Thailand’s policy towards tourism during COVID-19 has been…unpredictable.
Having reopened to tourists in November 2021 via Test & Go, it rushed to slam the door on new arrivals just a month later due to Omicron, and hinted that the scheme would not return till mid-2022 at the earliest. Then it promptly u-turned, and restarted Test & Go on 1 February 2022.
But Test & Go v2.0 isn’t quite how you remember it. The new scheme, inexplicably, requires two separate isolations:
- On arrival, you take a PCR test and isolate until a negative result is received
- You can then travel anywhere you want within Thailand, before taking a second PCR test on Day 5/6 and entering isolation again until a negative result is received.
You don’t need to tell me it’s an absurd requirement, the kind of thing that makes you shake your head in a mixture of annoyance and astonishment. I can’t see this lasting long, but it’s the law of the land at the moment. Richard Barrow (the expert on all things Thailand-travel related) refers to it as “Test & Go & Come Back & Go Again”.
To be clear, you don’t have to book a SHA+ hotel for the first five days. However, you must book a hotel for Day 1 and Day 5 that has a partner hospital. It doesn’t have to be the same hotel.
* I hear they will change the name of the scheme to ‘Test & Go & Come Back & Go Again’
— Richard Barrow in Thailand (@RichardBarrow) January 20, 2022
With some slight modifications, that makes for a good trip report title.
|♻️ Test & Go & Come Back & Test & Go Again|
Overview: Bangkok Test & Go
|✈️ Test & Go Requirements|
|TAT: Test & Go|
The Test & Go scheme allows for quarantine-free (well, more or less) travel to Thailand, and is open to fully-vaccinated travellers of any nationality.
All travellers must apply for a Thailand Pass (even Thai nationals), purchase travel insurance, present a negative pre-departure PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure, and take PCR tests on arrival and Day 5 (isolating after both).
The need to apply for a Thailand Pass means that spur-of-the-moment trips to Bangkok are out of the question for now. Applications take up to seven days to be processed (mine took 2.5 days), and there’s a good amount of paperwork to prepare. I’ve written a detailed walkthrough of the steps below, for your reference.
Now, despite the name of this report (or perhaps because of it), I’ve decided to limit my trip to five days. This lets me avoid the second PCR test on Day 5- I don’t think that’s worth incurring unless you intend to stay in Bangkok for more than week, which is too long for me.
If you’re nonetheless curious about the Day 5 testing process (and whether you can use it as a pre-departure test for travel back to Singapore), I’ll investigate while I’m over there and cover it in my trip report.
|✈ Test & Go & Come Back & Test & Go Again: Flights|
|To Bangkok||To Singapore|
|Cost: 21,500 miles + S$54 (SQ), S$86 (TR)|
Getting to Bangkok isn’t a problem. Singapore Airlines operates five flights a day, and Test & Go eligibility isn’t impacted by which flight you take.
I paid 21,500 miles and S$54 in taxes for a one-way Business Class ticket on SQ708, operated by a long-haul configured A350-900. I’ve already reviewed this product numerous times, so if I do write something, it’ll be more about the soft product you can expect on short-haul post-COVID Business Class (I’ve ordered the new lobster thermidor!).
Coming back to Singapore, however, is a pain.
Thanks to CAAS’s decision to cap VTL ticket sales at 50% of the allocated quota, I couldn’t find any award space on Economy or Business Class on SQ’s VTL flights up till late February. THAI Airways had Economy and Business Class award space, but their VTL flight (TG403) departs at the unearthly hour of 8 a.m.
That’s how I found myself on Scoot, which operates two daily VTL flights out of Bangkok (TR607 and TR611). It’s not champagne and caviar stuff, but the ticket cost a mere S$86 (SIA wanted an incredible S$400+ for a one-way VTL flight), and if nothing else, I’ll get to earn some KrisFlyer miles and enjoy new Elite Gold perks such as:
- Priority check-in and boarding
- Additional 5kg baggage allowance with any baggage purchase
- Complimentary standard seat selection
- 25% tier bonus on actual miles flown
There’s no lounge access, but I already get that courtesy of my Priority Pass card.
|🏨 Test & Go & Come Back & Test & Go Again: Hotels|
|1||Grand Hyatt Erawan||6,900 THB|
|2||Waldorf Astoria Bangkok||S$305|
|3||Kempinski Sindhorn||9,057 THB|
|4||SO/Bangkok|| 4,000 THB|
Remember that vow I made to avoid changing hotels every night? Me neither. But I’d like to believe there’s good reason for running from hotel to hotel this time…
For the first night in Thailand, Test & Go travellers must book an AQ/SHA Extra+ hotel, together with airport transfer and a PCR test.
Many hotels sell Test &Go rates that package all this together, sometimes with breakfast for the following morning as well. However, you do not need to book a Test & Go rate if you don’t want to. It’s possible to book any cash rate you wish (or even redeem hotel points), then contact the hotel to add on the airport transfer and PCR test.
I reached out to a few 5-Star hotels to enquire about rates, and in general I got:
- Airport transfer: 1,750-2,500 THB per transfer
- PCR test: 2,200-2,900 THB per pax (express test options are available from 4,500 THB)
Remember that the PCR test cost is per person, while the airport transfer can usually take at least 2 people (the front passenger will be blocked, since you’re supposed to be sealed off from the driver).
I decided to book a Test & Go package all the same, since hotels were slow in replying about add-on rates and I needed to get cracking on my Thailand Pass application.
The Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok came highly recommended by friends (and on Flyertalk), and they offer a THB6,900 nett Test & Go package that includes:
- Airport transfer
- PCR test
- Breakfast (in-room if your result isn’t back yet, buffet otherwise)
What’s slightly annoying is that all the Test & Go packages I’ve seen so far are non-refundable. I can somewhat understand the rationale, insofar as they don’t want people booking and cancelling to run off elsewhere, but it makes less sense when people can turn refundable packages into pseudo Test & Go ones (e.g. by making a points booking and adding on the airport transfer + PCR test).
Grand Hyatt, to their credit, explicitly states that the package is refundable in case your Thailand Pass is rejected, and dates can be changed.
Once I made my booking (Grand Hyatt lets you do it online; some hotels, annoyingly, require you to email), I sent my passport and flight details to the reservations team, who replied with the following document for my Thailand Pass application.
For the second night, I’m moving next door to the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, a property I’ve had my eye on for a while now.
The AMEX Fine Hotels & Resorts portal was offering what I think is an excellent rate of S$305 nett, which comes with:
- A US$100 property credit
- Room upgrade (subject to availability)
- 12 p.m check-in (subject to availability)
- 4 p.m check-out (guaranteed)
- Breakfast for 2 adults
The property credit alone already knocks 45% or so off the rate, and I can see on the Hilton app that I’ve been upgraded to a Deluxe Suite.
The Sindhorn Kempinski may not be as well-known as its counterpart at Siam Paragon, but that’s all the more reason to pay it a visit. It’s more of a luxury condo than a hotel per se, but get this: the lead-in rooms start from 66 sqm! That’s the size of a suite at most other hotels, and with my GHA Titanium status, I hope to get something even bigger.
It’s slightly more expensive at 9,057 THB nett for a breakfast-inclusive rate, but I’ll be able to burn the D$200 (equivalent to US$200) I have, and get a sense of how GHA’s major programme changes are playing out on the ground.
For the final night, I booked an Accor STEP rate via HoteLux at the SO/Bangkok for 4,000 THB nett. This comes with:
- A US$50 property credit
- Room upgrade (subject to availability)
- Early check-in (subject to availability)
- Late check-out (subject to availability)
- Breakfast for 2 adults
I’ll also have access the executive lounge with my Accor Platinum status.
Thailand requires a negative pre-departure PCR test taken within 72 hours before departure. I did mine with DoctorAnywhere for S$107, purchased via Klook (slightly cheaper options exist, but I had a Klook gift card to burn).
The cost of Test & Go PCR testing in Thailand isn’t standardised, and as mentioned you can generally expect to pay anywhere from THB2,200 to 2,900 for a standard 24-hour turnaround test.
Depending on where you’re doing your Day 5-6 PCR test, it may be possible to top-up and add a certificate to your results, thereby making it valid for pre-departure testing for return to Singapore. This certificate should feature the following:
- Full name
- Date of birth or passport number
- Negative COVID-19 test result
- Date and time the test was taken
- Name of testing institution
If you’re not planning to stay till the Day 5-6 test, or are staying beyond Day 8 (where it wouldn’t be valid for pre-departure travel to Singapore anymore), you can get a pre-departure ART done at Bangkok airport for about 500 THB.
On return to Singapore, there’s the usual on-arrival test at Changi Airport (S$125 per person), followed by six days of daily ART self-swabbing (~S$5 per kit).
|⚕️ Testing Regime for Bangkok Travel|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||72h before departure (PCR)||From S$99|
|🇹🇭 Thailand||On arrival (PCR)||~THB2,500|
|🇹🇭 Thailand||2 days before departure (ART)||THB500|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||On arrival at Changi (PCR)||S$125|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Day 2 (ART)||S$5|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Day 3 (ART)||S$5|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Day 4 (ART)||S$5|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Day 5 (ART)||S$5|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Day 6 (ART)||S$5|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Day 7 (ART)||S$5|
If you’re itching for a trip to Bangkok, my personal advice would be to wait a couple of months (unless you plan to do a 5 days or less trip). I just can’t see the Day 5-6 PCR test & isolation requirement lasting very long, and I’m certain the Thai tourism industry is lobbying to have it dismantled as we speak.
Remember: it wasn’t so long ago that the Thai government was talking about replacing the on-arrival PCR test with an ART, allowing passengers to start exploring from pretty much the moment they land. I’m still confident that will happen sooner or later, and when it does, travel to Thailand won’t be that much more inconvenient or expensive as before.
Questions about the Test & Go v2.0 process? Post them below!