With everything Thailand has to offer travelers… its sandy southern beaches and tropical islands, its beautiful northern mountains and the friendly locals that make up the country, why wouldn’t you want to stick around for a while. After all, in a country where its easy to live on the cheap and stick to a backpacker’s budget, why would you want to limit yourself to just a week a two? Well there are plenty of us, myself included, that have wanted to go past that 4 week mark….
Currently, most countries are allowed only a 30 day visa although some will allow a 60 day duration. These are almost always based on travel into the country by air. If coming by land over the border, be advised you are usually limited to only 15 days for your visa in Thailand. So, for all of those that want to stay here longer than our Visa allows, you have a few options…
The first and most common option is to do a visa run to a neighboring country. While I was in Thailand, I had done this on three separate occasions and trust me, this is not uncommon amongst backpackers in Southeast Asia. The way it works is simple. You basically just need to cross over the border into a neighboring country, turn around, and go right back into the border crossing into Thailand. Essentially, that is all. However, be aware that some border crossings will take longer than others and your proximity within Thailand will play a big role into where you decide to do your visa run.
You can always just organize your own visa run, but there plenty of companies that offer visa run services to travelers in Thailand that can make the trip more affordable than you may do on your own, mainly due to the fact that there will be many other travelers en route with you on a bus, etc. to cross the border and make the return trip. Their services can also make the trip a lot more comfortable. For around 2,000 Baht for most visa run services, they’ll leave out in the morning in an air-conditioned bus, have you back by dinner in most instances and may even provide food along the way. There are visa run services in most major cities such as Bangkok, Krabi, Chang Mai, etc. Of course, you don’t always have to just leave and come right back. Most travelers that have the time will be traveling into neighboring countries such as Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before making their return trip however its a great quick option do a visa run in Thailand when you want to stay that extra week or two as most visa run services run daily round trips.
Another option is to simply get your visa extended while still in Thailand. A lot of travelers may not realize this is an option. In order to do so, you’ll have to visit the local Thai embassy to apply for an extension and the fee is currently around 1900 Baht. For more information, you can follow this link here. The reason a lot of travelers don’t go with this option is the fact that most travelers won’t be in close proximity of an embassy to do so when the time comes to do their extension. Couple that with the fact that the cost is nearly the same and they would have to wait in long queues in the embassy anyway just as they may have to do so at a border crossing. The days you’ll get for this extension can vary as well based on your current visa.
Lastly, if you really want to extend your stay without the hassle of visa extensions and border runs, you can always arrange to take Thai language classes. They will allow you the option to live in Thailand legally without having to work (if you choose not to) and without having to do visa runs. For around 25,000 Baht ($750 USD), you can sign up for an education visa to take classes for a full year. And for the chance to live in Thailand for a full year at that cost, it could make sense both financially and logistically if you want to go this route and spend that amount of time immersing yourself in the country. It may not grant you a green card such as you’d find in the U.S. but its enough to allow you a year’s worth of experiences in a place like Thailand. Should you go this route, it would really offer that full ‘overseas experience’.
Whichever option you choose to extend your time in Thailand, it will be well worth it…Hence the reason I made 3 border crossings in Thailand myself! It’s not the cheapest way to spend time there but while you’re there, better make the best of it and maximize your time. For more information on Thailand visas, you can check out the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Thai Embassy. Just be sure to click on the ‘English’ version at the top left, unless you know Thai of course… They have a link at the bottom for consular services for visa and travel docs. As always, comments, questions and fellow traveler experiences are welcomed!