Tag Archive: border crossing

Thailand/Myanmar: Border Crossing from Mae Sai to Tachileik


After a couple of days in Chiang Rai, I reluctantly left the comfort of the Chian Guesthouse and made my way to the Chiang Rai bus station (the one by the night bazaar). I caught a local bus for THB 39 to the border town of Mae Sai, which took 2 hours. There are faster buses, but I find the local transport more interesting. I also like it that they don’t have frosty air-conditioning and blaring Thai music. The bus drops you at the Mae Sai bus station, which is 3km from the border crossing. Songthaws to the border are waiting to take you there for THB15. I got dropped off a hundred meters or so before the border point as I wanted to wander the markets and change some money.

bus mae sai

The markets in Mae Sai are really great. There are many different types of people, from hill-tribe groups to tourists, and lots of interesting things on sale. I’ve read on other blogs that Mae Sai has got an ‘edgy’ feel to it. All I can say is that I think some people have let their imagination run away with itself. Either that, or their travels have been to the ‘standard’ tourist spots in Thailand, and they’ve never visited some of the smaller and less touristy towns. There is really nothing ‘wild west’ about Mae Sai and there are plenty of accommodation and other services for tourists.

I needed to buy some Myanmar currency (kyat) and it took me while to find out where to get it. None of the banks money exchanges stock kyat, so you have to go to a licenced money exchange near the markets. I mistakenly started looking inside the markets, which is interesting but not where they are located. My walk then took me under the bridge, where I was met by a funny little man with very few teeth and a stained red mouth from chewing betel nut. He was keen to take me to a brothel it seemed. This wasn’t what I was looking for, so it was back to the markets and the search continued. I finally found a money exchange. I’d been looking for market stalls, but they are established in proper shops. See this post if you need to change money in Mae Sai.

Although certain guidebooks recommend to stay overnight in Mae Sai rather than in Tachileik, I decided I was keen to cross to Myanmar. I already had my Myanmar tourist visa (see this post for getting a visa in Bangkok) so made my way to the bridge.

border crossing

After being stamped out of Thailand, you have to cross to the other side of the bridge (and the other side of the road) to enter Myanmar. There was a small queue at a customs sign, and I wasn’t sure if I should join it or not. I decided to walk straight past and no-one said anything, so I guess it’s ok to do that. Well, either that or they didn’t see me. A few metres after the customs office – still on the bridge – you enter Myanmar. They called me in to a small office where five immigration officials were sat doing paperwork. One of them took my passport and started barking questions at me in poor English. I really couldn’t be bothered with this, so just cracked a big smile and announced to the room that I was a tourist and very much looking forward to visiting Myanmar. The barking official thrust a form into my hand and walked out of the door. The others appeared to be a little embarrassed and from then on it was all smiles and very pleasant. After handing in the completed form I continued my way over the bridge and into the busy little town of Tachileik.

Walking into Tachileik, you are first set upon by a wave of tuk-tuk drivers waving pictures of the local temple. I was keen to find some accommodation, which I thought would be close by, so I kept on walking. I was also stopped by a young man very keen to sell me Viagra. He showed me lots of packets and pills, and was very insistent that I should buy some. I was feeling a little tired and hungry, and pretty sure Viagra was not what I needed, so carried on my walk.

I found a cheap hotel a short walk from the bridge and market. The Erawan Hotel is at No. 1/29 Mahabandola Street, Wankong Quarter, Tachileik (N: 20.44905, E: 099.88140). Phone is 084-51156. I was charged THB250 for a double room, with shared toilets (squat toilets) and bathroom (cold water). Even though in Tachaliek is in Myanmar, most transactions are in Thai Bhat. Thai is also widely spoken, so if you have a few words of Thai you can still use them here.

Getting a Myanmar Tourist Visa from the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok


If you are planning to do an overland border crossing from Thailand to Myanmar (Burma) you will need to get a visa in advance. Visa on arrival may be available in the future, but not at time of writing. Getting a 28 day tourist visa for Myanmar from the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar in Bangkok is really easy. Here are a few tips to help you get one quickly.

Getting to the Myanmar Embassy

The Embassy of the Union of Myanmar is located at 132 Sathon Nua Road, in the Bang Rak district.  You can go by taxi, but it is cheaper to use the skytrain, getting off at the Surasak BTS station. You need to exit from the north-east exit of the station (exit 3), and walk east on Sathon Nua – just follow the skytrain track back around 300 m.  Keep looking left, as the entrance to the embassy is on Pan Road (Thanon Pan). Click here to see the map.

It’s easy to find, but i used my smartphone GPS  with google maps just to make sure i was heading in the right direction. How easy it is to navigate Bangkok these days 🙂


What time to get there and what to bring

The embassy opens at 9 am to 12 pm for visa applications. However, if you want to get in and out as fast as possible i recommend this:

  • Arrive at the embassy at 8 am
  • Ask in the room the left of the embassy for a visa form (free), or get one from the photocopy services outside or up the street (small charge)
  • See one of the many people offering photocopies and photographs to get your passport copied and obtain 2 photographs. I recommend the little shop around 50 m up Pan Road, on the right. They have everything you need and you can sit down and fill out the form. They will also glue your photo and check the form to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Prices are reasonable.
  • Alternatively, arrive at 8:30 am and bring a completed form, passport, photocopy of the main page of your passport, and two passport photographs.
  • You’ll also need to bring some money to pay the fee, see below.

I have heard of people arriving at 10 am and there being no queue outside. However, I didn’t want to risk waiting too long to be seen inside, so i turned up early. I’d be interested to hear from people who have tuned up later in the morning to hear if you had to wait long to get to the counter.

Tips on filling out the form

  • Glue one photo to the top left of the form, and paperclip the other one to the top right of the form (the little shop did this for me)
  • The form asks you to provide an address in Myanmar. It is acceptable to write “holiday in Myanmar” if you don’t know where you are staying
  • You will need to give your occupation. If you are a journalist, they may want to know why you are going to Myanmar so consider if this really is your occupation.
  • You will need to state your religion. If you are an atheist, or a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, you may get a raised eyebrow. I wrote “Christian” just to make the process nice and smooth, even though i don’t believe in fairy-tales.

By 8:30 am there will already be a small queue. Join the end and wait for the doors to open!

What to do inside

As you walk inside they will give you a ticket to assign your place in the queue. You then sit and wait for your turn. I was issued ticket T0003, which meant i was third in line for a tourist visa. At 9 am – or shortly afterwards – the counters will open and they will start calling out ticket numbers. They process the visa applications quickly, so if you have joined the queue early you shouldn’t have long until it is your turn. I waited around 15 minutes only.

Hand in your form, passport, passport photocopy, and photographs. You will then be asked to pay the fee:

  • One day processing (same day pickup): THB 1440
  • Two day processing (next working day pickup): THB 1350
  • Three working day processing: THB 800

If you are worried about being in Bangkok without carrying your passport, obviously get the quickest processing time. As a foreigner, you are meant to carry your passport in Thailand at all times. You may also need your passport for things like renting motorbikes or checking into new accommodation. I went for the cheapest (three working day) option.

Put the receipt they give you in a safe place 🙂

When to collect your passport and visa

The collection times are between 3:30pm and 4:30pm. I turned up at 3:00pm and the waiting room was almost full. There is no ticket issued this time and queuing was a bit chaotic. Take a note of the counter number to collect your visa from – see the top right corner of your yellow recepit (below). Try to get near the front before the counter opens as there is a bit of a rush. The visas are issued fairly rapidly, and within 1 hour of arrival i had my passport back in my pocket. When i left the queue was out of the door. I would recommend to turn up before 3pm, or after 3:30pm.

myanmar visa bangkok embassy

The visa is issued for 28 days of single-entry travel, valid for 3 months.

myanmar tourist visa bangkok

So easy….

Please let me know in a comment if anything has changed or you have something to add.