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.
Hard pass for me until they drastically reduce quarantine time. Please share one DP of someone testing negative prior to departure, quarantining a few days then testing negative again, and later developing symptoms. It’s just not happening. 2 weeks is way too long. When they either become more reasonable, or vaccines make this a non issue, I won’t be back. It was getting overrun with rude smoking mainland chinese people anyway, so maybe I won’t ever go back.
It’s a pass for me too, no doubt. Just great to hear from someone who did it, and is having a better experience than they’d be at home. Studies have proven that double, or triple testing (72 hours prior>pre boarding>post arrival) are 1:million odds for someone slipping through, so 3 days quarantine is max needed, IF good testing exists.
Sorry, not going to Thailand. Enjoy your much earned Christmas and NY on the beach. I will do the same in Bay Area, but in winter gear.
Great article which proves that despite the challenges and expense, it really is possible to experience Thailand with very few foreign tourists, perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity. I can’t imagine how wonderful it could be to visit Pattaya, Patong, Krabi and Koh Chang and to share those beaches essentially just with Thai locals and visitors. Congrats on getting that awesome Qsuite Business Class ticket deal! Well done to get through all you did to make the trip happen, including the 14 day quarantine. You are an inspiration to adventure travelers.
If every comment was as kind and positive as this one, we’d put the comments above the articles. Thanks for stopping by, Dibbler.
That’s actually a really creative and smart solution – 15 days is a long time in quarantine, but weighed against the flight deal, life back at home and the prospect of travel without the crowds?? Nicely done. You leave me wondering if I could make something similar work for myself in a destination where perhaps the quarantine time is a bit shorter!
As someone who loves visiting Thailand but was first there in 1990, the notion that you could get back to something more like that long ago time when it wasn’t heaving with tourists is very tempting. Kudos to Thailand for keeping the virus at bay , as well. A Thai-resident friend tells me that, aside from the last off visitors, life goes on pretty much as normal.
Personal circumstances don’t allow me to consider the trip at this time but it was nice to hear someone was able to wring some advantage out of this miserable year. I’ll head over to the author’s blog to hear more about the post-quarantine experience.
That’s what we are thinking. We first went to the north and HKT in 1985. Was blissful. Oil barrels for fuelling cars by the side of the road. Simplicity. Not an aggressive Chinese person in sight.
You must have a mental desease to promote this crazy offer..for Masochists fine. .pay huge money..stay 14 days in quaratine! Super holidays!
I have blue Cross insurance from Florida. What kind of insurance do you have and how did you get them to provide a document that they would offer the required $100,000 worth of covid protection? I’m confident my insurance would cover that but that type of document does not seem typical and I’m not even sure what to ask for.
Enjoy your holidays! Going through 14 days of quarantine is a real commitment! Just don’t forget you’ll have to double that when you return!
Hey Matt, just to keep things clear for people, that’s not necessarily true (the return). Not every state, country or county has 14 day quarantine rules or return, so it’s hard to just put that out there. In fact, most don’t. Even the UK is down to 5 days.
Just checking 2 things if I could get him to reply..it’s tempting as we have a flight hols of 30 duration in jan February. Don’t mind 5 days on a balcony reading, if we could swim after that.
1. Was he able to precook a quarantine room with a balcony? And use the pool etc after his 1st negative test?
2. Did he chose his own hotel? I know Agoda allows it now.
WOW. I was going to go back to thailand in March of 2020, But my business class flight to dubai and on to Thailand got cancelled. Will Not attempt a 15 day quarantine after a 24 hour flight with interconnects. I miss Thailand so much, I cant wait for this whole pandemic thing to be over (especially the 15 day quarantine) . Power to you for enduring all the legwork to get to the other side of the world in difficult times.
I have nearly everything ready to finally travel out of the country (USA) to Thailand. However i cannot find any approved flights from the USA into thailand, any reccomendations, on how to fly in to thailand?
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