Border Crossing from Mae Sai to Tachileik, Burma: Travel and Visa Info 2016

Updated on December 19, 2017
Mae Sai, on the Thai-Burmese border is the most northerly town in Thailand.
Mae Sai, on the Thai-Burmese border is the most northerly town in Thailand. | Source

Visitors to North Thailand and expats who are semi-resident, and who wish to stay longer than the current period of their multiple-entry visa allows, often make use of an interesting opportunity that involves travelling to the town of Mae Sai, which sits on the Thai side of the border with Burma, (or Myanmar, to give it its official name). From there, they cross the border via the Thai and Myanmar Border Control posts for a day trip (or longer - up to 14 days if they like) to the adjoining Burmese town of Tachileik (or Tachilek), before returning to Mae Sai later in the day.

Unfortunately, those on a single-entry visa can no longer make use of this crossing to re-enter on Thailand's 'Visa Waiver Scheme'. See details below.

Buddha statue at Doi Wao Temple, Mae Sai, Thailand
Buddha statue at Doi Wao Temple, Mae Sai, Thailand | Source

Mae Sai

Mae Sai's main claim to fame is that it's the most northerly point in Thailand. It's not noted for its tourist attractions, and most Thais and foreigners who come here do so in order to cross over to Burma.

There are some fairly cheap, standard quality hotels, such as Top North hotel which is on the same road as the border crossing, literally a couple of minutes walk from the large blue-roofed immigration building that you must pass through if crossing to Burma. If you intend to stay overnight in Mae Sai, expect to pay around 500 baht ($17) for a night in a room with aircon plus cable TV, and usually unreliable WiFi. There are also some fairly basic (room and fan) type guest houses by the river, which is the geographical border with Burma, for around 200 baht. Turn left at the border control to find them. A few more upmarket hotels can be found behind the main road still within walking distance of the Border Control.
Although, the town isn't particularly interesting, the surrounding countryside is picturesque and could be worth exploring if you have time. Just make sure you don't stray into Burma illegally.

In the town and also within walking distance from the Thai border control, Doi Wao Temple is worth a visit. It's high on a hill. You can climb the countless stairs to the temple or pay 10 baht to be taken up by road on the back of a motorbike. The temple is interesting and so are the views towards Mae Sai and beyond, or in the opposite direction to the town of Tachilek and the Burmese hills, dotted with temples.

Mae Sai, Thailand and Thai - Burmese border control
Mae Sai, Thailand and Thai - Burmese border control | Source

Travel to Mae Sai

Most people get there by public bus from the northern cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Buses are safe, inexpensive and quite frequent with various 'classes' costing between 160 - 350 baht for the five hour trip from Chiang Mai's Arcade Bus Station (via Chiang Rai) or the approximately two hour trip from Chiang Rai's two public bus stations. Book in advance if possible as the buses fill up quite quickly.

When you arrive at Mae Sai bus station (which is a little out of the way), you'll see a couple of red van-like 'passenger service vehicles' (songtaew) that are available to take you to the main street (that leads to the border control) for 15 Baht (10 baht for kids).

Many people do this trip as a 'visa run' from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai in a single day. You need to be back at Mae Sai in time for the last bus at 4:30 pm - and you almost certainly need to have booked it in advance otherwise it'll be full.

Some tour companies in both Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai offer a day trip minibus service to the border and back for around 500 baht from Chiangmai (less from Chiang Rai). The driver will wait in Mae Sai while you cross to Burma for a couple of hours. These can be booked from various guest houses or travel agents and will pick you up at your guest house or hotel.

A markermae sai -
Mae Sai, Chiang Rai, Thailand
get directions

Crossing the Border

Crossing the border is simple. Follow the signs at the immigration checkpoint and present your passport to get stamped out of Thailand. Don't forget to fill out the Thai departure card which is stapled inside your passport.

Then walk across the bridge that crosses the River Sai and pass through the entrance with the sign "The Republic of the Union of Myanmar" - the official name for Burma.

Again following the signs, present your passport to the Myanmar Immigration officers, who will charge 500 baht for an entry permit valid for 14 days. A cheaper option is to pay $10 in US currency, which is a saving of 150 baht. On payment of the required fee, the Myanmar immigration officer then issues a pass but hangs on to your passport until your return. Leave the immigration office and you're in the Burmese town of Tachileik. Whether you stay for 1 day or 14, you can't visit any other part of Myanmar apart from Tachileik and Kengtung Districts. To visit other parts of Myanmar requires a visa obtained beforehand.

Thai people aren't required to pay the 500 baht but must first get a form from the 'ampur' (district office) by presenting their ID card and paying 30 baht. (Thai Passports aren't used at this border control). The office is situated 2 km from the border control on the same road (just off the road, in fact). The procedure only takes a couple of minutes. You can get there by motorcycle taxi near the border control for 20 baht. The driver will wait and take you back to the border control if you like.

Myanmar border control station in Tachilek
Myanmar border control station in Tachilek | Source

Tachileik, Burma (Myanmar)

The town of Tachileik (or Tachilek) is in an area of Eastern Burma known as the Shan State. The first thing to grab your attention are the hordes of friendly, but high pressure, tour guides and sellers offering extremely cheap counterfeit goods ranging from Marlboro to Viagra, of varying quality and safety. They have a good understanding of English apart from the word NO. If you do buy anything, be mindful of Thailand's Customs regulations when returning. Checks are rare but they can confiscate any counterfeit goods if they have a mind to, and certain drugs (e.g., diazepam) are illegal in Thailand without a prescription (even though it's available 'under the counter' at certain Thai pharmacies).

Thai currency is accepted everywhere. There's no need to bother with currency exchange.

There are some interesting temples you can visit while you're there. Shwe Dagon Pagoda is on a hillside, within walking distance (although it's quite a steep hill to climb), and affords good views across Tachileik and the Burmese hills on one side and Mae Sai on the other. Otherwise just walk around the town and soak up the uniquely Burmese atmosphere. The sellers all congregate at the entry point so, having left them behind, you'll be left in relative peace to explore the town at your leisure on foot. Alternatively, you can book a cycle taxi for an hour or so for a 100 - 150 Thai baht that will take you to that temple (Shwe Dagon) and a couple of others close by. They'll offer to take you to other places too, included in the price, such as a long-necked Karen village, but there's an entrance fee, or to a precious stones dealer, (which earns the driver some commission if you buy something).

Just make sure you're back at the border control before 4:30pm, if you want to catch the last scheduled bus to Chiangmai, which will get you back around 9 pm (or 6:30 to Chiang Rai).

Tachilek, Myanmar
Tachilek, Myanmar | Source

Returning to Thailand

There are no Thai consular services in Tachileik, so you can't get a Thai visa here. You either have to have one already, obtained from elsewhere, or else enter Thailand under their "visa waiver scheme".

New Rules - May and August 2014

However, as of May 2014, Thai Immigration have been clamping down on those who continually exit and immediately return without visas via land crossings for the purpose of extending their stay for a further 15 days each time under Thailand's visa waiver scheme. This means that those without visas won't automatically be granted entry, although they have also announced they'll apply the ruling on a case by case basis.

The rule is:

Tourists attempting to re-enter Thailand without a visa after having just completed a stay in the country will NOT be allowed to do so.

At any other land crossing, this wouldn't normally be an insurmountable problem as you could always apply for a Thai tourist visa in whichever of the other neighbouring countries that you've stranded yourself in. In Tachileik that's not possible, and it's further complicated by the fact that (unless you have a previously obtained Myanmar visa) your Myanmar entry stamp doesn't allow you to travel outside of the Tachileik/ Kengchung districts. It's a stalemate situation, and one side or the other would eventually have to grudgingly waive the rules to resolve the situation.

To avoid that situation, Thai Immigration have been preventing people without a multiple entry visa from using this exit.

Assuming, you still have a current multiple-entry visa, simply cross back over the bridge, collect your passport at the Myanmar Immigration office and carry on (and cross the road) to the Thai border control. Arrival cards are available at the counter before you go through to the passport control window.

If this is your first visa run on a multiple entry visa, you will be given permission to re-enter the country for 90 days if the visa is a non-immigrant visa, or 60 days (or 30 days depending on your nationality) if you have a tourist visa. There are signs asking you to show that you have sufficient funds to support yourself while in Thailand - officially, for non-immigrant or tourist visas, it's 20,000 baht, (in cash or in a Thai bank) and 10,000 if you have a transit visa. They never ask, though, despite the signs, (unless maybe you look like you don't have it). There is an ATM just outside, so, if they did ask, and you didn't have it, they might let you withdraw cash from the ATM.

Not far from the exit are some waiting red 'songtaew' mini buses available to take you back to the main bus station, for 15 baht.

Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Tachilek, Myanmar
Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Tachilek, Myanmar | Source


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      magicbob 9 days ago

      Hi Rich from the US....I'm also a US citizen. I understand only a US passport is required to enter Thailand. So if I visit Tachilek and return to Thailand, just my passport , no visa necessary and no payment to Thai immigration?

    • profile image

      Karun Mukherji 10 days ago

      It means going to Tachilek from Mae Sai is not feasible without a multiple entry visa especially for those who wish to return to Thailand.

      Thanks for the information.

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      Julien 11 days ago

      I want to make a visa run in Maesai to get a new free 30 days (twice a year via border land). Is this still possible?

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      Likius 4 weeks ago

      Thank you so much for the answer. tomorrow I am going to Yangon to get a new visa :/ :)

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      mcfro 4 weeks ago

      I just finished a one year visa and need an additional 14 days. If I leave via Mae Sai and try to come back across will they allow that or be able to give me a stamp? Is that what Joe did?

    • chasmac profile image

      chasmac 4 weeks ago from UK

      You can't get a re-entry permit on arrival in Mae Sai or anywhere in Thailand unless you are already in the country. A re-entry permit allows you to leave the country and return. You have already left, so a re-entry permit doesn't apply. You'll need a new visa.

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      Likius 4 weeks ago


      I'm from Republic of Georgia. I left Thailand without getting a re entry permit, as I decided very fast to go to Myanmar and haven't had time to go to immigration office in Bangkok, I crossed the border in Mae sot and now I want to visit Chiang Mai for a New year. So is it possible to get a re entry permit on the land in Mae Sai Border?

      Otherwise I have to go to Yangon and get the new visa and it would be very frustrating for me :/

      I think another option could be also to get re entry permit in Chiang Mai Airport isn't? but I neither want to take a flight.

      Thank you for your help.


    • chasmac profile image

      chasmac 6 months ago from UK

      @ Jonhy - Do you mean if you have a single entry Thai visa and leave Thailand for Tachileik, right? As soon as you leave Thailand, your single-entry Thai visa expires, and there's no way to get a new Thai visa in Tachileik. To avoid the problem of not getting back in, Immigration stopped allowing people on single entry visas to leave by this route, but according to Joe's comment, that may have changed.

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      Jonhy 6 months ago

      Hi Joe, with witch passport where you able to do that? How long did you stay there and for how long did they give you the visa to get back?

      Question for the admin of this page: if I enter with a single entry visa, and then they doesn't allow me to come back in, what would happen?

    • chasmac profile image

      chasmac 6 months ago from UK

      Thanks Joe, but please tell me more so I can keep the article up to date. You had a single entry Thai visa, left for Tachileik, came back to Thailand, and got a further 15 (or 30) days.? Is that right?Maybe they have relaxed the rules like you said. Let's hope so.

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      Joe Frayne 6 months ago

      Just came back into Mae Sai on a SINGLE ENTRY VISA no problem.

      All smiles no hassle at all. Maybe the rules have changed for the better again. July 2017. Read this page on the bus here and it made me depressed but carried on anyway with good results.

    • chasmac profile image

      chasmac 10 months ago from UK

      Sorry Catalina, I don't know as I've never been to Mae Sot. Hopefully, someone can help.

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      Catalina 10 months ago

      Thanks for the info, I have a question. Im from chile, and I have a myanmar tourist visa (I had it in bangkok) I want to go to tachilek and then go to mandalay, after that come back to bangkok trough mae sot border. Do you know if this is possible?

    • chasmac profile image

      chasmac 11 months ago from UK

      Hi Leticia

      Here's what the Thai Immigration site says

      "Nationals of Brazil, Republic of Korea and Peru are entitled for tourist visa exemption scheme. Meanwhile, Thailand also holds bilateral agreements on visa exemption for holders of diplomatic, official and ordinary passports for a visit of not exceeding 90 days with Brazil, Republic of Korea and Peru."

      You already know that, but here's the important part

      ** "If such nationals enter the Kingdom at the immigration checkpoints which border neighboring countries, they will be allowed to stay for 15 days each time, ..."

      It's telling you that Brazilians arriving overland (e.g. to Mae Sai in Thailand from Tachileik in Myanmar) will only get 15 days at the Thai border post. You will only get 90 days if you arrive in Thailand by air.

      It's true there are no consular services in Tachileik, but as a Brazilian you don't need a visa - but you'll only get 15 days because Myanmar is a neighbouring country.

      Scroll up to see the link for the full info on the Thai Immigration site.

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      Leticia Fraga 11 months ago

      Im so confused. Maybe Roberto Caligari or anyone may help me. I brazilian and Im arriving at Bankok at march, the 1th. As brazilian, we dont need a previous visa for that. On the following day we´re traveling to Myanmar (we do have the burmese visa) and staying for 2 weeks. We would like to come back to Thailand trough the tachilek border, since our last stop will be at kyaing tong. From there we would continue our trip trough tahiland.Isnt that possible? beecause Ive just read here "There are no Thai consular services in Tachileik, so you can't get a Thai visa here".

    • chasmac profile image

      chasmac 12 months ago from UK

      Thanks KS - that's useful info

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      ks 12 months ago

      today it works from 6:00 to 21:00

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      andrew 13 months ago

      I heard if you had a 60 day single, it was OK to do Mae Sai one time from the mini bus agencies

    • chasmac profile image

      chasmac 13 months ago from UK

      Last year, I heard it was 9PM, hopefully someone can verify

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      tee 13 months ago

      What time does the border close? Is it 16.30 or is it later? I have heard 20h but I wanna know for sure as I'm going this week with the motorbike

    • chasmac profile image

      chasmac 13 months ago from UK

      Look at Millwall_Fan's comment above "Visa runners can no longer use this crossing". Or the official posting on the Thai Immigration site

      "Tourists attempting to re-enter Thailand without a visa after having just completed a stay in the country will NOT be allowed to do so."

    • chasmac profile image

      chasmac 13 months ago from UK

      Thanks for the updated information, Millwall fan. That's useful.

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      GAURAV CHAVDA 13 months ago

      I want to visit Tachilek , Myanmar for one day only. I am going there from Tachilek boarder. I have a single entry touriest visa for Thailand, So, is possible for me to go to Tachilek and come back next day from Tachilek to Thailand. what is the process for re-enter in Thailand.

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      Millwall_fan 14 months ago

      I have been over to Tachilek twice this year so far (my wife and I like a flutter in one of the casinos on the Burmese side). I had no problem paying $10 to get into Burma. I didn't have to say I had no Baht, just proffered a $10 bill. There are signs on the Thai said saying that visa runners can no longer use this crossing, but you can go over to get a new entry on a non-imm or multiple entry tourist visa.

    • chasmac profile image

      chasmac 18 months ago from UK

      Thanks, Rich. Yes, now nationals of G7 countries can get 30 days on entering overland. Did they ask any questions on re-entering like about having an onward ticket to somewhere else?

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      Rich 18 months ago

      I just crossed yesterday from Mae Sai to Tachileik and back. Spent 2 hours shopping and crossed back over into Thailand. Received a new 30 day visa for Thailand. I am a US citizen.

    • chasmac profile image

      chasmac 19 months ago from UK

      Thanks Roberto. According to the Thailand Immigration site's PDF summary,

      Unfortunately - it's only 15 days for Brazilian passport holders arriving overland.

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      Roberto Cagliari Junior 19 months ago

      Thanks a lot for all these infos. What a beautiful job!

      I'm planning to spend a month in Myanmar and cross the border form Tachilek to Mae Sai. As I hold a Brazilian passport, official thai embassy website says I can get up to 3 month visa on arrival when entering the country by any airport, but it doesn't say anything about crossing by land. Do you know if it's possible to get this 90 days visa as well at Mae Sai? I read that they usual stamp for 14 days only.

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      chasmac 19 months ago from UK

      Thanks for the update, John, I've made some changes.

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      John Smith 19 months ago

      A couple of inaccuracies in your blog. First of all, there continues to be an option to pay US$10. I did so in April, 2014 without any troubles whatsoever. Only gullible tourists pay 500 Baht (BTW US$10 is now 350 Baht) of course immigration would prefer you paid 500 Baht so they can pocket the difference but all you need to do is lie and tell them you don't have any more Baht.

      I thought the 14 day pass can be used to travel as far as Kengtung and Monglar on the Chinese border as long as you come back the same way.

      Otherwise, since Aug 28, 2013 this is an international crossing and if you come with a Myanmar visa you can travel throughout the country and leave at another crossing (or by air). There is no need to fly from Bangkok or Chiang Mai to Yangon, this is completely outdated. In fact, the majority of foreigners who cross at Mae Sai these days are tourists in possession of Myanmar visas since visa runs from the Thai side are no longer being encouraged.

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      chasmac 4 years ago from UK

      I don't think so. You can check with a Burmese embassy to be sure but it's doubtful.

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      pk 4 years ago

      Is it possible to fly into Yangon and leave via crossing the Tachilek-Mae Sai border?