Welcome back to the world of “maybe-hopefully-soon”. The key difference to all previous Thailand/COVID updates? I’m determined that this post will be good news and lots of it. Here’s how: pretend you’re reading it to a golden retriever. No matter the content, ascend an octave, raise your eyebrows to your hairline and read aloud. Ready? Let’s learn all the ways we’re not going anywhere.
Caveat of all caveats: To the best of my knowledge and obsessive fact-checking, everything below is correct at time of writing (Nov 27, 2020). However, things are changing constantly and one positive COVID case can (and has) reversed course on new plans and proposals. Most of all, regulations differ depending on your country and there is SO MUCH grey area.
As such, please consider the following a rough guide rather than hard facts – use it as a Mad Libs sheet to fill in according to your specific situation. As you have a grasp of the basics, your best bet in all cases is to contact your country’s Royal Thai Embassy or your closest consulate as well as your local Thai Airways office (if applicable). For my part, I’ll keep the updates coming (typed with one sleeve rolled to my elbow awaiting vaccination). Join my email list to get future updates straight to your inbox.Subscribe to updates
Thailand COVID Update: November 27, 2020
New My COVID fundraiserHow to help Thailand and treat yourself to something tropical? Don’t miss my fundraising project for Koh Samui COVID relief – snag yourself a ‘Doctor Pouchy’ travel pouch – handmade by me, for you! 10% of all revenue goes to COVID relief on Koh Samui. See details and pics or shop now.
New to this? Start Here
If you’re brand new (hello!), here’s a quick dictionary and recap of what’s in place so far:
1. Read first: Thailand/COVID 101
If you’re brand new to the idea of bushwhacking your way to Thailand during COVID, start with this October update and then come back and read this post. A few minor details have changed (for example: if you’re ineligible for an STV, you might have other options now) but, together, they’ll give you the full picture. Important: don’t allow yourself to get confused until you’ve read both posts from start to finish. It will make as much sense as it can by the end. If it all sounds impossible and hellish, just go back to bed with some boxed wine. It’s 2020 and you’re allowed.
2. Can you help?
Whereas tourism is 20% of the economy Thailand-wide, it’s a much higher proportion on Samui and the island is hard-hit. If you’d like to do something heartwarming and lovely for the holidays, please consider 9 ways to help Koh Samui (one of them involves doing yoga with elephants…).
3. What does _____ mean?
ASQ: Alternative State Quarantine
If you want to enter Thailand – as a tourist, a returning Thai citizen, pretty much anyone – you’re spending 15 nights/16 days in ASQ. At the time of writing, there are 113 approved ASQ hotels in Bangkok – here are your 70 best options (including a few apartments). This post also provides an overview of what ASQ packages involve, plus pricing details (and why you might want to get married).
ALSQ: Alternative Local State Quarantine
Note: Not currently in operation and perhaps unlikely to. Locations including Phuket and Koh Samui. While Koh Samui pricing and package details haven’t been announced yet, the Bangkok information gives an early frame of reference. At the minute, it looks unlikely that ALSQ will happen any time soon (but … that could change tomorrow).
SHA: Safety and Health Administration certification
A blue “SHA” badge will indicate that the establishment has passed a detailed inspection and follows all recommended COVID health measures. See which Koh Samui hotels and business have theirs.
STV: Special Tourist Visa
Find out who’s eligible for an STV, what the application involves and how to apply.
Thailand Travel Updates
If you’re a regular reader – join us here for your updates.
As a quick catch-up, Thailand’s been doing relatively well with its COVID numbers and the mandatory quarantine period is proving largely successful at preventing wider community spread. Unfortunately, the system hasn’t been perfect. One case involved a woman who, having completed her quarantine, then travelled to Koh Samui and tested positive for COVID a few days later. It’s believed she caught the virus at some point during her quarantine hotel stay (but no one really knows for certain). No one else was infected but, as a result of this and a few unrelated cases, we’re unlikely to see a reduction in the length of ASQ stays.
Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) Updates
1. Two-week quarantine period remains
Prior to the event mentioned above, officials were considering reducing the ASQ period from 14 to 10 days for visitors from low-risk countries (such as Australia New Zealand, Taiwan and South Korea). That’s not happening (for now at least).
2. More ASQ hotels added
You’ve now got more ASQ options. In total, there are 118 ASQ hotels (and apartments) at time of writing – I’ve chosen those I think are best and have added 30 new ASQ hotels and apartments to this running list. (Look for the blue ‘New’ tag).
3. ASQ prices
Some of that good news I promised. With my late November update (30 more hotels), there’s now a much wider price range of ASQ hotels with many room options now starting at 32,000 THB (vs 65,000 THB in October). Expect this pattern to continue – more choice at more price points. If interested, I’ve added some rough figures for ASQ average prices.
4. Big Brother’s (probably) going to be watching…
A friendly heads-up that, after completing ASQ, you’ll probably need to have a tracking app on your phone, plus or minus frequent check-ins with official people who want to know where you are. (Details are sparse, but greater oversight had been suggested for visitors completing shorter quarantine periods which are – again – scrapped for now).
5. What’s your vote?
Thailand insider Richard Barrow polled his followers about their interest in ASQ this week: “Are you a tourist considering a holiday to Thailand? Under what conditions would you visit?” With 3,300 responses at the time of writing, 62% said they’ll only travel when quarantine restrictions are lifted. What’s your vote?
Special Tourist Visa (STV)
So far, 681 people have successfully applied for STVs – a new visa available only to those from low-risk countries. What’s changed? Flight options have expanded. Whereas previously only charter and private flights were available, you now have a variety of semi-commercial options (details follow further in this post).
60-Day Tourist Visas (TV)
I can’t tell if this (A) wasn’t clear before or (B) is a new option, but visitors from medium- and high-risk countries are allowed to apply for a regular 60-Day Tourist Visa (the same kind you might have had in the Olden Times). ASQ requirements, administrative-hoop-jumping and everything else still apply – it’s just a shorter stay. On paper, this means that – yes – Americans* can travel to Thailand (caveat emptor, caveat emptor).
*Not you, Donald Jr.
What’s a low-risk, medium-risk or high-risk country according to Thailand?
As of November 1, the following are an inexhaustive list of who’s-who. (If you don’t see your country listed, please check with your country’s Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate). Reminder – this changes! Often!
Low-risk countries: Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Estonia, Norway, Brazil
Medium-risk countries: Canada, Japan, UAE, South Africa, Indonesia, Germany, India, Denmark, Malaysia, Israel, Philippines,
High-risk countries: Myanmar, Austria, Sweden, Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Russia, UK and the U.S. (can I interest any of you in a mask…?)
Note: Obviously all of these details are changing constantly. If you have questions specific to your situation, start with your country’s Royal Thai embassy/consulate. This isn’t to say that Thailand is accepting visitors from every country – just that they might be and it’s worth checking. Who’s loving this and having fun yet?
Whereas the STV was launched with a proof of funds requirement of THB 500,000 spanning the past six months, this detail is quietly changing (or disappearing) in some locations. It’s worth double-checking the income requirement on your country’s Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate website. The Thaiger reports a different amount on a U.S.-based Thai Consulate site, whereas European Thai embassies mention no such detail. Just one of many (many) things changing daily.
Upcoming: Easy-Booking Packages
On December 1, The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will start offering “Amazing Thailand Plus Special Package” through March 31, 2021. The intent is to streamline some of the admin currently required: visas, ASQ hotel booking and flights can be booked as one package either through Thai Airways or TAT’s website (not yet available – check on Dec 1).
Good news! As of November, there are limited “semi-commercial” options available for those who need them and qualify for entry to Thailand – e.g. Special Tourist Visa (STV) or Tourist Visas (TR) holders, business and other essential travel (you’ll need a Certificate of Entry to fly).
Further options (including those listed below) will become available on December 1. My best suggestion is to clarify details specific to your situation with the local office of your preferred airline, as well as the Royal Thai embassy or your closest consulate.
- Air France (TBC)
- Austrian Airlines (VIE-BKK)
- Cathay Pacific (HKG-BKK)
- Emirates (DXB-BKK, HKG-BKK)
- Etihad Airlines (AUH-BKK)
- Eva Air (TPE-BKK, LHR-BKK)
- Gulf Air (BAH-BKK)
- KLM (TBC)
- Korean Air (ICN-BKK)
- Lufthansa (FRA-BKK)
- Malaysia Airlines (KUL-BKK)
- Qatar Airways (DOH-BKK)
- Philippine Airlines (MNL-BKK)
- Singapore Airlines (SIN-BKK)
- Swiss Air (ZHR-BKK)
- Thai Airways (LHR, FRA, CPH, HKG, NRT, TPE and SYD to BKK)
- Thai Smile (CKG-BKK)
The above is current at the time of writing but options (airlines, routes and frequency) will likely increase in the coming months so use the list as a rough guide and check with your preferred airlines for updates.
ALSQ in Koh Samui
Although 10 Koh Samui hotels have been approved for Alternative Local State Quarantine (ALSQ), this remains a designation in name only. No further details are available and none are currently operating as such. With no international flights into Koh Samui or Phuket and the significant increase in ASQ options in BKK … my guess is ALSQ is a preparedness plan for the future, not an imminent option.
Who’s already lining up to play human pin cushion! Vaccination in Thailand is likely to begin in mid-2021 according to the director of their National Vaccine Institute (NVI). Meanwhile, you’ve perhaps read reports that Qantas and The International Air Transport Association (IATA) have said that proof of vaccine or a vaccine passport will be required for future international travel. We might expect that this is what we’re waiting for before commercial travel resumes and ASQ goes away. For my part, that’s the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Sign. Me. Up.
Your Thailand/COVID FAQs
1. Is Thailand accepting travellers from the USA?
Although Thailand currently considers the U.S. ‘high risk’ (see above), you can – apparently – apply for a 60-day tourist visa. The best place to start is with the Royal Thai embassy or your closest consulate.
2. We have a villa in Koh Samui. Do you know if we can get back to actually live in it during COVID restrictions?
Following a stay in ASQ, I believe you could – depending on your home country and which visa you have or would qualify for. My best suggestion would be to double-check with the Royal Thai Consulate-General in your country. Visa specifics seem to differ country by country, depending on which locations are low/medium/high risk. If you’re not eligible for an STV or a retirement visa, you might qualify for a 60-day tourist visa.
3. How many days is ASQ?
It’s for fifteen days. Your arrival day is considered “Day Zero” because you’re still interacting with other people and therefore aren’t fully quarantined. So consider “Day 1” to be the first day entirely on your lonesome, meaning you’re let out fourteen days later, on “Day 15”.
4. How can we fly to Thailand if only charter or private flights are available?
See above for updated flight and airline details.
5. Do ASQ packages include food?
Yes. All packages in this list include three daily meals, delivered pre-packaged like a (hopefully) more delicious airline meal. As food delivery services (unless cooked at home by a relative … don’t ask, no idea) are banned, your snacking is limited to room service options or whatever you’re able to rustle up in your kitchen – some ASQ options include small kitchenettes or even full apartment kitchens. Many hotels have made valiant attempts to include healthy options.
And here we are, in need of another drink,
all dressed up and nowhere to go. If you want to do something and clicking wildly around the internet fits the bill, try these:
1. Future Travel: 51 Ways to Save up to 64% on Bangkok and Koh Samui Hotels
Step-by-step, discover how to find the best “book now/stay later” deals (with no pre-payment and free cancellation) for Bangkok and Koh Samui. I used late 2021 dates as an example and found rates up to 64% off.
2. Help in any way that you can
Whether your preferred charities feed humans, elephants, dogs or cats (or generally save the planet), please consider these 9 easy ways to help Koh Samui.
3. Play Thailand trivia
At long last, I realised that there’s a way to use all this Thailand knowledge in COVID-proof way: through sheer competition and ruthless academic/pop culture savagery against our own friends and family. Who wants to plan a future vacation … when you could demonstrate superior intellect, right here, right now? Choose from three Thailand trivia packs, available for instant download to play at home with your family or on Zoom.
4. Add to cart
My favourite COVID coping mechanism! Discover my best suggestions for making your own entertainment this Christmas, with as much tropical respite and hints at future travel as possible. (Note – every recommended toiletry and beauty product is 100% cruelty-free).
5. Bring Thailand to you
If you’re sick of Netflix (or horrified at what your algorithm has become), find 29 ways to bring Thailand to you (and then 29 MORE ways). From food and flavours you’ve never heard of, to books you’ve never read – here’s hoping these 58 suggestions give you a month’s worth of sunshine.
Resources and further reading
- 100+ People Cleared Who Covid-infected French Woman on Samui
- Backtracking, Thailand Cuts Quarantine Time for Only 6 Nationalities
- Bangkok Airways Reports Massive Q3 Loss
- Certificate of Entry (COE) to Thailand
- Koh Samui, Thailand Weekly Weather Update; 12th October – 18th October 2020
- Koh Samui, Thailand Weekly Weather Update; 19th October – 25th October 2020
- Koh Samui, Thailand Weekly Weather Update; 26th October – 1st November 2020
- Koh Samui, Thailand Weekly Weather Update; 2nd November – 8th November 2020
- No Vaccine, No Entry – The World’s Next Travel Challenge
- No Vaccine, No Flight – Qantas Will Require International Travellers to Be Vaccinated
- Rejoice Thailand. 681 Tourists Will Arrive in November!
- Risk Countries – November
- Samui Ready to Petition for Cheap Flights
- Semi-commercial Flights to Thailand in 2020
- TAT Rolls out Special Hotel and Transport Packages for Foreign Tourists
- Tests Show Samui Woman Did Not Contract Virus at Quarantine Hotel
- Thailand “Relaxes” Visa Criteria to Draw in More Tourists
- Thailand Special Tourist Visa
- Thailand to Cut Quarantine to 10 Days – but Add More Rules
- Thailand’s Emergency Decree Extended until Mid-January
- Thais to Get 1st Covid Shots by Mid-2021
- The Thai Tourism New Normal, Learning to Live with the Pandemic
- Tourist Visa Stiff Income Requirement Being Wound Back