Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Visa for Thailand

I participate in a couple of travel forums and questions regarding visas for Thailand come up almost every day. The rules aren’t that complex but because many people travel in South East Asia without fixed plans and for extended periods of time, it can sometimes be confusing.

 

Everything you need to know about getting a visa for Thailand

 

Here’s everything I know and everything you need to know:

 

Note: This information is for nationals of the countries listed in this link (including New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Israel, Canada, USA, UK and most of Europe). If you’re lucky enough to be from Argentina, Chile, Peru, Brazil or Korea then you get a 90-day visa exemption on arrival. If you’re from any of the countries in this link (including China and India) you’re not eligible for a visa exemption and will only get a 15-day visa on arrival which can’t be extended in Thailand. If you’re Malaysian you get a 30-day visa exemption when arriving overland. If you’re confused about what kind of visa you are entitled to look at this chart.

 

UPDATE: As of May 2014, you can no longer make border runs at land crossings to renew your 15 or 30-day visa exemption. You’ll need to either fly in and out or get a 60-day tourist visa. For details, see this post on ThaiVisa.com.

 

You’re arriving overland, staying less than 15 days

If you’re arriving overland into Thailand you will receive a 15-day visa exemption free of charge. This is not a visa.

UPDATE: As of November 2013, tourists from the UK, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan receive a 30-day visa exemption at land borders free of charge. All other nationals still only receive 15-days. 

 

You’re flying in, staying less than a month

If you’re flying into Thailand you will receive a 30-day visa exemption free of charge. This is not a visa. If you have proof of onward travel within the 30 day period, your airline will let you board with no prearranged visa. Proof of onward travel is generally an air ticket that departs Thailand but can now be any form of transport – ferry, train or bus ticket though it’s not common to have bought these in advance. Airlines don’t always request this proof of onward travel but they might and if you don’t have it you won’t be able to board your flight to Thailand. It’s best to be prepared.

If you don’t have proof of onward travel you have two choices – either get a visa in advance (see below) or purchase a cheap airfare out of Thailand within 30 days of your arrival, even if you have no intention of using it. The cheapest option is usually an Air Asia fare to Kuala Lumpur or Phnom Penh. You can pick up fares on sale for cheaper than getting a visa in advance. This is a good option if you don’t have easy access to a Thai Embassy or Consulate at home.

 

You’re flying in, staying between one and two months / You’re arriving overland, staying more than 15 days

You need to get a visa in advance. A single entry tourist visa for Thailand is valid for 60 days. You can get it in advance from a Thai Embassy or Consulate. You can do this before you leave home in many countries such as Australia (A$45), New Zealand (NZ$50), United Kingdom (£25), USA (US$40) and Canada (CN$40). The visa is valid for entry into Thailand for three months from the date of issue.

If you’re coming overland from a neighbouring country you can get your visa while you’re on the road. Visas are available in Phnom Penh (US$40), Vientiane (1000B), Hanoi & Saigon (US$40) and Penang & Kuala Lumpur (RM110).  Download the application for from the Embassy or Consulate’s website in advance, bring two passport photos and the required amount of cash. Visas are usually processed in one or two days. Be aware that most embassies and consulate only accept visa applications for a couple of hours in the morning so check opening hours.

 

You want to fly into Thailand, stay less than 30 days then return and stay more than 30 days

Lots of travellers use Thailand as a hub for getting around South East Asia because it’s often the cheapest and easiest airport to fly into in the region. If you’re on an extended trip in South East Asia, chances are you will come in to Thailand first for a short amount of time, go off to a neighbouring country but return to Thailand later for a long period of time. If you’re doing this without an onward flight from Thailand within 30 days then you will still need a visa in your passport to satisfy the airline’s boarding requirement. You can get a double entry tourist visa which costs twice as much. The alternative is to get a single entry visa but only use it on your second entry to Thailand when you plan to stay more than 30 days and use the 30 day visa exemption for your first trip to Thailand. Here’s how to do it:

  1. When applying for your visa ask it to be dated for your second entry. You may need to show proof of this with any air tickets you have purchased. Your visa will then specify “not valid before…” the date of your second entry.
  2. On your first entry into Thailand, do not fill in the visa number on your immigration form. Explain to immigration that you will be using your 30-day visa exemption for your first visit and show that your visa is dated for your future visit.
  3. On your second entry into Thailand fill in your visa number on your immigration form. Let immigration know that you will be using your visa for this entry.

 

You want to extend or overstay your visa or visa exemption

If you received a 15 or 30-day visa exemption you can extend it by seven days by visiting an immigration office in Thailand. The fee for this is 1900B.

If you have a 60-day tourist visa you can extend it by 30 days by visiting an an immigration office in Thailand. The fee for this is 1900B.

You can overstay your visa or visa exemption by a few days. You will be charged a 500B per day penalty when leaving the country. There is a grace period so if you overstay a single day you won’t have to pay. Remember your visa or visa exemption is valid 15, 30 days or 60 days not nights. Whilst an overstay of a day or two is not an issue when departing the country, you may be caught and detained by immigration or police for not having a valid visa while you are still in Thailand. There are occasionally police and immigration checkpoints within cities and towns. You don’t want this to happen, so it’s best not to overstay your visa. If you are planning on overstaying a day or two, lay low and don’t travel except to the airport to catch your flight. To avoid any risk, get an extension from an immigration office.

 

You want to stay in Thailand more than two months

To stay in Thailand for three months, apply for a single entry 60-day tourist visa before you arrive and then visit an immigration office in Thailand to extend your visa by 30 days. The visa extension will cost you 1900B.

To stay in Thailand for four months, apply for a double entry 60-day tourist visa before you arrive and then make a border run to a neighbouring country after you’ve used the first 60 days. On re-entry into Thailand you will get a second 60 days.

To stay in Thailand for five or six months, apply for a double entry 60-day tourist visa before you arrive. Before your first 60 days is up, extend it at an immigration office for 30 days. When your 30 day extension is up, make a border run, activating you second 60 days on re-entry into Thailand. You can then extend this by another 30 days.

To stay in Thailand for more than six months you have a few options:

  1. Apply for a triple entry 60-day tourist visa and get 30-day extensions between border runs. This will allow you to stay up to nine months.
  2. Apply for a triple-entry 60-day tourist visa and get a 30-day extensions between border runs. Once you’ve used up all three entries head to a neighbouring country and get another tourist visa at a consulate or embassy. Repeat the whole process for as long as you want to stay.

 

You want to retire in Thailand

If you’re over 50 you can apply for a Non-immigrant O-A “retirement” visa. The visa is valid for one year. You will have to show proof of funds either 800,000B or a monthly income (e.g. pension) of 65,000B. You are not allowed to perform any kind of work on this visa including volunteer work. This costs 2000B for a single entry visa or 5000B for a multiple entry visa.

 

You want to work or volunteer in Thailand

It’s illegal to work in Thailand on a tourist visa. This includes volunteer work. In short, any type of work in Thailand requires you to have a non-immigrant visa before you arrive in Thailand. To apply for the visa your prospective employer needs to apply for a work permit from the Ministry of Labour. You can read all of the requirements, and there are many, on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.


More useful posts about visiting and travelling in Thailand:

19 Comments

  1. Pingback: 40 Tips to Help You Travel Smarter, Cheaper, Safer, Lighter and, errr... Awesomer!

  2. Beth Davies, Kudos for the super website and good info. This section/answer (To stay in Thailand for four months, apply for a double entry 60-day tourist visa before you arrive and then make a border run to a neighbouring country after you’ve used the first 60 days. On re-entry into Thailand you will get a second 60 days.) is exactly what I wanted to hear as it fits my requirement. However, several other blog sources are claiming that is procedure will no longer work, as Thai immig is cracking down on the back to back entries. Have you any recent info on change to this policy? Thanks again.

  3. Hi,

    I am wondering if you know if I can get a 2 month visa in Phnom Phen, Cambodia at the Thai Embassy. I am from Australia… I know I can do this in Laos but is it possible to also do this here in Cambodia and enter Thailand by land? Previously I had a 30 day visa on arrival by plane and then 2 15 day extensions by land. Now I am in Cambodia and hoping I can get the 2 month visa in the capital here,

    Thanks!

  4. Hi Bethaney….my wife and I have Non-Immigrant O-A Visas and I was wondering if you knew whether there was an expectation that we spend a certain amount of time in the country or whether no one really cares. We were thinking of staying for 6 months, leaving for 2 months, coming back for 2 months and then leaving for 2 months again…..our first year there. I suspect year two we’d probably just take one two month trip. I can’t seem to find anything online either way.

    Thanks

    Frank

  5. Hi!Thank you for your very usefull informations! I’m going in Thailand by plane, in 2 days I’ll be there, with a touristic visa for 60 days. My question is, how I can do for make my artistic work (painting, face&body painter) on the road or anyway..freelance? is possible? thank you very much. have a nice travel!

  6. Hi Beth, thanks for the great post!

    I am confused with one of your strategy though: I will enter Thailand without and outbound ticket, leave the country by train after a few days, and come back after 2 months. I need a visa to satisfy the airline company’s requirement (as you rightly mention).

    Now if I follow your 3 step strategy and only apply for a visa dated with my second entry, how can that satisfy the airline company’s requirement for my first entry? They will clearly see that the visa I show them cannot be used for my first entry.

    Thanks!

    • The 60-day visa won’t have an actual date of entry on it until it’s stamped over by customs in the airport on your way in. The airline won’t know that you’re not intending to stamp that visa directly after your flight with them. Then when you get to Thai immigration on arrival, give them your passport and ask them to ignore the visa you have in your passport, instead stamping you in for the 30-day visa exemption. When you fill out your arrivals card, there is a space for a visa number if you have one. Don’t fill that in on your first entry. Make sense?

      • Hi Bethaney, congrats- this is the first piece of clear, precise info I have found on the subject after quite a few days of searching! Are you sure this plan works? I’d like to buy a double entry visa before I go as it sounds like it is impossible to buy from neighboring countries out there. However, when I first arrive in Thailand I will only be there a few days before heading to Vietnam, then I shall come back and plan to stay in Thailand for at least 3 months. Does asking Thai immigration to ignore my already bought visa and give me a 30 day stamp actually works? I’ve heard if you have a visa already then this is definitely what they will use. Thank you so much!

        • You don’t have to activate your 60-day visa when you clear immigration in Bangkok the first time. There’s a space on the landing card to enter any visa information you may already have in your passport. Leave this part of the landing card blank and then explain to immigration that you would like to enter on 30-day visa waiver program first. It is possible to get the 60-day after you arrive in Asia – very easily done in Laos, Vietnam etc so you don’t necessarily need it in advance. :)

  7. Great article. I guess the 60 day strategy could be done in the opposite order correct. Enter Thailand with a 60 day visa the re-enter sometime in the future and use the 30 day exemption? Again, great post.

  8. Yes, I know I already do. about 22 yrs ago my mom and I backpacked from Bangkok to Singapore with time in Koh Samet and Koh Samui. They were remote islands back then. I loved it and ate everything in sight and still lost weight. I can’t wait for that again! I want Alan and the kids to fall in love with the area too. We will be a bit more nomadic for the year and move slowly. I will need to scour your site for tips, as well as a few other sites.
    Heidi (@WagonersAbroad) recently posted..Look Who’s Cooking In Marrakech – Faim d’EpicesMy Profile

  9. Hi,
    I am South African. My visa is expiring on 12 June 2014. I have already extended my visa once. Is it possible for me to get a 60 day Thai tourist visa from Penang, Malaysia?

    • Hi Kiera. I just responded to your message on my Facebook page. Yes, you can go to Penang and get a new 60-day visa from the consulate there. I have heard though that the consulate in Penang is not the easiest to deal with. Let me know how it goes!

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