15-day visa run: One day by minibus from Chiang Mai to Mae Sai, Burma border

welcome to thailand

After one month of living in Chiang Mai, Tim and I needed to do a visa run. (Well, Tim needed to do a Visa run, and I am being a good travel buddy) As usual, we left things to the last minute so Tim's visa actually expired on the day we were leaving but there was no issue with this. *1

Our 4-hour journey to the border of Thailand and Myanmar / Burma began at 8 AM. We got up a little earlier in order to have breakfast not knowing if they would stop the bus on the way - they did.

The office in Chaing Mai is situated across from the Train Station were we organised our Visa run to Mae Sai, Burma. This is also the bus we took.

To get to the office, ask any taxi driver to bring you to the train station. Leaving the train station, walking down the road, walk right for only 10 seconds. The office is located across the street.

The bus was 'okay' on the comfort level. Being 6 foot, you'd think I was a giant as the bus seemed more built for Thai people and so Tim and I were pretty cramped on the way there. *2

5 hours later, we arrived safe and sound. The extra hour was added on to our trip as 4 girls on the bus were meant to get off in Chiang Rai but the driver didn't know. Half an hour past Chiang Rai, we had to drive back, it was a lovely little addition to our journey.

When you arrive, you might be thinking for a few moments, 'now what?' But following everyone else, you walk to the large blue building (Pictured below) and into the 'Passport Control' queue (Pictured left).

The Mae Sai, Burma / Thailand Border

Following the crowd, you walk to the large Thai / Burmese border and get into the queue titled: 'Passport Control'. Do not take any pictures as I did and immediately had a police officer asking me to delete the images.

The queue moved pretty slowly and with only around 8 people in front of us, it took around 25 minutes for us to get through *3

You can pay for your 15-day visa using a 10 dollar bill, the equivalent of only 300 baht

After passport control, you walk to the other end of the bridge. When you reach the other end of the bridge and staying on the right hand side, you will walk through a curtained door and hand your passport to a uniformed police officer. You will need to pay 500 baht for your Visa stamp. (You may also pay using a 10 dollar bill, the equivalent to only 300 baht)

If you have time, you can quickly cross the bridge and wander the Burmese markets for some fake sex DVD's and Viagra, I'm just saying.

The bridge connecting Thailand and Burma

Heading back the way you came, you will be handed a departure and arrival card at the Thai border. The details needed are your passport number and an address in Thailand, you do not need your visa number.

So as quickly as you arrive you must return and with that we were back on the bus. Another HUGE benefit to going on a quiet day was on the return journey there was only 7 people. This meant we could push our chairs back flat which made the return journey a whole lot easier. All in all, we were expecting the day to be a lot worse. The bus was fine and for only 1000 baht each we were driven to the border, got our new visa's and we're back by 5:30 pm.

*1 Do book your spot on the bus a few days in advance. Most of the visa runs seem to be done by Mini buses so 13 places is not a lot and they book up pretty fast, especially in high tourist seasons.

*2 Try your best to sit by a window. It does get pretty hot and it made my journey a hell of a lot more comfortable. My arm did get burned from it hanging out the window, but worth it. 8 hours is long enough, so get as comfy as you can.

*3 Yet another reason to try and go on a quiet day. With only 8 to 10 people in front of us, the queue moved pretty slowly. I can't imagine how long it might take on a busy day.

*Extra Water, water, water.

About the author

Paul Feeney

Paul Feeney is a business entrepreneur with experience starting and building businesses through the correct use of Print, Social Media & Online Marketing. Now on a mission to visit the 100 Wonders of the World, his aim is to understand, build and live the perfect lifestyle.

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