Visa Run to Macau: How to Border Run like a Baller

Every 2-3 months we're forced to leave the country. I've been doing it for years now and it's just become a part of my life that I've accepted. It's the downside to being a digital nomad. I used to dread border runs because they were a waste of time, money, and it was uncomfortable sitting in a minivan for 9 hours with nothing to do.

But this time it was different. This time I made it an adventure. In this post I talk about the difference between a Visa Run and a Border Run, why I chose Macau, and how to do it like a boss.


Visa Run vs. Border Run

Technically this was a border run as I didn't actually apply for a new visa, however, no one actually cares as the terms are used interchangeably. Macau is a great place to visit if you need to leave the country to activate your 2nd or 3rd entry for your tourist visa, or if you simply want to fly back in to get another 30 day visa exemption, which you can then extend giving you 2 months total which is what I'm doing this time around.

If you want to apply for another tourist visa, which gives you 60 days for each entry, plus the option to extend each entry for 3 months total, you'll want to go somewhere with a Thai conusulate, such as Hong Kong.

Feels like Vegas but in Asia
Why I chose Macau

The cheapest, fastest and easiest option would have been to take a bus to the border of Burma or to go to Laos. But that involves sitting in a mini van for 9 hours and only getting 14 days.

I wanted to fly somewhere instead so I looked at a map to see my options. My only requirement was I wanted a direct flight from Chiang Mai as I didn't want to waste my time transferring through Bangkok. Here were my options and how I ended up with Macau.

Mainland China - I don't like the culture.

Singapore - On the to visit list as I just realized Silkair and Tigerair fly direct there from Chiang Mai.

Kuala Lumpur - This is the most popular choice, and even though Malaysia Borneo is incredible, KL sucks, plus the city is 1 hour from the airport. 

Seoul Korea - I've been there and aside from good food, there's not much to do besides drink. Plus the flight is almost 5 hours which is too long. 

Taipei, Taiwan - Loved it, but was just there 3 months ago. Direct flights from V-Air. 

Luang Prabang, Laos - Didn't realize it was an option until just now but also requires a visa which annoying to apply for and a waste of $35 if you're just making a border run. 

Hong Kong - Will save this for when I want to apply for another tourist visa.

Burma (Myanmar) - Requires a visa. 

So Macau it was. It was a direct flight, and sounded perfect for a one day trip as it's dubbed the Las Vegas of Asia. 

The Venetian Canals in Macau
How to get to Macau

Even though AirAsia always has hidden fees, is often late, and otherwise my least favorite airline and last choice, they were the only airline that flew to Macau direct so I went with them. 

Getting from the Airport to the hotel is super easy. Every major hotel has a free shuttle service that comes every 15 minutes so there's no need to pre-book anything. I even took another hotel's shuttle on the way back to the airport because it was closer to where I had lunch without issue.

Total Cost for the Flight: $228.85US
Airport to Hotel Shuttle: Free

Standard King Room at the Hard Rock
Where to Stay in Macau

I sorted hotel prices from the lowest up, and turns out that Macau isn't cheap. But instead of getting a $50 a night room that's off the strip and far from anything fun, I decided to splurge a bit and get a room at one of the main casinos.  Since Hard Rock was in the center of everything, and they had 30% off rooms when I booked directly on their site, I stayed there.

Within walking distance was the Holiday Inn, Crown Plaza, the Venetian, Four Seasons, and the City of Dreams complex. 

The best thing about the Hard Rock was all of the random amenities that most people never take advantage of. The pool are was decent, but more of a place to chill than actually swim, and there was no one to play beach volleyball with but would be been fun. 

So instead, I called room service and asked to to bring up their "learn how to DJ kit" which was one of the options along with Fender guitars that you can borrow for free. 

Total Cost for 1 night: $119.85US

Learning how to DJ and eating my 3rd birthday cake

Where to Eat in Macau

Even though there is good food in Macau and some buffets, it's not like Vegas so don't get your hopes up. The breakfast buffet at the hardrock was decent, but nothing spectacular.  

Lunch both days was had in the food court at The Venetian at the local Portuguese restaurant and the ox-tail stew over rice was incredible. (Macau's heritage is Portuguese)   

For dinner I ended up eating at Din Tai Fung which is the soup dumpling place I loved in Taiwan, but only because it was either that or a burger at the Hard Rock cafe. It was good and similar to the one in Taipei but the one in Taiwan was definitely better. 

But the MUST EAT in Macau is the Portuguese Egg Tarts which were first made by Lord Stow in 1989 and worth the visit.

The best egg tarts I've had anywhere in the world
Crispy on the outside, creamy and warm in the center

I'm back in Chiang Mai with another 30 days stamped in my passport which I'm going to extend for another month, and overall, the trip to Macau was one of the easiest border runs I've ever done. A few years ago, I had decided to give my life back in Thailand one last shot, but with the personal promise that I would never try to save money by sitting in a mini-van to the border again.

I almost became that guy who is too broke to afford to travel any other way but the cheapest possible way and I am thankful everyday that I changed mindsets and paths.

I told myself, that there are so many countries within an easy flight from Thailand that I haven't seen yet and that I wasn't allowed to leave before I saw them all. So the goal for the past two years have been to grow my online income enough to be able to afford to travel every 2-3 months and to each time go somewhere I've never been before. 

So good.

Keep in touch and follow the journey,

Warm Regards,


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  1. Thank you Johnny for your insight. I just returned home from a 3 weeks vacation in Thailand.
    I spent 2 weeks in Bangkok and 1 week in Chiang Mai. I feel in love with Chiang Mai. The last 3 weeks I have been giving thought on what I could do to afford to live in Thailand considering getting a Thai job would require many hours labor with little pay, now you have given me hope. I will do some of the things I have seen on your site. Thank you so much. I will keep you updated on my progress. As I am determined. D.J.

    1. Hey glad you enjoyed Thailand and especially Chiang Mai . If you're trying to figure out your budget, make sure you read my first book, 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap ( or on amazon.

      I would not advise getting a Thai job, the wage so way too low to survive on. Best of luck with your progress and with the DJing. I had fun with Traktor DJ!

  2. Aloha Johnny,

    Thank you for your inspiration, I have been checking out your blog and appreciate the time you put into informing people about chiang mai and thailand in general. I have a few friends who did the digital nomad thing out there and was considering trying it out just by talking to them, but after joining the chiang mai digital nomads fb group, then finding you, I am set on heading that way in the next 3-4 weeks.

    I am a web developer, currently traveling the usa in a van with my gf, having lived in maui for the last 3 years, we decided to sell everything and try something different. I feel now that I have worked remotely for numerous steady clients and with a little start up money, i could live out there without an issue. It would be a pleasure to meet you out there, I hope to be joining the crossfit gym you attend and would like some suggestions on a condo near there and a co-working space if you have the time.

    Mahalo, Ethan

    1. Hey Ethan, awesome glad you like the blog. Let me know if you're ever out in Chiang Mai and i'd be happy to meet up.

    2. For sure, I'll reach out in the next few weeks. Thank You.

  3. dude, if you're ever coming to Singapore, let me show you around!

    1. Hey thanks for the offer Anant! I'll keep you in mind next time I go there. Since you live in Singapore already, you should check out Charles Ngo's free affiliate seminar on August 1st -

  4. Hey Johnny

    I love reading your blog post and truly admire your standard of life. I am a student at Drexel University in the States now and want to eventually live abroad and succeed as an entrepreneur. I have a question regarding your visa's. How does a visitor visa work even though you live and work in Chiang Mai? Don't get me wrong I would love travelling every 2-3 months, I just want to know how that works. ( As you can see I am pretty unfamiliar with the whole visa thing )


    1. Hey Ryan, I wrote a lot about "Visa Runs" in my first book 12 Weeks in Thailand. ( so you should read that. But pretty much we're all just on tourist visas over and over again.


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