Do you need a visa to go to Thailand?

Thailand is one of the easiest countries in Asia to visit on impulse, as citizens of dozens of countries can enter visa-free for stays of up to 30 days. Other travelers and visitors on longer trips need a visa, but they are easy and inexpensive to obtain.

It is worth spending time in Thailand as there is so much to see and do. Make sure you know the requirements before your trip; read on for the basics.

What you need to know about visas in Thailand

The entry procedures for tourists to Thailand are very straightforward whether you are arriving by air or by land. Thailand shares land borders with Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos, and many people enter and exit multiple times on a multi-destination trip to Southeast Asia.

Most travelers arrive on tourist visas (or are eligible to enter visa-free), but there are also non-immigrant visas for business travelers and people studying in Thailand. For all visa classes, you need a passport valid for at least six months after the date of entry, with several spare blank pages.

Regardless of your visa status, you will need to present your passport and completed arrival and departure cards upon arrival. The departure card will be collected on your departure, so keep it in a safe place with your passport. You may be refused entry without proof of a connecting ticket and sufficient funds for your stay, but in practice this is rarely verified.

You will also need to enter an address in Thailand on your arrival card, but again, this is rarely followed. If you haven’t booked a hotel, choose a name from a guidebook or online search.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs oversees immigration and visa policies; check the website or contact the nearest Thai embassy or consulate for the rules. Thaivisa is a useful travel website that keeps abreast of the latest visa regulations.

Leaving Thailand via a land border to start a new tourist visa is a popular although potentially risky route © Olesya Kuznetsova / Shutterstock

Visa-free entry

Thailand allows visa-free entry for tourists from many countries for stays of 30 days. The exact list of countries and permitted lengths of stay varies, but generally includes the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, most of Europe, Australia, New Zealand , South Africa and the more prosperous countries of Asia and the Middle East.

A small group of countries are granted visa-free entry under bilateral agreements for stays of 14, 30 or 90 days, including Russia and several of Thailand’s neighbors in Asia. You will need at least six months validity on your passport, and you may be required to present proof of funds and a travel ticket for the suite.

Tourist visas on arrival

Citizens of some smaller European countries and a handful of destinations in Asia, including Indian and Chinese travelers, can obtain a tourist visa upon arrival for a 15-day stay. For longer stays, apply for a visa at a Thai embassy or consulate.

Assuming the system is functioning normally, there are offices handling the paperwork at over 30 airports and land border crossings. You will need a recent photo ID, proof of funds to support yourself and tickets for onward travel within 15 days. The fee is 2000B, payable in Thai Baht.

Apply for a tourist visa

For pleasure travel longer than 30 days, you must apply in advance for a 60-day single-entry tourist visa or a six-month multiple-entry tourist visa at a Thai consulate or embassy. Fees and conditions vary, but a 60-day visa typically costs around $ 40; contact your local Thai embassy or consulate for the latest rules.

Many Thai visas are now issued as electronic visas; The Thai government’s E-Visa portal begins with a question-and-answer form that will let you know if you are eligible for an E-visa. Otherwise, you will need to apply in person.

A Wat Arun illuminated Buddhist religious places at dusk, Bangkok, Thailand
Be sure to visit incredibly beautiful sites like Wat Arun in Bangkok during your stay © Miki Studio / Shutterstock

Study visas

Thousands of travelers visit Thailand every year for long term diving training, meditation study, Muay Thai lessons, language lessons and more. If this is your case, you can apply for an education visa lasting from three months to one year through Thai missions abroad.

You will need a letter of acceptance from an accredited educational institution stating that you are enrolled in a full-time course with at least 100 course hours per 90-day period, and your passport must be valid for at least at least six months after the end of the course. Three-month visas are single-entry, one-year visas allow multiple entries.

Nonimmigrant visas, digital nomads and elite visas

For business travel, Thailand offers nonimmigrant visas of three months for a single entry, or one year for multiple entries. Fees vary, but you can expect to pay around US $ 80 for a single entry and US $ 200 for multiple entry.

There’s also the curious Elite Visa, a long-term visa category for high net worth individuals that allows multiple entries of up to a year each time, for a period of five years or more. With fees starting at over US $ 25,000, it’s probably not the visa for a Thailand vacation, but it does come with all kinds of special privileges.

For travelers who see Thailand as a base as a digital nomad, you may need a work permit depending on the work you do, from blogging to graphic design to online education. , and if it affects the work of Thai people. For more information, visit the Thai Embassy website.

Participants prepare Thai dishes with carving knives during a cooking class in Chiang Mai.
Education visas are another option for travelers wishing to stay longer to learn more about Thai culture © Anna Ewa Bieniek / Shutterstock

Extend your visa

If you are short on time during your stay, tourist visas can be extended for an additional 30 days at any immigration office in Thailand, at the discretion of the Thai immigration authorities; the usual charge is 1900B. See the Immigration Office website for office listings.

Remember to dress your best when you visit the office; showing up in frayed beachwear and flip flops is unlikely to reassure immigration officials that you have funds to support yourself during a longer stay.

For all types of visa extensions, bring two passport-size photos and photocopies of the photo and visa pages of your passport. Always take care of visa matters yourself; if you go through a third party you will pay more and you risk falling into the trap of a scam.

What if I exceed?

If you exceed the duration of your visa, the usual penalty is a fine of 500B per day, with a limit of 20,000B. Fines must be paid in Thai Baht either at the airport or in advance at an immigration office. Children under the age of 15 are exempt and if you have exceeded the length of stay by only one day, or due to circumstances beyond your control (for example, a flight cancellation by the airline), you will not be usually not billed.

The visa race

Another extremely popular stay extension option for travelers eligible for visa-free entry is to simply cross a land border and re-enter Thailand after a few days. A new visa waiver of 30 or 15 days (depending on your nationality) will be issued to you upon your return.

It works well the first few times, but the authorities are getting more and more severe on travelers who try to extend their stay indefinitely by crossing the border several times; remember, re-entry is at the discretion of the visa officer.

About Andrew Miller

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