How Thai Visa Waivers Motivated us to Explore Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a Couple Days

Part 1: How Thai Visa Waivers got us to Kuala Lumpur – This Post
Part 2: AirAsia experience Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur – Click Here
Part 3: Visiting Batu Caves and Petronas Towers- Click Here
Part 4: Back to Chiang Mai. Click Here

The Importance of a Thai Visa Waiver

The Thai tourist visa exemption for Americans (and many others) is one month. This means that tourists can visit Thailand for one month for free without going through a formal visa process (which can get very complicated and expensive) – just get an arrival stamp in your passport when you arrive in Thailand and don’t over-stay the waiver.

Until now this has never been an issue for Lisa or me. At most we would spend a week or two traveling before returning home to the States, meaning we never came close to losing our visa exemption when we traveled for ‘vacation.’

But now our lives are different.

We had spent about a week in Koh Samui when we first got to Thailand, so after about 3 weeks in Chiang Mai we had a decision to make.

We could pack up and move on.

But because Lisa has ordered some new product samples from China that would be delivered to our flat in Chiang Mai in the subsequent couple weeks, we chose to extend our time in Chiang Mai by a week or two.

Options for Obtaining an Additional Thai Visa Waiver

So in order to legally stay in Chiang Mai longer, we had two options:

The first was to extend our tourist visa for 60 days by visiting the immigration office in Chiang Mai and paying a fee. Simple enough…if a bit dry and boring.

The second, and imho far more fun option, was to leave Thailand for a while then come back on a new arrival stamp visa exemption. We are, after all, TRAVELERS!

This second option is common among digital nomads in Chiang Mai and all over Thailand. It’s called a ‘border run’ or ‘visa run,’ and in fact there are businesses that specifically cater to helping foreigners get to a border crossing.

The most common and famous from Chiang Mai is the border crossing with Myanmar at Mae Sai – a few hours from Chiang Mai by road – where you pay some fees and just walk over the border and back again to get a new passport stamp.

The practice of border runs is a bit controversial. Some digital nomads basically use border runs to become expats in Thailand -and it is constantly rumored in the digital nomad community that Thai authorities will crack down on it…at some point. But this was a one-time thing for us, so we didn’t sweat it.

Why Kuala Lumpur?

But a strict border visa run seemed a bit dull too. We were up for a bit of adventure and travel, so we looked for cheap excursions to places we thought would hold our interest for a couple of days.

We quickly honed in on Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Here’s why:

  • Lisa visited KL in 2008 as a side trip from her Deloitte project in Hyderabad, India. I had never been.
  • There were cheap ($90US) nonstop return flights from Chiang Mai to KL on AirAsia.
  • KL is not a city or area for slow travel for us (too damn hot and humid). But we nevertheless wanted to see some sites: Batu Caves, Petronas Towers, etc.
  • We were easily able to find a fabulous AirBnB in the heart of the hopping Bukit Bintang area of KL for only about $40US/night.

The stars aligned, our decision was made: we were on our way to Kuala Lumpur…and to get a new Thai visa waiver!

Part 1: How Thai Visa Waivers got us to Kuala Lumpur – This Post
Part 2: AirAsia experience Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur – Click Here
Part 3: Visiting Batu Caves and Petronas Towers – Click Here
Part 4: Back to Chiang Mai. Click Here

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