Earlier this week I wrote about Thailand’s roadmap for living with COVID, which called for the scrapping of on-arrival PCR tests by May, and the eventual elimination of all testing and the need to apply for a Thailand Pass.
But surprisingly, it’s the pre-departure test that’s the first to get cut. Today comes the news that from 1 April 2022, travellers entering Thailand under the Test & Go scheme (or any scheme for that matter) will no longer need to take a pre-departure PCR test.
Travellers from Singapore stand to save around S$100 per person, which coupled with Singapore’s simplified VTL testing regime, means weekend trips to Thailand are inching back to reality again.
Thailand scraps pre-departure PCR tests
Test & Go travellers to Thailand are currently required to take a PCR test within 72 hours of departure to Thailand.
From 1 April 2022, this will no longer be required. However, the on-arrival PCR test and Day 5 self-administered ART (referred to as an ATK in Thailand) remain.
|Till 31 March 2022||From 1 April 2022|
|Pre-departure (within 72h)||PCR||None|
(isolate until negative result received)
|*Not required if departing Thailand on or before Day 5|
It’s curious that Thailand has chosen to remove the pre-departure PCR test, as opposed to the on-arrival one. After all, unless you live in a city where pre-departure testing is not readily available, it’s the on-arrival test that’s the bigger pain point.
It typically takes at least 6-8 hours for on-arrival test results to come back, and if you’re unlucky enough to arrive during a particularly busy period, it could even be up to a full day. That’s precious vacation time you need to burn cooped up in your hotel room.
But more importantly, testing positive on arrival in Thailand can basically ruin your trip. COVID-positive visitors will be required to stay in hospitals or hospitels (not a typo- it’s a combination of “hospital” and “hotel”) at their own expense, even if asymptomatic.
Therefore, I’d highly advise you to take a self-administered ART before flying, even though there’s no requirement to do so. Trust me, ignorance is not bliss in this case.
Other requirements like the need to apply for a Thailand Pass and purchase travel insurance with at least US$20,000 coverage for COVID-19 medical expenses still remain.
One hopes the much-maligned Thailand Pass is indeed living on borrowed time. The system has been beset with phishing scams and security leaks from day one, plus a finnicky interface that requires you to convert all PDFs into image files (with no “save and resume later” function!).
In any case, I’ve written a walkthrough of the Thailand Pass application process below.
Here’s a summary of the revised requirements for Test & Go scheme, which take effect from 1 April 2022.
|🇹🇭 Thailand Test & Go Requirements|
Is the scrapping of on-arrival tests next?
Thailand’s roadmap for living with COVID calls for the following changes to the testing and quarantine regime for visitors:
|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|
It’s hoped that the next phase will see the on-arrival PCR test replaced with an ART instead, which would effectively end the isolation requirement.
By June, all testing for vaccinated individuals should be gone, although 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.
Singapore-Thailand travel: Total testing costs
|⚕️ Testing: Singapore-Thailand Travel|
|🇹🇭 Thailand||Day 5|
(kit from Test & Go hotel)
|🇹🇭 Thailand||2 days before departure (ART/PCR)||~550 THB|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Within 24h of arrival (self-ART)||~S$5*|
|^Usually included in Test & Go hotel package and not paid separately|
*Children aged 2 and under exempt
Round-trip travellers from Singapore to Thailand can expect to do a total of four COVID-19 tests, although two of them will be self-administered ARTs.
The total cost of testing will therefore be ~S$110 per person, although this should decrease even further in the near future as on-arrival PCR testing gets replaced by ARTs.
If you’re looking for a place to get your pre-departure test done before returning to Singapore, here’s some information on the testing process at Bangkok Airport.
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 the on-arrival process and pre-departure testing options when returning to Singapore.
Thailand will be scrapping its pre-departure PCR test requirement from 1 April 2022, which will save Singapore residents about S$100 or so. However, I’d still advise you to do a self-administered ART before flying, as testing positive on arrival won’t be fun, to say the least.
Hopefully, the May target for replacing the on-arrival PCR test with an ART will be met too, removing any sort of downtime from your vacation.