kayaker, unfortunately, I wouldn’t take the chance on this one. I just made a reservation on Air Asiana and they explicitly stated that for international flights misspelling or misrepresenting a name (or passport number, etc.) on a ticket automatically forfeited the ticket and you couldn’t fly on it. So I personally would go pull the passport to check what is in the NAME slots. You can always just take a picture of it if you don’t want to keep the real thing at your place. (yes I realize a picture can be just as risky, but you can easily remove some information to make it less risky including not labeling it passport.jpg).
Out of curiosity, and I see this is common, why do people keep passports in safety deposit boxes? It seems to be a hassle if you need to get at it ASAP. It’s an important document, but it’s not exactly sacred. I’ve FedExed my passport; I’ve washed my passport and got it replaced without incident; I have friends who have gotten their passport stolen, and it wasn’t much more difficult that replacing a lost driver’s license.
One thing about getting your passport replaced if lost, stolen or destroyed, at least over here, is the embassy will start to look at you suspiciously if it happens a second time. I’m not sure what the reaction would be if there were a third time. This is because selling your passport on the black market is not unheard of.
For those who keep their passports in a safe-deposit box, I recommend keeping a photocopy of the detail page on hand.
That’s not peculiar to Thailand. If you’re anywhere on a tourist visa, you have to leave every so often to reset the visa (in Hungary, it was every 3 months, technically. I’ve known expats who have overstayed by years to no penalty, though.) Even with work visas, student visas, or other temporary visas, you sometimes needed to do that. I remember having to leave Hungary when my residency permit was being processed for some reason.
That’s only if you’re on a Tourist Visa. Basically, you cross the border every three months and then come back the same day. There are even companies that specialize in daily border runs to Cambodia from Bangkok or Pattaya on their own buses or minivans, and they handle all the paperwork for you and everything. Sometimes you don’t even have to get out of the vehicle. The authorities keep threatening to crack down on this, but not much ever happens. It does start to look suspicious, guys who have been here for years but their passports are filled with visas.
Despite the threats of crackdowns, it’s easier than it used to be. Now you can go to Vientiane or the Cambodian border, but time was when you had to go all the way down to Malaysia every three months, because the Lao and Cambodian borders were still closed. I knew guys who would take the train all the way down to Malaysia every three months, to visit the Thai consulate in Penang. An overnight train ride down, a full day or two in Penang, then an overnight train ride back up. Sounds like a nice little vacation, but everyone I knew grew sick of doing it. I never had to, but the wife and I have visited Penang and the rest of peninsular Malaysia. Penang is actually a nice place. Georgetown is the city actually, and Penang is the island it’s on, just off the coast. Must be what Hong Kong and Singapore were like before the skyscrapers. But all the hotels had signs up saying to leave your passport for the Thai consulate at the front desk if you were there for a visa run. There were services that would go around, collect all the passports in the morning and take them to the consulate for a new visa, then return them that day, all for a nominal fee.
Myself, I’m on a Non-Immgrant Visa renewable annually and never have to leave unless I want to take a trip. When I want to leave the country, I go to Immigration and pick up a Re-entry Permit, which keeps my visa valid while I’m away. If I did not have the Re-entry Permit, my visa would expire as soon as I left. I’ve had opportunities to apply for permanent residency, but the expense makes it unappealling to me.
Actually, I’m simplifying the situation way too much there. It really depends on where you are. A lot of places are much more strict about how long you are technically allowed to visit within a given time period. Some countries let you just hop the border back and forth. Others limit it to, say 6 months total within a calendar year, or 90 days total within 180 days. Others, you need a special visa to stay longer with multiple entires. And so on, and so forth. What I meant to say is that Thailand isn’t particularly odd with their requirements.
I seem to recall that Nepal works it to where you have to be gone three months out of every year, although I don’t know if that’s for all visa types.
Thailand is rather serious about overstays though. I think the fine is now up to 2000 baht a day with a maximum of 20,000 baht. I knew one guy from Hawaii who came here on a 90-day visa, thought “three months” instead of “90 days” and had his return flight booked for three months from his arrival date. But he went through two 31-day months and so ended up inadvertently overstaying by two days. They led him off to the Immigration room at the airport. But he just had to pay the fine and they let him go on his way, no big deal. These days, I believe you get some sort of “Overstay” stamp in your passport if you get caught, but it doesn’t seem to be all that serious for future visa applications.
I also met an American who had overstayed for years. I saw his passport. He said once you hit the maximum fine amount, there’s really no incentive to do anything about it if you don’t need to leave the country. He worked illegally, teaching I think, and he was confident if he ever had to leave the country, he could just go down to Immigration, 'fess up and pay the fine, and all would be well. Dunno whatever happened to him. That was almost 20 years ago, so he must have put it to the test by now.
Sorry for the triple post, but before I sign off and hit the sack, I’m worried that the above may encourage people to overstay their visa without thinking about it. The authorities can be remarkably laid back about overstays as long as you pay the fine, but theoretically you could go to jail or even be deported and banned from Thailand for five years. And there are a lot of activities in country for which someone may ask to see your passport. And if you ever get involved with the law, they’ll be wanting to see your passport and visa. There really is no excuse for overstaying, and my advice is not to do it.