Tackling the Visa Run from Chiang Mai alone
As long term expats, when the time comes for us to do a Visa Run from Chiang Mai to Mae Sai, Sacha and I usually drive ourselves up to the Burmese border in our old car. But this time due to having renewal dates that didn’t match up, I decided to use the Green Bus Company and go it alone to save on fuel costs.
The Green Bus Company Ticket Office
The Green Bus Company is well known to most expats and tourists heading up to the border for their Visa Runs. But as a virgin to their services I began the mandatory research processes and tried to find out how it all works. Here’s what I found:
The Green Bus Company’s ticket office is located at ‘Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3’. Despite reading numerous blog posts stating how easy it was to find, I actually found it pretty difficult to locate. Most others were jumping into a taxi and asking to be taken there, but trying to find it myself was a little confusing. On Google maps it is referred to as the ‘Chiang Mai Provincial Arcade Transport Station’, if you are looking for directions that is what you should search for. Or check out my google map placemark here.
View Visa Run from Chiang Mai – Green Bus Company in a larger map
This is where you need to be
Sacha and I rode our motorbike to the bus station the day prior to my departure for Mae Sai. When we arrived at the station the second level of confusion began. For such a popular company I expected to see some clear signage as to which building the Green Bus Company was within. Alas there was nothing so we spent a further 5 minutes riding around the large grounds, following coaches and buses to see where they would park. Eventually I caught sight of a silver (not green) bus with a tiny ‘green bus company’ logo on the side and followed it into the car park of Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3.
A Rather Epic Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3
If you see this building you’re in the right place
Once inside the terminal things became much simpler. The Green Bus Ticket office is the first desk to the left that you’ll see when you enter the main entrance. There is a ticket machine near to the windows where you snatch a piece of paper and wait for your number to be called. If the crowd of customers is large this little ticket machine is easily missed but just walk toward the windows and you’ll see it on the right hand side.
The Green Bus Company Ticket Booth
It didn’t take long before I was at the desk arranging my VIP ticket for the large coach headed for Mae Sai the following day. I paid for two single journeys, 364 baht there and 364 baht return. There are several time slots to choose from starting from around 6.00am to 9.30 am, with similar afternoon options on the return journey. I opted for the 8.00am departure and 2.30pm return because I didn’t know how long the process would take at the Mae Sai bus station without my own transport.
I got to the bus station at 7.40am the next day ready to go. The bus was already prepped and left promptly at 8.00am on the dot. I was told the journey would take 4.5 hours but in reality it was much closer to 3.5 hours.
The Silver Green Bus
The staff provide you with free water, orange juice, biscuits, cake and refreshing towel. The VIP seat reclined quite nicely and there was plenty of leg room. As usual the A/C was rather chilly throughout so I’d suggest bringing a jumper with sleeves or a blanket.
Free Snacks Provided on the VIP service
There was only one toilet stop on the way at Chiang Rai Terminal 2 bus station and I nearly missed the bus departing while in the loo, they like to move quickly so don’t mess about if you need the lavatory. We arrived at Mae Sai Bus Terminal at around 11.45am so I had some time to kill before 2.30pm. Right outside the bus door a red Songtaew truck is waiting to ferry passengers to the immigration gate. It costs 15 baht for this service and you pay at the end directly to the driver.
Mae Sai Border Town
The rest of the process I have written about before, and nothing extraordinarily new happened at immigration this time either. I walked through the left gate and handed over my passport, got stamped out of Thailand and stamped in to Myanmar on the other side of the bridge. Paid the usual 500 baht fee, left my passport with the staff (this is standard procedure) and decided to visit my favourite coffee shop in the Tachiliek Market to kill some time.
Chilling with a drink at the coffee shop in the Tachiliek market
When I returned to Thailand the process was very much the same in reverse. Jump in the Red Songtaew waiting at the border, get to Mae Sai Bus Terminal and board the return bus back to Chiang Mai. The whole process was very efficient and professional and if the need arises I would definitely use the Green Bus Company again.
Here is the Green Bus Companies website if you need it: www.greenbusthailand.com
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