A Guide to Thai Tourist Visa Extensions 2018
Everyone that comes to Thailand loves it; there’s no doubt about that. People come and people go, but nearly everyone vows to return. Some come back in a year, some in ten, and some just never leave. However, for some people, they just want to experience the country a bit longer while their here, and this was definitely the case for us. Early on during our time in the Kingdom, we realized that our one month visa simply wouldn’t be enough. With so much to see from the buzzing cities and wild nightlife, to the chilled out beaches sprinkled across the south, we would definitely be needing an extension.
If you’ve travelled Thailand for any extended period of time, there’s no doubt that your familiar with this predicament. Travelers and websites from all over the world have insights on the issue, and if you ask 5 people about visa regulations, your bound to get at least 7 different answers. Visa laws in Thailand are constantly changing, making the topic ever difficult to stay on top of.
To start off, all of this applies primarily for American passport holders. These regulations tend to be pretty similar amongst most European countries as well, but it always pays to check with your respective embassy or passport authority. The Thai government has a penchant for changing these rules regularly, and often times the best source of up to date information is other travelers! So if you’re looking into extending your visa, it’s always a smart to choice to ask around and talk to people on the ground.
Thai visa laws are an extremely complex and ever changing organism. Because of their extremely complicated nature there’s no way that this guide is 100% complete, and it’s quite possible that by the time you read this, they will have changed since this post has been written. We don’t intend for this to be a bulletproof guide to extending your visa in Thailand, but we do think it may prove helpful!
As for initially entering Thailand, it’s generally an easy and painless process for most nationalities. Citizens from most western countries such as the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, etc., receive a 30 day visa exemption upon arrival. An official, full list of visa exempt countries as of 2016 can be found here. This means that there are no requirements beforehand for a stay of up to 30 days, or 90 days for select nations. However, this also means that if you wish to stay within the Kingdom longer you’ll need to extend your visa. This is where the fun begins!
As our own visas approached their expiration date, we started to do our research on what would be our best course of action. We found out that we had two options:
- Pay the 1900 Baht fee to a Thai immigration office and receive an official 30 day extension through the government. Expensive, but effective.
- Do a ‘visa run’ to a neighboring country, where we exit and re-enter Thailand in the same day, essentially renewing our visas. Cheaper, but potentially risky as you may receive only 15 day, rather than 30 when re-entering.
With loads of conflicting information on land-crossing visa issuances both online and via word of mouth, it’s extremely difficult to provide accurate and up to date information about doing them. The laws are always in flux, and seem to be different for different border crossings, making it a pretty complicated affair. While we were in the process of renewing our visas, we had considered the idea of doing a ‘visa-run’ to Myanmar and back, as it was the closest border to Chiang Rai, and the cheaper option as well. However, when we asked around to a few other travelers, we heard stories of some people only receiving 15-day visas, while others received 30-day visas. Unsure of what our actual outcome would be, we elected to visit the Chiang Rai Immigration Office to do an official visa extension.
Although this was the more expensive option of the two, we decided that we were willing to pay for the assurance of receiving a full 30-day extension. After a quick motorbike ride from the center of town, we arrived at the office and began the process. While it certainly may have been the time of day, the office was totally empty, making everything a breeze.
In order to complete the visa extension process there are a few documents that must be submitted. In order to help things along smoothly, we would recommend coming prepared with the following items:
- Your actual passport (goes without saying, but just in case you might forget)
- Photocopy of your passport identification page
- Passport sized picture (they may ask for two, so it wouldn’t hurt to come armed with two photos)
- Photocopy of the 30 day (or 90 day) visa exemption stamp in your passport
- Your Thai immigration departure card - VERY IMPORTANT as they will definitely ask for this
- 1900 Baht in cash for paying the visa extension fee
If you don’t have access to a photocopy machine beforehand, the immigration office will likely allow you to make copies for a small fee. From our experience, they charged 2 Baht per page and were extremely helpful in helping us make our copies.They will also ask for your hotel or hostel’s address when filling out the visa extension form, so it is handy to have that information as well.
After filling our your paperwork and submitting the appropriate documents, all that is left to do is wait. This can definitely be the most painful aspect of the process. Unfortunately, this is completely dependent on which visa office you go to, the day you visit and the number of other people in the office as well. From our personal experience doing this in Chiang Rai, visiting at the end of the day was the perfect time. We showed up just 20 minutes before closing time and were the only two people there. We were in and out in just 15 minutes. While we may have just been lucky, we have heard horror stories of the process taking up to 5 hours at busier offices across the country, such as those in Bangkok. Regardless of which immigration office you choose to visit, we would highly suggest going either early or late in the day.
Although the 1900 Baht price tag can be a bit shocking, we felt that it was worth it for the sense of certainty. Yes, we walked out a fair bit poorer than when we walked in, but we also walked out with another 30 days in our passport to explore this amazing country.
We hope that this helps clear up some of the questions you might have about extending your Thai tourist visa! If you’ve got any further doubts or questions please just reach out to us! We’re always happy to help 🙂
Yours in Adventure,
Marla and Joel