Cheapest Thai Visa Runs: Staying in Paradise for Longer
Once you’re in Thailand you should wholly expect that you’re going to want to stay forever. The only problem with that? Visas. They’re just small bits of paper but they’re necessary if you want to legally stay in the country. Thankfully, you can get extensions by hopping the border. These are the cheapest Thai visa runs.
First off, before you venture further into this guide, set yourself a maximum price limit. Then have a look on Skyscanner and see if there is a cheap return flight from your local airport. If you’re in Bangkok, there are regular low-price fares to nearby countries and it could make your life a lot simpler and more pleasant. If the flights are too expensive or there aren’t any at decent times for you then read on.
Note: It’s also worth mentioning that every trip can be extended by 30 days with a Thai visa extension.
Option 1 – Penang, Malaysia
This is a really simple package and can be one of the most pleasant self-guided visa runs. Entering Malaysia doesn’t require a visa for the vast majority of western countries (definitely double check your nationality on the website) making it relatively cheap as well.
Depending on where you are in the country, the simplest method is to take the overnight train from Bangkok for roughly 1200 baht. At the border (Padang Besar) you’ll get your Malaysian stamp before continuing onto Butterworth. There’s really not a lot to see here. What we suggest is that you jump on the short ferry (15-20 minute crossing) which goes from right next to the train station. The ferry docks in Georgetown on Penang which is a fantastic city full of excellent cafes, culture tours and food. Don’t expect too much of a party- whilst Love Lane can get excitable, that’s about it. Malaysia is a relatively dry country.
Once you’ve settled into Georgetown you can arrange your visa. You could go for the more expensive but completely stress-free option and employ a visa agency, or you can sort it yourself by going to the visa office. When we last did this it was really straight forward as long as you have all your paperwork in place. Make sure that you have proof of onward travel for the end of your journey; some people have managed to get away using fake ticket sites in the past but we wouldn’t know about that.
Cost: Roughly 1200 baht for the train each way, around 250-400 baht a night accommodation plus visa cost.
Option 2 – Vientiane, Laos
The better option for those in Northern Thailand. There are lots of companies offering visa runs from Chiang Mai as well as from Bangkok. You can also take an overnight train which is stress free and very pleasant. Getting to the border town of Nong Khai is easy, but crossing the Mekhong and getting into Vientiane isn’t always straightforward. You’ll also need to pay for a Laos visa on arrival.
Head for Patuxai Park to find the Thai embassy where you’ll be able to get a visa relatively quickly. Unfortunately, we can’t offer much more information past that. The buses go when they want to, if you’d like to save time and have the budget you could grab private transport into Vientiane for around 200 baht.
Cost: 700 baht each way for the train, 1500 baht for your Laos visa.
Option 3 – Savannakhet, Laos
Vientiane’s lesser known visa-run brother. It’s far less busy, meaning that you might have less of a queue. There’s not a great deal to do in Savannakhet and it’s a mighty 8-hour bus ride from Bangkok to Mukhdahan (the border town).
You’ll also want to factor in transport in and out of Savannakhet once you’ve sorted your Laos visa. We suggest getting a tuk tuk direct to the consulate, drop off your documents and then usually you’ll be able to collect them the next day.
If you’re looking for a stress-free trip, we recommend Bangkok Buddy.
Cost: 1600 baht for a return bus, 1500 Laos visa.
Plan Your Thai Visa Runs Ahead of Time
Obviously, it’s tempting to just make it up as you go along whilst travelling. In the case of visas, it is worth being prepared and planning ahead. You could save yourself a great deal of time, money and headaches!