To start with, the most basic requirement for a trip to Thailand is a passport still valid for at least six months, counting from the date of arrival in the Kingdom. So if you’re planning a holiday in Thailand and the expiry date of your passport should be within the next six months, please apply for a new passport a.s.a.p.
Secondly, do not overstay your visa in Thailand. If your overstay is just a couple of days you’ll probably get away with just paying a fine of a few thousand Baht at the airport, but we definitely wouldn’t advise you to take an unnecessary risk.
Instead, do always check the expiry date of your current visa and your relevant entry stamp (“admitted until”). If you make it to the airport or a land border checkpoint while on an overstay, the fine is only a negligible 500 Baht per day (maximum fine 20,000 Baht). If you should, however, get arrested without a valid visa or permission of stay while you’re still in the country, for example, if you get stopped at a police checkpoint, you’d be considered an illegal immigrant, face jail, harsh fines – and ultimately deportation. Simply not worth it.
Here’s what you’ll find on this page:
- 30-Day Visa Exemption & New Visa Run Rules
- Passport Holders Who Can Enter Thailand Without Visa
- Stay in Thailand Longer Than 30 Days?
- Visa Extension
- Visa Runs / Border Runs
Types of Visa
Foreign visitors from most Western countries who wish to stay in Thailand for a period not exceeding 30 days at a time and for “tourism purposes” only do not require a visa to enter Thailand. All they need is a passport valid for at least six months.
If you wish to stay in Thailand for longer than 30 days, however, it might be a good idea to a apply for a visa prior to boarding your plane to Bangkok. Unless you plan to stay for longer than 90 days at a time, a regular tourist visa will likely be sufficient. Please click the appropriate link to find all details you need to know:
- Tourist Visa
- Business Visa – Non-Immigrant Visa “B”
- Retirement Visa – Non-Immigrant Visa “O-A” (Long Stay)
- Education Visa – Non-Immigrant Visa “ED”
- Marriage – Non-Immigrant Visa “O”
A Non-immigrant “O” (dependent) visa is also available, for example, for spouses and children of holders of a Non-Immigrant “B” visa, or people who have children with a Thai partner and can produce the (original) birth certificate. Other types of Non-Immigrant visas include, e.g., investment and diplomatic visa.
Foreign visitors who meet “visa exemption” requirements and wish to stay in Thailand for a period not exceeding 30 days and for “tourism purposes” only (!) do not require a visa to enter the kingdom. All they need is a passport valid for at least six more months.
This permission of stay has only little in common with a regular visa. In fact, it’s not a visa at all. “Visa exemption” simply means that eligible foreigners shall be granted a permission of stay of usually 30 days without having to apply for a visa prior to their entry into the kingdom.
Upon arrival at a Thai immigration checkpoint, you’ll simply have an entry stamp (not a regular visa) stamped onto a page of your passport. This little square stamp displays both the “date of arrival” and an “admitted until” field, showing the date when you are due to leave. This visa-exempt entry stamp (sometimes wrongly referred to as “tourist visa” or “visa on arrival”) is free of charge.
The permitted duration of stay is up to 30 days (for nationals of most countries).
Tourists arriving via international airports will receive a 30-day entry stamp, while visitors from most Western countries arriving in Thailand via land border checkpoints will be granted only a 15-day permission of stay.
The only official requirement is an onward flight ticket as proof of your intention to leave Thailand again. Therefore, traveling to Thailand with a one-way ticket cannot be recommended. While this regulation is occasionally being enforced (and some airlines might refuse to let you board a plane to Thailand unless you have a return ticket) it is usually taken for granted that tourists arriving in Thailand have adequate financial means to cover their expenses in the country (10,000 Baht a person or 20,000 Baht per family, as officially required).
Employment is strictly prohibited, and work permits cannot be applied for. If you intend to work in Thailand legally or conduct a business you will need to obtain a non-immigrant visa “B”.
Crackdown on “Border Runners” – New Visa Run Rules
From August 12, 2014, out/in “border runs” are pretty much a thing of the past. Foreign tourists and expats without a proper visa shall no longer be allowed to continuously exit and re-enter the kingdom via a land border or any other border checkpoint in order to extend their visa-free stay in Thailand by another 15 or 30 days.
Instead, foreign visitors will be restricted to a single entry (!) into Thailand unless they can produce a regular visa.
The Nation reported on July 15, 2014: “From August 13, people [who have not obtained a visa prior to their visit to Thailand] will not be able to re-enter the country, regardless of their choice of transport”. In other words: If you haven’t obtained a visa prior to your visit to Thailand but wish to stay longer than just for a holiday, then visa runs are no longer a viable option to extend your stay in the kingdom but you’re advised to apply for a tourist visa at your local Thai embassy or consulate in advance. Non-Immigrant visa or tourist visa holders with remaining entries on their visa will not be affected by this new regulation and may exit and enter Thailand as before.
Effective from late 2008, tourists from most countries who have not obtained a visa prior to their visit to Thailand but meet “visa exemption” requirements and arrive via a land border checkpoint (Cambodia, Laos, Burma etc.) will be granted only a 15-day permission of stay, not 30 days as previously. While Russian citizens have always been exempt from this rule change, in November 2013, it has also been relaxed for nationals of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States. Citizens of the aforementioned countries will now again receive 30-day entry stamps when arriving in Thailand via a land border checkpoint. Note: Foreigners arriving via international airports are not be affected by these rules.
Tourists from the countries listed below may enter Thailand without a visa (“visa exemption”) for a maximum stay of 30 days and for tourism purposes only, or may apply for a “visa on arrival” at a Thai border checkpoint (15 days permission of stay).
Note: Visitors from certain countries will be granted entry stamps for 90 or only 15 days respectively (see numbers in parentheses). Tourists who wish to stay longer than 30 days are advised to apply for a tourist or other visa.
Andorra (15), Argentina (90), Australia, Austria
Bahrain (90), Belgium, Bhutan (15), Brazil (90), Brunei, Bulgaria (15)
Cambodia (14), Canada, Chile (90), China, Cyprus (15), Czech Republic
Estonia, Ethiopia (15)
Hong Kong SAR, Hungary
Iceland, India (15), Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy
Kazakhstan (15), Korea (90), Kuwait
Latvia (15), Laos, Liechtenstein, Lithuania (15), Luxembourg
Macao SAR, Malaysia, Maldives (15), Malta (15), Mauritius (15), Monaco, Mongolia, Myanmar
Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway
Oman, Peru (90), Philippines, Poland, Portugal
Romania (15), Russian Federation
San Marino (15), Saudi Arabia (15), Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
Taiwan (15), Turkey
Ukraine (15), United Arab Emirates (90), United Kingdom, USA, Uzbekistan (15)
The above list is as of December 2014. For updated conditions and specifications of “visa exemption” and “visa on arrival” rules, and the permitted duration of stay, please visit the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Unless you’re over 50, married to a Thai or want to work in the kingdom, it’s certainly never been easy to obtain a proper “long stay” visa that allows you to stay in Thailand for longer than just a couple of weeks.
Please scroll a bit further down for your currently best visa options if you wish to stay in Thailand for longer than just a month or two and aren’t eligible for a non-immigrant visa of either type.
To begin with, here are some important “new” rules:
- Effective from late 2008, tourists from most countries who have not obtained a visa prior to their visit to Thailand but meet “visa exemption” requirements and arrive via a land border checkpoint (Cambodia, Laos, Burma etc.) will be granted only a 15-day permission of stay, not 30 days as previously. Nationals of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are exempt from this rule and continue to receive 30-day entry stamps when arriving in Thailand via a land border checkpoint. Foreigners arriving via international airports are not be affected by this rule.
- From August 12, 2014, out/in visa runs e.g. to the Cambodian border are basically a thing of the past. Foreign tourists and expats in Thailand shall no longer be allowed to continuously exit and re-enter the kingdom via a land border crossing or any other border checkpoint (including airports) in order to gain another 30- or 15-day stay in Thailand (visa exemption). Instead, foreign visitors will be restricted to a single entry (!) into Thailand without a regular visa.
The Nation reported on July 15, 2014: “From August 13, people [who have not obtained a visa prior to their visit to Thailand] will not be able to re-enter the country, regardless of their choice of transport”. In other words: If you haven’t obtained a visa prior to your visit to Thailand but wish to stay longer than just for a holiday, then visa runs are no longer a viable option to extend your stay in the kingdom but you’re advised to apply for a tourist visa at your local Thai embassy or consulate in advance.
- If you wish to further extend your holidays in Thailand by applying for a 60-day tourist visa, please also note that in 2009, Thai immigration have announced a new crackdown on back-to-back tourist visa applications. It currently remains uncertain how many back-to-back applications will be approved by individual consulates or the same consulate.
If you should decide to stay longer in Thailand than 30 days and have not applied for a regular visa in advance, you can now extend your 30-day visa-exempt stay in Thailand by a further 30 days, not just seven days as previously.
All you need to do is visit your local immigration office after your first 30 days have expired and apply for a 30-day extension at a fee of 1,900 Baht; effectively giving you 60 days of stay without having to apply for a visa.
In Pattaya, the local immigration office is situated on Soi 5 in Jomtien, approx. 200 metres off Jomtien Beach Road.
Documents required to extend your visa-exempt stay for an additional 30 days include a fully-filled extension form (TM. 7) that you’ll get at the counter of the immigration office, a copy of your passport and a passport photo. They may also ask you for a confirmed flight ticket out of the country within the 30 days of extension, hotel booking confirmation, and possibly proof of sufficient funds.
If you cannot produce an airline ticket out of Thailand within 30 days, they may give you only a 7-day extension as previously (at the same fee of 1,900 Baht) and you have to leave the country within a week.
Another popular option is a so-called visa run, either to the nearby Cambodian border (i.e. if you’re based in Pattaya or Bangkok) where you may get another 15-day or 30-day entry stamp, or a brief trip to one of the neighbouring countries where you can apply for a regular tourist visa or a Non-Immigrant visa of either type.
Otherwise, if you simply exit and re-enter Thailand via an international airport (i.e. without applying for a visa at an embassy or consulate) you will still obtain a 30-day entry stamp upon arrival in Thailand.
One-day “visa runs” to the nearby Cambodian border (usually Chantaburi province) have been popular with both tourists and foreign residents of Pattaya for many years. Border runs can be booked at dozens of travel agencies around Pattaya at rates between roughly 2,000 and 3,00 Baht.
These prices include the visa fees for Cambodia, visa assistance at the border, and transportation by minivan from Pattaya to the Cambodian border and back. Depending on the package you choose, breakfast and/or lunch may also be included.
The total duration of these organized “visa runs” to the border is roughly between 8 and 10 hours, depending on traffic, weather and how busy it is at the border. Most tour operators leave from Pattaya at around 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. and will be back in Pattaya in the afternoon. Some will pick you up at your hotel or condominium, while others have central meeting points from where they depart.
There are a couple of drawbacks though: The enforcement of the 15-day rule, which now applies to many foreigners who arrive in Thailand via a land border checkpoint, renders “visa runs” rather inefficient. Also, from August 12, 2014, foreign visitors are officially restricted to a single entry (!) via a land border crossing, after which they may be refused entry to the kingdom. Tourists who have already done one “visa run” are advised to fly out of Thailand instead and return with a regular visa obtained from a Thai embassy or consulate abroad.
If you travel with a multiple-entry tourist or non-immigrant visa of either type, these regulations will obviously not affect you, and you will still be granted an additional 60-day respectively 90-day permission of stay upon re-entry into the kingdom, i.e. provided your visa is still valid and has not been fully used.
To sum it up, you can travel to Thailand without a visa and stay for initially 30 days. After that you can either:
- get a 30-day extension at your local immigration office (fee 1,900 Baht);
- make a “visa run” to the Cambodian border or any other land border crossing and stay in Thailand for an additional 15 or 30 days (depending on your nationality);
- exit and re-enter Thailand via an international airport (30-day permission of stay); or
- visit a neighbouring country such as Cambodia, Laos or Malaysia, and apply for a regular tourist visa or a Non-Immigrant visa at a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate.
So what’s the best, most convenient and inexpensive solution for under-50 long-stayers who are neither married to a Thai national nor want to work in the kingdom?
If you wish to stay in Pattaya for an “extended” period of time, a basic requirement is a proper Thai visa issued at a Thai consulate preferably in your home country or country of residence – where it’s also easiest to get double-, triple- or multiple-entry visa.
If you’re in Thailand already and don’t want to leave the region, a “visa run” to a nearby Southeast Asian country like Cambodia, Laos or Malaysia will most likely also do the job as well. Just where should you go?
To start with, the Thai embassy in Phnom Phen (Cambodia) has a relatively bad reputation, at least when it comes to issuing tourist visas, and the formerly popular consulate in Georgetown (on the Malaysian island of Penang) reportedly only issues single-entry tourist visas now – restricted to three consecutive applications, after which they may place a red stamp on your last visa stating that future applications will get refused.
While the consulates in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Singapore have a relatively good reputation – but imply more expensive travel costs -, the embassy in Manila on the Philippines should be completely avoided.
At the moment, there seem to be only little problems with obtaining back-to-back tourist visas at the Thai consulate in Vientiane (Lao PDR). Double-entry visas are also available on request. Applicants with “too many” consecutive tourist visa stickers in their passports may, however, have a red warning stamp put on their latest visa, indicating that future applications may not be accepted, or simply have their application rejected. As it seems, their limit is three consecutive tourist visa applications (after which you’re obviously still free to apply for another visa elsewhere in the region).
The most “tourist-friendly” Thai consulate in the region currently seems to be the one in Savannakhet, also in Laos, just across the border from Mukdahan province in Isaan. Not only do they issue double-entry tourist visas without any further questions and requirements other than your passport, passport copies, photographs and cash; there are also hardly any “visa runners”, so you won’t have to queue up for hours and hours for your application to be processed. (As of 2015, you will however have to spend a night in Savannakhet and wait one working day for the consulate to issue your visa).
If you wish to further extend your holidays in Thailand by applying for a 60-day tourist visa, please just note that in 2009, Thai immigration has also announced a new crackdown on back-to-back tourist visa applications, and it remains uncertain how many back-to-back applications will be approved by individual consulates, at least in the Southeast Asian region. Stricter requirements for tourist visa applicants are reportedly also being enforced since August 2011 and may include a confirmed airline ticket, hotel reservation etc. (As of February 2015, it seems however that most consulates in the region still do not require an outbound flight ticket to approve a tourist visa application.)
Foreign visitors have been advised to apply for a Non-Immigrant visa of either kind instead of “living” (and possibly working) in the kingdom as “professional tourists”. If you’re not 50 years of age yet, neither married to a Thai nor plan to work in the kingdom, an ED visa (“student visa”) available for, e.g., foreign Thai language students, may currently still be the easiest option, at least for a year or two.
To read more on the different visa categories available for Thailand and find out which type suits you best, please check the following links in the visa section of our website:
- Tourist Visa
- Business – Non-Immigrant Visa “B”
- Retirement – Non-Immigrant Visa “O-A”
- Education – Non-Immigrant Visa “ED”
- Marriage – Non-Immigrant Visa “O”
The following links may also be of interest for you:
- Thai Visa Expat Forum
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Thailand
- List of Royal Thai Embassies and Royal Thai Consulates-General (including links)