If you’re wondering how long can you stay in Thailand as a tourist, then what you’re really wondering about is the various visa options currently available in the much-loved Land of Smiles. We’ll cut right to the chase – there are quite a few! Yep, border admin in the land of peanut-topped noodles and gold-glimmering Buddhist temples can be a confusing business.
Don’t worry, though, because we’re here to help. We’ve slung together this ultimate guide to the most popular visa types and documents that travelers will be asked to present in Bangkok. It runs through some of the most common and sought-after entry passes on offer to folks jetting across to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, et al.
It’s a mixed bag because different visas are intended for different types of travelers. For example, you won’t be able to apply for a working visa in Thailand if you’re coming simply to see the temples of BKK and laze on the beaches. Similarly, you can’t enter as a tourist and then start teaching English. On top of that, certain visa types are only available to certain nationalities, which complicates matters a whole lot more.
Visa exemption (also called the visa waiver) – 30 days
There’s a whopping great big list of 64 countries that are currently eligible for Thailand’s Visa Exemption. Whether you’re from the Pyrenees of Andorra or the old towns of Poland, the Andes of Peru or the deserts of Oman, you’ll be able to rely on this tried-and-tested way of getting into the Land of Smiles. Oh, and both the United Kingdom and the United States are on the list, too. Nice.
The reason it’s such a gift to be included is that the Visa Exemption is by far the simplest way to score some time in Thailand. It offers 30 straight days of entry. It’s 100% gratis – yep, totally free to get. Oh, and it requires virtually zero admin – there’s no need to pre-apply or fill in any special forms or visit the Thai embassy before you hop on the plane.
Getting a Visa Exemption is a very simple process. Simply rock up to passport control once you’ve touched down in Thailand, fill out one of the visa-waiver forms, queue, get your stamp, and bingo – you’re in. It’s only possible to do this at international airports and international border and boat crossings. You can get a Visa Exemption as many times as you like each year, unless you’re returning to Thailand via land or sea, when it’s capped at twice annually.
The 30-day Visa Exemption is also strictly only to be used for tourist purposes. There are reports that Thai border authorities have become much more attentive to enforcing that in recent years, as it’s thought the waiver was widely abused by digital nomad travelers returning to Thailand month after month.
Visa on Arrival (often confused with the visa waiver) – 15 days
If you happen to be from a country that’s not on the long list that’s eligible for Thailand’s Visa Exemption, all is not lost. There’s another type of visa you can score without having to do any irritating pre-applications: The Visa on Arrival (VOA). Sadly, this one only offers just 15 days in the Land of Smiles, so you’ll need to be a little quicker about your tours of the Grand Palace and jaunts to the shimmering islands of the gulf!
There are currently nationalities of 19 countries that can use the VOA, including India, Fiji, Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Mexico. The list changes quite often though, with new countries added and dropped almost every year, so be sure to check that you’re still a-okay just before traveling.
There are some pretty tight regulations when it comes to the Visa on Arrival in Thailand. You’ll need to be able to show proof of a return flight out of the country a maximum of 15 days ahead of time. You will also need an address of residency in Thailand (most people give the address of their first hotel). Oh, and you will also need proof of travel funds to the value of at least 10,000 THB per person (that’s around $300).
Single Entry Tourist Visa – 60 days
The Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV) is a great option if you’re wondering how long you can stay in Thailand as a tourist and want more than the usual 30 days that the Visa Exemption offers. That’s because this one runs for a tan-topping 60 days in all. That’s two whole months in the Land of Smiles, which we think is the perfect amount of time to tour pretty much all the highlights, from the white-glinting beaches of Koh Lipe in the south all the way to the hippy bars of Pai in the north.
It will require a little extra in the way of administration though. First off, the SETV cannot be gotten at the border when you arrive. You have to apply for it before you even go to Thailand. That means a visit to a Thai embassy or consulate somewhere else in the world (usually your country of residence, but it doesn’t have to be) to present all the necessary documentation, including a photocopy of passport ID pages, flight information about your trip to Thailand, details of where you’ll be staying in Thailand when you arrive, and three visa-sized photographs.
There’s also a fee involved. It’s $40 for the SETV, or around 1,000 THB. That’s payable at the point of application during your embassy visit, so be sure to take the cash along (in whatever the local currency is) when you go for your interview. It usually takes two days to process this sort of visa, but some consulate locations (London, LA) offer a same-day service.
The SETV might offer 60 days in Thailand, which is great, but that comes with strings attached. You can’t leave the country and return. To do that, you’ll need to apply for a Multiple Entry Tourist Visa (see below). If you do happen to jet off somewhere else before the visa runs its course, then you will forfeit the rest of the days you’re allowed and, of course, the associated fee that you paid for them. The SETV visa also needs to be used within three months of being issued, so there’s no point in applying yonks in advance.
Multiple Entry Tourist Visa – 6 months!
How long can you stay in Thailand as a tourist if you really want to explore every nook and cranny of the Land of Smiles? How about six whole months? Yep, a whopping half a year lazing on the sands of Koh Lanta, splashing in the sparkling seas of Samui, glugging Chang in downtown Bangkok, and hiking the hills around Kanchanaburi. Sound fantastic, eh?
Sadly, as with most things Thai visa, it’s not quite that simple. The Multiple Entry Tourist Visa (METV) might also be known as the 6-month visa, but it’s not actually six months of uninterrupted entry. Instead, you should look at it as more of a pass to get as many 60-day visas as you like within a six-month period.
So, say you jet into Thailand just in time for the end of the rainy season in Koh Phi Phi on the 1st of November. You can stay 60 days from the date you touchdown, but then you will need to jet out again. The good thing is you can return right away, on the very same day if you’d like, back to Phi Phi’s beaches but also into any other international port (land, sea, or air). When you do that, you’ll get another 60-day stamp, no questions asked.
The process to get the METV is very similar to the process to get the SETV (see above). You’ll need to attend an interview at a Thai consulate outside of the country, take all the necessary documents, and pay a fee – it’s $175 for this longer-stay option. Perhaps the biggest negative with the Multiple Entry Visa is that it starts from the moment it’s issued, so your six months of entry stamps are getting less and less the moment you walk out of the Thai consulate.
Extending my visa in Thailand
It’s possible to get a visa extension for virtually all types of Thai visas. However, it’s not without hassle. You need to attend an immigration office in person before the date of expiry on your visa, take along photographs, identification documents, and, more often than not, answer some prying questions about the reason you’re looking to extend. On top of that, there’s a fee and it’s not cheap – extensions on Visa Exemptions, for example, cost up to 1,900 THB ($56). That’s more than a 60-day visa in the first place!
Overstaying my visa in Thailand
Overstaying any sort of visa is considered a serious offense in Thailand. However, that doesn’t stop it from happening, and we always hear stories of folk who fall foul of immigration when they come to jet out of the country and the dates don’t match up.
The general rule is that you’ll get a fine of 500 THB ($15) per day for every day you’ve overstayed up to a maximum of 20,000 THB ($600). After that, you could be deported from the country and banned from re-entry for several years. That also doesn’t look good at all on your passport record, so could impact your ability to apply for visas in other countries around the globe. Yikes!
Our advice? Don’t even think about doing this!
How long can you stay in Thailand as a tourist? A quick conclusion
There’s no easy answer here. Lengths of potential stays in this sun-kissed land in the heart of Southeast Asia can vary from just a few hours on a flight stopover to years on end for those visiting as expats and professionals.
Different visas are better suited to different types of travelers, so it’s always worth doing a little research on the documentation that’s best for you before you jet off to the shimmering beaches of Phuket or the jungle-covered hills of Chiang Mai.
Remember, though, not all travelers from all destinations will be eligible for all types of visas. There can actually be quite a few hoops to jump through and requirements to satisfy, particularly if you’re keen to score entry to Thailand for longer periods.
As a general rule, how long can you stay in Thailand as a tourist ranges from up to 30 days on a Visa Exemption to around six months on the METV, although that does require you to leave and return to the country at least every 60 days.