Report: Thailand to eliminate on-arrival PCR tests from May

Thailand may switch its on-arrival testing from PCRs to antigen tests from May, further streamlining the arrivals process for visitors.

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.

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

No more PCR testing on arrival in Thailand from May

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.

-Bangkok Post

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
DateChange
1 Feb 2022
1 Mar 2022
  • Travel insurance requirement reduced from US$50K to US$20K
  • Day 5 PCR test replaced with ATK
1 Apr 2022
1 May 2022 (TBC)
  • On-arrival PCR test replaced with ATK

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

Walkthrough: Thailand Pass Application (Test & Go)

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)
  • Fully vaccinated with approved vaccine (age 17 and below exempt)
  • Purchase travel insurance with min. US$20K COVID-19 medical coverage (foreigners only)
  • Apply for Thailand Pass
  • Take ATK on arrival and wait 15-30 minutes for results before leaving airport
  • Take self-administered ATK on Day 5
  • Download MorChana app (Android | iOS) and use it to record the results of Day 5 ATK

Thailand’s COVID roadmap

Graphic: Bangkok Post

Thailand’s roadmap for living with COVID calls for the following changes to the testing and quarantine regime for visitors:

 VaccinatedUnvaccinated
Phase 1 (March 12 to early April)PCR on arrival
ART on Day 5
10-day quarantine
Phase 2 (April to May)ART on arrival
ART on Day 5
5-day quarantine
Phase 3 (end May to June)NoneART on arrival
Phase 4 (from 1 July)NoneNone

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
LocationRemarksPrice
🇹🇭 Thailand
On-arrival
(ATK)
TBD
🇹🇭 ThailandDay 5
(self-ATK)
~S$5
🇹🇭 Thailand2 days before departure (ART)*From S$12
*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.

Good news: Tele-ARTs can now be used as pre-departure tests when returning to Singapore from any country

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.

Conclusion

Bangkok

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! 

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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James Quek

Wonder the BKK airport is able to manage mass ART testing?

Per Roland

Need to wait for confirmation by Thai Authority… ready to jump into Thailand from May 2022!

Mark

After July(I guess it might change) unjabbed will not need a test or to quarantine?

Gerry

What happens if you arrive at the airport and test positive. Why do all these articles about changes to entry never address what happens if you are positive with PCR or Antigen test at the airport or wherever they are taken? What happens?? Are you allowed to travel to your hotel and quarantine or are you forced to be taken to a hospital, a private hospital where you pay up front and possibly exhaust the money you need for your trip to spend and help the economy or a public hospital. Please tell people!!

Christian

Yep. This is very important information. I’ve heard really bad stories from visitors to Thailand who were separated from their partners and locked up in a Covid prison for 10 days after they tested positive. My main deterrent at the moment, not the test type tbh.

Renn

If transiting through BKK for 2 hrs, are we required to take an on-arrival PCR too? Would already have a negative ART test given that that’s the entry requirement for SG.

Renn

Is this already in effect? Need to transit through BKK on the way back from Seoul, but I’m not able to find the information online. Would you perhaps have a link/resource to share?

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