Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Thai passport holder travel in the Caribbeans

Travel with sailing boat maybe slightly different from by airplane in terms of Visa but trust me they all give me same headache. I conclude the information with my experience to let Thai people know if they would like to visit any islands in the Caribbean or to anyone who interested in it. Also to give the idea what Thai passport holders can expected when they travel to the Caribbean.

I was born in Bangkok, Thailand, even I got married with my Portuguese husband for long time, I have no intention to replace my Thai passport to EU one. I strongly believe that everything can be solved if it's not easy but the end we can find the way. And of course, it's easier if you have money! Currently, I hold a multiple 10 years USA visa, a multiple 2 years Schengen visa and a multiple 2 years of overseas territories department of France (department d' outre-mer of France). All of them help me a lot while travel on our sailing boat and definitely with less headaches.

I wrote the story how was the process of USA visa which I applied in Hong Kong before we started the trip in 2013. Unfortunately, I didn't mention anything about the European visa as I applied in St. Lucia, in the Caribbean, because we still respect the consulate of my husband country in Macau where we lived before which they always inform us that they couldn't issue multiple visa even I had visit the country every year and each time we had to submit exactly the same documents.

1. Dominican Republic
We arrived the country by airplane and left by boat. Thai passport holder no need visa to travel there by boat or by airplane and it's free of charge. We can stay up to 3 months and we can renew the visa to stay each time for 3 months more which the fee for 3 of our family members cost around 300 Dominican Peso in 2013. The official told us we can renew the visa to stay anytime we want. To clear out of the country with sailing boat, it's also quiet simple. Because we purchased "Dee" in the Dominican Republic and she was sitting there for long time so all the officials recognized her just need to prove them that we paid all the taxes.

2. Puerto Rico  
Puerto Rico is American Territory, of course Thai passport holder must apply USA visa before entry the territories. Missing such rules, you may be refused to enter the country. The limit to stay is up to 6 months. When we arrived by our boat which is registered in US we must declare the tax payment or else we pay some tax for our boat but it was easy and the Puerto Rican officials are very efficient and professional.

3. American Virgin Islands
It's still American Territory and we still have valid stamp from Puerto Rico so that we do not clear in our boat to the immigration. Sailing between Puerto Rico and American Virgin Islands do not need to declare since the marine territories are the same. The rules for Thai passport holder are the same as apply in USA. We had experience to renew the USA visa in American Virgin Islands as we stay there more than 4 months. The process was simple and straight forward, just declare all boat documents and passport, it was extended to another 6 months.

4. British Virgin Islands
Thai passport holder must apply the visa before enter to the country by land and by air. The British visa from United Kingdom is not applicable in BVI. I knew that people who hold Malaysian, Taiwanese and Hong Kong passport do not need visa in order to enter BVI, that's all I could remember from the immigration office. In my case, when we arrived BVI, I do not have any visa for BVI but the officer mention to us that I can enter BVI because of the protocol they have with American Virgin Islands as I hold USA visa, I can enter the island with few fees. But we end up didn't explore the island because we have Noel, our French Bulldog on board which the documents lists are not completed. Either we pay big fee for Noel or we have 24 hours to leave the islands. So if our four legs friend couldn't stay and we don't have big account then we decide to leave.

5.Sint Maarten/ Saint Martin
My favorite place! The islands are divided into 2 parts, Dutch and French. When I arrived in Dutch side I do not have visa, again! We met the head of the immigration department who was really trying to help us a lot since we travel as family. At the time we arrive in 2013, the protocol between the Virgin Islands was not in force yet which it will allow people with USA visa to enter the Dutch territory. The same time, local government exercise very strict law to prevent the corruption so he really couldn't help me to approve the right to stay with my EU passport holder family members. The official suggested that if I have any valid Schengen visa it would be fine but I didn't or I have to contact the agent to issue the term of responsibility as crew member, so we did. We had to paid around 120 USD for 3 weeks stay.
Differently from French side, you need to apply the visa only from the French Embassy to issue the visa (can't be any country in EU either Schengen visa). Even to clear in and out in French islands are all done by the computer but you never know if the customs will visit your boat anytime to check your documents. 

6. Guadeloupe
One of the French territories, Thai passport holder must apply French overseas territories visa. It's different visa from the Schengen visa. We clear in electronically and paid 2 Euros. It's true that every French overseas territories no officials doing paper works, everything is done by computer but whoever need visa here may not hold one, but please pray not having officials checking your passport or no any accident, or else you may be fall in jail.

7. Dominica
Very pure nature another one of my favorites. Thai passport holder do not need visa if arrive by boat without any fee but I'm not sure with airplane. The permit allowed us to stay in Dominica up to 14 days but no stamp on passport, if you need one for souvenir you may need to pay for immigration. We extended the stay before for another 14 days but I really couldn't remember but I guess it was few Eastern Caribbean Dollars (EC).

8. Martinique
Martinique has information as same as in Saint Martin and Guadeloupe.

9. St. Lucia
We firstly arrived by our boat then left by airplane and came back by air. The place where we spend more than 6 months. Thai passport holder can apply visa on arrival with less than 200 Eastern Caribbean Dollars (EC) fee at the airport or clear in at the port of entry and get the passport back in the immigration at the airport where it's located. The official told us that it would be ok if you would like to apply visa before in the British Commonwealth Embassy or just apply in the airport or port of entry. The most important thing is the period to stay when you arrive by air and sea are different. Arriving by sea allow us to stay up to 3 months but by air will be 6 weeks. We didn't check our stamps so we stayed over due after we were back on the island by air. The penalty could be up to 800 Eastern Caribbean Dollars (EC) to renew the over stay visa but we explained the situation and it was waived.

10. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Thai passport holder do not need visa if arrive by boat. We do not need to pay any fee for visa but pay to clear in our vessel for around 75 Eastern Caribbean Dollars (EC). It allow us to stay up to 1 month but trust me, it's not enough for the Grenadines!

11. Grenada
Thai passport holder must apply the visa before arriving Grenada. We arrived in Carriacou, after clear in the vessel then we must take bus to the immigration for my visa permit in the capital. There are 2 types of visa; single and multiple entry. I only paid single entry for 100 Eastern Caribbean Dollars (EC) and can stay up to 3 months. For the multiple entry cost 200 Eastern Caribbean Dollars (EC). My husband had to extend the visa and it costs 18 Eastern Caribbean Dollars (EC) for 1 month.

We didn't visit Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Saba, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Barthelemy (St. Barth) because our initial plan was to sail straight from American Virgin Islands to Grenada but we got bad weather during 8 days sailing then we ended up arriving in Dominica unexpected. And we didn't had the change to visit Trinidad and Tobago, we had the plan to haul out "Dee" there but ended up doing in Carriacou, Grenada.

Informations above are from my experience in 2013-2014 some by sea and some by plane. Please keep in mind that there are maybe many changes in some places. Check yourself before travel.

Happy travel together!


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