Travel to Thailand: latest Covid rules and pratical guidance

·7 min read
Beaty limestone rock in the odean, Thailand - saiko3p/Getty
Beaty limestone rock in the odean, Thailand - saiko3p/Getty

Despite currently recording roughly 10,000 Covid-19 cases and 100 deaths a day, Thailand is pushing ahead with plans to reopen the country to vaccinated travellers from 10 countries, including China, Singapore, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom, on November 1. Travellers from these 'low-risk' countries will not be required to quarantine, although they will still need to a negative PCR test before flying, and another test on arrival. If the second test is negative, visitors will then – in theory – be allowed to roam freely around the rest of the country.

It's a system that has already been partially tested in Phuket, where a 'sandbox' scheme introduced in July and later rolled out to Koh Samui, Phang Nga and Krabi. Visitor numbers have been modest so far but hotels are now gearing up for a busy high season and are expecting to be fully-booked over the Christmas and New Year period. Traffic is back on the streets of Bangkok, restaurants are reopening and hotels are preparing to welcome international travellers from November 1. Tourism officials have also announced plans for a massive New Year's Eve Party starring Andrea Bocelli.

That said, only 43 per cent of Thailand's population have been vaccinated so far and some provinces are still wrestling with high Delta variant caseloads, including Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya and Pattani. It is therefore advisable to look into the measures for the areas you wish to visit and to remain mindful of masking and social distancing rules.

Can I go to Thailand?

Yes, it is possible to visit Thailand right now if you adhere to certain restrictions and submit to multiple Covid tests. Since July, Thailand's successful 'sandbox' scheme has allowed fully vaccinated foreign tourists to visit its largest island, Phuket, without the need for quarantine. Holidaymakers are required to take two PCR tests during their stay, but after seven days are free to travel on to other parts of Thailand.

The list of Sandbox destinations has recently been expanded to include Surat Thani (Ko Samui, Ko Pha-ngan, and Ko Tao), Phang-Nga (Khao Lak and Ko Yao), and Krabi (Ko Phi Phi, Ko Ngai and Railay Beach).

Significantly, from November 1 the country will reopen to fully vaccinated visitors from countries it deems 'low risk' – including the UK. Other countries on the list include the US, Germany, China and Singapore.

In a televised address, the Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-O-Cha, revealed that tourists from 'low risk' countries would need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test and take another test on arrival, but would be able to travel freely around the country.

Are flights operating?

Yes. The likes of Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Thai airlines have all resumed flights to Thailand.

Will I be insured if I go?

The FCDO no longer advises against all but essential travel to Thailand, making insurance policies easier to come by.

Do I need to take a test before travel to Thailand?

Yes, if visiting Thailand as part of the ‘sandbox’ scheme or after November 1, you must present a negative PCR test result (issued no longer than 72 hours before departure), take a PCR test on arrival and on day six or seven before onwards travel around Thailand.

Aerial view of Phang nga bay in the sunset, Thailand - Bento Fotography/Getty
Aerial view of Phang nga bay in the sunset, Thailand - Bento Fotography/Getty

Do I need to fill in any forms?

Non-nationals must apply for permission to travel to Thailand, via the Royal Thai Government’s online platform. You may also be required to download the Thai Chana COVID-19 tracking app on arrival.

Do I need to self-isolate on arrival?

Since July, Thailand's 'sandbox' scheme has allowed fully vaccinated foreign tourists to visit its largest island, Phuket, without the need for quarantine. Holidaymakers are required to stay in an approved hotel and take two PCR tests during their stay, but after seven days are free to travel on to other parts of Thailand. Unvaccinated children under 18 are subject to the same rules as their double-jabbed parents.

Do I need to wear a mask?

Yes. Masks are compulsory in Thailand and must be worn in all public places, indoors and out, as well as on public transport and in vehicles carrying more than one person.

As in most of Asia, Thais are very conscientious about mask-wearing and will be shocked and appalled by anyone not covering up. Not wearing a mask properly could also result in a police fine of THB1,000/£22. Fines for second and third offences rise from THB10,000/£220 to THB20,000/£440.

What are the rules on beaches?

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, 'it’s unlikely you’ll be required to wear a mask on the beach if you are adhering to social distancing.' It seems the rule is being applied inconsistently in Phuket and Koh Samui so you should wear a mask between swims if you're asked to do so.

What are the rules in bars? Thailand's bars and nightclubs remained shuttered as part of a nighttime curfew that has been in place since April. There have been some strong hints from the Prime Minister that these rules will be dropped on December 1.

What are the rules for restaurants?

Restaurants are allowed to open until 10pm, under the current nightly curfew conditions, and are not allowed to serve alcohol, with the exception of restaurants in the sandbox. Seating for customers is limited to 50 per cent for air-conditioned indoor restaurants and 75 per cent for outdoor diners.

What are the rules for shopping?

Shopping malls continue to operate as normal, with mask-wearing and social distancing in place. Convenience stores are allowed to open from 4am to 11pm and street markets are back in business. When entering shops and malls you will usually be asked to pass a temperature reader.

What are the rules in hotels?

Foreign visitors are only allowed to stay in a SHA Plus in the islands or ASQ-certified hotel in Bangkok, which meet government health and safety guidelines. A list of approved hotels can be found on thailandsha.com and can be booked direct, through an online booking engine or a travel agent. Hotels are allowed to operate at full capacity, with social distancing, mask-wearing and temperature checks in place.

Thailand, Bangkok, traffic jam - Westend61/Getty
Thailand, Bangkok, traffic jam - Westend61/Getty

What are the rules on public transport?

Masks are required on all forms of public transport including domestic flights, which are allowed to operate at full capacity. A negative PCR is required to board a domestic flight.

Shall I take cash, or pay for everything on card?

Although credit cards are widely accepted in hotels and shopping malls, Thailand is mainly a cash-based society. It's best to keep a variety of small notes on you for taxis, tuk-tuks, food vendors and market stalls.

Do I need to take a test before travelling back to England?

No, not if you are fully vaccinated. If you are not double-jabbed, you must take a lateral flow test 72 hours before arriving in the UK and have an official certificate to prove it. If you fail to do so, you will be denied boarding, or risk a fine of up to £500 on arrival back in the UK. You can find the Government's rules on testing before departure, here.

Do I need to self isolate on my return to England?

Travellers who have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine can avoid quarantine on their return home, but still need to test on day two. This will be downgraded to a lateral flow test on October 24.

Those who haven't had both jabs must self-isolate at home for 10 days. Thailand is no longer on the red list, so you are not required to enter hotel quarantine. You will also need to take a PCR test on the second and eighth days of your self-isolation. If you opt in for Test to Release, you can take an extra test on day five to exit quarantine (if your result is negative), but will still need to take the further test on day eight.

How is the case rate in Thailand?

As of October 19, Thailand reported 104 cases per 100,000 – a week-on-week decrease.

How is Thailand's vaccination drive going?

As of October 19, 63 per cent of the eligible population had received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine. 43 per cent are fully vaccinated.

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