Thai visa FAQ

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First published 10th January, 2010

Questions relating to Thai visas are some of the most common ones popping up on the Visa and Border Crossings section of the Travelfish.org forum. Given the Thai authorities change the rules so often it is no surprise that people get confused regarding both the need for a visa and how they can get one. So what follows is a brief summary of the rules and regulations regarding Thai visas along with some background information that may help.


Why does Thailand change its visa rules so often?

As anyone who has been to Thailand knows, it is a great place to travel and spend time in. Many first time visitors become regulars and many regulars (yours truly included) end up living there for a prolonged period. Getting a visa for a prolonged stay however is both complicated and a bit expensive, and, if you're doing it above board, the process generally requires that you are either retired or in legal employment.

Rather than jump through the hoops to get a non-immigrant visa (and the work permit that follows) many people just don't bother. They instead work illegally and do visa runs on a regular basis to remain in the country as a tourist. It's easy to lump all these people as sexpats holding up the bars in Pattaya, but the picture is a good deal more complicated. Some work for employers that will not get them a work visa, or are simply self-employed. Others are remote workers -- working via the internet for overseas companies. We have a good friend who worked as a marketing executive for a global marketing firm in Bangkok who did visa runs for five years because his employer wouldn't make him legal.

In the old days, these people would leave Thailand every 30 days, mostly via the border crossing to Cambodia at Poipet. They would enter Cambodia, turn around and head straight back to Thailand and get another 30 days. Others would go down to Penang every two months and get another tourist visa that was good for three months in Thailand (with extensions).

It is these people that the Thai government is trying to catch by changing the rules.

So what visas are available

There are two main means of entry to Thailand for people visiting for tourism purposes.

The visa-free entry
For nationals from certain countries there is a visa-free entry programme. This means you arrive and get stamped into the country for free. If you arrive by air you get 30 days and if you arrive by land you get 15 days. You are theoretically required to have proof of onward travel (more on that later).

If you are visiting Thailand for a short period and are a national of one of the eligible countries, this is the way to go.

A 30-day visa-free entry can be extended for 15 extra days at an immigration office for 1,900B. The 14-day visa-free entry can be extended for 7 days (also costs 1,900B).

The eligible countries for the 30-day visa free entry are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, The Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UAE, UK, USA and Vietnam. Nationals of Brazil, Republic of Korea and Peru are eligible for a 90-day stay.

The tourist visa
Tourist visas are available at Thai consulates and embassies. In the past you had to pay for the visas, but they are "free" until at least March 2010 -- some embassies and consulates are still charging a "handling fee" to issue them, especially at missions where visa issuing was a major source of income.

Tourist visas are valid for two months and can be extended for a third month (incurring a 1,900B fee).

Some embassies -- notably Kuala Lumpur and Vientiane -- have reportedly issued dual-entry tourist visas, effectively giving travellers six months in Thailand.

There is also a whole lot of information on non-immigrant visas which I'm not going to get into as they're of limited use for tourists -- see ThaiVisa for a near endless stream of information in this regard.

Proof of departure

By the books, the Thai authorities require that you have proof of departure from Thailand within the period that your visa allows you in for. So if you're arriving on a tourist visa they want to see a ticket out within 90 days, while if you're doing a visa-free entry, they want proof that you will depart within two weeks or a month.

The problem is that even legitimate tourists may not have proof. For example, if you're planning on overlanding to Malaysia, you won't have a pre-purchased bus ticket to prove when you are leaving.

In practice, proof of onward travel is very rarely asked of legitimate tourists and we'd suggest -- especially for those on a short trip through -- not to worry about it. If you do want to have all your bases covered, buy yourself a cheap ticket with a low-cost carrier out of Thailand and just don't use the ticket.

Also, if you are a legitimate tourist and you are asked for proof and can't provide it, as long as your passport doesn't contain 15 pages of visa-free entry stamps, you should be able to talk your way through it.

Remember -- legitimate tourists are not the target of these rules.

But my airline says I need a ticket out

This can be a problem. We've received some reports that some carriers -- notably British Airways -- won't let passengers board without having a ticket out of the country. This can often come down to the attitude of the person at check-in. All you can do is check with the airline beforehand and if they require it then pick up a cheap ticket out of Thailand to prove you are leaving.

Can I use visas back to back?

Yes, at the moment there is no written regulations saying that you can't use tourist visas back to back. So you could conceivably get four tourist visas to give you a full year in Thailand (with you briefly leaving three times to get a new visa).

So what sort of visa should I get?

If you're in Thailand for a short time (under a month) and are eligible for visa-free stay -- then use that. If you're going to be in Thailand for over a month, get a tourist visa. If you're going to be entering Thailand on multiple occasions then look at how long each stay will be and plan accordingly. Bear in mind you can get tourist visas in all of Thailand's neighbouring countries. So for instance if your plan calls for three weeks in Thailand, then two weeks in Laos, a month in Vietnam, two weeks in Cambodia then six weeks in Thailand, arrive on a visa-free entry and then get a tourist visa in Phnom Penh to cover you for the six-week stay.

Other points

It is a good idea to think of it in these terms: Being granted admission to Thailand is a privilege, not a right. Dress reasonably and always be polite when dealing with immigration officers. Losing your cool will not get you anywhere. Really.

No two Thai consulates and embassies treat visa issuance in the same way, and likewise no two immigration officers.

The above is intended as a guide only.

More questions

If you have a question regarding your particular situation, please use the comment form below or ask on the Visa and border crossings section of the Travelfish forum.


About the author:
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton and he spends most of his time in Bali, Indonesia.


Read 21 comment(s)

  • If coming from the UK, send your passport to Thai Consulate in Hull and get a 1 year O visa. I received mine back within 3 days and did not need to provide any docs that the average joe couldn't sort out.

    Posted by Chris on 11th January, 2010

  • Hi,
    I am about to leave for Thailand, and will get a 30 tourist visa upon entry.
    If I visit Cambodia, and return, the I'll surely get the 15 day visa. If I go out again, to say Burma, am I eligable for another 15 day visa, or, are you only allowed to do this once ?

    Posted by Garthibiza on 16th January, 2010

  • Planning a trip to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam then possibly Laos on way back to Bangkok to fly home. Can you tell me how much visa's are? I understand Thailand is 30 day visa free, will only be in others for couple of weeks at most. Any help appreciated!!

    Posted by Ellie on 21st January, 2010

  • Hi I am an Australian citizen and made the land border crossing into Thailand and only have the 15 day visa. I'm currently staying an koh chang and want to stay on for another month. I'm thinking i might have to do 2 border crossings to camobodia and back to get 30 more days. Is this possible or is there an easier option

    Posted by andrewbrannen on 1st March, 2010

  • Hi I'm a Canadian flying to Phuket from Malaysia, even though this is not an international flight coming to thailand (i.e. straight from Canada), does it matter where you fly from to get the 30 day free tourist visa?

    Posted by Samantha on 17th March, 2010

  • Samantha,
    You will get a 30 day visa if you fly from KL to Phuket.
    If you cross the border by road, you will only get 14 days.

    Posted by Raymond on 7th June, 2010

  • Ellie/Andrew/Garthibiza,

    I believe you can cross the borders to neighbouring countries a number of times and each time get a free 14 day visa.
    You will only get a 30 day free visa if you fly into Thailand!

    Posted by Raymond on 7th June, 2010

  • I need really fast answer! I'm flying to Bangkok and leaving the day after for Cambodia by train and bus and then continuing to Vietnam. I'll be back in Thailand after three weeks and I will stay there two more weeks. I'm not going to be in Thailand over 30d, but there are totally 34d between my departure and arrive. Do I need to prove some way that I'm not going to be in Thailand the whole time? Do they ask my flight ticets back when I arrive?

    Posted by Pipi on 29th June, 2010

  • I will be fying to Thailand next month so I will recieve the 30day free visa. I will however, be staying 32 days. I am thinking of just paying the fee at the airport as it is still cheaper than an extension of a 60 day Visa. Does anyone know if it is still 500baht per day overstayed????? Thanks alot.

    Posted by Haseena on 8th September, 2010

  • Ok, so im in Thailand at the minute, ko phangan, on a free 30 day visa. I would like to stay in Thailand for the longest time but would like to go to Vietnam and Loas then back to Thailand on a tourist visa. My 30 day visa runs out at the end of November so which country is it best for me to go to first, then the second of the countries i get my 60 day tourist visa?

    In Loas and Vietnem, are the 30 day visas free also?

    Posted by Ryan Allen on 20th November, 2010

  • Hi im planning on going to SE asia for 80 or so days and 60 of these will be spent in thailand. If i get a 90 day tourist visa can i say go to loas for ten days then come back to thailand on my 90 day visa?

    Posted by mark on 3rd December, 2010

  • I received my Cambodia Visa from the website...via e-mail. Only took 3 days.
    http://evisa.mfaic.gov.kh/

    LAOS needs a passport photo and $42U.S. apon arrival... :(

    Arriving Bangkok on the 16th, 4 days there, then heading to Siem Reap... then up and through Laos, then back south through Thailand, heading for Phuket.
    Should be an interesting month!

    Posted by roadtrip on 6th January, 2011

  • L have arrived in Laos for 2 weeks.
    L would like to stay 2 months in Thailand then to work in Malaysia.
    What is the easiest way to do this?

    Kind regards
    Finola

    Posted by Finola Murphy Murphy on 13th November, 2011

  • Would u please send to me the Visa application form?

    Posted by David on 18th November, 2011

  • For people of Switzerland, Luxembourg and Japan there is now a visa-free entry to Laos (14 days, including days of arrival and departure). So for people of these countries staying in Isaan, easy to leave Thailand and reenter.

    Posted by Armando696 on 19th December, 2011

  • Me and a friend are traveling to Thailand in a couple of months. We are just wondering if how much would it cost to get 60 day visa? Because we are staying for more than a month there.
    Your reply is highly appreciated.

    Posted by Marms on 9th January, 2012

  • Hi guys, Im going to Thailand in 4 weeks for a 2 weeks holiday with my boyfriend. Do I need some sort of a visa or paperwork or anything. Im so lost at this sort of thing.

    L.

    Posted by Lauren on 25th March, 2012

  • Hi.I am going to Thailand in November 2012 for 6 days. Then heading onto Australia. Is there need for a Thai visa if I will only be staying for a few days ?

    Posted by Ciara Dooley on 27th August, 2012

  • Hi Stuart (or to who is reading this email), Wonder if you know the answer to my question. We are going to Thailand on the 12th of January then fly to Burma on the 24th of January and return to Thailand on 20th of February. We're flying back to the UK on the 23rd of February. So basically 12 days in Thailand, then 28 days in Burma and then another couple of days in Thailand. Do you know if we need to get a visa to re-enter Thailand for those few days or would they issue us with another free visa at the border when we return?
    Bit longwinded, sorry.
    Hope you are well, we actually met you quite some time ago in Laos, you may remember?
    Best wishes Harma

    Posted by Harma op't Holt on 20th November, 2012

  • Hi Harma,

    I remember - Nong Kiaow right?! Feet itching obviously :)
    In answer to your question:

    Arrive Thailand 12 Jan (assuming by air) you'll get 30-days visa free.
    Arrive Thailand 20 February (again by air as you're coming from Burma) you'll get 30-days visa free.

    So that should be fine.

    Cheers!

    Stuart

    Posted by somtam2000 on 20th November, 2012

  • Thanks Stuart!
    Thailand keeps changing their rules and found it impossible to get any sense out of the embassy website.
    I believe it was Nong Kiaow! Never forget your story you told us.
    Indeed itchy feet again, since we saw you we've been to a few places, one of the highlights was the Andaman Islands, totally amazing!
    Hope you are very well and thank you for the reply.
    Harma

    Posted by Harma op't Holt on 21st November, 2012

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