Tachileik (also spelt Tachilek) is in Shan State, Eastern Myanmar, on the border with Thailand.


Although just 5 m across the river from Mae Sai, the northernmost town in Thailand, Tachileik is in a whole different world. The happy outgoing atmosphere that you have been used to in Thailand evaporates instantly and is replaced by a slightly uptight one. This is not to say that the Burmese people are not welcoming, indeed they love tourists and are very keen to sit down and talk (when they think they are not being watched), but do not expect to feel at ease here, and do not be surprised if you are followed by government people throughout the town. As long as your purposes are legitimate, you follow local rules and customs and you don't go around making a spectacle of yourself, you will have a great time in Tachileik and the border area of Burma.

The town is a typical border trading town with a twist.

The majority of people crossing over to Myanmar are Thais shopping for bootlegged Chinese goods in the market. Alternatively some Thais cross to play golf on the only course in the region, so expect to see the surreal sight of large groups of people crossing the border carrying sets of clubs. There is also a small casino in Tachileik catering even to "low" rollers. You may even find a 10 baht roulette table.

If you are expecting to see the real Myanmar, this is not the place to do it. If you are "stamp collecting" in your passport, want to see something a bit more visceral than what you find in Thailand or are at loose ends in Chiang Rai for the day, then this is a good place to go. The great thing about visiting is the ease of entry to the border area, getting another stamp in your passport and getting a flavour of life in Myanmar.

Get in

From Thailand

It's possible to enter Myanmar at the Mae Sai border post. A 14 day visa is USD10 or 500 baht. Note, if your USD10 is not in pristine condition, the authorities will not accept it. They really want 500 baht instead since it is worth USD16. The visa is valid on,y for the Tachilek-Kengtung area and is not for travel to other parts of Myanmar. Note, the Myanmar Immigration authorities will hold on to your passport for the duration of your stay in the country giving you an entry permit instead. You will get your passport back on crossing back over to Thailand. Holders of a normal one-month Myanmar visa cannot use it to enter at Mae Sai. Ensure you have the appropriate travel documents to re-enter Thailand at Mae Sai, you will only be able to get a 15 day entry pass into Thailand rather than the usual 30 day one that you get at the airport. If you have a visa and want to keep it, remember to get a re-entry permit in advance.

If you are a Thai citizen, you can get a temporary border pass at the Immigration office about 2 km before the border on Pahonyotin Rd in Mae Sai for 30 baht. All you need is your bat prachachon (ID card).

By air

Air Bagan and Yangon Airways fly to Heho via Kengtung daily. Air Mandalay offers a non-stop flight to Mandalay. All have connecting or continuing service to Yangon and other parts of Myanmar.

By road

Shared taxis (USD12) and buses (USD8) run to Kengtung (4-5 hr) in the mornings. A permit is necessary but bus and taxi drivers can make the arrangements (don't show up at the last minute). Onward travel from Kengtung to Mong La on the Chinese border is possible with permission from Myanmar immigration, easily organised in Kengtung.

Get around

Tachilek is small and there are plenty of trishaws for hire. Motorcycle taxis and car taxis are also available. The bus station and airport are outside town on the road to Kengtung. Take a pickup or hire a taxi to get there.




Tachileik market is much like any market you would find on the Thai side of the border except that it sells a large quantity of items that would get you into a of trouble with customs authorities in your home country.

You can find all the latest DVDs at prices ranging from 40 baht. As long as you don't go mad with the quantity you should have no problems getting them back into Thailand. As for taking them back home, that depends on your country's customs policies.

Expect, occasionally, to see wildlife, endangered animal pelts, and skulls, though these are rarely seen in the main part of the market. Local handicrafts range from kitsch to genuine Shan clothing.

Knock-off prescription drugs (in particular, Viagra) and X-rated films are carried around by very annoying, but licensed hawkers. Knives and guns are freely available. Do not buy cigarettes as they are usually Burmese knock-offs put into Western-branded packages and will likely get you into trouble with the Thai Customs when you try and return into Thailand: also, they taste terrible.

Be wary that if you do intend to shop here the Thai customs authority screen every bag returning to Thailand and do not take kindly to many of the things sold in the market. This applies mainly to returning Thais however. Foreigners' bags are hardly ever screened as long as the bearer looks presentable.

Tachilek Duty Free shop sells alcoholic drinks and tobacco products at way, way below Thai prices. A bottle of decent quality single malt Scotch whisky costs from 800 baht a bottle. There doesn't seem to be any definite rule about the quantity you can bring into Thailand: the unofficial policy seems to be if you can carry it you can import it. Don't go mad though, you always stand the risk of having everything confiscated, although this is extremely unlikely as a complicated network of people benefit financially from the shop.



Most tourists to Tachilek pop across the border from Thailand for a night and there are many hotels in town. Prices are usually quoted in baht, but US dollars are welcome.


Go next

If you have a Myanmar visa and plan to exit Myanmar at the Mae Sai border, you must obtain a permit in advance from the MTT offices in Yangon.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, September 05, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.