Having read countless times the same method on how to do a one-day visa run from Chiang Mai to Burma we were excited to try a different approach – a more cost efficient and convenient one as it turned out.
How other people do it:
• Take a red Songthaew to Arcade Bus Terminal for 20-40 Baht, let’s say 10 min.
• Take the Green Bus at 08:00 or 10:15 from Arcade terminal to Mae Sai, the border town, for about 230 Baht on a regular seat or 360 Baht for a VIP seat. Takes about 3.5 hours.
• Red Songthaew for 15 Baht from Mae Sai Bus Terminal to the border, 10 minutes.
• Spend approx. 285 Baht one way (if taken a regular seat).
How we did it:
• booked a mini bus with individual pick up/drop off from our apartment until right in front of the immigration. Same way back to Chiang Mai. Costs/time: 350 Baht one way/3.5 hours, pick up between 07:00-08:00 am. The trip was arranged by our serviced apartment, therefore it was a little bit more expensive for us. Lesson learned. You can book with the same company here, as of April 2014 for only 500 Baht, round-trip.
• but paying 65 Baht (US$ 2) more per way is definitly worth it, considering the lesser hassle you have. Usually we would urge everyone to jump on a public bus and slow down while traveling, but considering that the Green Bus to Chiang Rai is filled with a majority of foreigners heading either for a visa-renewal or the White Temple it is more reasonable to take a mini bus.
Pros Mini Bus:
– individual pick up and drop off from/to your home
– no hassle looking for the terminal or ticket counter in Chiang Mai
– no need to change the mode of transport
– 20 minutes break at a restaurant
– Early arrival in Mae Sai (around 11:00), no queue at the border
– Early arrival back home (around 16:30)
– Opportunity to meet cool people
– Time control
Cons Mini Bus:
– only gives you one hour to cross the border and return back, speaking not much time to see a lot.
– only stops at restaurants where the driver gets commission – I had an urgent need to see the toilet on the way back home due to some sweet bun with shredded meat I ate earlier but we passed countless possible places to stop, like fuel stations and local restaurants until we finally reached “his” place.
– Doesn’t serves snacks on board. But hey, snacks served on board the Green Busses are usually cookies and water. Go to Tesco or 7 Eleven before and grab what you like. Your choice, you price.
– Pick up-/ drop off in Chiang Mai might take a bit of time, depending on your location. However we were the second ones in the morning and it took just 30 minutes until the rest of the people were picked up.
How to get in and out:
> Walk in on the left side, make sure your departure card is there and filled out, get stamped out of Thailand.
> Cross the street to the right side for the Burmese immigration control.
> Pay 500 Baht (US$ 15.50) and get the stamp or pay in US$: only US$10. Saved: US$ 5.50
> An immigration officer will ask you if you immediately return back to Thailand or plan to go for shopping. If you will go for shopping they keep your passport. We said will go back to Thailand but went for shopping. No problem, passports kept with us.
> Basically the same way back to Thailand, Burmese immigration officers skipped to check our passport as we automatically got an Arrival & Departure stamp.
> It took less than 10 minutes to step into Tachileik.
Walk in on the left side to exit Thailand
What to do in 45 minutes:
– after you passed the immigration, just walk straight to the big roundabout with the sign “City of the Golden Triangle” and take a picture.
– from there, turn right into the market and either go for shopping or just experience the Burmese hawkers trying to sell you Viagra and cigarettes.
– go back to the Thai immigration.
– walk around the Thai immigration and take a picture a the “Northernmost of Thailand” sign.
– once outside, stay on the left, buy fruits and chestnuts on the market or snacks and drinks at the 7 Eleven. Your mini bus will depart from there.
City of the Golden Triangle
Good to know:
– travel mid-week / not on public holidays to avoid long queues
– check on your departure card / departure stamp: seems like a no-brainer but one of the guys from our group overstayed and was forced to pay a penalty fee
– bring a pen
– most nationalities are only entitled to stay for two weeks when crossing a land border into Thailand, incl. EU and ASEAN nationalities. However since 1st November 2013 following nationalities are entitled to stay 30 days:
• United Kingdom
Let’s do a quick summary:
– 500 Baht round trip for the minibus
– US$10 for the entry visa to Myanmar; pay in dollar notes.
If you do it as per above, it will cost you only 820 Baht or US$26 in total, plus some expenses for snacks.