The visa exemption rule enables you to enter Thailand without needing to apply for a visa at a local Thai embassy or consulate.
Thailand has an agreement with 64 countries that facilitates visa-free travel for tourist visitors.
In this guide I will run through the entry requirements to help you ensure you are compliant for your visit.
What Is a Visa Exemption Stamp?
When you enter Thailand a visa exemption stamp will put in your passport by an immigration officer.
If you arrive by air or land, this stamp permits you to stay 30 days inside the country. The date of your entry and required leave date will be printed on the stamp.
There is no charge for this stamp. It is given to you when you hand over your passport in the immigration queue.
If you stay beyond 30 days, then you are considered to be on overstay and and you will be fined 500 Baht per day, with a maximum fine of 20,000 Baht. More on overstay here.
The visa exemption entry is granted a maximum of twice in a calendar year when entering over land or via a sea border. There is no limitation when entering by air.
For Malaysians entering by land border, there is no limitation on crossings per year. Citizens of Korea, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, and Chile get a 90-day exemption at both airport and land borders.
The Six Stamp Limit Rule
Despite the official law stating that there is no limitation to the amount of times you can enter by air in a calendar year, you may have read elsewhere that there is a six limit rule.
This rule is not set in law, but rather said to be a quota that triggers suspicion.
Apparently an immigration officer will be alerted when you reach a total of six in/outs in a year.
That doesn't mean that the officer will refuse you entry, but it does mean that he/she will look deeper into your travel history and may question your intentions.
I would advise people who intend on visiting more than a few times a year to consider getting a tourist visa, which is easily obtainable from an embassy or consulate in your home country. A multiple entry TV lasts for 6 months, with a maximum 60-day stay in any given visit.
The 64 countries allowed entry under the visa exemption rule are as follows: (I've listed the countries with special rules first)
- Peru (30 and 90 days)
- Argentina (90 days)
- Chile (90 days)
- Korea (30 and 90 days)
- Brazil (30 and 90 days)
- Cambodia (14 days only)
- Myanmar (14 days only)
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- Slovak Republic
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States
My Country Is Not on the List, What Now?
Don't worry. This means you need a visa.
You can apply for an eVisa on arrival using iVisa. It's a quick service that cuts out the middle man.
Select your country of origin in the box to start the process:
Requirements for the Visa Exemption Stamp
Even though you don't have to apply, there are still rules that apply to visa exemption entry.
- Your visit must be strictly for the purpose of tourism.
- Your passport has a validity of 6 months or more.
- You must have a confirmed return ticket to show that you are flying out of Thailand within 30 days of entry. Open tickets do not qualify. On arrival you may be asked to show proof of a return ticket. Traveling over land out of Thailand by train, bus, etc to Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia (including en route to Singapore), Myanmar, etc may be accepted as proof of exiting Thailand.
- You will need to be able to funds of at least 10,000 THB per person, or 20,000 THB for a family.
You do not need travel insurance to enter Thailand, but it is sensible to take out a policy to cover any unfortunate circumstances.
If you incur medical expenses in Thailand the bill will not be covered by the state. You will pay out of your own pocket, so I recommend getting cover.
You may have an international health insurance policy that covers travel, so check that first.
If not, travel insurance is very affordable and covers medical emergencies and personal injury and accidents. It can also cover missed/delayed flights, and lost luggage.
I recommend the following two companies:
A Word on The Entry Requirements
Most people who have previously visited Thailand won't recall ever having been asked to show a return ticket, or to prove that they have funds of at least 10,000 Baht for their stay.
I certainly haven't.
But that's because in Thailand rules are set but not always applied.
You might come across an immigration officer who is a stickler for the rules and works to the absolute word, and you might come across an officer who is less strict and actually smiles!
Moreover, sometimes rules get changed and the change doesn't filter down through the ranks for a long time (we've seen this in the case of requirements for marriage), meaning that some government officials are applying old rules and confusing foreign nationals.
Regardless of what you've heard from other people, or what's happened to you in the past, always read up on the requirements before you travel.
If you are entering on a visa exemption stamp, then make sure you are doing so for tourism purposes only, and that you have a confirmed return ticket to show that you are flying out of Thailand on a specific date.
If you don't have a return flight, use a service like Onewayfly to get one, without having to pay for the flight.
It might be worth carrying that 10,000 Baht, too, or the equivalent in foreign currency or travelers cheques, to prove that you have the funds required for your stay.
You don't have to carry it, though. You could show it at an ATM. As long as you can prove you have the amount you're good to go.
Extending Your Stay by 30 Days
If you enter Thailand on an exemption stamp, you will be given a 30-day stay. You can extend your stay for a further 30 days at an immigration office for a fee of 1,900 Baht.
Of course, you must do this before the 30 days expire.
You should set aside a whole day to get this completed, though it shouldn't take more than a few hours door to door. It will be far quicker if you get to the immigration office as close to opening time as possible.
Please note: Immigration reserve the right to extend your stay by less than 30 days and may give your 15 days, or even 7 days.
It doesn't usually happen, but immigration can also refuse to extend your stay, if they suspect you aren't visiting for the purpose of tourism, or see another red flag in your application.
What Happens When You're Refused Entry?
What happens if you exceed the permitted number of land crossings and are refused entry to Thailand, or perhaps on your seventh in/out air crossing of the year an immigration officer decides not to let you in?
There are two things you can do:
- Return to your home country.
- Go to the nearest country and get a tourist visa from the Thai embassy, and then enter Thailand again.
The first option probably isn't the one you're going to want to take. The second option will usually rectify the situation.
However, if you have a dubious travel history and you've been flagged on the system, it is possible that you will be granted a tourist visa in a neighboring country but be refused entry again once you return to Thailand. In this situation, your tourist visa will be stamped with a “void” stamp.
This is certainly not a good situation, and in such a case you would have to try and obtain another tourist visa and try your luck again with another immigration officer.
A Final Word of Advice
If you are coming to Thailand on holiday for a specific number of days, and you know that you are definitely going to leave on that day because you need to get back home, then the exemption stamp is designed for you.
However, if you think you might want to stay longer than your allotted 30 days, you should consider a Tourist Visa.
Sure, you can extend the exemption stamp at immigration, as explained above, but it will interrupt your trip and require a day trip to immigration. Moreover, you don't want to end up on overstay: It's easy to forget what day it is when your life is a blur of beaches, bars, and restaurants.