90-Day Tourist Visas to Thailand or Malaysia: Which One is Easier?

Huge lines at Immigration at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Many tourists to south east Asia choose to visit either Thailand or Malaysia. These two neighboring countries are visitable with 90-day tourist visas but most travelers don’t want to apply for tourist visas for both.

So they make a choice to apply for a tourist visa to either Thailand or Malaysia and forgo visiting the other country. If you’re thinking of applying for a 90-day tourist visa, which country is better? Thailand or Malaysia? And why?

Applying for a 90-day tourist visa – For Thailand, if you’d like to visit for 90 days, you must apply for a tourist visa before you leave your home country. You can mail your passport to a Thai embassy or can visit the embassy yourself to get your tourist visa.

The other option you have is to fly into a country close to Thailand, before you go to Thailand, and apply for a tourist visa at the Thai embassy there. Be warned though, this option takes 48 hours, so be prepared to spend at least two days there.

For Malaysia, if you are from an eligible country (check the Malaysian embassy website for which countries are), you get a 90-day tourist visa stamp when you arrive at the Malaysian airport and go through Immigration. That’s it. Easy.

Cost for a 90-day tourist visa – A 90-day tourist visa for Thailand is currently free (there’s normally a charge). The 90-day tourist visa for Malaysia is also free at the airport, so both countries have a no charge policy.

However…..there’s a catch. The 90-day tourist visa for Thailand isn’t actually a 90-day visa. It’s only a 60-day visa, which then has to be extended at an Immigration office in Thailand for another 30 days. Cost? 1,900 baht or $58.

So, where the Malaysian 90-day tourist visa is free, the Thai visa will cost you $58 for the same 90 days.

Extensions for 90-day tourist visas – In Malaysia, with an original visa, you can get an extension at the Immigration office for another 60 days for free. Total time allowed in Malaysia on a tourist visa? 150 days. Total cost? Free.

In Thailand, after your initial 30 day extension, you can apply for a 15 day extension. Cost? 1,900 baht ($58). After this, you can apply for a third and final extension for 7 days. Cost? 1,900 baht ($58). Total time allowed in Thailand on a tourist visa? 112 days. Total cost? 5,700 baht or $172. Expensive.

Normal cost of 90-day tourist visas – There’s never a charge for 90-day tourist visas in Malaysia. In Thailand, the normal cost for the initial 60-day visa is 1,900 baht ($58). The visa is currently free as the government is trying to attract tourists. However, when it goes back to its normal cost, the full cost of a visa for 112 days to visit Thailand will be 7,600 baht or $230. Expensive.

Every time I visit Malaysia, I meet travelers and tourists who decided to stay in Malaysia instead of visiting Thailand. Most of them tell me it’s due to the cost of visas to Thailand and the fact that the government makes it much more difficult to get one.

With the no-cost policy of the Malaysian government and the ease of obtaining visas and extensions, Malaysia was a much more sensible option for them.

Malaysian friends also tell me the Malaysian government is happy Thailand continues to make getting tourist visas so much more difficult than they do. Malaysia is attracting large numbers of tourists who, if it wasn’t for the hassle of getting tourist visas for Thailand, might visit Thailand instead.

The Malaysian government is smart enough to see that. It would be nice if the Thai government could see it too.