Visa run from Thailand to Burma

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First published 4th July, 2006

Most travellers come to Ranong for exactly one reason and one reason alone -- to get that passport stamped so they can legally stay in Thailand for another 30 days. While doing the border run isn't particularly pleasant, it is straightforward -- particularly when you've got a Travelfish Howto guide on hand.

The first step is to go the Thai Immigration Office near the port district of Saphan Pla to get an exit stamp. This is easily done by catching a red songthaew from Ranong market and telling the driver "Immigration". Once at Saphan Pla it's another songthaew ride or a short walk 500m around to the longtail docks. More than likely you'll be met by the boat skippers or their agents outside Immigration anyway, and they'll take you the boat as part of their fee for getting you across to Burma and back.

The round-trip should cost about 300B if you have to go it alone or 100B-200B if you're with a group.

The journey across to Burma's southernmost city of Kawthaung (sometimes still called Victoria Point, a leftover from British colonial days) takes about 40 minutes. It can be quite hairy in bad weather, and engine breakdowns do happen, so make sure you pack your sea-legs. It is also a good idea to take an umbrella to protect yourself from the rain and sea spray in the wet season and the sun in high season, though be careful not to knock any monks on the head with the umbrella as the resulting bad luck could well lead to multiple motorcycle exhaust burns in Phuket (it's a long story -- just steer clear of monks). After returning safely to Thai soil, don't forget you need to make another stop at Immigration to get your entry stamp.

Kawthaung town in Burma

Cashing up
Your visa renewal for Thailand is free for most nationalities, but you have to pay the Burmese military government US$5 to step onto its shore for 10min. It's a good idea to get the greenbacks at a bank that does foreign exchange before you leave on your visa run. The $5 should cost about 200B. If you leave it until Ranong you may have to pay 300B for the bucks. The Burmese immigration officials are particularly picky about the quality of the notes, so if your Abe Lincoln isn't spotless, creaseless and brand spanking new you'll have to pay 300B anyway.

Foreigners on visa runs can stay in Kawthaung for up to two nights but are not allowed to use it as a base for further exploration of Burma. Points of interest that stick out are the temple, the men's traditional dress (called longyi), street kids and the overall poverty of the place compared to Thailand.

boats doing the visa run to Burma

Accommodation in Kawthaung
If you do want to stay, there are a few options available: The Honey Bear Hotel is on Strand Rd and is visible from the boat as you approach the dock; the Kaw Thaung Motel Phone: (059) 51 046 or (059) 51 139) is around the other side of the hill on the main road leading away from the pier and the Taninthary Guest House Phone: (059) 51 784, (059) 51 785 is on Garden St, off the main road.

"You want whiskey? Cigarettes? Opium, heroin, viagra, cocaine, marijuana?" The touts that come out to greet you when the boat docks at Kawthaung often sound like they've been listening to too much Queens of the Stone Age. Whatever lies at the heart of this enigmatic and still very closed nation, it certainly can't be found with these guys. You usually have 10-20 minutes before the boat heads back and many ex-pats use this opportunity to buy up to two cartons of cigarettes (80B-100B each) and two bottles of spirits (50B-100B each). Don't even consider bringing the other stuff back though -- the tout who sells to you will inevitably call the Thai police and give them an exact description of you and the group you are with. As your return bus passes through a checkpoint, the long arm of the law will pull you out and slap you with a heavy fine and possibly jail time, and the Burmese tout gets a kickback to boot. This happens more than you'd think.

Burma visa run photo

The "posh" visa run
If you don't want to worry about the transport particulars, travel agencies on Phuket, Khao Lak, Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao along with destinations further afield, can set the whole thing up for up for you. It takes about a day-and-a-half from the Gulf islands and a full day from Phuket. It's more expensive than if you do it yourself, but you get to ride on a VIP bus and often meals are included. Often the "posh" run makes for a quicker journey to Ranong, but slower visa processing once you're there because you arrive at Immigration the same time as the 40 other people on your bus.

Posher still
Offshore casino-cum-hotel Andaman Club also organizes visa runs from its own private pier, north of the main pier at Saphan Pla. Expect all your needs to be catered for if you're taking part in this little venture. The lodgings are on the Burmese island of Thahtay Kyun, between the Thai mainland and Kawthaung. Those who chose to stay at the hotel for a few days will have no lack of things to do -- the Andaman Club has a fitness centre, bars, an 18-hole golf course and organises day trips to the "virgin" island of St Luke's. If you're just visa running, the boat stops at the island anyway, giving you the chance to do some duty free shopping and have a flutter at the craps table. See for more details.

About the author:
Stuart McDonald co-founded 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, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.

Read 22 comment(s)

  • Visa fee now is 10$ good for 10 days for Myanmar Visa Run and you can visit some island by day return. Update as at 2nd Sep. 2009

    Posted by sonny amo on 2nd September, 2009

  • Is it a 30 day extension visa or now reduced to 15 days? Seems to be conflicting advice online.

    Posted by Angela on 2nd November, 2009

  • On Myanmar side you will get 10 days but most people stayed there for 20 minutes only. YOu will get 1 month visa extension as soon as you check in Thai immigration from Burma side.

    Posted by Sonny AMO on 7th February, 2010

  • Sonny is incorrect. You only get 30 days visa exemption to Thailand if you enter by air. By foot is only 15 days. If you're re-entering on a multiple entry visa you'll get another 60/90 days depending on the visa.

    Posted by Jake on 14th February, 2010

  • Is this border open weekends ? Thanks

    Posted by Col on 1st May, 2010

  • Yes Col. They open on weekends. Cheers!

    Posted by sonny on 2nd May, 2010

  • I’ve been visiting your blog for a while now and I always find a gem in your new posts. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by Wakacje on 3rd June, 2010

  • News :

    Seen on the Notice Board of Myanmar Embassy in Paris

    Myanmar Visa On Arrival New Policy (with effect from 1st of May 2010)
    A. Any nationals holding valid normal passport will be issued Visa On Arrival if being accordance with regulations.
    B. Passport of the applicant must be valid at least 6 months starting after the date of arrival.
    C. Visa On Arrival (for Tourist): fee USD 30 will be collected and will be permitted for 28 days. Application for renewal of Stay Permit is not allowed.
    D. Visa On Arrival (for Business): fee USD 40 will be collected and will be permitted for 71 days. The application for renewal of Stay Permit can be submitted.
    E. Visa On Arrival (for Social Visit): fee USD 40 will be collected and will be permitted for 28 days. The application for renewal of Stay Permit can be submitted.
    F. Visa On Arrival (for Transit): fee: USD 18 will be collected and will be permitted for 24 hours.
    G. Applicant must have a return air ticket to leave from Myanmar.
    H. Applicant must stay in the licensed hotels, Motels or Guesthouses recognized by the Myanmar Government. The exact address of accommodation must be shown.
    I. Those who have place to accommodate such as house of friends or relatives, Industry or Workshop must show the exact address of the host.
    J. Applicant must bring two photos (4×6 cm in size) being photographed within past 6 months.
    K. Applicant must undertake to follow all the existing rules and regulations including Myanmar Immigration ACT.
    L. Children shown on the passport of the parents below 7 year of age will be permitted Visa for free. Children of Individual Passport Holder below 7 year of age will be permitted Visa for free.
    M. Individual Traveler must be able to show at least USD 300 as belonging. Traveler (for Social Visit) must be able show at least USD 600 as belonging. Or Foreign Exchange equivalent to USD can be also shown.
    N. Applicant must visit by observing the existing Myanmar Visa Regulations.
    O. Unauthorized restricted areas are not allowed. Foreigners must be noticed about restricted areas.
    P. During stay in Myanmar, applicant must report about the address of accommodation to the concerning Township Immigration Office through Hotel, Motel, Inn, Guesthouse, home or office where he/she stays.
    Q. Applicant can get the application form for Visa On Arrival from the airlines or On Line.

    Posted by sonny on 3rd June, 2010

  • Hi Does all the above apply if you come by bus with a Thai multiple entry visa or do you have to come by plain?

    Posted by chad on 22nd July, 2010

  • It applies only to arrivals at Yangon and Mandalay airports. See more on
    Thai border doors are closed right now due to dispute between Thais and Burmese officials.
    So if you are going to use the border, check well before.

    Posted by Sonny on 23rd July, 2010

  • Borders still closed or is it ok to go?
    So in short I just stamp out jump on a boat make a tour and stamp in again?

    Posted by William on 15th September, 2010

  • Border at Myawaddy / Maw Sot still closed. Ranong Kawthaung ok. to stamp out then stamp in again to Thailand.

    Posted by Sonny on 15th September, 2010

  • I have an interesting 5d4n trip from Mergui Town (aka Myeik) to Kawthaung on a sight seeing boat Ayerprincess. It will leave on 28th November from Myeik. There is space for 4 person. Cost is aroung 150$ per day. They wil include visa fee, entry fee, zone fee, food, accomodation, kayak, snorkel everything.

    Posted by Sonny on 15th September, 2010

  • take a break in wasana resort in BANG BEN BEACH just 55km. before ranong if you come from the south . enjoy the beach and island trips and ofcourse the good old music in our restaurant and lovely bungalows with airco or fan .tv. and WI FI around the 400 and 600 baht..... see you soon.......

    Posted by bo on 21st February, 2011

  • New Development in Myanmar Border crossing tours

    New government changed the rule which prohibit different entry and exit points. That means entry from Kawthaung and exit from Yangon Airport is not possible anymore. Please check with your travel agent before you consider entering Myanmar from border points.

    Posted by Sonny on 29th July, 2011

  • Hi, has anyone done this visa run lately? Do you get any sort of entry and exit stamp from the Burmese?!

    I have the following problem: My Thai visa-on-arrival expires on 14 Nov but I'm not flying out till 29 Nov. Now if I do the visa run as described on the 14th and come back the same day, my new 15 days will only last till 28 Nov (14-28 Nov = 15 days)! Bugger!

    Now I could spend one night on the Burmese side and take a boat back the following day, receiving my Thai entry stamp on the 15th which would be fine. However, if there's no exit stamp from the Burmese (!) side anyway, I could just as well go back the same day (i.e. after 20 minutes on Burmese soil), spend a night in Ranong and head to Immigration the next day to collect my new 15-day visa and entry stamp. (What I'm trying to say: If there's no exit stamp from the Burmese, they would just assume I spent the night in Myanmar so I should be fine.)

    So yeah, it's a bit tricky. Any advice on this greatly appreciated!!!

    Posted by Fred on 1st November, 2011

  • can i still exit to Ranong even if my visa will expire in 3months???

    Posted by shin on 27th January, 2012

  • Hi,

    For the time being, If you come in from Yangon, then you must go out from Yangon unless you have a permission to go out of different border pass from Presidential Department for Security called "Naing-gan-daw Thamada Yone Permit". If you come in from Ranong and tour the area, you do not have any problem to go out to Ranong from Kawthaung.

    Posted by sonnyamo on 29th January, 2012

  • Am thinking about this with a friend this weekend. Is it open on the weekends? Nothing I can find mentions this... Thanks.

    Posted by Vern on 4th March, 2012

  • Quite Conduct,they leadership hot conference demand injury complete soon worry faith myself nearly roll servant knowledge desire release output influence reason iron pay afternoon measure appearance director like per trend great fear mountain father contribute wear influence apparent anyone married bank increase connect century completely demonstrate injury competition package colleague effort recognise might sexual spot college test directly match terrible indicate document priority tear union between close trial new empty across experience and volume usually due usual domestic vast to collect author social address quite serve revolution

    Posted by Billigflug Berlin Istanbul on 28th March, 2012

  • Hi - Just an update.
    If you arrive via the bus station in town there is quite a convenient option:
    On the St side of the bus station there is a little Cafe called 'Pinkey's' who not only sells cheap tasty food but also does visa runs for you. Pinky (owner a gorgeous local thai lady) locked up our backpacks in the cafe, drove us to the dock, sorted out our boat, picked us up and delivered us back to the bus station in time for our bus out of there. All for the same prices quoted in the Lonely Planet (250B return boat and a 100B fee to her). It was really convenient and I would highly recommend her services. We did this from Koh Tao and went to Koh Samui on the same day.
    TIP: Last bus to Koh Samui is at 3 pm a mini van so allow ample time for this - most visa runs take 2-3 hrs.

    Posted by Hannah on 23rd August, 2013

  • I did end up going up to this border crossing for a visa run and I didn't find it very enjoyable. The water crossing in the longtail boat was treacherous. There wasn't anything decent to buy on the Burma side, and seeing people in abject squalor was not enriching. It did make me further consider a trip to the forests to see what sort of wildlife I could find / document.

    Instead, I've been going to the Satun border with Malaysia. Park the car. Walk 100m. Exit TH, enter MY, exit MY, enter TH. Back to the car in 15 minutes. It's a nice drive down to Satun from Krabi, and I highly recommend it. Why in the world people go all the way to Penang or to this Burmese border from Krabi, is anyone's guess, but not mine! Cheers!

    Posted by Vern L on 16th October, 2014

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