Cover Wat Arun in Bangkok. (Photo: Rey Melvin Caraan via Unsplash)

As Thailand opens up to vaccinated travellers, the southeast Asian nation is becoming a favourite for post-lockdown vacationers and Hongkongers looking to 'washout'

Since reopening to all vaccinated travellers earlier this year, Thailand has seen an influx of tourists returning to enjoy its golden beaches and vibrant cities.

As it stands, the Southeast Asian country is one of the most open in the region, making it an appealing destination to those pining for their first post-lockdown vacation, or Hongkongers skirting the city’s flight bans with a two-week ‘washout’. 

Of course, travelling in the time of Covid will always require additional paperwork and planning, so we’ve put together a handy guide on exactly what you’ll need to enter the country under its ‘Test and Go’ programme, whereby travellers will only need to be tested upon arrival in a SHA+ hotel and then can go if they receive a negative result.

It’s worth noting that while this was my experience travelling to Bangkok, the process is much the same no matter where you fly into within Thailand. 

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What do I need to prepare?

The list of paperwork may look daunting at first, but online resources and efficient processing make it quick and easy. I would recommend printing out a hard copy of all documentation since you’ll be asked for it at several stages throughout your journey. You will need:

Certificate of vaccination

This is the certificate you should have been given when you received your vaccine. Any vaccine is allowed and your certificate will need to show at least two doses completed at least 14 days and no more than 12 months before arrival in Thailand.

Medical insurance

Covid-19 insurance with a minimum coverage of US$20,000 is required to enter the country. Minimum coverage used to be US$50,000, but the figure was lowered. I used AXA but there are plenty of other options too. 

Day 1 SHA+ hotel reservation booking 

This is the hotel where you will stay until you receive a negative PCR test result. You can find a list of hotels taking part in the SHA+ scheme on the official website. I chose to stay at The Lancaster Bangkok based on the hotel’s location and reviews online. They made everything so easy and I couldn’t recommend them enough. 

Negative PCR test within 72 hours

As is the case with a lot of other countries, Thailand requires all travellers to obtain a negative Covid-19 PCR test result within 72 hours of departure. However, this requirement will be scrapped come April 1, and travellers will only be required to test upon arrival, a service normally provided by SHA+ hotels.

Thailand Pass

This is your key to Thailand. You can apply for the Thailand Pass online and will need to provide a copy of your passport, proof of your SHA+ hotel reservation, and proof of your medical insurance. The processing time for the Thailand Pass is between three and seven days, so we recommend applying as far in advance as possible. 

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What happens when I arrive?

Thai authorities have done a fantastic job of creating a seamless and efficient system. Upon disembarking the plane, you’ll be greeted immediately by a long line of plastic chairs and asked to stay seated by a member of staff in a hazmat suit. They will ask you to write on a form the address of your SHA+ hotel and other details such as your nationality and where you departed from.

After filling in these details, you’ll be free to proceed through immigration where they will scan your Thailand Pass QR code. 

Almost all SHA+ hotels provide guests with a driver who will meet you at the airport arrivals hall, but be sure to double check your hotel reservation as you might have to arrange your own transport. The driver will take you to your hotel via a drive-through testing centre for your compulsory PCR test, the cost of which is also often covered by SHA+ hotels.

The Lancaster Bangkok did a stellar job of overseeing my arrival into Thailand, from airport pickup to check-out the next day. They also included a huge, complimentary breakfast which was much needed in my severely jet-lagged state. 

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Leaving your SHA+ hotel

You’ll be required to stay in your room at the SHA+ hotel until you receive a negative PCR test result, which in most cases shouldn’t take more than 12 hours. Most hotels will call you from reception and let you know the result. If the result is negative, you are free to leave your hotel room and start exploring Thailand.

The only additional requirement is a self-ATK Covid-19 test on the fifth day of your stay. You can do this test at home and report your results online. The Lancaster Bangkok provided me with one of these tests, but they can also be bought from most pharmacies and 7-Eleven.

Since tourism has yet to reach pre-Covid levels, now may be the best time to visit Thailand. The most popular tourist attractions in Bangkok aren't crowded and there is still room to breathe in the city's most popular bars and nightclubs.

Thailand adopted a ‘living with Covid’ strategy late last year, meaning you can expect to live a relatively pre-pandemic lifestyle while here. There is no legal requirement to wear masks—but it is still very much expected and people are still sometimes fined for not doing so. While bars have to close at 11pm, restaurants can stay open later, meaning many establishments find a way to keep going into the early hours of the morning. In the daytime, everything is open including all beaches and tourist attractions, and there is no limit on the number of people gathering in public. 

As someone living in Hong Kong, where borders remain closed to tourists and non-residents, I was seriously impressed by the efficiency of Thailand’s ‘Test and Go’ programme. While Bangkok hasn’t quite found its pre-pandemic groove, there is an undeniable energy building in the city—and across Thailand—that you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere in Asia right now.

All the information in this article was accurate at the time of publishing on March 16 2022, but countries are constantly updating their entry requirements and Covid guidelines. We suggest checking online for the latest updates.


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