Normally, when a foreigner enters Thailand via Suvarnabhumi airport, a 30 days stay is given. Because Thailand is such a great country to be in, many visitors, myself included, find ourselves going for what is termed as border hops/runs- ie go to the nearest Thai border, exit the country to a neighboring country (Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia or Malaysia), and then turn back and re-enter Thailand.
Previously, when we do that, we are given an additional 28 days (the 30 days is only valid by entry via airport). As I was in Northern part of Thailand last month (too far to travel back to Malaysia), I went to Mae Sai and exit to Myanmar to have my passport chopped, expecting another extension of 28 days.
Imagine my shock when I was given 15 days (the day I went is counted as Day 1- so I only consider that it is in actual fact, 14 days). Anyway for more information, please refer to ThaiVisa site, a site that contains great information for anything pertaining to Thai travel laws, visas, etc. It seems that this law had been effective since November 08 but many foreigners are still not aware of the ruling.
Now, each time if we were to go to Mae Sai immigration, we have to pay 500 baht to the Myanmar immigration to have our passports processed. That means, for an extension of about 28days, one will have to pay 500×2=1000 baht effective immediately. Not to mention the hassle of getting to the border in the first place as foreigners normally had to take buses for many hours to get to the nearest border to get their stay extended. The Immigration border is opened everyday (including public holidays) but closes about 6pm (please arrive much earlier).
There are a lot of speculation as to why this new law is put in place- some people said it is to deter backpackers who may not be able to spend a lot in Thailand. It is found that tourists who spend the highest generally do not stay in Thailand long.
But personally, I feel that backpackers contribute a lot to the Thai economy. No matter what, tourists will still visit the tourist attractions, buy souvenirs, get hungry, stay in hotels (budget or otherwise), take some kind of transport. And they actually have to pay for all of these using cash.
I was in Thailand when the Suvarnabhumi airport was closed down (luckily I arrived before the strike) and I watched how badly this move really hurt the tourism industry. December is when the tourist destinations are most crowded and hotels are fully booked. Cha’am beach was so quiet- I only saw a few foreigners going about. We had no problems getting hotel rooms anywhere, as compared to last year when many hotels were literally fully booked. And many stranded travellers had to exit Thailand either by train or bus and board the flight home from there.
With the border runs now reduced to 14 days, it will just make matters worst as it gets very expensive to just extend the stay in Thailand.
As such, it is strongly advisable that if you intend to stay longer than the time allowed, please get a tourist visa from your home country before visiting Thailand. Getting a visa saves time, cost and hassle of border runs.
Important: Never ever over-extend your stay in Thailand without having a legit chop on your passport. This is because if you are ever caught (during routine checks) overstaying, you will be placed on lockup straight away. And routine checks happens often as there are various police stops along the highway.
By the way, if you happen to go to Mae Sai- it is a shopping haven by itself: