Crossing the land border from Thailand to Myanmar
If you’re travelling for a longer period of time, on a budget, if you avoid flying as much as you can or if you are simply up to the challenge, crossing the land border from Thailand to Myanmar is a possibility. The easiest border to cross on foot is the one at Mae Sot, about 360km from Chiang Mai and 495km from Bangkok. Below you’ll find the necessary steps you need to take to cross the border from Thailand to Myanmar in Mae Sot, departing, in this specific case, from Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.
1| Getting a Myanmar Visa
Anyone planning to travel overland to Myanmar has to get a visa before entering the country. When in Thailand, head to Myanmar’s Embassy in Bangkok or to Myanmar’s Consulate in Chiang Mai. Take your passport and 1 copy of the main page with you, 2 photos and 800 bahts for the fee. The visa will be ready in 2 to 3 working days.
2| Bus from Chiang Mai to Mae Sot.
The first step of crossing the land border from Thailand to Myanmar consists on going all the way to the town nearest to the border: Mae Sot. The bus company Greenbus does that route. Buses leave from Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3 at 8:35 am, 1:10pm and 5pm. The trip takes about 6h30 to 7 hours. The border closes at 6pm and opens at 9am the following day, so it’s best for you to take the first bus in the morning if you don’t really want to spend the night in Mae Sot.
Bus tickets can be booked online through Green Bus website and paid for in any 7 Eleven shop. You just have to take the code they gave you when you booked the ticket to the cashier at 7 Eleven. You then get a proof of payment that you’ll have to exchange for the real tickets at the Green Bus sales counter at the Bus terminal.
Inside the terminal there are several shops where you can stack up on snacks and water for your trip, if you like. On the other side of the street there’s also a small shopping mall called Star Avenue, with several restaurants with AC and free Wi-Fi, in case you have to wait for a while for the bus.
You then have to head out to Platform 17 (it’s still better to confirm the platform number when you’re there) to get on the bus. It’s a tourism bus comfortable enough, where they even offer you a small snack and a bottle of water at the beginning of the trip. About 6h30 later, you’re in Mae Sot. You can get on a tuk tuk from the Bus Terminal to the city centre or to the border, depending on what your next steps will be.
3| Accommodation in Mae Sot
Regardless of the time you get to Mae Sot, you’ll always have to undergo another long trip from the other side of the border (in Myanmar) to your next destination, so I do recommend that you stay the night in Mae Sot, so that you can cross the border early in the morning and continue your trip in Myanmar less tired.
I didn’t book ahead and ended up staying at Ban Thai Guesthouse. Comfortable rooms, amazing inner garden and affordable prices. Room with a fan: 550 bahts, room with AC: 850 bahts, bungalow: 1000 bahts.
If you prefer to book ahead you can check out other accommodation options here: Accommodation in Mae Sot.
4| Go to the border
From Mae Sot you’ll need to get on a tuk tuk, songthaew or taxi to the border. Go to the city centre where you’ll find plenty of options. There are also AC Mini-Vans that will take you all the way to the other side (Myawaddy) for 50 bahts (minimum). If you would rather cross the Friendship Bridge on foot and want to save some bahts, you can always walk a little bit further to the market, where you can get on a songthaew for 20 bahts. But you do have to be aware that these vans get completely filled with people. A van built for 10 people top, got to the border with 19 people on it!
5| Cross the border
The whole process at the border, although simple, envolves some necessary steps. The first stop is at Thailand’s departure counter, before the Friendship Bridge. Next, you’ll get stopped by the Tourist Police to register your personal data in this black book. You then proceed to a small office on the right side so that you can formally enter Myanmar. You fill up a sheet with your personal data, including your nest address in Myanmar, they take a photo of you, and that’s it. You have successfully completed the process of crossing the land border from Thailand to Myanmar!