Do I Need a Visa For Thailand?

You’ve decided to visit Thailand – Sun, sand, cold beers, great food…you can’t wait!

Just one last check through your packing list before you leave:

Laptop – check!

Wife beater – check!

Flip flops – check!

Passport – check!

Visa – Hang on, I don’t need a visa, do I?!

As with most things in Thailand (you’ll find out sooner or later!) the answer is – maybe, maybe not.

Not the answer you were hoping for? Well, keep reading…

Of course, there are rules written down and in place about visa procedures but things can (and do) change like the wind.

This article gives you the up to date information you’ll need to answer the question “Do I need a visa for Thailand?”.

So can I enter without a visa?

That depends on whether or not you can enter Thailand with a “visa exempt entry”.

If you can, then you can enter Thailand without having to pre arrange any type of visa.

A visa exempt entry is available to people of the following Nationalities –

Group 1 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, USA and United Kingdom.

Group 2 – Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Brunei, Belgium, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Slovak, Slovenia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and  UAE

How long will the “visa exempt entry” allow me to stay for?

Group 1 – 30 days whether entering by air or via a land border.

Group 2 – 30 days if entering by air and 15 days if entering via a land border.

What if I want to stay longer?

It is possible to extend your stay one time at the Immigration office in Bangkok for 30 days

Once you have done this and have stayed until the end of your 30 day extension you have no choice but to leave Thailand whether temporarily just a way to be able to legally enter again (a “visa run” or “border hop”) or more permanently.

Thailand Visa

How many times can I get a “visa exempt entry” without having to get an actual visa?

Again, it depends!

There is no official limit to the number of times you can enter Thailand using a “visa exempt entry”. However, if the Immigration Officer believes you are entering Thailand for a reason other than Tourism they are allowed to reject your entry.

This could be because you have a history of entering Thailand for on a “visa exempt entry” several times in the past year, because they think you’re working in Thailand illegally, because you left Thailand and came back very quickly, because their somtam was too salty that day…

Don’t think this doesn’t happen, it most certainly does!

This means there are no hard and fast rules, and things vary person to person.

At this time, the following rules apply in the majority of cases:

Entering by air via Don Muang or Suvarnabhumi airports you can get unlimited “visa-exempt entries.”

Entering by a land border from Cambodia or Laos you can enter two times consecutively

All other borders and airports are on a case by case basis, with those in the South of Thailand being the strictest and most likely to reject an entry.

Tip: If the Immigration Officer thinks you might be working in Thailand it can (but not always) help to be armed with 20,000+ Baht in cash (to show you can support yourself), Hotel reservations, a confirmed ticket out of Thailand within the next month or any other proof that may prove that this isn’t the case.

If however you have a valid Thai Visa you will be able to enter Thailand either by air or land with no problems.

What if I’m not eligible for a “visa exempt entry”?

You will need to apply for a Thai Visa at a Thai Embassy or Consulate outside of Thailand before trying to enter.

What if I want to stay longer than my “visa exempt entry” will allow me to?

You will need to apply for a Thai visa or Extension of Stay depending on what your reason for staying in Thailand is.

visa entry Thailand

The most common type of visa for people just visiting is a Tourist Visa.  You need to leave Thailand and visit a Thai Embassy or Consulate in another country to apply for one.  Several companies (such as Thai Visa Service) will organize the whole thing for you so that you just turn up, bring your money and enjoy the ride.  If you’re still in your home country it can be as easy as posting your passport and application form to your nearest Thai Embassy – Google them for details.

Once you have a Tourist Visa, you will be able to enter Thailand for up to 60 days.  You can extend you stay one time for 30 days at Immigration giving you up to 90 days in the country.

Often you will be issued a “double entry Tourist visa” which means you can enter Thailand twice using this visa and be granted 60 days stay each time.  If you stay for the full 60 days plus 30 day extension then leave and re-enter Thailand to use your second entry (another 60 days plus 30 day extension) this double entry Tourist visa will allow you to stay a total of 180 days.

The Non Imm Ed visa (commonly known as an Education Visa) has been cracked down on intensely recently.  Although there are still people that use it, unless you are genuinely interested in being a committed student in Thailand it is, for all intents and purposes, no longer worth the hassle of going this route.

It is still quite easy to get several back to back double entry Tourist Visas at Embassies and Consulates around SE Asia which will allow you to stay for as long as you would like.

Once you have done this and have stayed until the end of your 30 day extension you have no choice but to leave Thailand whether temporarily just a way to be able to legally enter again (a “visa run” or “border hop”) or more permanently.

What are Thai Visa Runs, Border Runs and Border Hops?

Well, they all share some common features.  Usually, the goal of each is to get out of Thailand and back into Thailand with a new entry stamp as quickly as possible.

What’s the difference?

A Visa Run is where someone leaves Thailand in order to apply for a Thai Visa at a Thai Consulate or Embassy abroad.

Almost every country has a Thai Consulate or Embassy so technically you could leave Thailand to go anywhere and apply for a Visa.  In practice, the main destinations are Vientiane or Savannakhet in Laos, Kuala Lumpur or Penang in Malaysia and Singapore as these are the closest.

Which one you choose depends on which visa you want to apply for.

A border run or border hop is where someone is leaving Thailand and almost immediately re-entering Thailand so as to either get a new visa exempt entry or to activate a new entry on a visa.  From Bangkok, the most commonly used borders are those with Cambodia.

Our favorite company for border runs and trips to the Thai Embassy in Vientiane is this one. They take care of everything so that all you really need to do it turn up with your passport.

This is a guest post on Thailand Visas by Seb Scala.

If you’re thinking about moving to Thailand and need help, check out my Thai friend’s website here, she may be able to help you out.

If you're thinking about moving to Thailand and need help or advice, check out my Online Nomad Group by clicking here.


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