When Natalie and I pulled into the Oriental Residence Hotel in Bangkok, our Uber driver told us that our hotel was situated right next to the U.S. Embassy. That was both a little bit frightening and comforting at the same time. Frightening because it’s usually a terrorist target but comforting because if something goes wrong, it’s a short walk away.
Then a light went on in my head and I realized that since the embassy was so close, I should go add pages to my passport since the U.S. government is doing away with this service come January 1, 2016 and I was running low on passport pages.
I wrote a tip about adding extra pages to your passport back in April so I thought I would take my own advice. As you probably know, sending your passport in to get it done takes weeks and I can’t go weeks without my passport (I really need to get a second one). So I decided to see if I could get it done quickly in person.
I’d added pages to my old passport back in 2006 while in Prague. The reason I did it there was again because my hotel was next to the embassy, I was told it would be a lot quicker in person and it was free. Sadly, it’s not free anymore. It costs $85, which I learned by logging on to the local website. FYI: I paid using one of my credit cards but I also brought U.S. dollars with me just in case.
To find the U.S. Embassy in the major city you’re visiting, just search U.S. Embassy and the city name where you are. Luckily, I logged on first to learn all non-emergencies need an appointment. I grabbed the next available one, which was 48 hours later and printed my confirmation, since it was required for entry.
It’s very important to read and re-read all of the requirements on their website before going in (see below). These were the requirements at the embassy in Bangkok:
Day of Appointment Instructions:
-Please have all necessary forms/documentation completed and ready to present to an Embassy official.
-Bring a printed copy of your appointment confirmation page.
-Have your Passport and/or government-issued ID ready and easily accessible.
-Bring no more than one small electronic device, such as a cell phone or MP3 player – do not bring laptops or photographic equipment –and have the device out and ready to present to the security guard before you enter the screening area.
-Check in at Window 3 and give our staff a copy of your appointment confirmation printout upon arrival in our waiting room.
-Feel free to use the telephone by the guard booth. Dial x4000 to reach an English-speaking Embassy employee if you have any questions.
Embassy security procedures require that all visitors receive a security inspection. You will be allowed to check one cell phone at the Embassy gate but the US Embassy and local guards are not liable for any loss or damage to your cell phone while it is checked. You will NOT be allowed to enter the U.S. Embassy for your appointment carrying any of the following items:
-Any other battery-operated or electronic devices such as computer tablets, digital diaries, pagers, cameras, audio/video cassettes, compact discs, MP3s, floppy disks, laptops, or portable music players.
-Any oversize shoulder bags or purses.
-Any oversize handbags and travel bags, large back-packs, briefcases, or suitcases. Applicants can only carry in clear bags containing papers needed for their appointment
-Any food item (a coffee stand with snacks is available).
-Sealed envelopes or packages.
-Cigarettes / cigars / match boxes / lighters.
-Any sharp objects such as scissors, pen knives or nail files.
-Weapons or explosive materials of any kind.
“The list provided above is not exhaustive. Other items may be prohibited at the discretion of security staff. Other than the one allowed cell phone, the US Embassy will not accept the storage of any of the above prohibited items. You will have to make alternate arrangements to store these items before you enter the Embassy.”
According to an American friend who lives in Bangkok part time, the Bangkok U.S. embassy is the second largest U.S embassy in the world with 3,500 employees. I haven’t been able to confirm this so I’m not sure if it’s true. But it is huge and supposedly has offices underneath Wireless Road, which he also says is the nicest road in Bangkok. I don’t doubt that it’s the nicest because it is a beautiful road for Bangkok, lined with trees.
I showed up to my appointment a few minutes early, checked in at the U.S. Citizen window, which had no line unlike the other. I was given a pass and waited to go through the airport-like security. Security took my cell and a credit card since I stupidly forgot my license as my second ID in my other pants pocket. Duh!
The whole thing took just over an hour and I was happy they had CNN on because there was nothing to read, I didn’t have my phone, and laptops and other electronic devices are forbidden.
They did have bathrooms and an outdoor café where they sold coffee for 105 baht ($3 USD).
Overall, the experience was a pleasant one and as my local friend told me, it’s a well-oiled government machine. If you travel internationally frequently, I highly recommend getting extra pages added to your passport or better yet, when you apply for a new one, request to be issued a larger passport book with 52 pages.