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Visas for Thailand

Vexed by visas?

Thailand has a multitude of visa options and requirements -- many of which change with alarming frequency. You can go to the horse's mouth at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the full (though not always up-to-date) spiel. Read on for an overview of the options for entering Thailand.

Free visa-exempt stay

If you're entering Thailand for tourism and hold a passport from any of the 57 countries listed below, you're eligible for a free visa-exempt stay in Thailand! The only requirement is a passport with at least six months validity, but allowed lengths of stay vary by country, so read on to see exactly what you're eligible for.

Citizens of these countries get a free 30-day visa-exempt stay if arriving to Thailand by air or land: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States.

Citizens of these countries get a free 30-day visa-exempt stay if arriving by air, but only a 15-day stay if arriving by land: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahrain, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Laos, Macao, Malaysia, Monaco, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.

Citizens of these countries get a free 90-day visa-exempt stay if arriving by air or land: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and South Korea.

Citizens of Cambodia get a free 14-day visa-exempt stay if arriving by air or land. Citizens of Burma also get a free 14-day stay, but only if arriving by air.

You can leave Thailand and re-enter to get another visa-exempt stay for a total duration of 90 days within six months. This means, for example, if you're planning a trip to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, which involves four stays in Thailand of 10 days each, you DO NOT NEED to get a visa in advance. If you're planning on more than 90 days in Thailand though, you will need to look into getting a proper tourist visa (see below) at a Thai consulate or embassy outside of Thailand.

Visa on arrival

Citizens of the 19 countries listed below are eligible for a visa on arrival that's valid for 15 days and is different from the visa-exempt stay outlined above. This visa can be applied for and received same-day at all international airports and most border crossings. It costs 1,000 baht and, according to the official line, applicants must provide a 4x6 cm head-shot photo along with proof of onward transport and proof of funds exceeding 10,000 baht.

The 19 countries eligible for a visa on arrival are:
Andorra, Bhutan, Bulgaria, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Unless holding a diplomatic passport, citizens of all countries not eligible for a visa-exempt stay or visa on arrival must secure a Thai visa before departing for Thailand.

Single Entry Tourist Visa

If the above options aren't going to work for you, then you need to get a Thai tourist visa. The traditional type of tourist visa is valid for 60 days and can be extended for a further 30 days once you are in-country, giving you a 90-day stay all up. It costs around US$30 and is a single-entry visa. It's valid from date of entry, so the 60-day clock starts ticking on the day you enter Thailand. The visa becomes void if you do not enter Thailand within 90 days from the date of issue.

Single-entry tourist visas can be applied for at virtually any Thai embassy or consulate worldwide; options within Southeast Asia include: Vientiane, Savannakhet, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Kelantan, Singapore, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Yangon, Jakarta, Denpasar (Bali), Manila and Cebu City. It generally takes two business days to apply for and receive a single-entry tourist visa. Thai embassies and consulates close on public Thai holidays and the public holidays of whatever country they're in, so do check for holidays before making concrete travel plans.

At the moment there is no written regulation saying that you can't use tourist visas back to back. So you could conceivably get three consecutive tourist visas to give you a full nine months in Thailand (with extensions and leaving three times to get new visas). However the Thai authorities increasingly frown on this and some long-stayers have reported being slapped with a "red stamp" in their passport that bars them from receiving another tourist visa for the rest of the year. If you attempt to get one tourist visa after the next, you are pushing the system.

Multiple Entry Tourist Visa (METV)

As of late 2015, the old double- and triple-entry Thai tourist visas have been replaced by a new Multiple Entry Tourist Visa that's valid for six months from date of issue. So the clock starts ticking as soon as the visa is issued, meaning that you'll only have four months of visa validity if you enter Thailand two months after receiving the visa. The METV also requires you to spend no longer than 60 days at a time in Thailand, though you can exit/enter as many times as you like.

The METV supposedly costs 5,000 baht, though exact prices may vary from embassy to embassy. Exact requirements may also vary but will likely include showing proof of employment and proof of bank balance exceeding US$7,000. This visa can only be applied for at Thai consulates and embassies within your home country, so unless you can prove legal residency in Laos, for example, you cannot apply for a METV in Vientiane.

Extensions and overstays

Visa-exempt stays and tourist visas can be extended once at an immigration office in Thailand for a further 30 days. The cost is 1,900 baht, and an immigration office can be found in most provincial capitals throughout the country.

Overstaying your allotted time in Thailand results in a 500-baht per day fine that caps out at 20,000 baht. If you overstay, you will be required to pay the fine at the immigration checkpoint upon exiting Thailand. Brief periods of overstay do not result in a travel ban to Thailand and are generally no big deal, but if a police officer discovers that you're on overstay (for instance at a road checkpoint), you will likely be detained and deported after paying the fine. Overstaying for more than a few months now results in a long-term travel ban to Thailand.

Validity issues

The free visa-exempt stay, visa on arrival and traditional tourist visa are all single entry. While it's generally no big deal to do a "border run" down to Malaysia or across to Laos once or twice, tourists should be wary of the 90 days visa-free in six months rule. This rule was introduced primarily to target foreigners who had been living in Thailand long term, many working illegally, on perpetual 30-day visa-exempt stays.

Assumming you are a legitimate tourist, you shouldn't have a problem with this rule. That said, if you are planning on a stay in Thailand that will take you over 90 days in six months (not difficult to do if you're country hopping) try to factor in a lengthy stay in Thailand on at least one tourist visa. Stays on tourist visas do not count towards the 90 days in six months rule.

Other types of visas

If you're looking to stay in Thailand long term, a recent crackdown on out/in border runs, multiple back-to-back tourist visas and overstays means that you'll probably want to sort out a Non-Immigrant visa. These come in several categories, including education, retirement, marriage and media.

Generally you need to be backed by a Thai family member, company, school or other recognized organization, and/or be able to show proof of adequate funds, to receive a Non-Immigrant visa, which can often be extended for one year or more. Each visa type has its own unique requirements -- check the MFA link above and the sprawling expat site, Thai Visa, for more info.

Proof of onward travel

Do you need proof of onward travel if you're planning on entering on a visa-exempt stay or with a traditional tourist visa? In theory, by the book, yes you do. In practise, many people don't and they don't have a problem. We've yet to hear of a Thai immigration officer requesting proof of onward travel at any airport or border crossing, but nothing is 100%.

There is however a good chance that your airline will request proof of onward travel before allowing you to board if you booked a one-way flight or your return flight falls beyond the duration of time that you're presumed to be allowed to stay in Thailand. In these cases, many airlines will need to see a long-term visa, proof of a booked flight to another country, or something else, like a package tour booking. Explaining that you intend to travel overland to other countries may suffice, but it also may not. Unfortunately this is a major grey area, with many travellers reporting contradictory experiences that vary widely between airlines, airports and even individual airline check-in staff.

Generally speaking, airlines operating long-haul flights from outside of Asia tend to be stricter, while budget airlines within the Southeast Asia region seem to rarely check for proof of onward travel. Some travellers have reported airline staff insisting that they must purchase an expensive return ticket before boarding; if it comes down to that, you could instead book a cheap "throw-away" ticket (for example one-way from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur), simply to satisfy the onward travel requirement.

Other points

It's a good idea to think of the Thai visa system 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. No two Thai consulates and embassies treat visa issuance in the same way, and likewise no two immigration officers -- nothing is black and white. Losing your cool will not get you anywhere. Really.

Border crossings

For information on the many border crossings and to read travellers' reports, please see our Thailand border crossing page, or the exhaustive Border Crossings FAQ thread on the messageboard, which includes reports back from travellers.


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