Travel to Thailand could get even simpler from May, with the Bangkok Post reporting that authorities are planning to replace the on-arrival PCR test with a simpler, faster antigen test instead.
Visitors will take the antigen test at the airport, and have complete freedom of movement once a negative result is received. This replaces the current system where they must proceed to their hotel via approved transportation and isolate until the PCR test results are back (which can be up to 24 hours, if you’re unlucky).
However, the ever-reliable Richard Barrow notes that nothing has been set in stone just yet, so I’d hold off on making any confirmed bookings for now.
I just want to correct this front page story in the Bangkok Post as it’s causing some confusion.
👉 RT-PCR tests for ALL international arrivals MIGHT be replaced by antigen tests from next month.
📌 It is not confirmed yet
📌 They still need to evaluate the situation pic.twitter.com/LmipetNf6f
— Richard Barrow in Thailand (@RichardBarrow) April 9, 2022
As a reminder, Thailand already scrapped its pre-departure PCR test requirement from 1 April 2022 onwards.
Thailand looking to replace on-arrival PCR tests with antigen tests
The Bangkok Post reports that the CCSA (Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration, basically Thailand’s version of Singapore’s MMTF) has agreed in principle to replace the on-arrival PCR test with an ATK (what we call an ART in Singapore).
Foreign visitors flying into the country will take antigen tests upon arrival instead of RT-PCR, Mr Sathit said, adding that more airport personnel will be deployed to make sure the procedure goes smoothly and takes minimal time.
Tourists can wait for the results, which should take no more than 15-30 minutes to process on-site, without the need to book hotels and wait overnight for the results of RT-PCR tests, he said.
There’s no mention as to costs and whether the ATK will be self-administered or professionally-administered, but my guess is that it’ll be self-administered under supervision. Likewise, we don’t know yet whether the requirement for a self-administered ATK on Day 5 will be maintained.
But either way this would represent a big improvement from the status quo, because visitors no longer have to waste precious time isolating on arrival. It would make short trips to Thailand more viable, although the pesky Thailand Pass requirement is still likely to deter travellers.
The scrapping of the on-arrival PCR test would presumably mean the end of having to book an AQ/SHA++ hotel for Day 1, since you have complete freedom of movement upon landing. Visitors will also be able to take any mode of transport to their hotel, including the Bangkok Airport Rail Link.
When will this happen?
As mentioned earlier, these changes have yet to be confirmed, but should they happen my money would be on 1 May 2022. All the changes to Thailand entry regulations we’ve seen so far this year take place on the first of the month, inching Thailand ever closer to pre-COVID conditions.
|🇹🇭 Changelog: Travel to Thailand
|1 Feb 2022
|1 Mar 2022
|1 Apr 2022
|1 May 2022 (TBC)
The changes tentatively planned for June include:
- A reduction in the documents required for Thailand Pass registration
- A reduction of the current US$20,000 travel insurance requirement
- Reducing the quarantine period for unvaccinated travellers
Assuming everything goes according to plan, here’s a summary of the revised requirements for the Test & Go scheme, which will take effect from May 2022.
|🇹🇭 Thailand Test & Go Requirements
(from May 2022, TBC)
Thailand’s COVID roadmap
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)
|ART on arrival
|Phase 4 (from 1 July)
So far everything appears to be on schedule, and hopefully June will see testing scrapped altogether for fully vaccinated travellers. The Thailand Pass and travel insurance requirements should likewise be scrapped, although I suspect those might be the last to go.
This all 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
|2 days before departure (ART)*
|*Children aged 2 and under exempt. ARTs and ATKs are the same thing.
With the scrapping of on-arrival PCR tests, travellers from Singapore to Thailand will only need to do 2 or 3 ART/ATKs over the course of their trip. This drastically reduces overall testing costs, with further reductions on the way should Singapore scrap its pre-departure test requirement as rumoured.
Until that happens, Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and Long Term Passholders are permitted to take a remotely-supervised tele-ART as their pre-departure test when returning to Singapore.
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 on-arrival and Day 5 PCR test requirements were still in force, so your experience could well be different from mine.
There’s good reason to believe that Thailand will replace its on-arrival PCR tests with cheaper, faster antigen tests from May 2022. This would remove any isolation on requirement (a brief 15-minute wait aside), as well as the need to book an AQ/SHA++ accommodation for the first night and to take private transport from the airport to the hotel.
With any luck, we’ll soon be reading about the demise of the Thailand Pass requirement as well!