As the world reopens after more than two years of restrictions and travel bans meant to stem the spread of Covid-19, travellers are finding it more challenging to get around as many travel rules have changed and new ones imposed.
Travel to Thailand has also become a tad more complex for those that last visited the kingdom before the pandemic. Passage into the country is now dependent on whether a traveller is vaccinated and their country of departure.
- The Test and Go program is for fully vaccinated travellers (more than 14 days) from any country. Travellers are required to stay at a SHA+ hotel for Day 1 while awaiting the results of their RT-PCR Covid test.
- Sandbox program travellers may only enter Thailand through Phuket and Samui. They must remain at a designated SHA+ hotel for the first 7 nights to allow for 2 Covid tests before being allowed to travel to other parts of Thailand. This limit has been changed to 5 nights from 1 April 2022.
- Alternative Quarantine Program is for travellers that are partially or not vaccinated at all. They are required to undergo mandatory quarantine of up to 10 days at designated hotels in Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Prakan, or Samui. Thereafter, if having tested negative, will be allowed to travel to other parts of Thailand. This quarantine period will be reduced to 5 nights from 1 April 2022.
Here are some of the highlights to pay attention to if hoping to travel here in the immediate future.
All travellers to Thailand are required to have a valid Thailand Pass. The Thailand pass is an online system that is used to facilitate the documentation process and it is free of charge. Applications to travel to Thailand should be made at least a week before the expected date of departure. Ensure that you have received your Thailand Pass before travel. The Thailand Pass registration website is currently open and accepting applications for Test and Go, Sandbox, and Alternative Quarantine programs.
Covid-19 Visa Extension
The Covid Visa extension permits travellers to extend their stay by 60 days. Generally, you may qualify for this extension if you can prove its necessity and are travelling on a 60-day tourist visa and a 30-days visa exemption. Those on 15-day visas on arrival and Non-immigrant B, ED, and O (Volunteer) visas may not apply for the Covid extension. Approval of this extension is entirely at the discretion of the immigration officer. This extension was due to expire on 25 March but has now been extended to 24 May 2022.
Pre-Departure Covid Test
Thailand’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) lifted the requirement for a pre-departure RT-PCR test for international arrivals. This applies to those travelling under the Test and Go, Sandbox and Alternative Quarantine programs. The change applies from 1 April 2022.
Test and Go and Sandbox travellers will however still be required to undergo the RT-PCR test upon arrival and an antigen self-test on Day 5.
It is however important to note that different airlines may have different requirements for travellers to take their flights. Some may still require the RT-PCR test to allow for transit. Travellers are advised to check with the airline they are using to ensure they meet flight requirements.
Thailand has grown to become a popular medical tourism destination in Asia thanks to its many state-of-the-art hospitals, highly trained medical personnel, and excellent medical care. The cost of medical treatment here is also more affordable than in most western nations.
The kingdom has however had to grapple with many foreigners travelling here for expensive medical treatment and absconding before making full payment. This compelled the government to eventually require even those on retirement visas to have health insurance as a requirement for their yearly extensions. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, travellers of all ages are required to have a valid health insurance policy to cover the duration of their stay.
Travellers are typically allowed to take health insurance from providers in their country, but if having taken a visa that is subject to later renewal, are required to switch to an insurer that is headquartered in Thailand.
This switch to an approved Thai insurance company is due to some reports that those with out-of-country policies are facing difficulties getting their treatments paid for by the overseas insurer and becoming at risk of being subjected to a lawsuit by the hospitals they sought treatment. A local policy is less likely to have complications and there will be easier communication between the policy provider and hospital.
Travellers are being advised to ensure that:
- the policies cover both inpatient and outpatient treatment, including for Covid-19
- the health insurance policy they take states adequate coverage of up to USD$20,000 in medical expenses, including Covid-19 while in Thailand
- the certificate should state that it is issued for purpose of the Thailand Pass application
- the policies cover unexpected eventualities like motor accidents and illnesses like food poisoning
- the policies accommodate telemedicine and teleconsultation which may be needed if quarantined
- the certificate indicates the policy number and start date of coverage
When it comes to the limits for health insurance, the amount will vary depending on the type of visa. For instance, those that are retirement visa holders should have an annual policy with a minimum cover of THB 40,000 for outpatient care and THB 400,000 for inpatient care.
Those on short-stay visas like the tourist visa can expect to spend about THB 8,000 to THB 14,000 on travel insurance from a Thailand based insurance provider.
This cover can easily be purchased online before you travel. You will need to have the certificate of coverage to present to immigration officials on arrival.
Amendments to The Sandbox Program
Travellers under the Sandbox program were required to travel to and remain in Phuket for at least 7 nights before being allowed to travel to other parts of Thailand. These travellers are now only required to stay in Phuket for 5 nights before being allowed the freedom to travel to other parts of Thailand. They will still need to undertake the RT-PCR test on arrival (Day 0-1) and an antigen self-test on Day 5.
Amendment to The Alternative Quarantine Program
The quarantine program for travellers that are partly or not vaccinated has now reduced the mandatory quarantine period at designated SHA hotels to just 5 nights from its earlier requirement of 10 nights. Travellers under this program will now be required to take the RT-PCR test on Day 1 and Day 5 of their stay at the SHA hotel. If cleared, they will thereafter be free to travel to other parts of Thailand. This change takes effect on 1 April 2022.