Thailand has revealed its roadmap for living with COVID, with plans to treat the disease as endemic from July 2022.
For international visitors, this means the scaling back and eventual elimination of COVID-19 testing, as well as the possible scrapping of the travel insurance requirement and need to apply for a Thailand Pass.
The next stage of the roadmap is set to take place in “April to May”, and will see a significantly improved arrivals experience; namely, replacing the on-arrival PCR test (and isolation) with a simple ART (called ATK in Thailand).
Thailand to replace on-arrival PCR tests by May?
Under the current Test & Go programme, international visitors to Thailand are required to take 2x PCR tests and an ART.
- Within 72 hours of departure to Thailand (PCR)
- On arrival in Thailand [and isolate until negative result received] (PCR)
- On Day 5 (self-administered ART)
This is already a significant improvement over the previous scheme, mind you, where travellers had to take a PCR test on Day 5 and enter isolation again until a negative result was received!
Still, it does involve isolation on arrival, meaning wasted vacation time. I got lucky on my recent visit to Bangkok when I received a negative result in 3 hours, but other data points I’ve seen have been up to 24 hours.
Fortunately, the next phase in Thailand’s roadmap (set to happen in April or May) will see the on-arrival PCR test replaced with an ART at the airport, meaning that visitors will have freedom of movement from the time they land (well, provided they test negative!).
From then on, here’s how the roadmap evolves:
|Phase 1 (March 12 to early April)||PCR on arrival|
ART on Day 5
|Phase 2 (April to May)||ART on arrival|
ART on Day 5
|Phase 3 (end May to June)||None||ART on arrival|
|Phase 4 (from 1 July)||None||None|
|No details have been provided on whether pre-departure testing will remain, but I’d assume it would be eliminated too by Phase 4|
The plan is to remove all testing for vaccinated arrivals by June, and then for all arrivals by July.
Now, all this depends on how the COVID situation evolves, as well as hitting certain milestones such as booster jab uptake, positive testing rate on arrival, and death rate.
Still, having a roadmap with concrete metrics and proposed dates is better than having none (ahem ahem MMTF), and this raises the hope that by the second half of 2022, travel to Thailand may be no different from pre-pandemic days.
Thailand Pass, insurance requirement to be scrapped?
Other possible changes that are being mooted include the removal of the travel insurance requirement (currently US$20,000) and scrapping the much-maligned Thailand Pass, which has been beset with phishing scams and security leaks since day one (there’s an excellent piece by The Thaiger about the troubled scheme).
Eliminating the need to apply for a Thailand Pass would dramatically simplify the travel process. Even though applications aren’t rocket science, they still require a good amount of time and documentation- not to mention the portal is notoriously finicky, requiring you to convert all your PDFs into image files and not having a “save and resume later” function!
Test & Go programme
Here’s a recap of the current requirements for Thailand’s (mostly) quarantine-free Test & Go scheme, which took effect from 1 March 2022.
|🇹🇭 Thailand Test & Go Requirements|
Bangkok Trip Report
|♻️ Test & Go & Come Back & Test & Go Again|
I recently travelled to Bangkok to check out the Test & Go process, and although there’s a lot of hassle in the pre-departure phase (especially with the Thailand Pass application), once you reach Bangkok things move surprisingly smooth.
Do note my trip took place when the Day 5 PCR test requirement was still in force- this has since been scaled back to a self-administered ART. That said, the rest of the information is current, including pre-departure testing options when returning to Singapore.
Tourism constituted up to 20% of Thailand’s annual GDP before COVID-19, yet the government has been very cautious about reopening compared to other leisure hotspots like the Maldives (which reopened in July 2020!).
This roadmap represents the clearest indication yet of a timeline for returning to pre-COVID rules, which will be good news for those wanting to visit Thailand but deterred by all the additional red tape.
While 1 July has been proffered as a sort of “D-Day”, it’s important to remember that everything is subject to change- so don’t make non-refundable plans until things are confirmed.
The next CCSA meeting takes place on 18 March, where a further relaxation of travel rules may be proposed.