Home » Doing A Visa Run From Chiang Mai, Thailand (Visa Regulations 2020)

Doing A Visa Run From Chiang Mai, Thailand (Visa Regulations 2020)

by Nomada How Far
Mae Sai - Tachileik Border Crossing - Thailand Visa Run

After one month traveling through the north of Thailand, our visa exemption of 30 days was going to expire. We were in Chiang Mai and wanted to extend our visa. There are multiple options one can do, like going to the Thai Immigration Office to extend a visa for another 30 days. Or you can go to a neighboring country to get a new stamp when crossing the border back into Thailand. Unfortunately, regulations change quickly, and it’s really difficult to find up-to-date information about doing a Thailand visa run in 2017.

* Updated on 21/01/2020


With five days left on our Thai visa, we had to extend it if we wanted to travel to the south too. We were in Chiang Mai, and luckily there are multiple ways to extend a visa over there. The Thai Immigration Office in Chiang Mai will happily extend it for you for 1,900 THB (54 USD). But because that’s too much for our budget, this was no option for us. The only alternative left was going to a neighboring country to do a visa run.

But doing a visa run has got more complicated because of the rules that are changing all the time. If you check the web for five minutes, you’ll find numerous of misleading information which isn’t up-to-date anymore. Last year, visa runs were made illegal for tourists, but this has changed back again. Since January 2017, tourists can do overland visa runs again, but only two times each year. There’s no written limit in visa runs when you go through Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Muang International Airport. However, you might get questioned after 6 visa exempt entries.

Local Bus From Chiang Rai To Mae Sai - Visa Run Chiang Mai


Without much up-to-date information, we decided to go for it! We chose to do the border crossing at Mae Sai, which is at the most northern point of Thailand. Most Thai & foreign people go here to cross the border to Burma. At the other side of the Friendship Bridge, there’s Tachileik. Here’s a big market with a lot of fake clothes, fake Marlboro cigarettes, fake viagra and fake dvds. Looks like the perfect place for criminal activities.

From Chiang Mai, buses go from the Arcade bus station to Mae Sai, with a stop in Chiang Rai. These take about 5 hours and costs 210 baht each way. Unfortunately, we can’t say if this is comfortable or not because we’ve hitchhiked from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. If you’re already in Chiang Rai and want to do the visa run from there, you can take the public bus at the bus station. This bus takes 1.5 – 2 hours and costs 40 baht.

Both buses arrive in the Mae Sai bus station just a couple of minutes out of town. From here, you’ll have to take a red songthaew towards the border. There are many songthaew’s standing ready at the bus station. They bring you right to the border checkpoint for a fixed price of 15 THB per passenger.

Tachileik, Myanmar (Burma) - The City Of Golden Triangle - Visa Run Chiang Mai


Doing the actual visa run is very straightforward. Just go into the building of the border checkpoint and get your exit stamp. There’s a big sign which says that visa runs are forbidden, but you can ignore this. The border officers know very well that you’re doing a visa run. If it would be forbidden, they won’t let you through because they don’t want you to end up in no man’s land.

Travel Tip: Make sure that your departure card is filled in before going to the exit window.

Walk across the bridge and go through the gate of Myanmar. Here you’ll need to follow the signs for foreign tourists and enter a small office. The border officers here are friendly and will give you a temporary entry permit for 14 days. You’ll need to pay 500 Baht for this. Giving a crisp $10 note is also possible, but they prefer 500 Baht because that’s worth more. In exchange, they will hold your passport until you cross back at the same border crossing.

Travel Tip: Empty your wallet and hide your cash before doing the border crossing. If you show the border officers that you only have $10, they will accept it.

With this temporary permit, you can only travel in the region towards Kengtung, but only with a guide! These tour guides will be waiting on you right after the border.

Note: Traveling further than Kengtung is impossible if you don’t have a Myanmar (e-)visa before entering the border!

Mae Sai - Most Northern Point Of Thailand - Visa Run Chiang Mai

If you don’t want to travel further, ignore them, and walk down the stairs on your right to the market. Stroll around but be careful when buying any counterfeit goods because they can get you into trouble when re-entering Thailand. Thai Baht is used everywhere here, so no need to exchange money.

Going back to Thailand is easy, go to the last window at the Burma checkpoint and hand over your permit. They’ll give you your passport back. Now, cross the bridge again, fill in your new arrival card for Thailand, and get your passport stamped.

You now have a new 30-day visa exemption!

The last bus to Chiang Mai leaves Mae Sai at 6 pm. Check the Greenbus Thailand website for timetables.


The total price of going from Chiang Mai to Mae Sai, crossing the border and going back to Chiang Mai in one day costs 26 USD in total. It’s also possible to stay in Chiang Rai to visit the famous White Temple and the surrounding waterfalls and caves.

Agreed, doing a visa run is a lot of hassle and takes a whole day, but getting a new 30-day visa for half the price than at the Immigration Office is well-worth it for us!

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mike May 12, 2017 - 10:13 AM

I read that only 14day visas are given for land boarder crossings. I arrived in Thailand with a 30 day visa exemption which is soon to expire. If I cross at MAi Sai, would I be given a 30 day visa? Also, can you cross and return on the same day? Many thanks

Nomada How Far May 12, 2017 - 4:38 PM

Hey Mike! Well, you have exactly the same problem as we had a couple of months ago. We did the border crossing at Mai Sai 2 months ago to get a new visa and they gave us a new 30-day exemption without a problem. And yes, you can cross and return to Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai on the same day. You can find more information about buses etc in the article. Good luck!

Courtney September 6, 2017 - 1:07 PM

Great post thanks for the information! This is exactly what we needed to know. ☺️

Nomada How Far September 7, 2017 - 11:46 AM

Happy that this helped you out, Courtney! 😀

Truman Burger September 17, 2017 - 1:09 PM

Is it necessary to cross into Myanmar or can you just go directly from exiting the Thai border to entering the Thai border?

Nomada How Far September 18, 2017 - 3:09 AM

Hi Truman, to be honest, we were doubting to do that, but didn’t want to take the risk and were curious how the market on the Burma side was. But in my opinion, it should be perfectly possible. Good luck!

anhsana September 29, 2017 - 7:17 AM

This is very helpful thank you!! I can definitely agree that finding up to date visa info is tough. Just wondering where you got this info so I can read more? “Last year, visa runs were made illegal for tourists, but this has changed back again. Since January 2017, tourists can do visa runs again, but only two times each year.”

Nomada How Far October 1, 2017 - 1:48 AM

Glad we could help! 🙂 Well, here is an article about the fact that they made it illegal for a while, and this article shows you the new rules with the explanation of 2 exempt entries at land borders. I hope this was what you’re looking for?

Christopher Chiu October 10, 2017 - 2:53 PM

Hey guys, I’m down in Phuket and never did a border run in the north despite previously living in CM for 2-years. This article is perfect and super helpful since I’ll need less than 30-days before heading back to NY/ XMas.

Good luck &
Safe travels.

Nomada How Far October 20, 2017 - 6:45 AM

Happy to see that it helped you! Enjoy your trip Christopher!

Patrick October 30, 2017 - 6:04 PM

How come you got a 30 day re-entry visa while they say everywhere that with entry over land you only get a 14 day visa? Are those rules mentioned anywhere?

Nomada How Far November 4, 2017 - 7:23 AM

Hi Patrick, most of the information online isn’t up-to-date anymore. This article explains that as of 31st December 2016 visa exempts are back again 30 days.

Fanny December 8, 2017 - 5:40 AM

Just done this run, and it’s exactly like you said. Thanks for the info

Nomada How Far December 13, 2017 - 1:37 PM

Happy it helped you out Fanny!

Kasey December 17, 2017 - 1:47 AM

Is there a place to fill out a new departure card along the way? I threw mine out lol.

Köböl Csaba December 17, 2017 - 8:26 PM

Hello, thanks for great info. I am planning my big no airplane journey 2018/9 to Asia(to Bali maybe AUS) from Portugal (eastmost part of Europe), so it seems it I need to apply for multiVisas somewhere en route because I am planning only overland
1.Aranyapathet from Cambodia
2.Padang Besar to Malaysia
3.Sungai Kolok from Malaysia
4.via the Ban Phunamron/Htee Kee border & Dawei to Burma
5. to Chiang Mai from Burma
6. to Laos and back via Tibet-India-Pakistan-Iran-Turkey to Europe

Nomada How Far January 17, 2018 - 9:36 AM

Wauw, that looks quite a big adventure! Are you already started? Safe travels!

Romée December 21, 2017 - 9:55 AM

Thank you very much for the information, really helpful. Do you know if you also need any paperwork or other requirements?
Thank you in advance

Nomada How Far January 17, 2018 - 9:37 AM

Hey Romée, we’re sorry for the late answer, but no you don’t need to prepare any paperwork before the border.

Dirk March 28, 2018 - 9:24 AM

Thank you soo much for your post. We did the visa run today and everything went smooth. We paid 500bht at the Myanmar side. We didn’t need any paperwork, just passports. On our way back into Thailand A nurse from Health Control stopped us and we had to complete a questionnaire. She stamped our TM6 immigration form and then we continued to get our passports stamped. And that was it. No hassle!

Nomada How Far March 29, 2018 - 4:34 AM

You’re welcome Dirk! Happy that our post has helped. Enjoy the rest of your time in Thailand!

eric necjobs123 May 25, 2018 - 5:33 PM

We’re planning a Visarun with a small kid. Can we drive there directly instead of traveling on minibus ? Do u need to a Visa to Myanmar ? We’re holding HK SAR passports.

Nomada How Far May 26, 2018 - 6:14 AM

If you rent a car on your own, then it’s perfectly possible to drive there directly. There are some agencies in Chiang Mai as well that offer minibus rides directly to the border and back in one day. For your visa run at the Mae Sai border, you don’t need a e-visa for Myanmar. You just get a temporary entry for a maximum stay of 14 days that allows you to stay in only that district. It’s ok to do it on HK SAR passports. Good luck!

Danny July 13, 2018 - 7:07 AM

I did this and it worked fine on 13th July 2018. I have already had a visa exemption, a Chiang Mai immigration office extension in the two months prior and today have been granted another visa exemption for a third month at the Mai SaI border, they still have the signs up saying visa runs no longer allowed, but allow it anyway.

alyza July 16, 2018 - 4:19 AM

Thank you for this ! I will be doing my visa run tomorrow . Wish me luck.

Roland August 28, 2018 - 9:34 AM

On some days it seems the last bus is at 3:30pm so it’s recommended to leave Chiang Mai at 8am. Also, I got caught by the 30 minute time zone difference – my phone automatically updated in Myanmar but not when I returned into Thailand. I almost missed my bus! Other than that, a smooth ride for me. Thanks for the $10USD tip 🙂

Glenice Hancock October 2, 2018 - 7:47 AM

You mention that Chiang Mai Immigratuon will extend 30 days for 1900 baht,…….but I have already had 60 days + 30 days extension which I paid 1900 but in Samui. So I have had my 90 days and I thought I had to do a visa run out of the country to get another 30 days, but you say Chiang Mai will give it for 1900 baht, this is unusual, are you sure? Personally for me I’d rather just pay the 1900 baht in Chiang Mai, would like to know for sure if this is possible, Samui will only give 7 days after a 90 day stay.

Nomada How Far October 30, 2018 - 11:27 PM

The fee is the same in every immigration office all over Thailand. But because this post is about the border crossing close to Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai, we only mentioned the Chiang Mai immigration office. It is true that an immigration office won’t give a 30 days extension twice on the same visa exemption, doesn’t matter where you apply for it. Your only option to get another 30 days is by doing a visa run. Good luck!

joe October 24, 2018 - 6:25 AM

I’m currently in Vietnam and bound to travel to Chang Mai and entering on a 30 day visa, my question is do I need an onward ticket from Thailand or is it okay to just say that I will be crossing a land border ?
I plan to stay for a month or two so I’d like to do a run to the border like you did but not sure of my next destination after Thailand yet.


Nomada How Far October 30, 2018 - 11:23 PM

You don’t need to show any onward ticket from Thailand when entering the country, if so, I’d suggest to indeed say that you plan to cross the border to a neighboring country.

Vincent November 27, 2018 - 9:08 AM

27 Nov 2018 – just did it, as advertised. 2 days left in our 30 day visa exemption(USA passport), 39baht on the green local bus from Chiang Rai, songtaew to the border crossing. No problems at all, Thai immigration was very nice, told us we had to pay 500baht each to visit Myanmar for an hour or two. Wandered around the market for just about an hour, came back into Thailand. Filled out the new arrival card stating a planned stay of another 18 days, stamped for 30 no questions. Still plenty of signs saying it’s not allowed.

Nomada How Far November 28, 2018 - 1:33 AM

Awesome! Thanks for letting us know and enjoy the rest of your stay in Thailand!

Kris January 9, 2019 - 9:34 AM

Thanks so much for this post. We are doing the visa run next week and I’ve been a bit worried about it as this is Thailand! We came in on our 2 month visa so we are due the 30 day extension. Instead of spending a fortune and wasting a day in the Chiang Mai immigration office this seems perfect! My only question is I have a friend who was told by someone you can only do the Mae Sai crossing if you have a multiple entry visa? Ours was just the single entry 2 month visa. I know this can be extended no probs at immigration but is the visa run still ok for this type of visa?

Thanks very much!

Nomada How Far January 9, 2019 - 4:27 PM

Hi Kris, yes we’re pretty sure you can extend your 60-day tourist visa by doing the border crossing. However, then you’ll just get the visa exemption stamp for another 30 days. Just be sure that you’re eligible for the visa exemption stamp! There’s a visa run service in Chiang Mai and they have it clearly stated on their website that people with a 60-day single entry visa can do this visa run. Good luck and enjoy the rest of your time in Thailand!

Kris January 10, 2019 - 7:09 AM

That’s great thanks for your quick reply. That’s what I had thought from the website too. Can I just ask though, what do you mean about being eligible for the visa exemption? What would make you not eligible?

Thanks again!!

Nomada How Far January 10, 2019 - 11:52 AM

It all depends on which nationality you are. You can find a list here.

Juliana January 13, 2019 - 10:13 AM

Hello! Everything that you share is amazing guys! Thanks for your generosity!
So! According to the last comment, if my country is not on the list, if I need a visa run I’ve to go to the embassy? I’m looking for this now, I already extend my and now I have to go out, but! My country is supposed not to have visa on arrival here in Thailand. Any suggestions!? Please! 🙂

Nomada How Far January 16, 2019 - 11:11 PM

Yes you’re right that a border run will not work for you. This only works for those who are eligible for the visa exemption stamp. If not, you can get a visa on arrival ONLY at airports and not through a land port. If your country is also not eligible for a visa on arrival, you need to fix a visa beforehand. The only way to extend this is at a Thailand Immigration Center. However, I have no idea how many times it’s possible to extend a tourist visa. If extending is not possible anymore, the only option seems to fly to another country you’d like to visit and get a new visa there before heading back to Thailand? Hope this helped you a bit. Good luck!

Liam January 30, 2019 - 5:29 AM

Will be doing this visa run mid Feburary. This will be my first visa run for this calendar year but already did 2 last year. Hoping I can get another 30 day visa that I can extend. Fingers crossed ?

Thanks for the information!

Nomada How Far January 30, 2019 - 10:24 AM

Hey Liam, can you let us know how it went because that’d be useful information for our readers to know if a new calendar year refreshes the ‘max of 2 border runs’. Good luck!

Gemma February 26, 2019 - 5:40 PM

Successfully did this border run yesterday, thank you so much for the detailed instructions! There were about eight or so other people doing the same thing. One person did have an initial issue with one of the Myanmar officers not wanting to accept his $10 bill. They first asked him to change it and then pointed out a “defect” on the bill. Persistence is key (and I’d recommend only taking very clean, new looking US dollar bills). My other advice would be to keep your explanation to the Myanmar officers very simple when they ask what you are doing and how long you’ll be visiting for.

We took the 8am bus from Chiang Mai to Mae Sai. Got through into Myanmar by 1.30pm. Spent an hour or so wandering around, could have easily made it back to Chiang Mai the same day but decided to say in Chiang Rai for the night. Without the night in CR, the whole trip would have cost us less than $70CAD (2 people).

Alexis Humes April 1, 2019 - 4:31 PM

Hello! Thanks so much for this article. I just have a question about the bus from Chiang Rai to Mae Sai and back again. Which bus terminal in Chiang Rai should I go to for the public bus? And do you know what time the last bus leaves from Mae Sai to get back to Chiang Rai? Thanks!

Toby October 25, 2019 - 5:56 AM

Hey just wanted to comment to let anyone reading we did this visa run yesterday October 24th 2019 as there’s not much info we could find anywhere else, super easy and exactly as described.
We took the 8am bus from Chiang Rai bus terminal 1 to Mae Sai for 40baht per person. We were directed straight to Songthaew and had no issues at Thai border despite signs saying ‘No more visa runs’

Stupidly I lost our departure cards when we first arrived in Thailand and just received a bit of talking to from border ladies thye just made us pay 100baht per person for the inconvenience, they even gave me change for my 500baht bill that I was worried they would take the whole thing because I didn’t have exact change.

When going into Myanmar I was told it was 500baht each but I gave the border guy a super crisp $20USD bill for the both of us and he didn’t bat an eyelid, Myanmar border staff were probably the friendliest immigration officers I’ve ever dealt with.

Once again 15baht Per person in songhaew back to Mae Sai bus station and we managed to get right back on the bus in Mae Sai arriving in Chiang Rai 1.15pm perfect time to get some beers from 7-eleven before 2pm cut off time lol.

Total cost for 2 people including all transport, $10USD each at Myanmar border and our $100baht fine for not having departure card = 1024baht. Would be 804baht if you have your departure card. Way cheaper than 1900baht per person for visa extension.

Just wanted to share an update as we were a bit apprehensive at first but it was actually quite a fun day and the Myanmar market is crazy cheap if you want any sunglasses or clothing etc.

Happy travels!

Nomada How Far October 25, 2019 - 9:36 AM

Hey Toby! That’s awesome, thanks for sharing ?? it’s indeed a hassle-free and fun day if you want to take the time for it and save some money and paperwork! Have fun on your future travels!


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