Citizens of dozens of countries are able to enter Thailand visa-free for stays of up to 30 days.
This makes it one of the easiest countries in Asia to visit impulsively. Other travelers, and visitors on longer trips, need a visa, but they’re easy and inexpensive to obtain.
There’s a lot to see and do in Thailand, and your visa must cover the full period of your stay. Make sure you know the requirements before your trip; read on for the basics.
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What you need to know about visas in Thailand
Entry procedures for tourists to Thailand are very straightforward, whether you arrive by air or overland. Thailand shares land borders with Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, and many people zip in and out multiple times on a multi-destination trip around 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 that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry, with several spare blank pages.
Whatever your visa status, you’ll need to show your passport and completed Arrival and Departure cards on arrival. The Departure card will be collected when you leave, so keep it safe with your passport. You can be denied entry without proof of an onward ticket and sufficient funds for your stay, but in practice, this is rarely checked.
You’ll also need to enter an address in Thailand on your arrival card, but again this is rarely followed up. If you don’t have a hotel booked, pick a name from a guidebook or an 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 current rules. The Do I need a tourist visa? section of Thailand’s e-visa website is very helpful for identifying requirements based on your nationality.
Leaving Thailand via a land border to begin a new tourist visa is a popular though potentially risky route © Olesya Kuznetsova / Shutterstock
Visa-free entry to Thailand depends on what passport you hold
Thailand allows visa-free entry for tourists from many countries for stays of up to 45 days. The exact list of countries and permitted durations of stay varies, but it usually includes the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, most of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and more prosperous nations in Asia and the Middle East.
A smaller group of countries get visa-free entry as part of bilateral agreements, including citizens of Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Tunisia and South Korea.
You’ll need at least six months’ validity on your passport, and you may be asked to show proof of funds and an onward travel ticket.
Some visitors can get a tourist visa on arrival (VoA)
Citizens of some smaller European countries, and a handful of destinations in Asia, including Indian and Chinese travelers, can get a tourist visa on arrival (VoA) for a 30-day stay. For longer stays, apply for a visa through a Thai embassy or consulate.
There are desks handling the paperwork at more than 30 airports and land border crossings. You’ll need a recent passport photo, proof of funds to support yourself and tickets for onward travel within 30 days. The cash fee is 2000B, payable in Thai Baht.
Get a tourist visa in advance from your local embassy or consulate
If you are not eligible for visa-free travel or a VoA, you will need to apply for a tourist visa in advance of your visit, which is valid for three or six months. Fees and conditions vary; contact your local Thai embassy or consulate for the latest rules.
Many Thai visas are now issued as e-visas
The Thai government’s e-visa process makes applying online a possibility for eligible nationalities. Use the Q&A form to understand if this process is open to you. If it is, you can create an online account and follow the steps to provide all the requested information digitally, paying the application fee ahead of processing. If your application is successful, a confirmation email will be sent to you, which you should print out and show to airline or immigration officials when traveling to Thailand.
Education visas are another option for travelers wanting to stay longer to learn more about Thai culture © Anna Ewa Bieniek / Shutterstock
Education visas are available for those going to study
Thousands of travelers visit Thailand yearly for long-term diving training, meditation study, Muay Thai courses, language lessons and more. If that’s you, you can apply for an education visa lasting up to three months.
You’ll need a letter of acceptance from an accredited education institution showing you are enrolled in a course, and your passport should be valid for at least six months past the end of the course. The single-entry visas are valid for three months.
Business travelers and long-term digital nomads need a visa too
For business travel, Thailand offers non-immigrant visas lasting three months for a single entry, or one year for multiple entries. For digital nomads, the long-term residents visa Thailand may be the one for you, allowing up to a 10-year stay for skilled professionals that wish to work from Thailand.
Tourist visas can be extended in Thailand
If you run 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 Thai immigration authorities; the usual fee is 1900B. See the website of the Immigration Bureau for office listings.
Remember to dress in your best when you visit the office; turning up in threadbare beachwear and thongs is unlikely to reassure the immigration officers that you have funds to support yourself for a longer stay.
For all types of visa extensions, bring two passport-sized photos and photocopies of the photo and visa pages from your passport. Always take care of visa business yourself; if you go through a third party, you’ll pay more, and there’s a risk of falling for a scam.
What if I overstay my visa?
If you overstay your visa, the usual penalty is a fine of 500B per day, with a 20,000B limit. Fines must be paid in Thai baht, either at the airport or in advance at an immigration office. Kids under 15 are exempt, and if you’ve overstayed by only one day or your departure is delayed because of circumstances beyond your control (e.g., a flight cancellation by the airline), you usually won’t get charged.
“The visa run” is still a possibility… twice
Another extremely popular extension-of-stay option for travelers who are eligible for visa-free entry is to simply cross a land border and re-enter Thailand after a few days. A new visa exemption will be issued upon your return.
This works well the first two times, but authorities are becoming increasingly tough on travelers who try to extend their stay indefinitely by popping over the border multiple times; don’t expect to be able to come back in if you’ve already done it twice, and remember that re-entry is at the discretion of the visa agent.