a large garden with Doi Inthanon and a bridge

How does 31 steps of paperwork, chartering a private aircraft, 14 days of mandatory quarantine at your own expense and then a blissful minimum 90 day Thai vacation sound, about now?

Oh, and you’ll need to prepay those 90 days of accommodations too.

If the effort, costs or time haven’t put you off, Thailand has a fantastic plan to reboot slowly and safely reboot tourism. If they have, you might need to wait a while. Here’s everything you need to know about Thailand’s wild and wacky plan to bring visitors back.

Update: Thailand has (slightly) improved the current visa process, including to tourists outside of Asia, and including the United States. Read up on the latest here.

a row of gold statues in a temple

Thailand’s 90 Day Visitor Visa

Travel is reopening at different paces in regions around the world. While Europe is open to select international visitors, the Pacific is largely off limits and may be for quite a while, and in Asia, travel is mostly regional only, if at all. It’s a mixed bag.

Thailand, one of Asia’s most tourism dependent nations is looking to bring visitors back with new 90 day special visitor visas, which can be extended up to two additional times, for up to 270 days exploring Thailand, and the visas may be available as early as October, 2020.

Before you pack your bags, don’t get too excited, yet.

Unlike other countries with relatively simple new covid-19 testing restrictions and varying degrees of quarantine, Thailand’s only current plan leaves much to be desired, and is cumbersome even by tax accountant standards.

The plans, clearly aimed at expats who winter in Thailand come after a variety of questionable ideas, including isolating all tourists on an island. As part of the 31 step process for a tourist to take advantage of the new Thailand STV visas, all potential visitors must…

  • take out health insurance of at least $100,000 coverage
  • pre-pay for 14 days of quarantine, an also all 90 days of accommodation.
  • pass a “fit to fly” exam and provide covid-19 test within 72 hours of arrival.
  • show evidence of charter or private flight to move from place to place.

Basically, if you want to visit Thailand in the near future, current plans require no less than 104 days of prepaid accommodation, health exams, a private jet, and last but not least, a tracing app or bracelet to monitor all subsequent movements. Here’s a look at each of the 31 steps, as highlighted by the Bangkok Post.

a poster with a timeline of a job

Is there a market for this? Apparently, but it’s certainly not “mass market”. Thailand’s cautious approach looks to be similar to digital nomad visas being offered by various countries, intending to attract people who will bring vital spending into neighborhoods for months on end, rather than a few nights at a time.

The special 90 day visa would effectively means visitors living more like locals than generic tourists, which data shows often makes a larger overall positive contribution to local economies, than travelers flocking to big chain hotels. Long stay guests are more likely to dine in local restaurants, shop in independent stores for goods and to utilize transit systems.

a landscaped garden with Doi Inthanon and a pond

Nonetheless, these visitors, which Thailand intends to cap at 1,200 per month don’t do much to alleviate job concerns in Thailand’s robust hospitality sector. Whether arrivals spend 90 days post quarantine in hotels, houses or private apartments is entirely up to the visitor, and without mass market travel numbers, hotels, tour groups and other traditional travel industry jobs simply won’t exist.

It may be better than no tourism at all, which other Asian countries are grappling with, but not much.

Travelers already face a myriad of challenges in 2020 with constantly changing border restrictions, health concerns and uncertainty in financial markets. Thailand’s plans for travel tourism are perhaps better than nothing at all, but for a destination which last year required nothing more than booking a flight, it’s a difficult sell for many.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I believe they are planned to be charter flights operated by THAI, I read somewhere the govt is planning to charter them directly into Phuket. I guess you’d book a seat with the visa and your quarantine hotel directly with the Thai tourist authority. But who knows!

  2. Maybe if they stopped dual pricing discrimination people would be more inclined to visit Thailand, not only during but after the pandemic is over.

  3. This is the product of a “military based” government that knows only how to prevent people from doing things, and nothing about rebuilding a shattered tourism business. It is a form of economic apartheid that will result in tens of visitors who have vast funds and can pay others to leap through the hoops in the system. And it will be ridiculed by the tourism industry. Sadly millions of Thai people will continue to have no employment, no income, and no government system to sustain them because the government does not want tourism to return as a mass market industry bringing in millions of foreigners who poison Thai society with their outsider influence.

  4. I don’t understand why we can’t open up worldwide travel with a very simple procedure: negative test 72 hrs prior to travel, check temp at airport, test on arrival, quarantine until test results returned in a few days. Why must it be any more complicated? Sure, testing is not infallible, but any false negative cases could be easily traceable.

    1. A good plan. Three, maybe four tests in 7-10 days including 72 hours before departure should provide enough redundancy to be very safe. As an added bonus for Thailand, whatever tourists visited would likely stay for a longer period if they have to go through 4 days or whatever of quarantine since visiting for only a week under those circumstances would become impractical. A plan like you’ve suggested could get tourism rolling worldwide in a hurry. The only major drawback I can see would be finding a way to keep people isolated until they come back clean. Otherwise they might be tempted to wander after a day or two, potentially infecting lots of people.

  5. much to complicated system and requirement to get and pay for everything in advance, so that MAYBE they will give you a STV, crazy as they say in Thailand, NO MONEY BACK.
    I was excited to be able to return for 6 months, but now disappointed.
    I feel bad for the thai people as no tourist, no work, no money….more hunger, more stress, more depression, more suicides 🙁

  6. Just stupid and backwards.
    Why the chartered flights? Qatar flys here every day as do others. Oh, gotta bail out Thai air with inflated prices?
    Who suffers? The little guy.
    Its not the Thailand you left Now many business closed and lots of pain.

  7. This plan is only for super rich Asians from china and korea.
    But I hardly doubt these people will have the patients to stay in quarantine for 14 days

    1. Unless they’re coming to purchase failed businesses they’re not going to be interested either. Chinese people have limited time, and even those few (mostly wealthy business owners) who are willing and able to spend more time traveling, have no interest in being imprisoned for 2 weeks when they first arrive.

  8. Happy to do all these things to comply, but currently can’t get a visa due to being only 49 years old, and no STV for the UK. Would take the elite route if entry was guaranteed!

  9. I could probably manage one week quarantine… I would have to bring my guitar and a Roku stick to watch movies… but seriously, even one week would still discourage most everybody..

  10. Far too many hoops to jump through. Will mot make a difference for the normal tourist as it is too much to ho through, what with the low exchange rate also Thailand is not a good option any more, it has had its day, other far Eastern destinations are better and I believe Thailand will continue to struggle with a junta ruling the country. They only interested in themselves, not the little people!! Good luck Thailand, after 23 years and over 50 visits I will be looking elsewhere

  11. While waiting 3 hours at a airport for my flight,have a COVID 19 check ,just had mine today (negative) .Result back in 20 minutes.Thankyou Sir you can fly .simple.why why make it so complicated for me to holiday in Thailand.I am 66 and find it so difficult to communicate through a laptop,I pad or phone ,Just want to hop on to a plane simple.

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