a large garden with Doi Inthanon and a bridge

There’s no doubt that life during the pandemic brings unprecedented challenges and risks. But for tourism dependent countries, creating goal posts which are safe enough, but stable enough to attract visitors, has been the name of the game. Thailand, despite being heavily tourism dependent, still can’t get it right.

After luring in bookings and future trips with news of reduced quarantine for visitors, and shorter quarantine for vaccinated visitors, all in preparation for the introduction of quarantine free travel to Phuket, the country has changed its mind, again. People aren’t thrilled.

Thailand’s Visitor Protocol Changes

Thailand had been readying to welcome vaccinated visitors to Phuket by July, without any quarantine requirements. This would mark the first opportunity for outsiders to enter without being confined to a hotel room.

There’s still some minute chance that could come true, but in the interim the country is leaving travelers livid, with yet another change to entry restrictions.

Thailand made overnight changes, without any advanced warning, to end the shortened quarantine, vaccinated or not, and is returning to a full 14 day quarantine for all arrivals.

This means all travel arrivals from May 6th, just a week away, will land to a bill for a longer stay, and up to another week before they can get out and enjoy the country. All visitors are required to enter a prepaid supervised hotel quarantine.

The country is dealing with increasing covid-19 cases, particularly in hotspots including Bangkok, as all too slow rollout of vaccine continues and faith in the Thai Government to manage the crisis dwindles.

For the past six weeks, Thailand allowed a 7 day quarantine for vaccinated travelers and 10 for all non vaccinated visitors. With jet lag, 7 days wasn’t all that bad, and many travelers eager to return to the country booked trips on that basis.

a landscaped garden with Doi Inthanon and a pond

The news has left travelers who were willing to to endure the 7 to 10 day quarantine, but not 14, scrambling to cancel non-refundable trips. It’s hard to see how quarantine free travel to Phuket would begin in just two months time, given the knee jerk change.

How Can Thailand Get It This Wrong?

Other tourism dependent nations are rapidly opening up, with either zero, or reduced quarantine for all vaccinated visitors, and exceptions for travelers who test negative.

They’ve done so by pushing advanced technology to validate travel documents – and by diligently working to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. But most importantly, they’ve set hoops, however difficult, and kept the goal posts there.

Vaccinated travelers pose little to no risk to local populations, based on all studies available, yet do provide meaningful opportunity to the 300,000,000 people employed in tourism related businesses globally.

The Maldives has remained open since July, with a negative PCR test required before travel and has now fully vaccinated nearly the vast majority of its population. It’s done so well, vaccine on arrival will be offer to tourists as an enticement.

boats in the water with a group of boats

Hong Kong and Singapore will open their travel bubble in the weeks to come, while Australia and New Zealand managed to launch their own as well. Taiwan will welcome vaccinated travelers with a reduced quarantine from mid-May as well. Europe is full steam ahead with quarantine free travel for vaccinated travelers or those with a PCR test proving to be virus free.

Yet in Thailand, plans keep changing to the detriment of travelers. Newly announced local lockdowns mean any visitors would have little to do anyway. Eventually, it could quash future interest in visiting the country at all.

Rumors of widespread corruption and backhand deals with hotels, said to be enjoying the fixed rate 14 day visitors as part of the lengthened quarantine requirement, are a part of the problem, and mismanagement of vaccination drives is also said to play a large part.

It’s hard to recommend making any plans to Thailand right now. Requirements are changing too rapidly, are impossible to predict and draconian measures in place risk any joy in visiting. Visitors aiming for a quarantine Phuket holiday in July are doing so with blind faith, at least for now.

GSTP’s Thailand travel hub will keep you up to date with any future changes, as the country continues its wild and wacky ride to no visitors, and little demand. 14 days of quarantine may be better than 31 wacky steps just to apply to enter, but for fully vaccinated travelers with joyous opportunity elsewhere, it’s probably not enough.

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. You are obviously totally ignorant of the current status in Thailand, as you make no mention of it. Best to engage in a little research before exposing yourself as an absolute moron as well as misleading readers.

    1. The current situation in Thailand being… a mismanagement of the covid-19 pandemic and an increasing health problem, as noted? Vaccinated tourists bring opportunity to areas without great rates of infection where jobs are needed (and businesses are currently shuttered), without bringing added risk. If they want to travel, creating added barriers does little to help health situation, or economic situation.

  2. They threw everything on the wall and every one of them didn’t stick. Not to mention the countless of flip flopping. Travelers that are now caught, can’t say you didn’t see that coming.

  3. Gilbert I live in Thailand and your article is informed and reasonable. The government is without doubt totally incapable of dealing with the situation which Ieads to these never ending swings in decisions. The current situation remains chaotic and certainly not under control. The people are subjected to never ending lectures, changes in restrictions, lax enforcement and of course they are losing hope. The vaccination situation is dire with almost no one except parliament and a proportion of medics getting the ineffective Chinese vaccine, while the country waits for a local producer to deliver the AstraZeneca vaccine in a couple of months if we are lucky. Nobody should remotely put Thailand on their destination Iist for at least the rest of this year. As an investor in a tourism business I remain deeply concerned for the future.

    1. Ian, thanks for your contribution. I’m sorry to hear about the struggles being experienced there. Many people unfairly being caught out, and it sounds like the scandals with gov people getting vaxxed at dodgy locations and super spreader events are never ending. Wishing the best to you and your tourism business in the rebound, whenever it may be. The sooner they create sustainable goals, the sooner I’ll be there. All the best.

  4. I finnd it amazing that all these articles about Thailand re opening etc , etc. There is absolutely NO MENTION of the required MEDICAL INSURANCE of US$ 100,000.00 required. I could be wrong , but my understanding is that it must be purchased by an in country company. So like me,, I have Allianze it would be no good.

    1. Well all vaxed up now, both jabs loads of holiday to use up , nowhere to go. The situation says more about the Thai government and their chaotic rule. There are more Generals in the military than you shake a stick at. The police and military have their own hospitals and consequent access to vaccines.They are more concerned with over zelous implementation of Laissez Majeste laws than the virus.

  5. This is a good article….tough on Thailand, yes. They have managed to keep the virus to a minimum, but can’t figure out how to get back to normal.

    1. Thank you. My fundamental argument is that they need to find the balance as other countries have, because constant changes create waves of delay, even after any current issues subside.

  6. Yes the govt made the mistake of encouraging travel over Songkran, but to have the courage to backtrack in the face of alarming increases of C19 infections to protect its citizens is commendable, even if it means inconveniencing a small number of tourists

    1. Please find me a study of how vaccinated tourists are something local populations need to be protected from? Thailand has a degree of “this is Thailand to it”, but even with that understanding the mismanagement and changing goal posts will DELAY A RECOVERY even when infections and risks have subsided, because people don’t like fear of regime change.

      1. I agree completely, Gilbert.
        If any of the recent spike of cases could be traced back to some vaccinated tourist who “slipped through cracks” after a 7-day quarantine (or even a 10-day), you can bet it would have been front page news on the Bangkok Post. The odds are overwhelming that anyone who has contracted COVID after quarantine got it IN Thailand; he/she did not “import” it.
        Despite this, in typical fashion, the government is blaming “those damn dirty tourists<" who had very little to do with the current outbreak and NOTHING to do with Thailand's abysmal performance in vaccinating its residents.

  7. Your article is right, and I believe didn’t go far enough. My wife is Thai and she’s fully vaccinated and she was headed to home on the 6th, and just like that the government pulls the rug out from under everyone even those who are vaccinated and zero threat to the population. Incompetent doesn’t seem strong enough a word. This has to be fueled by corruption because no one could be this stupid.

  8. Please note in Thailand that “14 days” = a 16 day, 15 night stay. Also you test negative on day 12 or so and sit for 3 more days. They’re also taking away week 2 outdoor time (generally an hour a day). This is a real bummer and for fully vaccinated travelers makes little sense.

  9. Four of us have had a trip planned to Koh Chang for months. All flying out of the UK. 2 of us going via a 4 day stop in Singapore and the other two going london-dubai-bangkok with only a transit pass through involved. We’re all vaccinated.

    Us in the Singapore couple have booked the flights on miles ( meaning penalty free canx up to 24hrs before flight) and all our hotels are pay on arrival/ free canx. The other two have fully flex fares they can canx and put in the pot. We will not pay for even 24hrs quarantine I’m Thailand. No debate. If even that is required then it all gets canx and we go elsewhere. We’ve all agreed that a PCR on arrival, even if we have to pay for it ourselves is fine and say 6 hours wait for a turnaround. If anything more is required then we will take out money elsewhere.

    We’ve ticked all reasonable boxes and on average we inject £6-7k per couple on our 3-4 week visits to the country ( including hotels and internal flights).

    We 100% all agree that Thailand should look after Thais first but if I pose zero threat then you don’t get to charge me hundreds or a thousand pounds and eat into my holiday time just for the privilege of supporting your economy.

    The Thai Gov has been beyond useless throughout. Sometimes announcing up to three new policies in a single week and regularly announcing 3 in a 10-12 day period. Thais themselves ( we have many friends there) have practically given up on trying to keep up with it let alone the minefield for potential tourists.

    We are ready, willing and eager to go and to support the Thai people and economy but if we have to pay or even stay FOC in quarantine when we’ve had the jab then there’s plenty of places in the Caribbean we can switch our flights to and go all inclusive for less.

    1. Good Luck, Clayton.
      I have already had 2 friends who went back on retirement visas, refusing quarantine, and they were immediately deported. The choice was Quarantine 10 days or immediate deportation, and they chose to leave the country. The military Government has messed this up, and it will be a long time before Tourists feel comfortable to visit again. Hope you have a great holiday wherever you go.

  10. The Thai government is incompetent and unable to run the country. As far as the vaccinations go, at this time, only Thais may register to be vaccinated. After all the Thai’s are vaccinated, if there’s is another outbreak, the dear leader can blame the unvaccinated white devils. I’ve been living in Thailand since 2013 and the country has been going downhill since the coup.

  11. Here is an example of the lack of deep thinking in the rules. As of this month, if two or more people are travelling in a car, both must wear a mask. A single driver is not required to wear a mask. If you pull up to a petrol station however, you must put a mask on before you put the window down. There is a 20,000 baht fine. So, if my wife and I leave our house to drive to the next town, we must wear masks at all times in the car. We have encountered one road block police check for this already.

  12. What an indulgent piece of white racism – not once do you mention that Thailand is currently subject to a major outbreak with deaths rapidly increasing vs being more concerned about having to spend a few extra days in quarantine.

    BTW you do actually know that many of the vaccines don’t prevent you catching COVID versus reducing the illness – Astrazenca only has around a 62% protection rate.

  13. 50% protection won’t control covid, it’s Chinese and it’s useless
    You’d think seeing as they caused all this they would put them selves out a bit, alas no
    UK has nailed it

  14. I have lived in Thailand for the last 16 years. Right now there is no reason to visit Thailand as the country is closed down. All entertainment venues are closed including bars, restaurants, massage shops, hotel swimming pools and much more. It is even required to wear a mask while walking on a public beach and you must wear a mask while riding in a car with more than one person.

    It has also become dangerous to venture out at night. I have witnessed many homeless people living and taking drugs in the vacated store fronts. While walking, one homeless woman jumped out at me and stole money from my pocket. She was also mask-less and I was deeply concerned. Many of the tourist spots in Thailand now look like inner city slums. And less than one percent of the Thai citizens are vaccinated. Now is not the time to come to Thailand.

  15. Covid didn’t enter Thailand through rule-following travelers who got multiple tests, quarantined for 14 days, and live socially distanced lives. It came in by folks who broke & skirted the rules. Everyone knows that.

    It’s not the rich vaccinated millionaire tourists bringing in Covid.

    But, of course, since we’ve entered into the stupid phase of the pandemic governments will heap ever larger rulebooks full of restrictions on top of the no-risk tourists. Then be so surprised and amazed that somehow Covid cases keep rising.

  16. Thailand has backtracked on and off so many times in past year with Covid regs.
    Whether correct or not, it is SO hard to feel bad for the foolish tourists who keep booking trips there.
    They are big risk takers and shouldnt complain if it doesnt work out!!

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