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Border Crossing in Maesai

Last edited: December 11, 2014 at 11:45:46

You can get an extension on your current visa or renew your visa entry by making a border crossing. The most common border crossing that foreigners choose to make from Chiang Mai, is the one at Maesai. Another possible border crossing is the one at Nongkhai, but it is far less popular and logical.

Maesai is located in Chiang Rai province, some 250km up north from Chiang Mai, and borders the Burmese town Tachilek. It takes about 3.5 - 4 hours driving through beautiful Chiang Rai province (hilly in the beginning) to get there. Nongkhai is located in Isaan province, east of Chiang Mai, and is close to Vientiane in Laos. It's much longer to get to Nongkhai so it's normally not used purely as a border crossing but more as a gateway to Laos to get to the Embassy in Vientiane and get real visa matters done there. To purely cross the border in Nongkhai only makes sense if you want to have a pleasure outing to for example Udon Thani and Isaan province.
Here, we'll simply assume Maesai as your preferred border crossing.

Who can do a visa run?

From May 10, 2014 the rules have suddenly changed but even Immigration seems to be confused about how to implement them: foreigners who wish to renew their entry to get a 15 or 30 day extension cannot do so through a visarun over land at a land border crossing point. Only non-immigrant visa and visa with remaining entries can be renewed at the land crossing border.
This seems to be Immigration's latest effort to crack down on foreigners who are regularly crossing the land border in order to get a 15 or 30 day extension.
If you enter Thailand over Thailand, you are only allowed to do so once.
Even stricter rules will become effective from Aug 13, 2014.

Getting there

There are several buses going there: the public buses go from Arcade bus station about every 1-2 hours. It's best to buy a ticket in advance as the bus may be full.
Green Bus is the most efficient bus company that runs straight on time (check Greenbus schedule and prices). It's even possible to book online.
Approximate costs for a return ticket: THB 400-700, depending on the class. It's recommendable to take the luxury chairs for just a small amount more.
The public buses end at the bus terminal just outside of Maesai, from there there are songtaew's and motorcycle taxis waiting to bring you to the border.
Also, there are smaller vans called VIP buses run by private companies that pick you up from your hotel and drive a small group of passengers straight to the border. These vans operate according to a fixed time schedule, often:
-  8am departure from Chiang Mai - 12pm arrival in Maesai
- 2pm departure from Maesai - 6pm arrival in Chiang Mai
(Note that it normally takes some time for the van to pick up and drop off other passengers in town.)
Approximate costs: THB 750 for a return ticket.
Here are some examples of visarun companies that bring you right there: MJ Visa Run, Chiang Mai Visarun.

Border towns Maesai and Tachilek

Maesai itself is a sleepy border town where not much else is happening than the daily transit of travellers and locals. Some local Thai from elsewhere travel there for fun to shop and have a little outing away from Chiang Mai. Also, some foreigners report having a good time, for example shopping for Burmese antiques. But truly, the vast majority of Maesai's visitors come for the sole purpose of getting a stamp in their passport and continue their stay in Chiang Mai.
Tachilek, the Burmese city attached to the other side of the border, is even more sleepy and for many foreigners hardly worth the (2nd) visit, although some people believe you can get a good deal there. That's doubtful, because the shops in Maesai and in Tachilek know that 99% of their customers won't be coming back for a long time, so there's no need to perform very well or create repeat customers. Yes, you can buy all kinds of stuff that is cheaper in Myanmar or produced in China, but beware because some of it is not of such great quality and it will be difficult for you to get / enforce any warranty. Fake products are plenty and the "iPhone Maesai" or "iPhone 6 Maesai" is a concept in Thai slang wink.

The actual border crossing starts after this building

What to bring and procedure of crossing the border

Before you set out all the way up to Maesai, make sure you have the following on you:
- USD 30 cash in fresh bank notes (get them from a bank or a money changer);
- THB 20,000 in cash or a bank book showing such balance.
When you arrive in Maesai, to cross the border, obviously first you have to leave Thailand so you pass Thai immigration counters. Check whether you got the exit stamp in your passport, it's your proof that you left Thailand and without it you'll have a problem.
Then beyond the bridge is a Burmese immigration office. Note that the official price to enter the country for a day visit is USD 30 only, even though they advertise or say THB 500, but this is clearly too much and you can imagine how much money they are making every day from foreigners paying them a THB 200 baht tip. It's best to bring fresh USD bank notes that can't be rejected.

You don't need separate passport photos for the Burmese side, they'll make a webcam pic of you right there.
You have the choice to walk into Tachilek for the day or to "just go back". If you "just go back" the Burmese officers often don't issue a receipt for you which means they put the money into their own pocket.
Once you come back to the Thai side, you'll get a so-called "walk-in" stamp into your passport, which will then give you an extension to your current visa OR renew your entry (meaning the next entry has commenced).
Officially, the Thai Immigration can ask you for proof of sufficient finance when you walk back into the country from Tachilek, although most of the time they don't. However, it's best to have THB 20,000 cash or a bank book showing such amount on you, in case they ask. Some foreigners didn't have such proof of finance and were left stranded at the border.

When passing a Thai Immigration Office at the border or airport, ALWAYS check if they gave you the right amount of days. Mistakes happen when the officer in charge didn't notice what is your current visa and so gives you a too short extension. You then have to go back to the Immigration office in Chiang Mai and queu up for many hours to get that mistake rectified.
Contrary to what some foreigners think, you cannot negotiate an extension of stay at the border. So if you arrive there and there is a problem, you've come all the way for nothing. In such case, it's better to be really sure about your situation and inquire first at the Immigration office in Chiang Mai.

Making your visa run memorable

Everyone forced to make a visa run faces the question whether to do it as cheap and fast as possible, or combine it with a nice trip that you can really enjoy.
Sitting out the boring ride to Maesai to get the stamp and head back again, is definitely the most efficient way to get your passport in order and to be allowed to stay in Chiang Mai for another period, but you will have experienced nearly nothing worth remembering.
If you are willing to spend more time and money, you can make a visa run more interesting by combining it with some nice outing.
Going to Maesai, there are beautiful outings in Chiang Rai province.
Alternatively, going to another city in Southeast Asia can be very interesting.
We'll give you more ideas how to enjoy trips out of Chiang Mai in combination with your visa obligations in our Outings section (coming soon) or check Embassies and Consulates near Chiang Mai.


Tired of queuing up at Immigration? Outsource your visa trouble through us. Want to stay long term in Thailand? Get a 1-year visa with ease.

DISCLAIMER:  This information was compiled from several sources and best-practises. Policies, prices and procedures of the Thai authorities change continuously. CM Locator accepts no liability for incorrectness of information here. Help us keep this information as update and useful for visa applicants as possible and let us know if you find something has changed.



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Gilles Alter Ego
Gilles Alter Ego Posted on October 22, 2014 at 06:28:15
My friends went to Maesai a few weeks ago. They had no problem to renew their entry at all. You just have to make sure that all your papers are in order and just keep 20,000 baht of cash on you in case they ask. There's absolutely no need to go all the way to Nongkai if you have a a proper visa with a new entry.
BTW, it's not important what the Burmese do of course.
Mau Posted on October 20, 2014 at 08:08:41
Mommore pictures needed at the Burmese immigration, I was there last week, they didn't even stamp my passport. Not so sure they can renew after 90 days at Thai immigration, that's why I believe you have to got Nonkai-Vientiane because they have a Thai embassy, like I said, better go to the immigration office in CNX and ask for yourself what's the best.

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