So I flipped through the traveller’s bible, aka Lonely Planet, and was shocked.
In the tiny two-inch column for Padang Besar, the guidebook said: “Very few people, if any, walk the more than 2km of no-man’s land between the Thai and Malaysian sides of the border.”
NO INSTRUCTION, IT’S THE DAY OF DESTRUCTION.
After freaking out, I decided to become one of the “very few people” to walk to Thailand and back. And write a post about it. (Although another reason I’m walking is that I am too stingy to pay for the RM40 cab fare.)
A guide to walking from Malaysia to Thailand
Step 1 Get to Padang Besar’s immigration checkpoint
The entrance of immigration checkpoint is right in front of the big roundabout. Walk up to the toll booth-like area, keeping to your left since cars and motorbikes are on the right.
Step 2 Get your documents verified (and stamped)
Pass through the immigration checkpoint using the electronic gates if you have a Malaysian passport.
If you have a foreign passport, you’ll need to get it stamped at one of the officer’s booth.
Step 3 Walk a lot
It’s quite a long walk to the end of the border from the document checking area. Even though you will see a path (which is persumably for pedestrians) near the walls, do not take that route as it brings you to a dead end.
Admire the murals while you walk. I am not sure who the murals were put up for, perhaps it is for drivers who are stuck in a traffic jam.
Wave as drivers drive pass and motorcyclists give you a second look. Sticking out a thumb to hitchhike here does not work. I tried.
You will eventually reach the end of Malaysia’s border where a few officials hang around.
Step 4 Explain why you are walking to anyone who asks
The immigration officers will be curious why you are walking when there are motorcycle shuttles. The excuse “Because we want to” does not seem to satisfy their curiosity.
The officer practically interrogated us after looking at our passports. When we said we just wanted to walk to Thailand, he told that there were motorcycles shuttling people across. I asked where the motorbikes are, he pointed to the other end. I told him that I will not walk all the way back just for a motorcycle.
After being released, we walked to the Thai part of the border.
Step 5 Reach Thai border
There are no lines on the road to tell where passengers can walk, so be careful of traffic.
Follow the cars and where a bunch of people are filling up forms. Fill up the form and pay RM1 to the immigration officer.
Step 6 Enter Thailand
With the new stamp in your passport, head out of the immigration checkpoint. Do not be alarmed that it looks exactly like Malaysia but with Thai signs.
A guide to walking back to Malaysia from Thailand
Step 1 Get to Padang Beser checkpoint
The line back to Malaysia is not the same as the one you came in from. It’s at the other gate.
Step 2 Get passport stamped
Get your Checking Out stamp and hand over another RM1 to the person behind the booth.
Step 3 Walk back to Malaysia
The Malaysian folks will be less curious about you by now. Walk on. Same as usual, walk on the left side of the road to avoid traffic.
There is a sad duty free store along the no-man’s land.
Step 4 Get your documents verified to enter Malaysia
Show off your passport to the official at the toll booth. You must get an entry stamp or face being stripped naked during interrogation when you want to leave Malaysia. This is serious business.
Step 5 Get your luggage scanned
There’s probably no one in luggage check so just ignore this step.
Step 6 Back in Malaysia
At the end of the Malaysian customs, another officer will be interested in why you are walking. Answer his questions even though you know all the answers are in the passport which he is holding. Smile pleasantly.