Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Wed March 02 2016

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  • Shannon Wolf | March 2, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    A (Visa) Run for the Border: How to Extend Your Stay in Thailand

    A (Visa) Run for the Border: How to Extend Your Stay in Thailand

    PHOTO: An early morning view of Chiang Khong before we headed to the Laos border. (photos by Shannon Wolf)

    If you've fallen in love with Thailand like the rest of us and your 90 days is coming to a close, you'll have to pack up those bags of yours (or keep them at a friends!) and head to Laos for a visa run.

    Thailand has become stricter about how long you can stay in the country, as a lot of people tend to stay well past their visas. For a first timer, the process of a visa run seems confusing — but I'm here to help!

    First things first, once you’ve been in Thailand for 90 days, you must leave the country. Period. No ifs, ands or buts. No further extensions can be applied for, and long gone are the days of just paying a small fine.

    So the only option left to extend your visit is to leave the country and go right back. But it’s not possible at every border crossing. Visa runs are forbidden at the Mai Sai border in Myanmar so you're left with only two options if you're in the north of Thailand:

    1. Nong Khai border/Vientiane

    Most used border, long line-ups and hectic.

    2. Chiang Khong border/Huay Sai

    This is the closest border to Chiang Mai and less known.

    There wasn't much up to date information online about the second border crossing but my friend Shelby and I decided to risk it for the potential convenience (and boy, I'm glad we did).

    READ MORE: Vietnam To Give Yearlong Tourist Visas To All Americans

    Below is the entire process from start to finish. How to get there and what it cost (note: price is higher for Canadians):

    1) Shuttle bus from Pai to Chiang Khong

    Duration: 10 hours

    Leaves: 1:30 p.m.

    Cost: 650 baht

    2) Wake up call at 7:30 a.m. for free breakfast (eggs, toast, bananas and coffee).

    • Head to Thai border (Shuttle bus drove us there at 8:30 a.m.).

    • Got stamped out by immigration officer.

    • Paid for shuttle bus to take us to the border of Laos (20 baht).

    • Took bus at 9:20 a.m. and arrived at the border in a few minutes.

    • Fill out immigration forms/arrival and departure cards (make sure you have a place of residency there: your hotel address and contact information will work).

    • Head to visa on arrival counter to hand in paperwork, passport and photo.

    • Pay fee at second visa on arrival counter ($42 USD) and you get your passport back with Laos visa and new stamps in passport for 30 days.

    • Enter though immigration into Laos and instead of taking a bus/boat/etc. Head to immigration on other side to get your depart stamp.

    • Buy bus ticket to head back to Thai border (25 baht).

    • Fill out arrival/departure card and get visa on arrival for free! (Up to 30 days).

    • It's now 10:50 a.m. and your visa run is officially complete!

    3) Now, take a tuk-tuk into Chiang Khong to the bus station (60 baht) and catch a shuttle back to Chaing Mai or do like we did and hitchhike back.

    PHOTO: Visa run complete! Shelby and I begin our hitchhiking mission back to Pai.

    Important notes:

    If you are taking the shuttle bus from Pai, load up on warm clothes, motion sickness medication and something to make you sleep for the trip. Even strong stomachs feel queasy during this drive.

    READ MORE: Savvy Thailand Targets Weekend Tourists With Multiple Entry Visas

    You will need:

    • One passport photo

    • Departure card

    • $45 USD for your entry fee into Laos.
    (You can get this all done in the morning at the hotel — however, their exchange rate is very high... Cost us 1,850 baht or $42 USD)

    PHOTO: Our hitchhiking mission ends as a stopover in Chiang Mai for Christmas Eve, hanging out with our new friends to celebrate on rooftops! 

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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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