Visa Requirements in Thailand

Your passport should be all you need for most short visits

Thailand, Bangkok, Wat Arun and Chao Phray
Bruno Morandi/The Image Bank/Getty Images

From the tropical beaches of Phuket to ancient temples and the sophistication of Bangkok, Thailand exudes an allure like few other Asian destinations. If a trip to this Asian paradise is in your future, you might be wondering about the legal requirements of entry into the country and how long you can stay.

You probably don't need a visa to visit Thailand on vacation, but know the requirements to make sure you can enter the country without any problems and your length of stay is covered without needing a visa. It's always a good idea to check the requirements with the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington before your trip since the rules could change without notice, and your plans might change after you arrive in Thailand.

Visa-Exempt Travel

If you are traveling to Thailand and are a U.S. citizen with a U.S. passport and a return airline ticket or one out of Thailand to another country, you don't need to apply for a visa as long as you don't plan to stay in the country for more than 30 days and you haven't entered the country as a tourist for more than 90 days in the past six months.

You'll be granted a 30-day entry permit when you arrive at the airport or border crossing. You can extend your stay by as much as 30 days if you apply for it at the Thai Immigration Bureau office in Bangkok. You'll have to pay a small fee for this privilege (1,900 Thai baht, or $59.64, as of February 2018). (The  Royal Thai Embassy recommends that those holding a diplomatic or official U.S. passport get a visa before attempting to enter Thailand since they could be denied entry.)

Besides your passport and a return airline ticket, you'll need to have cash at the entry point to show you have enough money to travel around Thailand. You'll need 10,000 baht ($314) per person or 20,000 baht ($628) for a family. This is especially important to remember since many people don't carry a lot of cash when they are traveling since they plan on using credit cards for expenses.

If you're not a U.S. citizen, check the Royal Thai Embassy website to see whether you need to apply for a visa in advance. Thailand grants 15-, 30- and 90-day entry permits and visas on arrival to citizens of many other countries.

Travel With a Visa

If you're planning on an extended vacation in Thailand you can apply for a 60-day tourist visa in advance at the Royal Thai Embassy, the U.S. State Department advises. If you decide you want to stay longer, you can apply at the Immigration Bureau in Bangkok for a 30-day extension. As with an extension on visa-exempt travel, this will cost about 1,900 Thai baht.

Overstaying Your Time Limit

The Thais are glad to have you visit, but you should think twice about overstaying your welcome. The State Department warns of the consequences if you stay longer than your time limit, as defined by your entry credentials.

If you overstay your visa or passport time limit, you'll face a 500 baht ($15.70) fine for every day you're over the limit, and you must pay it before you'll be allowed to leave the country. You're also considered an illegal immigrant and could be arrested and thrown in jail if, for some reason, you're caught in the country with an expired visa or entry permit with your passport. The State Department says the Thais have conducted sweeps of areas low-budget travelers generally frequent, arrested them, and kept them in jail until they could pay the fines accrued and buy a ticket out of the country if they didn't have one.

So if you can't leave the country before you're supposed to, plan ahead and extend your stay under the rules.  It's worth the hassle and the cash. Bottom line: "It is highly advisable to avoid visa overstays," the State Department says.

At the Entry Point

Make sure you fill out the arrival and departure cards before you get into the immigration line to go through customs. You could be sent back to the end of the line if you get to the desk without the form filled out.