In the first week of December 2008, new visa rules came into force in Thailand. The new ruling mainly affects visitors entering Thailand at a land border checkpoint without a visa. Visitors arriving at any of Thailand’s international airports should not be affected by the new rules.
Please note that visa regulations in Thailand may have changed since this article was first written. Check the visa section on this site for more details on the current rules.
Arriving in Thailand by Land or Sea Crossing
The old ruling used to be that most visitors entering Thailand without a visa would be granted a 30-day ‘permission to stay’ stamp also known as the visa exemption rule (some travellers mistakenly call this a visa on arrival). Under the new regulations, those arriving in Thailand via a land or sea crossing without a visa will now only be granted a 15-day permission to stay/visa exemption instead of 30 days. Under the old system there were limits to the number of back-to-back stamps you could gain in this way. Under the new rules that limit has gone and in theory travellers can continually enter and re-enter Thailand at a land border crossing every 15 days if they so desire without the need to apply in advance for a visa.
Extension of Stay
It may be possible to extend the 15-day permission to stay/visa exemption by a further 7 days. This is entirely at the discretion of Thai immigration officials and it should not be assumed that an extension will automatically be granted. To apply, travellers need to visit a Thai immigration bureau (located in most major cities and resorts) fill out the appropriate form and pay the non-refundable application fee (currently 1900 Baht).
Arriving in Thailand by Air
Visitors arriving in Thailand via an international flight who do not have a visa, will continue to be granted a 30-day permission to stay stamp/visa exemption as per the previous regulations. Please note that under the old and new regulations there are still certain requirements that visitors need to adhere to to ensure they are eligible for the 30-day permission to stay stamp/visa exemption. Notably, visitors should have a confirmed flight ticket out of Thailand within 30 days (A return flight ticket or an e-ticket is acceptable). Travellers with a one-way ticket should pay particular attention because your airline could refuse you boarding if you haven’t obtained a valid visa before travel to Thailand.
Applying for a Visa Before Travel to Thailand
For some visitors it will make more sense to apply for a visa before travelling to Thailand. This can be obtained from the Thai embassy or consulate in your home country. If you are already travelling, you can apply in person at a Thai embassy or consulate in countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Australia and New Zealand. For example, if you are in Laos, you will need to apply in person at the Thai embassy in Vientiane, fill out the appropriate form and pay the application fee. Applications are made on Day A and your passport and visa can normally collected on Day B (excluding weekends and public holidays). Some neighbouring countries may only issue you with a single entry tourist visa which is good for 60 days (plus an option to apply for a 30 day extension). If you want a double entry or multi-entry tourist visa you may be best advised to obtain it in advance from your home country before travel.
Advice According to Nationality
Under both the old and new visa system, not everybody will be treated the same when entering Thailand; different rules and regulations apply depending on your nationality. Therefore, all visitors to Thailand are strongly advised to check the current requirements with the Thai embassy or consulate in your home country. The following links provide more information including contact details:
Contact your Thai embassy or consulate >>
Visa advice according to nationality >>