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*UPDATED 22 September 2011 - The Burmese visa fee was now requested as 500 Thai Baht, rather than $10 as before; 500 Thai Baht is worth more than $10. You can still use $10 but you may need to empty your wallet of all except $10 and open and show your wallet. ** as of Dec 2014, USA dollars are no longer accepted, Thai Baht only **
You can stay up to 14 days but you are only allowed to visit locally (see below).
There are 2 ways to complete the border crossing.
1. VIP Pass
This is the one to use if you do not want to affect your current passport/visa, e.g. you have permission to stay in Thailand for longer than 15 days and want to keep it that way.
Ask the Thai immigration officer at the border about a VIP pass. Passes cost 100 Thai Baht. You will be directed to a local shop and told to photocopy a particular page of your passport. When you return, the Thai immigration officer will give you a VIP pass and keep your passport.
When you arrive at the Myanmar border, you use your VIP pass instead of your passport, the rest of the process at Myanmar immigration is the same as 2 below.
When you return to Thailand you exchange your VIP pass for your passport. There are no changes made to your passport. Your passport does not show you ever left Thailand and if you had 80 days left to stay in Thailand, you will still have 80 days left.
The other way is to use your passport and is described below, and you will be given permission to stay in Thailand for only 15 days (including date of travel to Tachilek).
2. Passport Method
The paperwork was very straightforward. If you are not familiar with this
1. complete your Thai departure card
2. go to Thai kiosk at beginning of the bridge
EDIT - 18 May 2014 - A pass is not required any more and you do not need to leave your passport at the checkpoint. If you're just going shopping or sightseeing for the day, you just need to pay the 500 Baht and you'll receive a regular Visa stamp in your passport valid for one day. The officer also stamped me back out of Burma at the same time so leaving at the end of the day was quite simple.
3. go to Burmese immigration on the bridge, pay the 500 baht, leave your passport with them, have your photo taken, receive temporary pass and proceed to Tachilek.
On return submit your temporary pass, collect your passport and proceed to Thai immigration.
Collect an entry form from the officer at the exit gate, complete the form (don't forget to take a pen and glasses if you need them!), and go to the Thai immigration kiosk where they will stamp your visa if all is in order.
If you have not been before be mentally prepared for more pressure from vendors than you may be used to in Thailand. A polite but firm declining of offers of cigarretes and viagra etc should suffice though, even if you have to repeat it a couple of times.
Before setting off for the obligitory day-time crossing from Mae Sai Thailand into Tachilek Myanmar (Burma) consider your Visa status on return.
Entry (back) into Thailand by land, for those nationalities entitled to Tourist Visa Exemption,only provides a 15 day period. If you intend to remain in Thailand beyond 15 days, (from your Tacheilek day trip) you should use the VIP Pass method above.
When this border is open, a journey into Tachilek can offer an easy and convenient method for securing a 15 day Visa Waiver for Thailand upon your return (note, you can only do this back-to-back 4 consecutive times from January 1st 2013, if you need more than 4, do one to Laos at Chiang Khong and the counter starts again). Burmese authorities no longer offer "Day passes" (US$5). Instead you will recieve a 14 day visa (US$10) for travel strictly limited to the Tachilek - Kengtung (also spelled Kyaingtong) area, and IS NOT valid for travel to ANY OTHER parts of Myanmar.
Myanmar Immigration authorities will hold your passport for the duration of your stay in the country, giving you an entry permit instead. You will get your passport back at the border checkpoint upon your return to Mae Sai - Thailand.
EDIT : As from 1/Sep/2016 holders of the Myanmar E-visas CAN enter at this border crossing (http://evisa.moip.gov.mm/index.aspx)
1. Foreigners must FIRST visit the Thai immigration office at the border crossing, to receive their exit stamp.
2. You then proceed to the Burmese Immigration Official US$10 (ensure you have the correct fee).
3. At this point you surrender your passport in return for a paper "pass" - receipt.
4. DO NOT LOSE THIS RECEIPT if you want your passport returned to you.
5. You are now able to remain in the Tachilek to Kengtung region for up to 14 days. (Most visitors take a short (2 - 3 hour) tour of Tachilek and then return to Mae Sai - Thailand the same day).
Tachilek is geared toward tourism and cross-border trade. It is a small border town and there are plenty of motodop/tuk tuk's for hire (they'll find you the moment you enter from the Thai side. You will need to haggle a fair price for the standard tour. Somewhere around 100 - 150THB is appropriate). The Burmese people are very friendly but expect many to have their hand out in some form or another (selling, begging, touting).
The Shwedagon Pagoda, not far from the border crossing, sits high a hill and has great views of the surrounding region and back toward Doi Tung. This is a beautiful Pagoda populated by locals that seem to eke out a living selling incense, flowers and candles (20-40THB) to visiting tourists and worshippers alike.
Hilltribe Tourist Village, about 1 km from the border on the side of a hill sits the Hilltribe Village (Akha and Karen longneck) . A number of Hilltribe villagers have been essentially "correlled" into a "human zoo" specifically for tourists to come and take their photos. Entry approximately US$1.
Tachilek Market is similar to the Thai markets just across the border, except that it also has items which may not be allowed back into Thailand or your home country. Knock off prescription drugs, pornographic films, knives, and guns are freely avaialable.
You may also come across endangered animal pelts and skulls available for sale. Plenty of cheap Chinese rubbish, pirated copies of the latest DVD's (40THB), as well as local handicrafts and genuine itmes of Shan clothing.
BE AWARE - Western brand cigarettes sold here are usually Burmese in origin with fake western branded packaging, prescription drugs are usually fake (chalk).
BE AWARE - Thai customs do randomly screen items brought back across the border looking for unsavory and illegal items.
Casinos The Regina Hotel Casino is a short 100THB ride from the border. You can play roulette with 10THB chips, as well as black-jack, craps and slots. Another option is the Allure Resort & Casino.
TIP: If you exchange 2000THB or more into gaming chips, a simple Thai lunch is provided free of charge. Of course any unused chips can easily be converted back into Thai Baht. The casino also offers free minibus transfers back to the border.
Border Closing Time, the border usually closes at 6pm, so if you intend to return to the Thai side, make sure to keep an eye on the clock.
Passage back into Thailand is a simple and painless process. Exchange your "pass" - receipt for your passport on the Myanmar side, and walk through to Passport control on the Thai side. There you fill in your entry declaration card, and will be stamped back into Thailand for 15 days, free of charge, or exchange your VIP Pass for your passport which will remain untouched.