It’s been said a pretty face is a passport. It’s not, it’s a visa, and it runs out fast.-Julie Burchill
All legitimate countries limit the time a foreigner can stay within its borders. Typically ranging from 15 to 30 days, there are countless reasons why this time may not be enough. The visa run is a way around this.
The concept is simple; when the visa (or immigration stamp) for your allotted time is about to expire, you leave the country for a neighboring one then return (sometimes immediately) and obtain a new visa.
Essentially “resetting the clock”.
Visa runs are almost always easier, faster and cheaper than the alternatives; visa extensions, obtaining work visas or overstaying which is never advisable.
THE OVERLAND VISA RUN // This is often the most ideal and economical way to do a visa run, especially if already near the border. By car, train, boat (as pictured) or literally walking across the border. The downside is that you typically get less days to stay.
THE OVERAIR VISA RUN // This is basically just another international flight. You fly, land then fly back. More expensive than overland visa runs due to the 2 flights as well as less convenient. The upside is that you always get as much or more days to stay.
In both instances, your passport must receive an “exit stamp” of the departing country in order to receive an “entry stamp” of the arriving country. That latter stamp will indicate how much time you’re allowed in the country. Then returning back to the country you want to resume being in will give you a “refreshed” set of days with the new entry stamp. That’s the visa run.
While you have to leave the country you want to remain in for a visa run to work, you can be back in as little as 24 hours or after the entire stay of the other country. Regardless, you achieve the goal of staying longer.
Depending on the current state of a nation’s immigration and tourist protocols, you can be in their country for as long as you want. There are limitations and exceptions however, most notably Europe.
Unlike most individual countries, Europe offers a single visa for most of its continent (Schengen) good for 3 months. But this is only valid again after another 3 months have passed outside of the continent. So visa runs are impossible as there is no forced visa resets.
The most widely and popular region of visa running occurs throughout Southeast Asia. Specifically Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Malaysia. All closely connected by land and highly integrated international public transportation routes and private services catered to assist in visa runs.
In a tight region with a high concentration of inter-friendly countries, the visa run can become the “visa hop”. Visa hopping is just a more advanced and active version. Staying within a subcontinent hopping from one country to another at will for as long as desired.
Visa runs are completely legal and aren’t shady at all. I’ve been doing it for years with expectedly no problems. There is no risk as a visa run simply would not be possible if wasn’t allowed in any given travel scenario.
Each country has their own visa requirements but are easy to find to out if a visa run is possible. So planning them are relatively easy with most of it just logistics.
I love to travel, but hate to arrive.-Hernan Cortes
The visa run is a tool of wanderlust.