How to Do Visa Run from Chiang Mai to Mae Sai: My Experience


Embarking on a visa run from Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Mae Sai, Myanmar (Burma), is no small feat. In fact, on this occasion, I decided to brave it solo, choosing to navigate the route with a scooter I had rented. The journey was lengthy, totaling around 10 hours, with much-needed stops along the way.

Despite the beautiful scenery and the unparalleled sense of adventure, the trip proved more challenging than expected. Given the chance, I would not recommend this mode of travel for a visa run. Next time, I’ll definitely opt for a more comfortable and less strenuous choice: an organized taxi service.

Let me share the details of my journey.

What is a Visa Run?

Ever heard of the term “visa run”? If not, let me enlighten you. A visa run is a necessary journey one makes to a neighboring country to extend or renew their visa. It’s a fairly common practice among digital nomads, expatriates, and long-term travelers.

Why Mae Sai?

Now, you might be wondering, why Mae Sai for a visa run? Well, Mae Sai is Thailand’s northernmost town and conveniently shares a border with Tachileik in Myanmar, making it a popular destination for those needing a visa refresh.

Spontaneous selfie at the border in Mae Sa.
Spontaneous selfie at the border in Mae Sa.

Preparing for the Journey

Document Checklist

Passport: Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from your intended travel date. This is a general requirement for most international travel.

500 Thai Baht: Have at least 500 baht on hand for the border crossing fee into Tachileik, Myanmar.

No Covid Permit Required: At my travel time, there was no need for a Covid permit or any similar health documentation for this visa run.

Remember, the specifics might change depending on current travel advisories and regulations. So, it’s always best to keep yourself updated.

Essential Items for the Trip

Additionally, pack essentials such as water, snacks, and sunscreen. And, of course, bring more money with you in case you need to buy tolls or stop for food along the way.

Setting off from Chiang Mai

Modes of Transportation

There are multiple ways to undertake a visa run from Chiang Mai to Mae Sai.

Here’s a list of options, each with their own pros and cons:

Join a Foreigners Group: The most recommended way is to join a group of fellow foreigners for the journey. On platforms like Facebook, you can find groups of ex-pats or long-term travelers who organize visa-run trips together. This method provides a sense of community and safety as you’re traveling with people familiar with the process.

Shuttle Service: Another option is to book a spot on a shuttle service. Companies like provide dedicated services for visa runs. These services often include transportation, assistance with the border crossing, and sometimes even meals.

Rent a Vehicle: For the more adventurous, you can rent a car, motorcycle, or even a scooter. This gives you the freedom to travel at your own pace and explore along the way. However, be aware of the challenges, such as navigating unfamiliar roads and dealing with potential vehicle breakdowns.

Each of these options has its own merits. Evaluate them based on your comfort level, budget, and sense of adventure.

My Chosen Route

As I mentioned earlier, I took the path less traveled, opting to rent a scooter for the visa run. At 250 baht, it seemed like a good deal, but I soon discovered that the low cost came with its own set of challenges.

Let me tell you, driving for 9 hours straight is not for the faint of heart. It’s an arduous task, both physically and mentally. The journey was tiring and required constant attention to navigate the unfamiliar terrain. The excitement of the open road quickly gave way to exhaustion.

In retrospect, although the trip was indeed an adventure, I would consider joining a group of fellow visa-runners or opting for organized transportation next time. This would reduce the strain of the long journey and offer a chance to share the experience with others who understand the intricacies of a visa run.

On the way to Mae Sa border
On the way to Mae Sa

Border Crossing Experience

Crossing the border was fast and relatively straightforward. All I required were my passport, 500 baht, and some patience. On the Thai side, I had to fill out an immigration form and present it with my passport. On the Myanmar side, I was only required to show my passport and pay the 500 baht fee.

After completing the necessary paperwork, I was back in Thailand with my visa extended for another month.

Key Takeaways

I would not recommend making the trip solo, especially by scooter. For a better way, consider joining an organized group or booking a shuttle service.

Note, It is important to remember that the specifics of your visa run might vary depending on current regulations and advisories. Therefore, stay updated with the latest information when preparing.


1. What documents are required for a visa run to Mae Sai?

You will need a valid passport for at least six months and 500 Thai baht to cover the border crossing fee into Tachileik, Myanmar.

2. What is the best way to undertake a visa run to Mae Sai?

The most recommended way is to join a group of fellow foreigners for the journey. Alternatively, you can book a spot on a shuttle service or rent a vehicle if you prefer to travel solo.

3. Is a Covid permit required for the visa run?

At the time of writing, there is no need for a Covid permit or any similar health documentation for this visa run. However, it’s always best to keep yourself updated with current regulations and advisories before embarking on your journey.

4. What can I do in Mae Sai?

Mae Sai offers vibrant marketplaces, friendly locals, and amazing food. You can shop, try local cuisines, and explore the culture.

5. Is a visa run a legal way to extend my stay in Thailand?

Yes, a visa run is a legal method used to extend your stay in Thailand.

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Yoav Bulshtein

Hey there, I'm Yoav Bulshtein, a digital nomad and search engine optimization expert from Israel. I've been traveling the world, experiencing new cultures, and optimizing websites along the way.

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Yoav Bulshtein

Hi there! My name is Yoav, and I’m the owner of Digital Nomadness.

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