With it's appealing lifestyle, soothing climate and wide variety of attractions, Phuket Island will make you want to stay longer and longer. If you are coming just as a tourist, you may find your visa on arrival too short, without needing the more complex long-term visas either. In this case you'll be happy to learn that there are ways to extend your stay as a tourist in Phuket, which are actually simple, painless, and also fully legal, not requiring any "visa-run" to the border. Here we explain how to enjoy your stay in Phuket as a tourist, up to a long 90-day period without ever leaving the island!
The best way to enjoy the longest period possible in Phuket is to ask for a Tourist Visa at the nearest Thai embassy in your home country. Indeed, this is an often overlooked option since most countries benefit from a visa exemption on arrival, which is often confused with a "tourist visa". The real tourist visa can only be obtained at the embassy prior to your trip, and will normally allow you to stay in the Kingdom for up to 60-days. This visa is very simple to obtain: a copy of your flight ticket and a valid passport will usually be enough to qualify, although it's better to phone the nearest Thai embassy to make sure. You can also ask for a multiple-entry visa, in case you will be visiting Thailand more than once within a short period of time.
Visa on Arrival
This is the most common visa obtained by tourists coming to Phuket. Technically speaking, it's not really a visa, but an authorized exemption that has been made for a quite large list of countries. This allows you to come to Thailand and stay for up to 30 days without making a prior request and submitting any documents, you'll just obtain it while crossing the border or at the airport. The 30-day period is the most common, but some countries are allowed only 15 days, while some others up to 90 days, depending on their mutual agreements. Since these can change without notice, it's always better to check with the nearest Thai embassy how long will be your visa on arrival. This kind of visa has been abused in the past by some in order to stay in the country for long periods of time by doing the infamous "visa-runs" to the border, and therefore it has been restricted recently for those arriving by road transport, but if you are arriving by plane nothing has changed.
For the both types of visa above you can request for an extension of stay without leaving the island at the nearest Immigration Office. The good news is that the extension period has recently been increased from 15 to 30 days. This means that by obtaining a 60-day Tourist Visa before your trip, and by extending it during your stay, you can enjoy Phuket for a long uninterrupted period of 90 days. If you didn't have the time to obtain the real Tourist Visa, you can still enjoy a long 60-day stay while on a visa-on-arrival plus an extension. Obtaining the extension at the Immigration Office is a simple process, but can take some time depending on the number of applicants. The cost is currently 1,900 THB, and you can do the extension only once. Once it expires you finally have to go home.
If you don't leave the country during the period allowed by your visa and extension, you will be in "overstay". While this technically means you are staying in the country illegally, and as such sounds quite scary, but it's actually nothing to worry about if you're only staying for a few more days because you couldn't book any earlier flights. Just don't abuse it by staying another month as it won't be taken lightly then. You should also note there is a fine of 500 THB per day to be paid on departure. Overall this option should be avoided, but it's good to know that you can use it to plug in a few days if you really can't get a flight before your visa expires.
The final way to extend your visa is to do a "visa-run". These have been abused so much in the past that regulations have become much stricter recently, and therefore will be really useful only when you've previously a multiple-entry tourist visa. Then by exiting the country and entering it again, you will activate the second entry of your tourist visa. If you're on a visa-on-arrival, the new visa you will get will actually be much shorter, and therefore this option won't be very useful in this case. Anyhow, this is really the least recommended way to extend your visa, as besides its "gray" legal status, it's also very risky as the drivers taking you to the border tend to be quite reckless. It's much better and safer to plan your stay in advance, obtain the proper visa and make use of the legal extension at the Immigration Office.