Whine Wednesday: Horribly Long Lineups And Endless Processing Time For VAT Refund At Bangkok Airport


Our Whine Wednesday topic this week is about long lineups at VAT Refund Counters at major airports where processing is extremely slow and inefficient such as at Bangkok Airport this week.

Travelers should always be prepared to budget some extra time in order for their VAT Refund to be processed at the airport but some counters are so inefficient that I often saw people abandoning their money because they’d otherwise miss their flight.

It’s always a hard decision from what point onward it’s worth it to actually go through the hassle and do the tax refund because it always requires time and effort plus most of the time you have to hand over your original receipts and can only retain a copy.

I have previously written an article about Global Blue VAT Refunds in Europe (Germany) where I generally have good experience with rather prompt processing by the customs officers and Global Blue counters even though sometimes I see long lines there as well, especially around the time for the Asia flights departure bank.

When I was in Bangkok I purchased some computer items and the VAT Refund was approximately 1,400 THB (~US$40) so I didn’t want to leave that money on the table. Thailand requires you to get the customs stamp OUTSIDE the departure area even though you only keep the items in your carry on (this is opposite to how it works in Germany for example). So that’s your first lineup.

Then once you passed immigration there is another lineup at the actual VAT Refund Counter as pictured above and the lineup was mayhem. Knowing how slow they are and given the massive amount of receipts people had in hand I had to move to another processing counter at the end of the terminal where there was no line at all.


Again only half of the counters in the picture above were actually staffed and there was screaming going on as people had to leave for their flights and airline representatives were there to push people to go to their flights. Some of them had a bunch of receipts and given their overall attire I can imagine quite a bit of money was in play.

Thailand has a severe problem with understaffing their airport facilities which concerns both immigration counters and these VAT Refund counters as well. The only thing that works somewhat properly there are the priority lanes for First/Business Class and sometimes (depending on the airline) elite passengers. Those really save a lot of time.

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  1. I lost roughly 200 AUD in Sydney last year due very long lines at the tax refund (where they usually allow you to just drop your application but this time no). My phone broke down, had to buy a new one and wouldn’t have minded to get the sales tax back.

  2. There is another option for very long lines.

    Many of these “duty repayment” companies allow you to use customs stamp from the customs authorities in country you are flying to, as proof tha teh items were exported. Then to mail the stamped forms stamped by the destination country authorities; and the original receipts.

    This only works if they can credit the refund amount to your credit card (the card used when the original purchases were made). When I used this I sent the documents by registered mail with proof of receipt – which costs; so only do this when the refund is worth it.

    • I’ve used the postal methos before for a Global Blue claim but never received a refund. This happened not just once but TWICE! And guess who no longer has those receipts that were mailed? Yes.

  3. I submitted my tax refund paperwork at BOG last year. Had everything they required in order. Few months later I received an email from DIAN saying that my roughly 200 USD refund request was denied as I did not enter the country as Visitor Tourist and stamp in my passport clearly confirms that I did. They took copies of the passport pages and that stamp too! The only thing to do to complain was to send them a letter (not email) in the next 10 days, which I decided not to do because it would cost me even more to send a letter with tracking and https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4b090bf94b130c5aa2a32fc27eda15facabdfc715576135d4d84740b32fad3a3.jpg return receipt!
    I strongly believe that these tax refunds are in majority of the cases just a scam as they have so many requirements, while providing very limited means to complain if needed.

    • So, you are telling us that it would have cost you in the neighborhood of $200 to send DIAN a letter with tracking and receipt? Really? I know the post office would not charge anything like that amount; nor would FEDEX or DHL.

      • I did not say that, but if you want to interpret it that way, go ahead…
        Can you tell me how much would be a letter to Colombia sent via FedEx or DHL?
        Everything has a price, including time and hassle of doing it.

  4. In Bangkok have your pp10 forms stamped prior to checkin and put the whole paperwork into the drop boxes provided near the VAT refund counters in the departure area. The refund will then be credited to your credit card. Doesn’t work for jewellery and watches, as these have to be inpected again by a Revenue officer.

  5. There are 2 VAT refund points after immigration/security. If you turn left towards A-C gates the queue is usually much shorter than the opposite one (turning right to D onwards). The walk between the 2 VAT refunds is over 600 meters so if you are short of time go left as a 1st choice to save the walk back & forth.


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