Covid-19 continues to have global ramifications on the tourism industry leaving Thai authorities with a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, there is pressure to reopen up the country to international tourists. While on the other hand, there is a desire to ensure all possible safety measures are taken to protect the people who live in Thailand. In terms of when Thailand will reopen to overseas tourists, the situation remains fluid. We will add updates on this page and on our dedicated Covid-19 advice page as and when more is known. In the meantime, the Fan Club Thailand website editor, Roy Cavanagh, lives in Thailand and in this article addresses some of the main questions readers have been asking.
What is the Covid-19 situation in Thailand?
Thailand started issuing daily ‘Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19)’ updates in February 2020. Since that date, there have been a total of 58 deaths recorded. As of 16 September 2020, these were the official Covid-19 statistics from Thailand:
Thailand has received praise from the World Health Organization (WHO) for the way the country has handled the pandemic. Thai authorities took a strong stance early on and the majority of the public have followed advice about wearing masks, observing social distancing, and washing hands regularly. The approach appears to have worked and with the low number of reported cases, there is now a more relaxed attitude in many parts of the country about wearing masks. Away from tourist areas, the day-to-day situation in Thailand feels like it is back to near normal. However, the prospect of an economic crisis may yet prove to be a bigger problem than Covid-19.
There is no hiding the fact that it has been an incredibly tough time for anybody in Thailand involved directly or indirectly in tourism. It’s estimated that around 15% of Thailand’s gross domestic product (GDP) comes from tourism. The economic fallout from the lack of international tourists has led to job losses and business closures. And that has had a knock-on effect for many individuals and small businesses. For some, it is already too late and businesses have closed and people are looking for employment elsewhere. A tuk-tuk driver I was chatting to in Chiang Mai earlier this week summed up the thoughts of others who I have talked with in recent months when he said, “I’m not scared about Covid. I’m scared about having no money to support my family.”
Can I fly to Thailand?
At the moment, there are restrictions on who can fly to Thailand and tourists who want to visit for a short holiday are not yet allowed to enter the country. At some stage that will change and the announcement of the new ‘Special Tourist Visa’ (see below) may prove to be a test scheme for a wider opening up of tourism in Thailand.
Although tourists are not currently allowed to fly to Thailand, there are still some flights operating for specific groups of travellers. These include:
- Thai nationals
- Non-Thais who are a spouse, parent, or children of a Thai national
- Non-Thais who work in Thailand may also be allowed to enter. Please see the information here for more details.
Before being allowed to fly to Thailand, travellers need to prepare a number of documents including a fit to fly certificate and proof of Covid-19 insurance. And people arriving in Thailand are currently required to enter an approved quarantine facility for two weeks. For full details, please contact the Royal Thai Embassy/Consulate in the country where you are intending to travel from:
Travel from the United Kingdom
Travel from Ireland
Are land borders open to tourists?
Land borders are currently closed to tourists wishing to enter Thailand. No official date has yet been given for when land crossings will reopen.
When will tourists be allowed to return to Thailand?
At the time of writing (16 September 2020) it still isn’t known when tourists who want to enjoy a holiday in Thailand will be allowed to enter. Different schemes have been suggested to restart international tourism, but nothing concrete has yet been agreed.
My personal view is that international tourism to Thailand will resume in stages starting first with visitors from Asia and from countries who have low numbers of Covid-19 cases. Again this is a personal view, but it could be early in 2021 before tourists from the UK and Ireland are allowed to visit Thailand on holiday without the need for quarantine on arrival. There’s a chance it could be sooner than that, but much will also depend on potential vaccines, improved testing systems, and the Covid-19 situation in the UK and Ireland.
Special Tourist Visa for long stay visitors
In a meeting on 15 September 2020, Thai government officials agreed in principal to a ‘Special Tourist Visa’. The full details are yet to be confirmed, but in theory would allow the visa holder to stay in Thailand for up to 270 days. The idea is that the initial permission to stay would be for 90 days and this can then be extended twice for 90 days at a time at an immigration office in Thailand without needing to leave the country.
The new visa category won’t be suitable for everybody, but offers something which may be an option for some long-stay visitors. Those who meet all the criteria will be allowed to stay for up to nine months in Thailand, but there will be conditions attached which may include:
- Restrictions on airlines you can fly with
- A monthly limit on the number of visitors allowed to apply for the Special Tourist Visa
- A compulsory two week quarantine period on arrival
- After completion of the quarantine period, visitors can travel around Thailand but may be required to download an app as part of a Covid-19 track and trace scheme
- Certificate of entry to be obtained from the Royal Thai Embassy in your home country before departure
- Fit to fly certificate
- A negative Covid-19 test less than 72 hours old
- Compulsory Covid-19 insurance
Update: 20th October, 2020
According to the Thai Public Health Ministry regulations, only international arrivals from a low-risk country will be considered for a Special Tourist Visa (STV). The UK is not currently regarded as a low-risk country. However, there are a few other options for certain groups of people to apply for entry to Thailand.
Please see the updates on the Covid-19 travel advice page for full details
Preparing for the return of tourism
Although there is still uncertainty over when tourists from the UK and Ireland will be allowed to travel to Thailand without the need to quarantine on arrival, steps are being taken to prepare for that eventuality.
To aid the recovery of Thailand’s tourism sector and restore confidence, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has launched a new safety initiative. In association with public and private sector partners, the Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration (SHA) certification has been introduced. To be granted a certificate under the SHA scheme, hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and other facilities need to meet the strict Covid-19 control guidelines issued by the Ministry of Public Health.
Thank you for your support of Thailand. While the current situation keeps us apart, we wish you all good health and we look forward to welcoming you back to Thailand soon. We will add updates here and on our travel advice page once more information is known.