If you are in Chiang Mai and need to do a visa run, the closest border to reach by land is Mae Sai. The quickest, most comfortable choice is to go to Mae Sai via the VIP Green Bus which departs from the Arcade Bus Station in Chiang Mai. It leaves around 7:45 AM and returns back to the city in the evening. It’s advised to book your ticket with a return ahead of time because it is Motorbike Tours Thailand . The seats are spacious and comfortable and they provide a snack. A toilet is located in the back. It is a non-stop ride and the air conditioning is full blast so remember to bring a sweater or a light blanket.

There are a host of other buses that depart daily to Mae Sai between 6:30 AM and 3:30 PM with a few buses departing later on the weekends. The fares range in price from about 150 – 400 baht one way. The ordinary bus stops frequently along the way. Depending on which line you choose, the times vary between 3.5 and 5 hours to get to Mae Sai, with the least expensive generally taking the longest.

An alternative is to book a bus ticket from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai; this trip takes around 3 hours. You can then catch a local bus from Chiang Rai to Mae Sai for about 50 Baht. They run every 20 minutes and the trip takes around 90 minutes. The bus stops at a station about 7 km from Burma where you hop on a red songthaew for 15 baht that goes straight to the border. Remember to allow yourself about 30 minutes on the return to your bus as they stop along the way to pick up other passengers. After you have dealt with your visa, you will see the red trucks lined up on your left in front of the 7-Eleven.

Two more alternatives: rent a car or drive your own motorbike.

You may also opt for going with one of several minivan companies who organize day tours that include lunch and a trip to the border for your stamp. These tours cost about 800 baht from Chiang Mai and combine sightseeing with a visa run, going to some of the interesting places in the area. Most guest houses can make arrangements for you, as well as any of the tour offices.

When you get to the border, you will see the Immigration office on the Thai side and hand your passport to an immigration officer behind the counter who will then stamp it with an official seal which simply states you are leaving Thailand. You then walk across the bridge and you will see the Burma immigration office on the right side. You walk inside, if there is no line, and hand an officer 500 baht or US$10 with your passport.

Be sure your money is in good, clean condition with no tears or markings on it. If you arrive and are in need of a bank, assuming it is not the weekend or a holiday, there are a few Thai branches on the right side of the street, before the bridge, as well as ATM machines.

If you have time and want to continue inside Burma to the nearby market, you will receive a temporary day permit and then pick up your passport afterwards from the same office before heading back across the bridge into Thailand. Otherwise explain that you are going straight back and not shopping and they will take care of you right away. There is also a duty free shop on the bridge opposite the Burmese immigration office which sells designer leather goods, sunglasses, alcohol, etc. Each adult is limited to three bottles of spirits upon reentering the Kingdom of Thailand.

The border market is just down the stairs on the right side at the end of the bridge and you will most likely be swarmed with different vendors desperately trying to sell you cheap cigarettes, Viagra, and bootleg DVDs, etc. There are many little stalls and shops selling touristy trinkets crammed into the area. You might prefer to sit down in one of the cafes or tea shops and enjoy a cold beverage or a snack, of which there are many to choose from.


By Gilbert

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