After receiving a few enquiries from readers of my other related posts confused over the difference between a visa run and a border run, I thought I should clarify exactly what a border/visa run involves, and the differences between the two.
Let's start by understanding why you'd need to do a visa/border run in the first place.
When you enter Thailand, you will be given a exemption stamp. This stamps allows you to stay for 30 days, or 15 days, depending on which country you are from.
When this time is up, you will need to leave the country.
Now, you can extend your stay by visiting an immigration office and paying a fee, but you can only do this once. Another option to extend your stay is to leave the country and come back in.
Additionally, those who have a visa will have a specific period of time that they are allowed to stay in the country for. This is usually 60 or 90 days, depending on the type of visa.
Once this period is up, they will need to leave the country and either come back in and reactivate another period of validity on their existing visa, or get a new visa from a consulate or embassy in another country.
We will discuss some of these things in greater detail below, I just wanted to establish why a border/visa run is required in the first place.
The Difference Between a Visa Run & Border Run
The terms “visa run” and “border run” can be used interchangeably, though there are nuances pertaining to different circumstances.
Both require you to go across the border and back, so essentially they are one of the same thing. However, depending on your situation, they may mean slightly different things.
For the sake of this post I'll provide examples to explain how they can differ slightly in meaning, but by the end of the post you'll see why they are really one and the same.
The Visa Run
If you do not have a visa and are seeking to obtain one, then you will need to visit a consulate or an embassy outside of Thailand.
This will most likely require you to stay for one or two nights in your destination, so that you have time to visit the consulate or embassy and apply for and collect the visa.
Arguably, this is the main difference between these two terms.
In this scenario, the term “visa run” would be more applicable, because you are running over the border to get a visa.
However, the term “visa run” can still be applied to those who do have a visa, because, as we'll discuss below, they are seeking to get a new stamp in their visa by running to the border.
The Border Run
When people use the term “border run”, it generally refers to the fact that they already have a visa, or that they are simply seeking to re-enter the country on an exemption stamp – thus they need to go over the border and come back in the same day.
So the term border run generally refers to literally going over the border and coming back in (running to the border and back = border run).
There are a number of companies who offer this service. A typical border run would involve getting a ticket from a border run company and boarding a minivan early in the morning. You would then drive to the nearest border and stamp out of Thailand ( usually a 3-4 hour trip there and back).
Once on the other side in the destination country, you turn around and come straight back into Thailand, getting a re-entry stamp in the process.
Land Border Runs
If you do not have a proper visa, and were previously on an exemption stamp – which would have given you 30 days on arrival at the airport (might be 15 days depending on the country you are from) – entering Thailand again via land will give you a new stamp with a validity of 30 days.
It used to be the case that going out of Thailand and coming back in would get you just 15 days stay, but they have since changed this rule (*for most nationalities – see chart below).
They also keep an eye on the amount of “in out” stamps that you have in your passport. If you abuse the system without getting a proper visa, you can expect to be stopped by immigration and questioned on this matter, and possibly refused a stamp.
Airport Border Runs
Flying in and out of Thailand can still be considered a border run or a Visa run, because you are going over a border, turning around and coming back in. However, the rules will be slightly different for those who do not have a proper visa.
If you fly out of Thailand and turn around and fly back in the same day, you can get another 30-day stamp on arrival. Again though, if you do two or three or four of these in our airport border/visa runs, expect to be questioned by immigration at some point.
They will question your intention, and ask what it is that you are doing in Thailand that you need to keep going out and coming back in.
If it is the case that you have a girlfriend or wife in Thailand, family in Thailand, or you are working in Thailand, they will want to know why you haven't got the proper visa in place.
Even if you are simply a tourist who enjoys visiting over and over again, they will ask you why you have not obtained a tourist visa for this purpose.
Indeed, it is my advice that you do obtain a tourist visa rather than doing back-to-back border/visa runs – it will save you any hassle with immigration. A tourist visa is also relatively cheap and easy to obtain. See here.
Getting Your Visa Stamped (at the border)
For those who do have a proper visa, such as a Multiple Entry Tourist Visa, or a Multiple Entry Non-Immigrant O Visa, when you go over the border and turn around and come straight back in, you will receive a stamp that activates a new validity period of your existing visa.
If you have a Multiple Entry Tourist Visa, you will be given another 60 days. If you have a Multiple Entry Non-Immigrant O Visa, you will be given another 90 days stay.
One should also note that these visas can be extended at immigration for a cost of 1,900 Baht. So if you are unable to go on a border run, you can extend your visa for a period of time by going to immigration with the relevant documentation and fee.
If you have a Non-Immigrant O Visa, you will be able to extend once in the yearly validity period, for 60 days. If you have a Multiple Entry Tourist Visa, you can extend once within the visa validity period, for 30 days.
For those who are new to this process, I hope this post is giving you a clear insight as to what a visa/border run is and why it is necessary, and the nuances between the two terms.
If your visa is about to expire and you need to leave the country to activate another period of validity, or you simply want to go in and out and receive another 15 days in Thailand, or you want to visit the consulate or embassy of another country to obtain a visa, visit the link below to see my recommended visa/border run itinerary.
Getting a Visa to Cross the Border
Depending on your nationality, you may need a Visa to cross over the border into the country where you are doing your border/visa run. For example, the large majority of nationalities will require a Visa to get into Laos.
In Laos, this can be paid for at the border. you can pay in US Dollars or Baht, with US Dollars usually working out the cheaper option. however, you can get your Visa in advance. This can be advantageous and more convenient. You won't need to fill in the Visa application form when you arrive or fiddle about with money.
You can use the widget below to determine whether or not you need a Visa for your destination country.
If you are considering doing a Visa run, then check out my recommendation for the fastest, most comfortable, most affordable Visa run option.
In this post I break down the entire Visa run step-by-step, and even recommend great but cheap accommodation for those who need to stay overnight to in order to visit the Thai embassy.