One of the great joys of GSTP is helping to inspire journeys, both near and far. But even neater is when a reader is able to accomplish, or highlight something first hand, which is of true fascination to many. How about visiting Thailand as a tourist right now?
Today, Thomas is bringing an incredible first hand account of how he, an American, successfully applied for a visa to visit Thailand as a tourist during covid-19, just like our article a couple weeks ago said you can do. And FYI, this applies to anyone, not just Americans. It’s complicated, but it sounds like it’s worth it. Now, over to Thomas…
Back Story: Visiting Thailand As An American Right Now
Like many others, I had many travel plans for 2020. One of my plans was to head back to Thailand to visit one of my favorite cities in the world, Bangkok.
I planned to spend two weeks in May exploring the majestic city of Bangkok and island-hop to the beautiful islands of the south. Spoiler Alert: The trip was canceled.
Fast forward to May, and I was naively optimistic about the possibility of international travel by the end of the year. As I was browsing Twitter, I saw an article Gilbert wrote outlining an amazing Qatar Qsuite Business class ticket to practically anywhere in the world for $1600!
I immediately logged on to the Qatar Airways website, grabbed my Chase Sapphire Reserve, and began to look for the cheapest ticket possible from the United States, which happened to be from PHL to KIEV for $1600 roundtrip in June of 2020. Unbelievable!
As soon as I booked, I contacted Qatar Airways customer service and had them change the routing to LAX-DOH-BKK for mid-December. That was the idea – you could take any ticket, and move it up to 5,000 miles away for free! A ticket that should have cost over $4500. Good looking out Gilbert.
Will This Trip Ever Happen?
As the summer passed, and we headed into fall with many of my vacation days being unused, my optimistic travel plans seemed like nothing but pure fantasy.
Although I was craving being on a plane, the beaches, pad thai, and an ice-cold Chang, my thoughts were the safety and health of my loved ones, and anyone who was impacted by this awful virus.
An Unexpected Suprise!
On November 6th, I noticed that the Royal Thai Embassy quietly updated their website which now includes a link for US citizens to apply for a Single Entry Tourist visa.
I ran through the requirements for the visa, felt a bit overwhelmed, but I started to think that I may actually get to visit Thailand over Christmas.
My Plan To Get Into Thailand
When first reading the requirements to enter The Kingdom of Thailand the biggest obstacle was overcoming the fear of the mandatory 15-day quarantine and not wanting to waste my hard-earned vacation time in quarantine.
On arrival, all non-Thai citizens must stay 15 nights at an approved Alternate State Quarantine (ASQ) hotel. There is no getting out of this.
Many people will give up at this stage, but I didn’t. I currently live on the West Coast of the US, and at my planning stage COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing, plus the state was going back into lockdown. I’ve taken every precaution during covid-19.
If I were able to get to Thailand, there would be light at the end of the Tunnel. I would be in a country with just over 4K cases vs. 15 Million. In addition, I would be able to spend Christmas and the New Year on the beach! With 15 days of quarantine, I’d be assured that I wouldn’t be making a negative impact, either.
Currently, I have the ability & privilege to work from home. With a significant amount of vacation time left to be used I figured I would just work while in quarantine. Mind you, I would still keep my US hours. So I would need to work from 9 pm to 7 am Bangkok time. At the end of my quarantine time, I would have 3 weeks of vacation to travel to Thailand. Enough time to escape the reality of the United States, and enjoy the sites.
How To Get Into Thailand
At first, this may seem like a daunting task, but it really wasn’t difficult at all. From start to finish, the process took me 5 business days from the start of the application to receiving my passport back with my Visa from the Thai Embassy.
Thai Tourism Visa Requirements:
- Complete an online application for the Visa and CoE
- Upload the following information to your application portal
- Copy of passport
- Proof of Medical Insurance (Needs to cover at least $100K). I always use Safetywing for my travel insurance. They cover all Covid expenses and even provide you a letter to obtain your visa
- Proof of ASQ Booking
- Proof of Airline Booking (has to be on approved flights)
- Copy of recent bank statements ($700 per person and $1500 per family) *Please note up until a few weeks ago it was $17K per person.
Once the application is submitted with all the above documents uploaded, the Royal Thai Embassy will email you letting you know to send in your passport along with the following:
- Two passport photos
- $40 Money Order for your visa fee
- Self Addressed return envelop
- Copy of all documents you uploaded to your application portal
I overnighted my documents via USPS on November 9th and received my passport, Visa, and CoE back by November 16th. The RTE website says to give it 15 business days to be safe.
Upon Entry to Thailand
All travellers entering Thailand must present the following documents to be granted entry:
- CoE and Declaration form (You download the Declaration form from the RTE website)
- Medical Certificate with a laboratory result indicating that COVID-19 is not detected, using an RT-PCR test, issued no more than 72 hours before departure
- Fit-to-Fly form issues no later than 72 hours before departure (This is simply a form that you can download from the RTE website that needs to be signed by a medical professional indicating that you are healthy to fly. Please note you need this AND the negative RT-PCR Result).
- Proof of medical Insurance guaranteeing that the insurance company will cover a minimum of $100K USD. The insurance must cover your trip duration.
- Proof of ASQ Booking
For updated information (they are consistently changing) please visit your local RTE Website.
ASQ & Flight Information
As noted above, in order to successfully apply for your visa, you must 1st have an ASQ hotel confirmation, and proof of flights.
The flight was easy for me since I already purchased a ticket with Qatar Airways back in May, all I needed to do was to contact their customer service and change my dates since they are approved to fly to Thailand (All free of charge, thanks to their generous cancellation policy).
There are currently over 100 ASQ hotels to choose from. I recommend you visit Thethaiest. They did an excellent job listing all ASQ hotels, and providing information on their prices. The prices currently range from just under 1k USD for the 15 days up to 4K USD.
During your 15 nights, the hotel will run two separate COVID-19 tests, have a nurse on site at all times, and provide you with 3 meals per day.
Yes, the price may look steep on paper, but many of these hotels are paying the private hospitals $600+ for the price of their services.
In Thailand: What Now?
I am currently quarantined in my Bangkok hotel room, and have completed 13 out of the 15 nights, and still feel good. Working & Netflix definitely helped pass the time (Highly recommend The Queens Gambit).
Thailand has done an excellent job managing this process from arrival to my stay at ASQ. They are taking this extremely seriously (as they should). I am extremely impressed by their efforts to control the spread of the virus.
The single entry visa gives you 60 days in Thailand, with the ability to extend it an extra 30 days while you’re on the ground (for a fee).
My vacation starts in a few days, and after my three-week vacation, I am undecided whether I will continue to work remotely through the duration of my visa.
Many may say, I am crazy to endure 15 nights of quarantine and jump through all those hoops, but when will I ever get the opportunity to explore Thailand without mass tourism?
I cannot wait to go back to Koh Phi Phi and see what it looks like without the thousands of speedboats and the tens of thousands of tourists. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and those hoops that I jumped through will be worth it.
Thomas has his own travel blog at The Rat Race Rebel, so be sure to check it out for more insightful first hand accounts such as this one.