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Thailand imposes a 30-day limit on stays for U.S. citizens travelling on a tourist visa. What is the preferred way to stay up to three months? So far, I've come up with these options:

  1. Fly to Singapore or another nearby destination; upon return, obtain another 30-day visa (for overland travel, I would only get another 14-day visa).

  2. Obtain a longer term visa (quite pricey and lots of paperwork)

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Just two years ago I was issued a 6 month, 3 entry visa to Thailand, for free! Now, it seems the best I can do is apply for a 60 day, 2 entry visa. Things are always changing in Asia. –  user4098 Jan 26 '13 at 10:22
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2 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

The options are:

Tourist visa in your home country (1-3 entries, 60+30 days on each entry)

Documentation is not particularly difficult. Exact requirements vary depending on the consulate, but usually it's a 1-page application form, two photos, copy of confirmed flight itinerary and a recent bank statement showing some minimal balance ($1500 or so). Visa fee is $35 per entry (plus postage both ways if applying by mail).

Applying by mail is possible in most countries, allow at least 2 weeks turnaround time. The disadvantage is a small chance that your passport may get misplaced.

Applying in person normally involves two visits, one to turn in the documents, and then next day to pick up the visa. The consulates are closed on Thai and US holidays. In large countries (USA, UK, Germany) there are several honorary consulates which tend to be less fussy and far more polite than the Thai Embassy in DC or large consulates (LA, NYC, Chicago). However, they may be hard to find and have limited hours.

An advantage of applying before the trip in your home country is that you can ask for a 2 or 3-entry tourist visa, which gives you a longer stay. Consulates in SE Asia generally issue only single-entry visas.

Allowed stay is 60 days per entry. A one-time 30-day extension stamp can be obtained at an immigration office within Thailand (takes ~3-6h, 1900 baht).

Visa-free entry by air (30 days)

To extend, fly to one of the neighboring countries and come back (there are many low-cost airlines, like AirAsia). You can also exit Thailand by land and fly back one-way.

Technically, Thai immigration (or the airline) may ask you to show an air ticket back to your home country within the 30 days and proof of funds, but this is rarely enforced, especially if you look clean-cut.

Visa-free entry by land (15 days)

Entering Thailand through any land border crossing (most often to Cambodia or Laos) allows you to stay for only 15 days.

A visa-run (crossing the closest border and coming back to Thailand immediately) is often used. There are tour companies which facilitate this (usually to Poipet, Cambodia as this is closest to Bangkok).

Laos and Cambodia charge for visas at the border ($20-$40). Therefore, a visa-run by a low-cost airline to a place which does not charge (e.g. Singapore or Malaysia) for a 30-day entry may not be more expensive than two 15-day visa-runs by land.

Tourist visa in SE Asia (60+30 days)

Thai consulates in SE Asia issue single-entry tourist visas to foreigners, allowing a 60 day stay and 30 day extension. Documentation requirements tend to be minimal (less than in your home country). Most commonly used ones are in Penang, Malaysia and Vientiane, Laos (latter can be easily reached by land, 8hr by bus from Bangkok). Usually the service is next-day. Relatively affordable and reliable agents can be used to avoid standing in lines.

Some consulates (Rangoon, Hong Kong, HCMC) are known to be restrictive, check before going.

Notes:

  • 30-day by air / 15 days by land policy applies to most Western passports (e.g. USA, UK, France, Germany). For specific details that apply to your nationality, check the requirements by nationality. Some countries (e.g. Brazil, Korea), get 90 days visa-free either by land or air.
  • Rules change often, above is valid as of October 2011.
  • Visa requirements and fees can vary at different consulates (even within the same country). Thai consulate websites are often out-of-date.
  • Visa validity date indicates the last allowed entry date, not to allowed duration of stay. For example, a tourist visa valid until 2011-12-31 means that this is the last day you'll be allowed to enter Thailand. Duration of stay is determined by the entry stamp (60-days normally, double-check after immigration).
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Thanks for the info! I read somewhere that 60-day visas are only issued to citizens of countries that have visa reciprocity with Thailand, and the U.S. is one of them. Does that rule still apply? –  The Travelling Chicken Jul 3 '11 at 9:30
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@Jen -- no, 60-day tourist visas are available to everyone, especially if you apply outside of SE Asia. Within SE Asia, some Thai consulates issue them easily, others are more reluctant, depending on your nationality... but with the U.S. passport it shouldn't be a problem. Very few countries have visa reciprocity with Thailand. –  dbkk Jul 3 '11 at 9:38
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Jen the 30 day visa your talking about is just a stamp in your passport when you arrive in Thailand by plane, the 60 day visa dbkk is talking about is a sticker that takes up one page in your passport and you have to apply for it before you go to Thailand. Being American you can get both, the 60 day one just takes more organisation as you have to send your passport to the Thai Embassy. –  dageshi Sep 10 '11 at 11:31
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Many tourists wishing to stay in Thailand longer than 30 days given on the standard tourist visa (on incoming flights) do 'visa runs' to nearby countries. You are correct that overland entries only get a two-week visa instead of a month-long visa, but sometimes you need to evaluate what works out cheaper for you.

You'll obviously be looking for the cheapest low-cost airline flights that get you out and back into Thailand. All these ones usually fly Airbus A319-A320 3-3 seating config planes that are new and quite comfortable enough. Here are your options.

  • Tiger Airways to Singapore: Singapore Airlines' budget arm (you cannot use frequent flyer points earned on SIA or associated loyalty programmes, however), they usually have the cheapest flights to Singapore. They fly out of Bangkok, Krabi, Hat Yai, and Phuket - with the cheapest flights usually being out of Phuket.
  • Air Asia to Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore (in order of usual flight prices): This Malaysian low-cost airline will give you by far the most number options and to top it off they service many airports in Thailand. The cheapest ones is usually the Phnom Penh - Bangkok sector. Know that this airline is very popular in the region and the cheaper tickets get sold out months in advance.
  • Dragon Air to Hong Kong: This is a slightly more expensive option because of the distance flown but Hong Kong itself is an interesting place to see, and should make an interesting visa run. Watch out for promotions.
  • JetStar to Singapore: Qantas' low-cost subsidiary, it's usually the most expensive out of the all the low-cost airlines - unless you are booking late/last-minute when prices on Tiger/Air Asia can often shoot high, JetStar might just have better prices then.

Usually, Tiger Airways is the best option as their prices are low. Air Asia is an alternative worth considering only on their less-used sectors where prices are lower; on popular ones like BKK-KUL or BKK-SIN it gets very expensive. Cheapest one-way flights cost $40-70 inclusive of taxes and all charges and ramp up from there on. Flights between Tue-Thu are generally cheaper as people in neighbouring countries often go on weekends for short holidays. These airlines are point-to-point carriers so you don't get discounts for booking return flights.

Depending on how early you book, you might find flights too expensive. In the interim, you may consider doing overland visa runs at times while waiting for flights to get longer 30-day ones. Where you go for one obviously depends on what checkpoint you're closest to. Popular ones for overland are visa runs are:

  • Poipet / Aranyaprathet (Cambodia): If you want to spend a few days in Cambodia, Siem Reap and its Angkor Wat temples are a couple of hours drive away. Note that at this border ONLY nationalities which are not on the list of countries that need to get a visa beforehand are allowed to get a visa on arrival. Visa-on-arrival facility for those who need to get a visa for Thailand beforehand is NOT available.
  • Vietiane / Udon Thani (Laos)
  • Malaysia: This is a very popular option, actually. The most popular option is to take a train to Penang, but a less-used one is to take a train from Hat Yai to Kota Bharu on the eastern coast of Malaysia. (The latter is a good option in case you want to take some time off to explore the Perhentian Islands, which I recommend highly.)
  • No land border with Vietnam

You may want to make rough calculations to see whether it's worth it for you to get a longer validity visa or do visa runs. Given the period you've mentioned you'll be staying for, you'll probably find the latter better - and get to check out some neighbouring countries in the process.

Singapore and Malaysia are the best choices to go because they don't charge for visas. Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia do - $20-40 depending on processing fees etc. Cambodia in particular also charges an additional $25 'departure fee' for international flights. Vietnam doesn't have visa-on-arrival per se; you need to apply online with an authorised agency in advance and specify what date you'll be flying in.

There are some travel agencies too in Thailand that claim they can get a new visa for you, probably by paying someone off at border control offices. This is not always a safe option - as the travel agents can be scammers - but I personally think as a traveller, it isn't right to promote corrupt practices in a country you visit. Again, remember this is illegal and you can be arrested and/or deported for giving your passport to a third-person for getting a visa. There are some really interesting places to visit that border Thailand, and a break may not be that bad at all.

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Thanks so much! –  The Travelling Chicken Jul 3 '11 at 9:30
    
One note on Air Asia, their service & attitude sucks, they will slap you on with many hidden charges so don't rely on advertised prices (for instance, the "extra" checked baggage starts from 1 baggage since there is no baggage allowance). If you have a choice, skip them. –  Sylverdrag Jan 23 '12 at 9:14
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No free baggage allowance is a standard procedure on all low-cost airlines, all around the world. This is nothing specific to Air Asia. –  Ankur Banerjee Jan 23 '12 at 10:06
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Bangkok Airways is often cheaper than Air Asia especially if bought in advance (on the internet or even in 7-11 or at an ATM). Nok Air also (never used them myself though). Flights can be had quite cheaply to places like Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur. Still may be cheaper to do 2 14 day visa runs instead - from CM a VIP Bus can be got from 450 baht (less for X-Xlass instead of VX - still has aircon etc) plus the 500baht Burmese visa waiver fee. –  Wolf5370 Aug 10 '12 at 21:13
    
@Sylverdrag For budget airlines in South-East Asia, it would be best to read up on the baggage allowance and other fine details before making a booking with them. Subarnabhumi in Bangkok tend to be more lenient while Changi in Singapore tend to be more strict - the latter weighed my hand-carry baggage when I checked-in on my flight to Vietnam. –  Brennan Neoh Jun 8 '13 at 2:06
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protected by Ankur Banerjee Feb 9 '13 at 15:00

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