and grab a bite to eat. We sat out the whole nine hours straight to bustling Sadao, where the food options are plenty.

One day there will be no borders, no boundaries,

no flags and no countries and the only passport will be the heart.

Carlos Santana.

The actual border crossing is a breeze.

Although many (moto) taxi’s will try to convince you it’s too far a walk, it’s not. You could be back in Thailand within half an hour, making a u-turn exiting Thailand, entering Malaysia, and across the road entering Thailand again. Whilst many of our friends have taken this fast route, we unfortunately were denied re-entry into Thailand. Now the rules seem blurry, and based on mere luck, but either a simple u-turn, six hours or an overnight stay in Malaysia will get you your beloved stamp. We ended op in Changlun for a night, which the children loved. Through the eyes of a child everything new or different is an adventure. A new language, new foods, if you approach it with an open and positive attitude, your children will learn to love and find joy in even the most weary of traveling days, like going on a fourteen hour border run.

Curious about my children’s experiences? Our visa run through the eyes of a six, ten, and sixteen year old.

Exploring Hat Yai

Although Hat Yai is the biggest town in the Songhkla province of Thailand, it’s unlikely to run into many farangs here. Hat Yai is relatively undiscovered, in terms of tourism, but is certainly worth a few days of exploring.

The children and I especially adored the Hat Yai Municipal Park, where the local Thai hang out to enjoy the lake and mountain view (Khao Kho Hong mountain), have a drink and socialize. There’s a plentifulness of foodstalls to stock up on energy before beginning the uphill track to various Buddhist shrines and temples. On top of the hill you’ll find the supposedly biggest Buddha (in the blessing posture) image of Southern Thailand, and a cable car for a stunning view over Hat Yai.

Other great options to fill your city tripping days are the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Natural History Museum (which we all enjoyed, from age six to fourty-two), one of the many night markets (we visited the Greenway market), temples, and nearby Songhkla beach.

Hat Yai Municipal Park

I hope this post inspires you to travel more, with or without children, and to see an adventure in everything that comes your way. We could have taken the easy route and paid 50 Dollars for a stamp, instead we trekked into Thailand excited for what would be awaiting us around every unknown corner, and we loved every single minute of it!

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Inge, happy and single mom moving away from the system. Traveling the world I un- & road-school my three daughters. Three years and counting! How?