I’ve entered Thailand three times before but this time was a completely new experience. It used to be that you simply bought a plane ticket and showed up at the airport. The most anyone ever asked me for was on my first trip when I arrived in Phucket I was asked where I would be staying while I was there. And even then they never asked for proof. Entering Thailand today is an exercise in redundancy. The governments new requirements are excessive and absurd at best. Frustrating and nerve racking for sure. I knew there was going to be a lot of work involved with all the new rules but I never imagined it would be so time consuming and out of your own control. Even if you do everything asked of you the odds are things won’t go smooth and your plans will change.
After shutting down the borders to tourists like most countries, Thailand decided to start allowing long term travelers to enter in an effort to bring life back to the hard hit tourist destinations. The government now offers a 2 month stay Tourist Visa (TV) and a 3 month stay Special Tourist Visa (STV). Both come with an option to apply for an extension. However in order to be granted either of them you need to prove you will be staying long term and that you will not be a burden on the government should you come down with covid while you’re here. I opted to go with the TV as 3 months (2 plus 1 month extension) sounded like a good amount of time and the requirements were a bit more realistic. The embassy website made getting a visa sound like a simple 3 step process. Not the case. If everyone involved was in synch it might be a smooth process but in these times that is very unlikely.
The first step is to apply online for whatever type of visa is best for your needs. The second step is to apply for the Certificate of Entry (COE). Then if you make it through all that, step three is to be quarantined upon arrival. Keep in mind, the thing that makes each of these steps so difficult is that the requirements keep changing almost daily and each time they do you need to start over to meet the new demands.
So here’s how the process went for us.
Step 1- We filled out the 5 page application online and attached all the required documents:
- Copy of your passport.
- Bank statement showing a specific balance depending on the type of visa.
- Declaration of intent form.
- Proof of roundtrip airline ticket.
- Proof of covid medical travel insurance.
- Proof of ASQ Hotel reservation. (State quarantine hotel)
- Proof of place to stay after quarantine. (for TV)
- Background Check (for STV)
Step 2- Once they accept all that you then have to mail your passport to the embassy so they can put the Visa sticker in it and mail it back. Once you receive it back you need to take a picture of it and email them the picture. Then they will grant you a certificate of entry based on the info you supplied them for your flights and accommodations. This was the biggest problem for us because the airlines are constantly changing flights around and each time they do you have to inform the embassy of the changes so they can correct it on the COE. Our flights were changed twice so we needed to reapply for the COE twice. Once was a week before departure. With each flight change you then need to change all the dates of your accommodations. Keep in mind not only is the embassy closed to visitors but they don’t answer the phones. You can only email them and the responses although quick are vague and always redirect you. If you manage to keep up with all the changes and get the CEO you then need to get a T8 form showing all your flight info including seat number and depending on the airline you will need a Fit to Fly form filled out by a doctor. You can get that only after you take a covid test that needs to be done within 96 hours of travel. We did that only to find out that our layover in Germany required a covid test no older then 48 hours so we needed to take another test at the airport. Last step was to download the Thailand Plus app on your phone. Something we have only been asked to show once. We managed to get everything accomplished at the very last minute and were off. We flew from Las Vegas to Houston where we got our covid test before heading to Frankfurt Germany. Before we could get on the flight from Germany to Thailand we had to provide all the documents. Then came step three.
Step three is quarantine. When our flight landed in Bangkok we were ushered into the terminal where a very thorough and efficient process began. Our flight only had 40 people on it and we were all kept together through the airport. First we were lined up in the hallway in chairs and a team of gloved, gowned and masked security people checked all our papers. This only took 15 minutes. Next we were herded to the second checkpoint where they checked our medical papers(covid tests, health insurance, ect) and they took our temp and asked the usual medical questions(fever, cough, contact with the sick ect). That step took 10 minutes. Next we were all moved to a second checkpoint where they checked all our accommodation papers. Another 10 minutes. Then we went through customs like always. 5 Minutes. After that our luggage was waiting for us and we were taken to the airport exit where dozens of pre assigned shuttles were waiting to take us to our quarantine hotels. The entire process from landing to leaving the airport took less then 45 minutes and was very easy. The staff was extremely friendly as is the case everywhere in Thailand and the process was so streamlined and efficient that it was really easy.
Last step was to check in to our hotel. And just like in the airport, the process was made easy by staff members who had the process down pat. We pulled up and one staff member grabbed our bags and took them to the room while another went over all our paper work again. After that they went over the rules and answered any questions before sending us to our room. We choose the Legacy Hotel and so far couldn’t be happier. We got a very large suite with 2 rooms, 2 bathrooms and 2 balconies. They provided us with exercise mats and are bringing us a treadmill for our room tomorrow. We get 3 meals a day delivered to our door and can order from certain outside shops including 7/11 across the street.
Having gone through the process we have lots of tips to share so if your thinking about coming to Thailand any time soon get in touch with us and we can give you some pointers. By now you are probably asking why would we go through all this. Well first of all, Thailand is one of our favorite places to travel and if our tourist dollars can help we would love that. Second reason is because now we can explore the country we love so much without crowds. Thailand has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and now we will have them all to ourselves. Another great reason, especially for long term travel is the fact that prices are at rock bottom right now. Beachfront villas that would normally cost $400- $500 a night are going for $75 a night. And hotels that go for $75 a night are going for $15 a night.
Time now for our twice daily temp check. Every morning and afternoon we must take our temp and send a pick of the thermometer with our passport to the nurse on duty. Stay tuned for more on the mental effects of quarantine.