Let me tell you a secret (but don't tell everyone else). Get your 60-day tourist visa for Thailand in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)! The entire process is easier than in other popular visa run cities. Add to that the fact that Yangon is a lovely place to visit for a few days. Make the most of it!
Where is Yangon?
Yangon used to be called Rangoon and is the gateway for most tourists visiting Myanmar. Myanmar used to be called Burma and the capital city was Rangoon. But the capital of Myanmar is now Naypyidaw.
Confused? If not, you will be. The airport codes (RGN), language (Burmese) and currency denomination (Burmese Kyat) reflect the previous city and country names. Get your head around that in a hurry!
Getting to Yangon is easy. But first, you need a visa to enter Myanmar.
How to get a Visa for Thailand in Myanmar
I’ll explain how to get the Thai visa for people already in Thailand or based in Bangkok. This is a visa run ‘how to'. But the information is valid for anyone who wants to get the 60-day tourist visa. Yangon is a great destination and one of the best places to get a Thai Visa.
Myanmar Visa Online
Myanmar tourist visas cost a little more than the visa for many other SEA countries. However, the visa process is easy and Yangon is a city worth visiting.
Closed to foreigners until the 90s, the country now welcomes tourism. Myanmar is one of the few countries in the world to offer eVisas to tourists. Even Thailand, with its economic dependence on tourism, doesn’t have an eVisa program.
Visit the official government eVisa site here.
Fill out the form and upload a passport style photo with the following dimensions: 3.8cm width and 4.6cm height. Scan or take a photo of your passport photo. That should work fine but make sure to eliminate glare and take a photo of the passport photo in natural light. (yes, this is high-tech, folks)
Once you’ve uploaded the mug shot, completed the application form, pay the fee with a credit card. You will get an automated response email informing you that your visa application is being processed. The actual visa process time is up to 3 days. I received mine within 24 hours.
Print out the letter of acceptance. This is important. Mentioning the visa number or showing the immigration officials your iPhone won’t cut it. A paper copy is all they will accept.
Myanmar Tourist Visa in Bangkok
If you don't want to go down the eVisa route or you prefer not to use your credit card there is an alternative. Head to the Embassy of Myanmar in Bangkok and apply for the visa in person. The address is 132 S Sathorn Rd, Khwaeng Khlong Toei Nuea, Sathon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10120. The closest BTS is Surasak. The Embassy is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily but applications for visas must be made between 9 am and 12 pm.
Bring your passport, a passport photo (I recommend having a couple as backup), 2 passport photos, and your address in Myanmar. Your address in Myanmar should be a hotel or similar. Book a hotel before you visit the embassy and bring the hotel booking receipt as proof. Myanmar visa photos are of different dimensions to those of Thailand visa photos. Make sure you get the correct sizes.
Stick one photo on the tourist visa application form and have the other ready to give to the immigration officer.
It’s cheaper to head to the embassy and do the paperwork there. Same day visas cost THB 1260. That's around USD $38, $12 cheaper than applying online. But once you factor in the time spent at the embassy and the travel costs it looks less appealing. A next-day visa costs THB 1000. That’s around USD $30, but it will mean travelling to the embassy twice.
The advantage of getting your visa in Bangkok (or from any embassy of Myanmar) in person is that you can cross land borders to enter the country. The eVisa only works for flights to Myanmar.
Know the Thai Public Holidays
Make sure you're up to date with the holiday closing times for public offices. Ignoring this step could cost you. Before you book any flights, check the embassy's opening hours and days on the public holiday calendar. I’ve been moments away from booking flights and hotels before remembering to check if the embassy or consulates of Thailand would be open.
Check for public holidays in Thailand here.
This is the official Thai holiday list from the Yangon office.
Flights from Bangkok to Yangon
If you plan on doing the shortest visa run possible you’re in luck. AirAsia flies from DMK to RGN at 07:15, arriving at 8 am Myanmar time. Note that the time difference is 30 minutes.
If for some reason, you forget to print out your documents there is a printing service in the Amari Hotel across the motorway from DMK airport. You can cross over via a bridge and the service is available from 6 am.
Immigration checks at the airport can take some time so expect to be walking out the front doors at around 9 am. Grab a cab at the airport and go directly to the embassy. The fare to the Thai embassy is USD $8 but if you pay in the local currency (Burmese Kyat) the fee is 8000, which converts to around $6 USD. So it, er, pays to pay in the local currency.
If you decide to do the airport-embassy direct run, keep in mind that you might have a problem checking into your hotel. The Thai Embassy holds your passport for visa processing. That means you won’t have your passport until the next day. Many hotels in Myanmar require a passport to check in. A way around this is to carry a good quality photocopy. But this might not work every time. Check with the hotel in advance.
Traffic is horrendous in Yangon so if you must go to the hotel before the embassy, make sure you have enough time to circle back before 11 am. With one two-lane road in and out of the airport, it's impossible to avoid delays. Pick a hotel near the embassy and the sights that you want to see. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time sitting in a car or using a lot of leg power.
On the return journey remember to leave with plenty of time for catching your flight back. AirAsia flies from Yangon to Bangkok daily at 17:30. This flight schedule gives you enough time to get your passport at the embassy, do a little more sightseeing or have lunch, and then head to the airport. If you plan to spend only one night in Myanmar then this flight is very convenient.
The airport in Yangon is lovely, by the way. It’s one of the most modern, airy, and spacious airports I’ve been in. Nobody ever mentions it but don’t be afraid to head to the airport early to catch your flight back. It’s a pleasant place to kill a few hours.
Thai Visa Process and Requirements
The Thai visa application ritual goes like this:
- Arrive between 9 am and 11 am. Queue with your documents and hope you have all the right papers
- Submit your application and receive a number
- Return to the embassy the following day between 1 pm and 3 pm and collect your passport with, hopefully, a 60-day visa stamp.
In Laos, this process is long and tedious and made more difficult by the inconvenient flights from Bangkok. In most cases, you’ll need to fly to in the night before, stay 3 nights and fly out the day after you collect your visa. Queueing on the first day might take 2-3 hours. In the hot season, this can be rather uncomfortable. The following day involves more standing around waiting while the huge queues are processed.
The embassy shuffle in Yangon, on the other hand, is much easier.
I arrived at 9.15 to a small queue of maybe 20 people. 15 minutes later I was at the desk handing over my documents. They didn’t ask for any onward tickets, proof of residence, flights out of Thailand, or anything else. By 9.20 I was outside the embassy and looking for breakfast.
The following day I returned at 1 pm and by 1.10 pm I had my passport and visa.
Most of the people in the queue looked to be Burmese. I was the only non-Asian. Even a chicken joined us in the queue.
The Thailand visa photo requirements are as follows. Two colour photos of 3.5cm by 4.5cm. You can get visa photos in some BTS stations in Bangkok. Don’t attempt to make your own with some Photoshop manipulation. Overexposed or underexposed photos and badly lit photos might be rejected.
Full details of the requirements can be found on the official website of the Royal Thai Embassy in Yangon, Myanmar.
The embassy office is located at No.94, Pyay Road, Dagon Township Yangon.
Visa fees for the 60-day single entry stamp cost USD $40 in crisp, unmarked, wrinkle-free notes. Ask the currency exchange people to give you the best notes they have. Don’t use the dollar bills that have been sitting in your wallet for months. And they won't accept Thai Baht or Burmese Kyat.
Things to do in Yangon
Yangon is a worthwhile place to visit for a few days. The relaxed atmosphere, food, friendly people, and beautiful temples deserve your attention. If you’ve been travelling around SEA for a while or you spend a lot of time in Bangkok, Temple fatigue might have set in. The temples in Yangon, however, are well worth seeing. During the months of the rainy season, very few tourists travel to the city, so it’s a great time to go. The rain might hamper efforts to get that perfect Instagram temple shot, but if you can live with that, Yangon has some wonderful things to see.
You're going to need real cash money, so use an ATM at the airport if you can. Despite the ATM withdrawal fees, it's a better way of getting cash for Yangon. Changing money at the airport exchange counters will leave you poorer.
Most of the men wear sarongs and sandals in daily use, in contrast with Bangkok where people wear western clothes. The women wear long figure hugging dresses that are quite beautiful and even sexy. Burmese women are beautiful(can’t comment on the men) and have a predisposition for smiling. Even after having lived in Thailand, the land of smiles, Myanmar feels a lot more smiley and friendly.
Downtown is a mix of colonial buildings, which are mostly run down, and faceless low-rise apartment blocks and stores. There isn’t much in the way of nightlife or bars but you can find some gems.
The food and the Coffee are delicious. I'm not a fan of the coffee in Thailand but in Myanmar, or at least in Yangon, the coffee is strong and full of flavour. Don’t miss the local food, which can be spicy, but is delicious and inexpensive.
Visit Yangon the next time you're planning a visa run. It's a fascinating place full of warm people that appear genuinely interested in foreigners. The visa process was one of the least stressful travel visa procedures I've experienced. What more do you need?
Why Yangon is a Better Choice Than Vientiane
The Internet is full of Thailand visa advice. And people seem to agree en masse on Vientiane as the destination for the 60-day Thai visa run. The belief is that it's easy and less complicated than anywhere else. Entering the country, getting the two-month Thai tourist visa, and returning to Thailand quickly are apparently easiest done in Thailand's neighbour to the north-east.
But I don’t buy this. In my experience, the Laotian capital is an inconvenient destination for a visa run. I believe that a few travel bloggers perpetuated this information and the rest have just followed along without questioning it.
Myanmar, or its capital, Yangon is a better bet for your Thai Visa Run.