Coronavirus has undoubtedly changed everyone’s lives. probably not for ever, but for the next year or two the effects will be widespread. Let’s look at the tourism situation in Thailand, what the government is doing to help and what tourists to Thailand can expect on their post-coronavirus holiday.
This page is updated as and when new information becomes available. Plus you will see how the situation is very fluid and Thai government announcements and policy get reported but rarely become reality.
My current prediction (August 2020): Don’t expect to be able to just hop on a plane and come to Thailand as a normal tourist with no quarantine until mid-2021 or later.
On September 15, the Thai government gave the go ahead for a longstay visa – Special Tourist Visa – which would allow visitors to stay a maximum of 270 days in Thailand. 14 day quarantine and various other measures are still required. It is the first small step in Thailand re-opening for visitors.
When you compare the statistics for coronavirus cases from Thailand (only 58 deaths and just over 3,100 people infected) to those from many other countries, Thailand certainly appears to be a very safe country to travel to. Hopefully, foreign tourists will start to return soon. But for now the focus is on getting domestic tourism started.
Travel is one of the industries that has been hit hardest worldwide. This isn’t limited to one country, it affects the livelihoods of millions of people worldwide. Here in Thailand tourism is estimated to account for almost 18% of GDP. Last year, spending by foreign tourists accounted for 11.4% of GDP, while domestic tourism made up 6%. And around 20% of workers in Thailand are employed in tourism related businesses.
Many of these self employed or work in small businesses and resorts. The vast majority weren’t earning enough to be able to put aside money for living expenses for a few months without work. And the vast majority also aren’t covered by any government job furlough or income support programs.
So it’s easy to see the impact that the complete stop in tourism due to covid-19 has had on Thai people and how things will get worse before they get better. As the longer it is before tourism recovers,the longer it will be before people can earn a living wage again. There’s only so long that families members can support each other.
Now that coronavirus has been brought under control in Thailand, the Thai government is doing its best to encourage domestic tourism to get Thais to travel more extensively and spend their money supporting tourist related businesses around the country.
However, many of the smaller businesses won’t see any benefit. Large chain resorts are offering deeply discounted packages to entice visitors. Cutting prices for a five star hotel down to those of a 2 star hotel. And often throwing in dinner or even full board the resort.
With prices being cut for accommodation and large resorts trying to take business from local restaurants, it’s doubtful that these measures will help as many of the workers in the tourism business as intended.
So please try to support the little guys as well as enjoying the cheap prices at luxury hotels.
Thailand Covid-19 Travel Updates
A Bangkok Post article offers some clues about what tourism will look like in the first few months after Thailand re-opens its borders. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) is currently discussing bilateral agreements to let people between two countries travel without a 14-day quarantine, known as a travel bubble.
However these tourists must have insurance to cover costs of covid-19 treatment (if required) and they will be screened before departure and on arrival in Thailand.
They will also be monitored and tracked during their time in Thailand. In the initial stage, the country will open to only two groups: business people who receive an invitation from a firm and medical tourists who have an appointment already with a hospital.
There is also talk about sports tourists being allowed in such as golfers. But they must leave after they have finished playing. (Chinese and Japanese golfers often fly in for a couple of days of golf, as green fees in Thailand are way cheaper than their home countries.)
But as the government has to prepare more subtle screening processes, Thailand may only cater to about 1,000 inbound guests daily. According to the CCSA, the targeted countries include China, Hong Kong, Macao, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and some Middle East nations.
Khao Sod English reported that director of Thailand’s Civil Aviation Authority has stated that the doesn’t expect flights for tourists to resume until late September at the earliest. and even if the plan for travel bubbles is given the go ahead in the next month or two, this will only be for business travellers.
According to a Bloomberg report, the Thai Tourism Minister today stated that Thailand aimed to turn away from mass tourism and only target wealthy visitors when tourism re-opens. And that tourists should only be permitted to go to certain islands, for a minimum period of 14 days, where they will be monitored. “One person can easily spend as much as five by staying at the finest hotels,” he said, adding that full and free travel should become a “thing of the past.”
The government confirms plans to allow seven groups of foreigners to enter the country. The committee has divided these into two main groups. Graphics from The Nation
The first group of business people based in Thailand, skilled workers, people with Thai spouses or working in Thailand and medical tourists will have to undergo the 14 day quarantine period.
The second group of short stay business people – here for meetings or factory visits etc, tourists from China, South Korea and Japan, and guests of government agencies will be subject to testing and tracking but won’t have to undergo quarantine
The government announced that 50,000 foreigners are expected to begin flying to Thailand from 1 July onwards. This is up on the initial plan for 30,000. Several additional groups of foreigners will now be allowed to enter. However, tourists are still excluded. All visitors must undergo 14 days self-funded quarantine at luxury hotels. prices are form around 40,000 – 140,000 Baht for this.
A travel bubble plan tourists has now been drawn up by the government and tourism authorities. From August, a limited number of tourists, 1,000 / day, will be able to take a package tour to one of five areas in the pilot project – Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Krabi, Phuket and Pattaya.
Phase 1 of the plan allows for tourists only from countries that have been free from coronavirus for 30 days. If that is successful, phase 2 will see more tourists allowed in and permitted to visit additional destinations. The third phase would be when the whole country can open to international tourists again.
Just a few days after the plan for travel bubbles was announced it’s been put on hold, as the countries it was aimed at have now registered more coronavirus cases. Public health is being put ahead of economic factors by the government. The flipside of this is that millions of workers tourism business owners are suffering financially with no end in sight. The Phuket News reported on the plight of tourism workers in Phuket yesterday.
No further announcements on opening the country to more visitors. Instead rules for entry of foreigners have been tightened. Thailand has been without confirmed local transmission of the COVID-19 for 50 days now. But two cases among foreigners this week led to the self-isolation of more than 400 people and concerns about the possibility of a new coronavirus outbreak.
One covid19 case was the daughter of a diplomat who had just returned to Thailand. The other an Egyptian military officer who came to the country on official business. Neither were tested on arrival, as the normal procedures didn’t apply to diplomats or members of the armed forces.
Good news for holders of Elite Visas, they will soon be allowed back into Thailand. And also for foreign tourists who have been stuck in Thailand since the coronavirus pandemic began. They can continue to stay, without requiring a visa, until 26 September. But the Bank of Thailand is forecasting that it will be several years before visitor numbers to Thailand reach 2019’s highs again. Which is bad news for the millions of workers who depend on tourism for their livelihood.
This week the idea of travel bubbles was being reconsidered and then quickly dropped again once people thought about what would happen if a country that had had no cases for months ( i.e. Vietnam ) suddenly had new cases and lots of visitors from that country were in Thailand. Major panic all round.
By the end of the week the plan for any foreigners who enter the country in the coming months, for whatever reason, having to do 14 days quarantine at their own expense was back on the table. Best not to book your flights to Thailand just yet. As this week it’s looking less likely tourists will be allowed in before the end of the year.
Yesterday the government announced that there weren’t any plans for allowing more groups of foreigners into the country in the near future. This includes those on retirement visas and others who have property or families in Thailand (but don’t have a marriage or working visa). There’s also new Facebook group ‘Love is not Tourism‘ which calls on the government to allow foreigners in a relationship (but not married to) Thai nationals to be able to return to Thailand.
So before tourists can think of coming to Thailand for a vacation, these groups of people will have to be allowed in and go through quarantine. There’s still a long waiting list for repatriation flights to Thailand.
At present I wouldn’t plan on being able to have a winter holiday in Thailand.
Thailand is unlikely to reopen its borders to international tourists before the end of the year. That prediction came from a deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. I think some tourists will be allowed by the end of the year, but with strict restrictions. The type that only guided tour groups from China or elsewhere would be happy to adhere to.
Another week, another plan to get tourists back. This week both Phuket and Samui announced they were ready and willing to take incoming tourists. Although the small matter of mandatory 14 day quarantine has to be overcome. At present it’s hard to imagine there are many people wanting to take a holiday to Thailand with the proviso that the first two weeks must be spent in a designated hotel from which there’s no escape. By the end of the week authorities in Phuket said they would reopen from 1 October. ( Assuming there were flights, the government gave the OK and tourists didn’t mind the 14 day quarantine period. )
A glimmer of hope this week for people wanting to come to Thailand on holiday this coming high season. TAT officials have mentioned in interviews that they have a plan to allow longstay visitors to come to Phuket from 1 October onwards. There would be various conditions, namely covid tests and 14 day quarantine period. And visitors would have to be on charter flights, wear GPS tracking bracelets etc. Which limits the nationalities that would be able to come as an airline isn’t going to run flights for small groups. This would require large group tours, which means visitors are more likely to be from Russia, China or India than Europe. However, nothing official has yet been posted on government or TAT websites.
In the past few days Emirates announced they were starting flights to Bangkok again from 1 September onwards, only to be reminded by the Thai authorities that this wasn’t actually possible. Due to commercial flights being banned and no date set for them to resume. Thai Airways said they’d operate charter flights into Phuket, but only two flights a week from 6 selected countries and not beginning until late November.
Finally, a TAT spokesperson admitted what most people have realised will be the case ‘Thailand not opening to foreign tourists any time soon‘.
This week there was a case of a Thai national testing positive. He hadn’t left the country and was only tested when he was sent to jail. This was the first locally transmitted case for 100 days. ( However as very little testing is done, this isn’t surprising.) The result was over 900 people who had been in contact with him or been to places he worked were traced and tested.
The upshot was that the proposed ‘Phuket model’ for allowing tourists to return from 1 October onwards looks like being delayed. This also isn’t surprising as, currently, commercial flights to Thailand are banned in October. Plus the authorities haven’t formulated a plan about how to handle the the fear that a tourist testing positive for coronavirus will have in the local population.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand appear to have realised that just opening one location to tourists, isn’t going to do much for the hotel and tourism industry in Thailand. And that there are bound to be some local covid19 infection when tourists are allowed to enter the country. This week’s proposal is that visitors be allowed to travel to all areas of Thailand.
However, 14 day quarantine period will still be required, in addition to covid testing prior to visiting and on arrival and and tracking whilst in the country. This is likely to deter all but the hardcore Thai fans who plan on staying a month or more. Another idea is for a 2,000 baht 270 day Tourist Visa to be issued specifically for longstay visitors who want to winter in Thailand.
The Thai government gave the go ahead for a Special Tourist Visa (STV). This is a 90 day tourist visa that can be renewed two times. Giving a total of 270 days in the country. The cost of the visa is 2,000 Baht. Each renewal also costs 2,000 Baht.
But before you get too excited…
The procedure to get a Special Tourist Visa is much the same as how foreigners are coming back now.
Requirements in addition to the Special Tourist Visa :
– COVID-19 insurance of up to $100,000
– A Certificate of Entry from the Thai Embassy in your home country
– A Fit to Fly certificate
– A COVID-19 test less than 72 hours old.
– A police criminal record background check
Upon arrival in Thailand, visitors using the Special Tourist Visa will have to undergo 14 days quarantine at an approved hotel. At their own expense.
Prices for quarantine are currently from around 40,000 Baht per person to 250,000 Baht per person, depending on the hotel. In addition, the number of visitors is limited to a maximum of 100 per day and a total of 1,200 per month.
Visitors will only be able to enter Thailand by charter flight or private jet.
And only certain nationalities will be allowed to apply for the Special Tourist Visa.
20 September – More details are slowly emerging about the Special Tourist Visa and its requirements. Apparently, in addition to the above, applicants will also have to provide proof they haven’t been in any crowed areas for two weeks prior to flying. The minimum stay in Thailand will be 90 days. So this has to be paid for in advance and a confirmed booking shown.
The icing on the cake is that tourists must make flight and accommodation arrangements through a licensed Thai travel agency.
What to Expect in Thailand as post-covid19 Tourist?
Firstly, it might be quite a long time until any tourists are allowed into Thailand. This is because the government seems hell bent on doing everything to ensure there can’t be a single new case. That may be a good aim. But the idea of only letting people into the country from countries that haven’t had a new case for 60 or more days severely limits the potential numbers. And new cases can flare up at any time.
New normal tourism seems like a glimpse into a dystopian future where the government controls and monitors movements of all tourists. But these measures will only be temporary and, as this is Thailand, will most likely start to be ignored pretty quickly.
Especially if they aren’t being properly enforced and in some cases are pointless. In general, the first ‘new normal’ tourists to Thailand will have to get used to:
– Wearing a surgical or cloth face-mask at all times when out in public – even to the beach. There’s no restriction on what type of ask you can wear. And you’ll find them readily available in all minimarts, pharmacies and supermarkets across Thailand. Some are obviously more effective than others. But whichever mask you choose, get one that you can wear for a few hours without it hampering your breathing or steaming up your glasses.
– Having your temperature taken when entering larger shops, restaurants, hotels and businesses.
– Having to check in and out of shops, restaurants, businesses, attractions etc using your phone
– Looking out for red ‘X’s on seats. They aren’t decoration. They’re marking where people can or cannot sit. So if you see a bench seat for two people in the airport, you’ll see one spot has an ‘X’ on it. So that is only for one person to use. Two people who are together can’t use it. This is to enforce social distancing.
In some situations it seems non-nonsensical. For example on the skytrain and subway in Bangkok. Only alternate seats can be used. However, during rush hour commuters are packed in like sardines. Standing squashed together – which is apparently OK. But not allowed to sit on any of the vacant ‘X’ seats, which is against the rules.
– Exchanging cash won’t be as easy as before. Simply because there are fewer places that will take foreign banknotes. In the past you could always find a small currency exchange or bank easily. But since it was reported that coronavirus can be transmitted through handling bank notes, the number of places offering exchange facilities has dropped. So if you want to bring USD / EUR in cash, bear this in mind.
– Get used to carrying items such as wet wipes, mask, liquid soap, gel or alcohol spray. Always handy to have and after a while you’ll miss not having a splash of alcohol gel on your hands after a meal or using public transport.
– Ideally avoid crowds. If possible, take a private transfer rather than a shared minibus or bus. In Bangkok, use taxis or Grab car and avoid the packed subway and skytrain. Avoid large tour groups. Take a smaller, more personalised tour with a local guide.
– Don’t be the odd one out. Which means wear a mask if everyone around you is wearing a mask – regardless of whether you agree or disagree with wearing one. But also take it off when it’s obviously pointless or best not to wear one. Eg on a deserted beach with no-one around or if you are on an early morning run when you’ll need to be able to breathe properly.
You will also see a lot of businesses displaying their Safety and Health certification. This is a government scheme whereby businesses can self certify themselves as meeting the guidelines laid down by the Tourism Authority of Thailand for tourist health and safety.
Businesses register online at and then answer a questionnaire and upload photos to confirm their compliance with cleaning or social distancing regulations etc
Travelling by Bus, Plane and Train in Thailand
Domestic transport in Thailand began re-opening in June. At the time of writing not all services were up and running. But it is now possible to get to most areas of the country by public transport. But the number of options tourists have for travelling from A to B is likely to be less than in the past. This is due to the lack of tourists. So services such as shared minibuses and tourist buses or boats to islands will be running fewer services than normal.
So a bit more advance planning will be required. Especially as social distancing, people must sit further than 1 metre of each other, has to be enforced on buses and trains. They have to leave 30% of seats empty. The good news for passengers on domestic flights is that airlines can sell all seats. This is because the duration of the flights is relatively short, averaging around an hour. Which limits the chances of anyone contracting coronavirus during a flight.
The natural effect of having far less capacity than before is that prices for flights and minibus tickets etc will increase. Public trains and buses and those operating under government concessions have their ticket prices fixed by law. And so can’t be increased by operators.
Private transfers will be increasingly attractive to visitors who want to avoid all the delays and temperature checks at airports, train and bus stations. So I expect these to be more popular for tourists heading to destinations within a few hours drive of Bangkok. Pattaya, Koh Chang or Hua Hin for example.
At present it is the provincial governors have the power to impose quarantine on visitors from elsewhere in Thailand. So far the only place that people seem to have had issues in travelling is by plane to Chiang Mai. Buying a ticket isn’t a problem. But it’s a major hassle for anyone, especially foreigners who don’t have a registered address in Chiang Mai, to get past the over zealous Immigration officials at the airport.
This will change but it’s just an example of what people need to be aware of. For example, if there were new covid-19 cases in a particular province, tourists might find that they have trouble leaving the province or visiting other areas of the country.
As with all activities, expect to have your temperature taken before being allowed on the bus, plane or train.
The first thing that guests will notice when arriving at their hotel is that they have their temperature taken. This will be done with a temperature gun pointed at the forehead / temple. Anyone registering over 37.5C will be required to be monitored and / or consult a doctor.
Thailand is a very hot country and so it’s pretty common for people to be over 37.5C after walking around in hot sunshine. What usually happens now is that if you are deemed to be in the danger zone, you have to wait a while to cool off before trying the temperature check again.
Hotel lobbies should also be marked to show guests where to stand and how far apart to be spaced. This is to enforce social distancing and try to keep everyone a minimum of 1 metre apart. So expect well spaced chairs and furniture in the lobby area, restaurant and by the pool.
Hotels are also being encouraged to replace keys and key cards with contact-less door entry systems. All hotel staff are required to wear face masks. Likewise guests will be required to wear them outside their rooms and in public areas of the hotel.
Guests will also be encouraged not to use cash for payments, as there’s a slim chance coronavirus can be passed between people on banknotes. This probably won’t affect many foreign visitors who book hotels online in advance. It is still no problem to withdraw cash from an ATM, but exchanging money isn’t as easy as it was.
Officially there are now rules and regulations for visiting beaches. How seriously these are enforced remains to be seen.
Beach-goers are expected to wear a face mask all the time when you are in the beach area. You should also wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol sanitizer before entering and after leaving the beach.
When on the beach or in the water, keep at least 1-2 meters from other visitors. Refrain from shouting while in the water or on the beach, to reduce droplet spread. If you are in an at risk group, for example, the elderly and persons with respiratory diseases, you should visiting the beach if it is busy.
Before you go to a restaurant in Thailand, here are some of the things to expect.
Restaurant owners must take the temperature diners at screening points and record the details of their visit. The screening points will record entry and exit times of diners. Diners will have their temperature checked on entry and alcohol gel should also be available for diners who wish to use it.
The number of diners should be limited and tables spaces 2 metres apart. Diners should be at least 1 meter from each other. Tables, cooking utensils and eating utensils should all be cleaned at least 3 times a day. Toilets should be cleaned every two hours.
A secure payment service, eg using contact-less phone banking or payment apps, should be provided to reduce the amount of contact between service providers and clients. Waiting staff must maintain bodily hygiene, wear cloth masks, sanitary masks or face shields, cover their hair with caps and wear gloves at all times while working.
As a diner in a restaurant you will be expected to agree to temperature testing on entry and wear a face mask (This can be removed when eating). Practice social distancing and keep 1 metre from other diners. You should wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol gel before and after your meal.
Diners should also try to avoid paying in cash to reduce physical contact. Try to limit the time spent in the restaurant to under 1 hour, in order to reduce the number of people you come in contact with.
The Thai Chana Application
Thai Chana is a government mobile phone app, built by Krungthai Bank, that tracks people in and out of premises. The idea is that if you follow people’s movements in public places, then if anyone tests positive for coronavirus, it will be possible to quickly alert, via SMS or phone call, anyone else who was in the vicinity or in the same shops or businesses during the time the infected person was there. When users check out, they are also given the option to rate the business for their adherence to mask wearing / social distancing / temperature taking regulations.
Leaving issues of privacy etc aside, in theory it’s a good idea. Shops and businesses should now all have scannable QR codes at their entrances. But in reality, even if many do, they are often ignored by shoppers or visitors, who only scan them if there’s staff there telling them to do it. And scanning out of a business at the end of a visit is often ignored.
So, it’s more for show than having any practical use. Especially when the only new covid-19 cases in Thailand (as of mid June) are from people returning from overseas who are tested at the airport on arrival.
Having said that it did prove useful when there was a scare in Rayong with a member of the Egyptian military visited a hotel and mall and was later tested positive for the virus. Over 7,000 people who were in the mall at the same time as him were traced and tested. All were negative. ( The serviceman got into the country on a military flight and avoid being tested on arrival. That loophole was swiftly closed by authorities following this incident.)
Is it possible to enter shops and restaurants without using the app?
Yes. Just scan the QR code with your phone camera which takes you to the businesses page on the Thaichana website. You then just click a button to check in.
If you don’t have a phone with you then there’s the old fashioned method. You have to write your name, phone number and time you enter in a book. Quite a few people have commented online that having loads of strangers using the same pen and book isn’t the most hygienic thing to do if the aim is to prevent any possible carriers from spreading the virus.
How to Wear a Facemask Correctly
This infographic is from the World Health Organisation
Thailand Covid-19 Travel FAQs
Are foreigners allowed to fly to Thailand?
Yes, but only a certain group are allowed in & the hoops that they have to jump through are purposefully hard. At present (August 2020), only diplomats, foreigners with a Thai spouse, work permit holders and people with permission to work can enter. A special ‘certificate of entry’ must also be obtained. It’s not just a matter of buying a ticket, even if you have a Work Permit or valid non-immigrant visa. ( Foreign retirees still aren’t permitted to return to Thailand.)
Is there quarantine for visitors to Thailand?
Yes. All arrivals – Thai and foreign have 14 days quarantine. Thais have to do this, for free, at a government quarantine centre. Foreigners have to pay from around 35 – 250,000 Baht to stay in ‘alternative state quarantine’. This is a choice of hotels which provide room and board for two weeks.
I have a flight to Bangkok booked to Thailand in
July December. Will I be allowed in?
Nothing has been announced yet. But at present it seems very unlikely that Thailand will just throw the doors open to all tourists any time soon. The government has been very cautious in it’s approach so far. There’s no reason to suggest this will change overnight.
Can Thailand Elite visa holders come into Thailand now?
Yes. This was confirmed in August 2020 However, they have to go though 14 days quarantine as their own expense.
When will tourists from < your country> be allowed to visit Thailand?
That’s the big question. The Thai government will initially look at attracting tourists from this corner of the world where many countries haven’t been badly affected and tourist numbers are smaller and easier to control / monitor. Chinese visitors will almost certainly be allowed in before any from Europe. Partly because China has the situation under control and implements stricter measures on it’s citizens than most other countries. But also because Chinese tourists make up around 35% of international visitors to Thailand.
Will my country allow citizens to visit Thailand?
This is something many people don’t consider. Even if Thailand allows tourists to visit, will your home country allow you to travel to Thailand? And if they do, will you have to be quarantined when you arrive back from holiday? Bear in mind that although Thailand has a very low covid-19 infection and death rates, relatively few people have been tested compared to all western countries. Will that count against Thailand? Only time will tell.
The Five Stages of Recovery for Tourism
Tripadvisor published a whitepaper on the five stages to recovery for tourism from covid-19 crisis and the recovery. It’s well worth reading, but I’ve summarised some of the key points here.
We’re already past the first two stages – Decline and Plateau. This was where travel just stopped dead and everyone was locked down. But then people at home began to think about future holidays and start searching for ideas again.
Most countries are now well into the third stage which is Emergence. The crisis eases and people are allowed out of their homes. Shops and restaurants can re-open.
The fourth stage is the slow re-start of Domestic travel. This has just happened in Thailand. It also takes into account that tourists – domestic and international – will have new priorities when it comes to not only hygiene and cleanliness but also the types of holidays they want to take.
Hospitality businesses that can rise to the challenge of new consumer expectations around cleanliness and hygiene stand to benefit most from early increases in travel and hospitality. Which is why the multinational hotel chains are emphasizing their thorough new cleaning routines in ads and trying to ‘out sanitize’ each other.
The Tripadvisor market research also shows that these domestic visitors will be looking for places where they can socially distance – eg Airbnb rentals or larger resorts. And in a quieter locations, away from mass market tourism. With destinations in mountains, beaches and remote locations being more popular than normal.
The final stage of the recovery is when international tourism begins in earnest. The good news is that by the time it does, there will be a lot of pent up demand. The bad news is that only 26% of people think there next international trip will be in 2020. 31% think it will be some time in the first half of 20201. And the remaining 43% aren’t expecting to be able to travel for another year – after June 2021.
Consumers report they are 218% more likely to take a trip where they can relax after the pandemic and are 148% more likely to visit beaches when they can travel again, an attraction where consumers are able to not only relax but practice social distancing. This is great news for Koh Chang and other beach destinations.