Nearly all countries who qualify for Tourist Visa Exempt (VE) entry now get 30 days permission to stay, whether land or air arrival; land arrival for VE are limited to 2 per calendar year. If you use up both land arrivals, you either need a Single Entry/Multiple Entry (SE/ME) Visa or come in via air.
It is also possible to extend a VE entry in-country for 30 days at local immigration office for 1900 baht. I am unclear if you can do this immediately or only within the last 15 days of the initial entry.
So for the OP, as of this writing if you wanted to stay for 90 days, it would be possible:
to enter via air/land for 30 day VE entry, then extend that entry at local immigration to add 30 days, then do a border run for 30 more days; 30 + 30 + 30.
– to enter via air for **30 day VE entry, then do a** border run to add 30 days, then do another border run for 30 more days; 30 + 30 + 30.
obtain a SETV prior to arrival at Thailand. Via air or land border, SETV gives you 60 days + ability to extend 30 days at local immigration. 60 + 30. Currently SETVs are free until August, 2017.
Sometimes it is cheaper or less hassle to do border run. Sometimes you may want to preserve your land border entries. If you intend to come frequently to Thailand, aim for METV or ME non-immigrant if you qualify….or arrive via air and mix in a tourist visa or 2.
Another trick for SE visa entry or VE entry is if you intend to leave Thailand quickly and come back before the latest permission to stay stamp expires, you can obtain a S or M re-entry permit (1000 or 3800 baht, respectively). Re-entry permit allows you to return and leave the current permission to stay intact; it does NOT add any more time. For ME visa, this technique only apply after visa expire (since you can do unlimited entries up to expiration date).
This post was originally asked in July 2011. Visa rules can change rapidly in a short amount of time, depending on the political climate at the time. When it comes to visa-related questions, it is best to use a site like ThaiVisa.com as you are getting up to date information from people on the ground and news reports. Or re-ask the question.
Side comment: So visa-related questions perhaps need the date in the title or something like ‘as of July, 2011, [question….]. And mods should not penalize for re-asking for questions that answers will regularly decay over time. Or perhaps a note should be put after 1 year that “The answers here are over 6/9/12 months old and may not reflect the current visa requirements”.
The options are:
Tourist visa in your home country (1-3 entries, 60+30 days on each entry)
Documentation is not particularly difficult. Exact requirements vary depending on the consulate, but usually it’s a 1-page application form, two photos, copy of confirmed flight itinerary and a recent bank statement showing some minimal balance ($1500 or so). Visa fee is $35 per entry (plus postage both ways if applying by mail).
Applying by mail is possible in most countries, allow at least 2 weeks turnaround time. The disadvantage is a small chance that your passport may get misplaced.
Applying in person normally involves two visits, one to turn in the documents, and then next day to pick up the visa. The consulates are closed on Thai and US holidays. In large countries (USA, UK, Germany) there are several honorary consulates which tend to be less fussy and far more polite than the Thai Embassy in DC or large consulates (LA, NYC, Chicago). However, they may be hard to find and have limited hours.
An advantage of applying before the trip in your home country is that you can ask for a 2 or 3-entry tourist visa, which gives you a longer stay. Consulates in SE Asia generally issue only single-entry visas.
Allowed stay is 60 days per entry. A one-time 30-day extension stamp can be obtained at an immigration office within Thailand (takes ~3-6h, 1900 baht).
Visa-free entry by air (30 days)
To extend, fly to one of the neighboring countries and come back (there are many low-cost airlines, like AirAsia). You can also exit Thailand by land and fly back one-way.
Technically, Thai immigration (or the airline) may ask you to show an air ticket back to your home country within the 30 days and proof of funds, but this is rarely enforced, especially if you look clean-cut.
Visa-free entry by land (15 days)
Entering Thailand through any land border crossing (most often to Cambodia or Laos) allows you to stay for only 15 days.
A visa-run (crossing the closest border and coming back to Thailand immediately) is often used. There are tour companies which facilitate this (usually to Poipet, Cambodia as this is closest to Bangkok).
Laos and Cambodia charge for visas at the border ($20-$40). Therefore, a visa-run by a low-cost airline to a place which does not charge (e.g. Singapore or Malaysia) for a 30-day entry may not be more expensive than two 15-day visa-runs by land.
Tourist visa in SE Asia (60+30 days)
Thai consulates in SE Asia issue single-entry tourist visas to foreigners, allowing a 60 day stay and 30 day extension. Documentation requirements tend to be minimal (less than in your home country). Most commonly used ones are in Penang, Malaysia and Vientiane, Laos (latter can be easily reached by land, 8hr by bus from Bangkok). Usually the service is next-day. Relatively affordable and reliable agents can be used to avoid standing in lines.
Some consulates (Rangoon, Hong Kong, HCMC) are known to be restrictive, check before going.
Many tourists wishing to stay in Thailand longer than 30 days given on the standard tourist visa (on incoming flights) do ‘visa runs’ to nearby countries. You are correct that overland entries only get a two-week visa instead of a month-long visa, but sometimes you need to evaluate what works out cheaper for you.
You’ll obviously be looking for the cheapest low-cost airline flights that get you out and back into Thailand. All these ones usually fly Airbus A319-A320 3-3 seating config planes that are new and quite comfortable enough. Here are your options.
Usually, Tiger Airways is the best option as their prices are low. Air Asia is an alternative worth considering only on their less-used sectors where prices are lower; on popular ones like BKK-KUL or BKK-SIN it gets very expensive. Cheapest one-way flights cost $40-70 inclusive of taxes and all charges and ramp up from there on. Flights between Tue-Thu are generally cheaper as people in neighbouring countries often go on weekends for short holidays. These airlines are point-to-point carriers so you don’t get discounts for booking return flights.
Depending on how early you book, you might find flights too expensive. In the interim, you may consider doing overland visa runs at times while waiting for flights to get longer 30-day ones. Where you go for one obviously depends on what checkpoint you’re closest to. Popular ones for overland are visa runs are:
You may want to make rough calculations to see whether it’s worth it for you to get a longer validity visa or do visa runs. Given the period you’ve mentioned you’ll be staying for, you’ll probably find the latter better – and get to check out some neighbouring countries in the process.
Singapore and Malaysia are the best choices to go because they don’t charge for visas. Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia do – $20-40 depending on processing fees etc. Cambodia in particular also charges an additional $25 ‘departure fee’ for international flights. Vietnam doesn’t have visa-on-arrival per se; you need to apply online with an authorised agency in advance and specify what date you’ll be flying in.
There are some travel agencies too in Thailand that claim they can get a new visa for you, probably by paying someone off at border control offices. This is not always a safe option – as the travel agents can be scammers – but I personally think as a traveller, it isn’t right to promote corrupt practices in a country you visit. Again, remember this is illegal and you can be arrested and/or deported for giving your passport to a third-person for getting a visa. There are some really interesting places to visit that border Thailand, and a break may not be that bad at all.
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