Travel Guide: How to Cross the Malaysian-Thai Border at Betong Immigration Checkpoint

A couple of months ago, the Moomikins hatched an ambitious plan for our family trip: to drive from Malaysia to Thailand. Her colleagues had told her about Betong, a Thai border town where bird’s nest and petai (stink beans) aplenty, and it was apparently accessible by car from Pengkalan Hulu in Perak – about a five hour drive from Kuala Lumpur.

Cue me arguing in disbelief: “You sure or not? No way Perak borders Thailand! Isn’t it only Kelantan, Kedah and Perlis?”

Mum: 

http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/mapsonline/base-maps/malaysia-thailand-border
Credit: College of Asia and the Pacific

….. okay, I rest my case.

Took the necessarily leaves, booked hotels, bundled into the car early morning on a Friday, and off we went!

CHECKLIST: Documents To Bring if Driving through the Malaysian-Thailand Border 

  • Original vehicle registration card. If you’re bringing a photocopy,  ensure it has been verified by a Malaysian police station. If you are not the owner, prepare a letter from the owner authorising you to use the vehicle.
  • Passport. Same as when you’re traveling by plane, needs to be valid for at least 6 months.
  • Driving license. If you’re Malaysian, there is no need to register for an international license (btw Thailand’s driver seat is also on the right)
  • Insurance. If you’re just traveling around Betong there is no need but to go beyond (like to Hatyai, etc) you will need Thai car insurance. This can be bought before or after crossing immigration. More on this later.

MALAYSIAN BORDER 

From Ipoh, follow the North-South highway in the direction of Taiping-Gerik-Pengkalan Hulu. Once at PH, proceed to the immigration checkpoint in your car and get your passports ready. You don’t have to get down from the car – just drive through the window. The officer stamped our passports and we were through in less than 10 minutes. Further along was a police checkpoint, where the police also checked our passports. Once through, we headed for the Betong Immigration Checkpoint.

THAI BORDER 

Unlike the Malaysian checkpoint, you can’t just drive straight through the Betong one, so park your car at the compound and get down. On the right is a counter where you can get the country’s Arrival/Departure forms: Name, passport number, etc. (like the ones they usually give out when you’re on the airplane) You can either fill that in yourself, or have the counter staff do so for RM2. 

Once that’s done, bring it inside this building. The immigration officer will check your passport and clip the earlier form inside the passport. Don’t lose the form! You’ll need it when you’re coming back to Malaysia.

Here they asked for RM3. Idk what that is, processing fee maybe?

Once that’s done, visitors can take one of the tuktuks (they look like Filipino jeepneys, not the small ones you see in Bangkok) into Betong, or if you’re driving like us, then walk down to the drive through point, where there is another counter. Here is where you’ll get the ‘import’ form to bring your car in. This is very important so don’t lose it ! Otherwise your car will be left in Thailand when you come back 😛

The form was an additional RM16, but I think this varies because there were many blogposts with different prices.

Once that has been stamped and signed, walk back to your car and now you can drive through. Welcome to Thailand!

The whole process took less than an hour. But then again it was a Friday and not peak season. Heard it’s crazy on festivals like Songkran.

Since we didn’t buy insurance before the border, we stopped at some shops by the road. There are many signboards with ‘insurance’ on them so you won’t miss it.

Can’t remember the exact price of the insurance, but I think it was around RM20 (?) Not that expensive. They have free drinks for travelers at the shop. 🙂

Finally arrived in Betong town! Feels almost like a small Malaysian town, except for the the tangled-looking electrical wires. The town is about 10 minutes drive from the checkpoint.

Extra notes:

Internet

Most hotels will probably have Wifi, but if you’re driving and need to use Waze to find spots, I’d recommend getting a data plan. Digi was supposed to have the Roaming Pass for Thailand but I couldn’t activate it for some reason. 😦 Ended up buying Simcards in town for 150 baht (about Rm20)

Language

No need to learn Thai just yet. There are many ethnic Malays and Chinese living in Betong, so most of them speak either Malay or some Chinese dialects, like Mandarin or Cantonese.

Getting Around 

You can hire tuktuks to take you to tourist spots, if not driving. We didn’t see any conventional taxis.

Accommodation 

The highest starred hotel in town is 3 stars. They do business with (mostly) Malaysian tourists.  Even so, most places are well equipped with facilities and there’s the usual Wifi, coffee making facilities, etc.

Places to Eat 

The three main ethnic groups in Betong are Thai, Malay and Chinese so food is a reflection of these three. You can get really cheap dimsum in town for 20baht per plate, and the 7-11 has lots of cheap and convenient meals to go. Halal options are available from the Malay shops. Chinese restaurants are similar to the dai chows you find in KL, but prices are about average/on par with Malaysia. There are also street food stalls at night.

More of Betong to come soon. Happy travels! 🙂

How to Renew Your Malaysian Passport: Tips and Experience!

I spent a lot on travelling this year.

In April, I flew to the States (LA and San Francisco) for three weeks, which burnt a massive hole in my pocket. Upon returning, I told myself : “Hey. That was an awesome, eye-opening, once-in-a-lifetime thing so it was worth it! Now you can focus on your job, earn money for the rest of the year and save for your next big adventure in 2016. ”

But seeing all the nice trip pictures on my social media feed – the sandy blue beaches, the foggy mountains, the bustling cities –  has brought out the travel itch in me. D: Since I can’t afford any more long haul vacations, I’ve decided to go for a short one: to Phuket, Thailand!

Before that there was one very important step: renewing my old Malaysian passport. I took half the day off to drop by the National Registration and Immigration Department (Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara) in Puchong Utama.  I heard the line here gets long real fast, so I came very early. Even then, I was fourth in line despite arriving at 6.20am (!) All the shops at the commercial building where the department is located were closed and it was dark, with loads of mozzies. I got bit like crazy.

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After an agonising 1 hour + (the line grew steadily longer) the doors finally opened just before 8am. I fell into line to Counter 10, where a nice Indian lady took my old passport and IC. I was given a blue form to fill up with my details before she issued me a number.

Once I got the number, I went upstairs via a side staircase to a waiting area (above). Number was called, I gave the form, passport and IC to the staff, then sat down to take a picture. Gone are the days when you had to take a photo at your local camera store – now everything is done on the spot, digitally. 🙂 I also had to verify both thumbprints through a digital scanner, sign another form containing my details and print my thumbnail on it with ink.

Another counter will call you and issue the receipt. Collection is in an hour’s time. It was 8.30am. So….

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Breakfast! There was a comfy little mamak downstairs where I had Indomie Goreng topped with fried egg, washed down with a cold glass of iced Milo. Typical Malaysian breakfast at it’s finest. 🙂

Around 9.20am, I headed back next door to collect a new number from Counter 10. Went upstairs again, where it was called almost immediately. I showed the staff my receipt, signed more forms, and walah!

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Brand new passport, valid for five years. It costs Rm200.

Phuket, here I come! 🙂

 

Passport renewal has surely come a long way and it’s much more convenient now. I remember back in the days when I was a kid, the whole process took several days to do. Here are some tips to get yours done quickly:

  1. Arrive early. In my case, I arrived at 6.20am, took my number and submitted everything at 8.30am, then collected it at 9.30am. No hassle!
  2. Go chill while waiting. Have some roti canai or a teh tarik at the mamak. 🙂
  3. If you arrived late and there’s a long line ahead of you, bring a book or a powerbank for your phone so you can pass the time.
  4. Dress decently. It’s still a government office and short shorts/singlets are *technically* not allowed (although I’ve seen some places with lax rules). Still, you don’t want to get turned away, or worse, handed a sarong to cover up, do you?
  5. Bring: Money (RM200 – five year renewal fee), your IC and old passport. They will cut a triangle in this after they hand you the new one.
  6. You don’t need to bring a photo, they will take one for you on the spot.

There are a few places you can renew your passport at in Putrajaya, KL, etc. The one I went to was the Puchong Utama branch:

No.67 & 69, Jalan PU7/4,

Taman Puchong Utama, 47100,

Puchong, Selangor. (near Carrefour Puchong )

Open:

  • Mon – Thurs (730am – 1pm, 2pm – 5.30pm),
  • Fri (730am – 12.15pm, 2.45pm -5.30pm)