If you're like us and have completely fallen in love with Thailand, whether it be for the amazing food, the friendly people, or the great culture, you will probably decide to pay an extended visit to the country.
The amount of time granted for your visit depends on what country you come from. Most Americans get a 30-day visa exemption. If you need to stay longer, you must apply for a proper visa at the Thai consulate.
In either case, the time may come that your temporary permission to tour the kingdom is about to expire, and if you wish to stay longer you will need to exit the country to renew your visa, else pay an overstay penalty.
Point of clarification: If you arrived to Thailand without first applying for a visa at a consulate, then you are on a visa exemption, you do not have a tourist visa. Depending on your nationality, you have up to 30 days to tour the country and then you must leave or pay an overstay penalty.
As of 2014, the possibility of leaving the country and immediately turning around and entering is less likely as immigration is discouraging ins/outs on 30-day exemptions. You should exit and apply for a proper 60-day visa and then re-enter Thailand.
If like us, you were able to get a multiple-entry visa to the kingdom prior to entering, you're in luck. The visa reset process simply involves crossing a border into a neighboring country such as Laos or Cambodia, and then re-entering.
Today we'll talk about one of the easiest ways to do this. If you're in Bangkok, there are daily flights on various airlines to Chiang Rai. If you buy a ticket in advance or during a promotion, you can get one as low as $50 roundtrip.
You should plan to spend at least one night in Chiang Rai
1. Catch A Bus From Chiang Rai To Mae Sai
Once you are in Chiang Rai, choose a morning to execute your visa run. Ask your hotel or hostel where to find the "Old Bus Terminal". It's in the center of town, but you can also view it on google maps if you click HERE.
You'll see lots of buses and they will be parked in multiple "bays" at an angle. The bus you are interested in departs from bay #9, and in fact is not a bus, but a mini-van.
As of this writing, the cost for the 60Km ride to the border town of Maesai is 46 baht. In the off chance that they charge you more, as long as it's around this amount, you should be fine. For reference, 32 baht is approximately $1 USD.
If possible, use the toilet before leaving, as there are no stops until you get to Maesai about one hour and thirty minutes later.
2. Catch a Songthaew to the Thailand-Myanmar Border
Upon arriving in Maesai, you'll be dropped off at the Maesai bus terminal where there will be songthaews waiting for you. Songthaews are two-benched pick-up trucks, similar to the Philippine Jeepney.
Simply get into the one the sign posted, and shortly after it will leave. It was 15 baht when we rode it, and you pay the driver when you get off(just like a taxi).
3. Exit Thailand, Walk Across the Bridge, And Enter myanmar
About fifteen minutes later, the songthaew will drop you off right in front of the Thailand border post.
The large opening in the center is for vehicle traffic. The right half of the building is for those who have left Myanmar and are re-entering Thailand. So you must pass through the left half of the building.
You'll get an exit stamp, and will then be sent through so you can walk across the bridge and enter Myanmar.
When you get to the Myanmar side, you will have to cross to the right-hand side of the road just to the right of the archway where the entrance to immigration is located.
At this point, you will need to pay the one-day visa fee to enter Myanmar, 500 baht at the time of this writing. They will sometimes also accept $10USD, but the currency must be in pristine condition.
Upon getting your entry-stamp to Myanmar, and if you left early enough from Chiang Rai, you can do what we did and wander around the border town of Tachilek.
4. Things to see AND EAT around Tachilek
The first thing you'll see after entering Tachilek is the entrance to the street market on your right. If you go down these steps, you'll find a bazaar filled with all kinds of merchandise, including the requisite Chinese knock-offs of name brands.
Walk further up the street and you'll reach a traffic roundabout.
I recommend making a right turn here, and on your right you'll see the Valentine Tea and Food Center where you can sample some of Myanmar's awesome milk tea, tea salad, or even a roti if you're into flat breads.
You'll get a real Myanmar tea shop experience as you sit down at hobbit-sized chairs and tables and enjoy sipping milk tea, eating scrumptious salad, and washing it all down with a bottomless green tea!
Or you can try the roti, which is made fresh in the back of the restaurant. We didn't try it, but the process of making it was pretty impressive.
5. Exit Myanmar, Enter Thailand, Head Back To Chiang Rai
After you've wandered around enough in Tachilek, simply make your way back through the border crossing. A border guard on the Myanmar side will check your passport to make sure you've got the right stamps, and then he'll wave you through. to start walking across the bridge you came from earlier.
Enter through the left side of the building. You'll need to fill out an arrival card and submit it along with your passport to get an entry stamp back into Thailand. At this point, you've reset your visa if you've got a multi-entry.
Otherwise, you will receive either a 30-day or a 15-day visa exemption depending on the discretion of the immigration officer. This typically depends on how much he scrutinizes any existing stamps you have in your passport for Thailand.
You'll find the same songthaews waiting to take you back to the bus station, and also the same gray mini-van will be waiting as well.
Be sure to get to the mini-van before 4:30PM as the last one departs at 5:00PM and you don't want to be without a seat.
Have you done this visa run before? Let us know your experience or thoughts on it in the comments!