Have you seen the headlines? Thailand’s reopening as of November 1? Quarantine-free? Is it … the Future Times? Whether you couldn’t find your passport if you tried, or are already packed and raring to go, here’s absolutely everything you need to know about Thailand travel from November onwards. There’s a lot of good news, some “optimistic horizons” and – as always – some crucial bits you need to consider. Ready?
Updated December 22, 2021
Announced today: New Thailand Pass applications and the Test and Go program will be temporarily suspended over the holidays. This is *hopefully* a temporary measure while sciencey people give Omicron a watchful side-eye. The situation will be reviewed in early January.
There are three outcomes, depending on the status of your Thailand Pass.
1. If you already have your Thailand Pass, don’t worry – you don’t need to change your plans. You can still come to Thailand under the scheme for which you registered. (For instance, if you already have your Thailand Pass you can arrive as a Test and Go traveller or a Samui Sandbox traveller). There’s no deadline or suspension date. Whatever your arrival date was on your application, still stands. Some media reported January 10th as a cut-off point but, per Richard Barrow, that’s incorrect.
2. If you’ve applied but don’t have your Thailand Pass yet – wait for the approval. If approved, you can come under the scheme for which you registered.
3. If you haven’t applied for your Thailand Pass – you have three options: you can apply for (A) Phuket Sandbox and (B) Alternative Quarantine, details below or (C) wait until January to see what changes. Your country and your vaccination status will determine whether you’re eligible for Phuket Sandbox and the length of Alternative Quarantine required.
Special bonus treats: An extra covid test for everyone – no longer a self-test but done at a government facility – on the 7th or so day of your trip.
The Phuket Sandbox program is still running (roughly 1 night of quarantine at a wide choice of hotels and, after 7 days on Phuket, you can travel freely throughout Thailand). To do this, apply for the Thailand Pass. There are no sealed flights from BKK to Phuket (HKT) so your arrival flight into Thailand must be direct.
Alternative Quarantine is that “2020 revisited” full-on hotel room quarantine 10+ days (depending on your country and your vaccination status).
Resources: As always, I recommend Richard Barrow as a trusted source for immigration updates. He’s spoken personally with a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so I refer you to his update. Khun Saksith Saiyasombut is also a great reference. To receive updates from me – subscribe now.
Below: I originally published this post on October 30th and have updated it on December 21, 2021. Find prior updates below in red text.
- Subscribe to email updates
- How to ‘Test and Go’ on Koh Samui
- How to Book Your Test and Go Hotel
- Thailand Travel FAQs
- The 25 Best Test and Go Hotels in Bangkok
- The 45 Best Phuket Sandbox (SHA Plus+) Hotels
- The 21 Best Koh Samui SHA Plus+ Hotels
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Your Total Guide to ‘No Quarantine’ Thailand
Crucial info – Start here
Number one thing you should know
I’ve said it in this post, this post, this post – ad nauseam really – if you come to Thailand and either test positive OR (this one’s crucial) have “high-risk contact” with someone you never even spoke to (e.g. someone sitting near you on a plane), you’re no longer in charge of your trip.
A positive Covid test result, at any point, means a hospital stay (covered by your mandatory insurance). A “high-risk contact”, whether with a family member or a total stranger, means a 2-week hotel-room quarantine stay, at your expense, at a limited list of options (Alternative Local Quarantine – ALQ). Please know the “if-this-then-that” risks involved with Thailand travel at this time. “Quarantine-free” sounds wonderful but it does have this major caveat.
High-risk contact? Note that Thai citizens are exempt from the 72-hour pre-departure PCR test. As well, unvaccinated tourists are allowed to travel to Thailand. Unvaccinated visitors have to quarantine for 10 days but you still might sit next to them for 12+ hours. Small comfort? Many countries won’t let partially or unvaccinated people board a flight but this isn’t universally the case. Maybe wear an “I love science” t-shirt and see who asks to switch seats. High-risk contacts have recently been defined as someone you’re sitting next to (so definitely pay the extra for a private car to your hotel).
If you test positive for Covid while travelling in Thailand: If you’re the positive result, everyone in your travelling party will have to quarantine for 14 days at an ALQ hotel at their expense. Your cushy SHA+ Plus hotel will be cancelled and refunded and you’re off to somewhere you probably won’t get to choose. While nice options do exist, it will be a matter of availability.
*A final piece of really, REALLY important reading:
Within, this poor, poor person describes:
- “The van was not going anywhere until we got 20,000 THB for a ‘deposit’.”
- “On about day 4 or 5 we run out of water and request more. We’re told by the ‘Hospitel’ that they don’t supply water.”
- “If there is one take away from this whole post, it’s this; GET A SIM CARD FOR EVERYONE IN YOUR PARTY.”
Number two thing you should know
My November travel tip? Don’t. Wait until December or January. (Later into January will mean better weather on Koh Samui). The new “quarantine-free” option opens to
46 63 countries on November 1. Thailand expert Richard Barrow‘s suggestion: “Don’t rush to come. If you come during the high season in December and January, it will be a much smoother experience and everyone will know what to expect.” In sum? Let someone else play guinea pig, and plan to saunter into the picture in a few months’ time. (To start planning? Get your guide).
Ok, let’s review the current Covid situation in Thailand and then jump into your new travel options. There are some massive changes – this is probably the post you’ve been waiting for.
Ongoing Covid restrictions in Thailand
Alcohol sales: All bars/pubs/nightlife venues remain closed until
maybe December 1st (maybe?) at least January 16, 2022. As of Monday, Nov 1, Bangkok restaurants will be allowed to sell alcohol.
Case numbers: While vaccinations are ongoing, there were approximately 8,500 new daily cases (nationwide) this week. 98.6% of new cases are the Delta variant, of which Hua Hin is experiencing a particular outbreak.
Curfew: The curfew will end on October 31 in 17 provinces including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Phang Nga, Phuket and Surat Thani (Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao).
Gatherings: You and 499 of your closest friends will now be able to gather in “tourist reopening zones”.
Masks: You still have to wear a mask in public at all times (including in a car if you have passengers). Violators are fined.
Travel insurance: Note that the travel insurance coverage requirement for non-Thai nationals has been reduced from US$100,000 to US$50,000. It must “cover the cost of the treatment and other medical expenses associated with being infected with COVID-19, including in-patient hospitalisation for the whole duration in Thailand” (TAT).
42% 67% of Thailand’s population is fully vaccinated and “the average number of new infections reported in Thailand has been decreasing for 10 days straight” (Reuters). AstraZeneca booster shots have been made available to people who received Sinovac for their first two doses. Additionally, Moderna supplies will start to arrive next week, ramping up to 1.9 million doses in December for a total of 8.6 million by March 2022. (Cue dance party). Schoolchildren have been receiving Pfizer jabs. In Bangkok, between 75-80% of registered citizens have been fully vaccinated.
Case numbers: As of this week, new cases on Samui were approximately
14 per day (Oct 26) 21 per day (Dec 2) and a approximately a dozen new cases on Koh Phangan/Koh Tao.
Did you want peace and quiet? Note that many island shops remain closed and major thoroughfares like Chaweng Beach Road are very quiet – often still the ‘ghost town’ atmosphere of 2020. Much of Central Festival mall (including Starbucks) is closed. Bars and nightlife venues will remain closed until at least
December 1st January 16 (with some exceptions, see below). If operating, expect that tours and charters are offering private options only. Introverts, this is your moment.
Where to get a drink? As explained here, Koh Samui has an exception to the alcohol bans in its “Green Zone” policy and you can get a drink at any of
138 300+ qualifying restaurants (or “restaurants” that were bars until developing a very recent interest in the culinary arts). Favourites include Antica Locanda, Bar Baguette, Coco Tam’s, Krua Bophut and the restaurants of many mid-range and high-end hotels:
- Anantara Bophut
- Anantara Lawana
- Banyan Tree Samui
- Belmond Napasai
- Cape Fahn
- Conrad Koh Samui
- Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui
- InterContinental Koh Samui Resort
- Melati Beach Resort
- Sheraton Samui Resort
- W Koh Samui
Incidentally, all of these hotels are SHA Plus+ certified and are therefore superb options for a Sandbox stay.
Want to plan ahead? See inside The Koh Samui Guide.
Your Thailand travel options (and updates)
Are you fully vaccinated and ready to roll? You’ve earned some brand new travel options.
1. No Quarantine Thailand travel if you’re fully vaccinated and come from one of the following
46 63 countries (listed below) including the U.S., UK, Australia, Canada, Germany and Singapore.
2. Sandbox Thailand travel if you’re fully vaccinated but your country is not on the list below.
3. Partially vaccinated or totally unvaccinated? 10 days of quarantine for you, have fun.
4. Omicron and Africa travel bans/updates (as of Dec 1)
- There is now a travel ban for visitors from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
- For visitors from other African countries, there’s now a 14-day hotel quarantine requirement.
You may have read that the test-on-arrival requirements in Thailand were due to change in mid-December (from a RT-PCR test to a faster ATK test). While this was never made official, the plan has been scrapped/paused while the new Omicron variant is assessed. To reiterate – what was the case on November 1 still stands:
- The Test and Go scheme still requires a minimum 1-night hotel booking
- The Sandbox scheme is still 7 days (not reduced to 5)
- Both schemes still require RT-PCR tests on arrival
No Quarantine Thailand travel
Countries – Who’s eligible?
- Brunei Darussalam
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
Note that some countries on the “list of 63” continue to discourage their citizens from travelling to Thailand during Covid.
- Australia: “Reconsider your need to travel to Thailand overall due to the impacts of COVID-19.”
- Canada: “Exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand”
- U.S.: “Level 4: Do Not Travel. Do not travel to Thailand due to COVID-19.”
These cautions will hopefully change as vaccinations continue.
You need to have been in one of the above countries for 21 days OR a combination of those countries (e.g. a Canadian could fly from the U.S. to Thailand, or a Swiss person could have been in France or Germany, etc).
You must have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days.
You can fly to Thailand with a layover in a different country (not on the list) if your transfer lasts less than 12 hours and you don’t leave the airport.
Quarantine-free … except for 1 night of quarantine
Were you wondering “where’s the catch?” No quarantine actually means “after receiving a negative test result and spending one night sequestered at a qualifying hotel”. (Which must be pre-booked with airport transfer). These are called “Test and Go” hotels.
Before your mind starts trumpeting bad news – here’s my take on Test and Go. It’s a good thing. Why?
1. Every visitor to Thailand might have Covid. Hopefully not, but maybe. Allowing 24 hours to reasonably reduce that threat through testing and a temporary quarantine period seems the least we visitors can do to keep the Thai population safe (remember – many Thais especially outside cities and tourist centres are still waiting for their first vaccine dose).
2. As you’ll read below, the Test and Go phase will largely happen in Bangkok – a major city with the resources, personnel (and hospital beds) to handle the volume. Should anything go awry with your plans, you’ll want to be in Bangkok with options galore and world-class facilities. (Update: How to Test and Go in Koh Samui).
3. Finally, just think back to twelve months ago and what you would have given to spend a night in a fancy hotel. Consider it a superb way to break up a long journey, enjoy an incredible hotel while making sure you’re keeping others safe.
Official party line? This is a clever solution and we’re going to enjoy ourselves.
So what happens when you arrive in Thailand?
Airport and arrivals
After clearing immigration and baggage claim, you’re taken by pre-arranged transfer to your Test and Go hotel. You can’t meet/reunite with family/friends or loved ones at the airport, so rewrite the Love Actually reunion to happen in your hotel lobby the next day.
In Richard Barrow’s words: “When you come out into arrivals you are still a potential Covid patient. You cannot kiss and hug anyone. The [airport transfer] driver will most likely be in full PPE suit and the interior of the car will be covered in plastic (Dispatch 1).”
Transfer to your Test and Go hotel
You must travel to your hotel in a “sealed” form of transport (e.g. directly arranged with the hotel) and cannot use a taxi, a private car or a rented/hire car. Check the details of your Test and Go hotel package for the specifics. The base package might be a shared van with other arriving passengers, with the option to upgrade to a private transfer.
If arriving into Bangkok: Your Test and Go hotel can be up to two hours’ drive from Bangkok (e.g. Pattaya and possibly Hua Hin), but you’ll have the most choice and perhaps the best selection of partner hospitals in Bangkok. (Not to mention you’ll avoid a long drive after a potentially long-haul flight). See below for suggestions and hotel specifics.
Testing … at your Test and Go hotel
Arrive at your hotel and take an RT-PCR test. This might be done at check-in, it depends on the hotel and your arrival time (more on that below).
You’re not allowed to leave your hotel room until the test results are received (though many hotels offer balcony options). This includes using hotel facilities – four walls only, folks (so I offer some nice views below). Your package will likely include food (room service only). If you’ve never been to Bangkok, it might be nice to stay somewhere with a view of the city. Coming from a cold winter? Maybe book a garden view room with tons of tropical plants. Given that you’ll likely be tired from your journey (and perhaps jet-lagged), book a comfy bed, a big bathtub and enjoy the break. At most, it’s 24 hours but probably will be less. If this is the piece of the puzzle that keeps Thai people safe, it’s really the least we can do.
Negative test result? Go forth, Thailand awaits. You’re allowed to check out and start your trip – you can go anywhere in Thailand. Pause and let that sink in. It’s the Future Times calling.
Positive test result? Sorry to say, you’re going to the hospital.
Someone in your family, travel group or a “high-risk” contact (but total stranger) tested positive? You really won’t like this – 14 nights of “2020-style” hotel room quarantine at your expense.
Who can share a Test and Go hotel room?
TBD – It’s not yet known if your travelling party (including family members) can stay together in the same Test and Go hotel room. For example, in Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ), only married couples and their children/legal dependents under 18 could share a hotel room … and only if they were arriving together on the same flight.
If you’re travelling together and aren’t married – be careful. Many do (and should) allow it, but some hotels interpret the rules differently and only allow married couples to share a room. You experience might vary. I’ve read about all of the following:
- Difficulty if you have different last names
- It’s ok if you can prove you share your home address
- Allowed if you “sign a statement” that you live together
… A cynical attempt to get two hotel bookings out of one couple? Hmm. Short story: if you travel together it “should” be allowed. Best to make a short-list of hotels and confirm with them directly before booking.
Certainly no outside people can join you for the Test and Go period (e.g. a friend or family member already in Thailand). I’ve seen pricing for couples and extra children so my working assumption is that it will be similar to ASQ.
Test and Go hotels in Bangkok
Tests and timing
You’ll want to make sure that your flight’s arrival time aligns with your hotel’s testing times. For instance, if you arrive on a night flight you’ll want a hotel that offers 24-hour testing rather than daytime-only testing. Otherwise, you might have to stay two nights total to wait to take a test (the next morning) and then await the results.
Bangkok airport hotels, Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport and Siam Mandarina Hotel Suvarnabhumi Airport both offer 24-hour testing and would be a good option if you want to take an onward domestic flight early the next day. I’ve stayed at the Novotel myself many times and thoroughly recommend it. It’s SO convenient – truly door to door in under three minutes. Rather than check-in/-out times, your 1-night booking covers a 24-hour period. PCR test results should be ready within 6 hours.
How to choose a Test and Go hotel
My suggestions include:
- Most convenient: Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Best rated: Lancaster Bangkok
- Best views: Shangri-La Bangkok
- Best value: Citrus Sukhumvit 13 Bangkok
- Best bath: Casa Nithra
- Bangkok’s 25 Best Test and Go Hotels
- How to Book Your Test and Go Hotel (in 4 Easy Steps)
- New: How to ‘Test and Go’ on Koh Samui
Another tip if you want to be on your way in a hurry: If you want to stay in Bangkok rather than at the airport, choose a big, name-brand hotel and ideally one with a hospital partner, e.g. Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park which is partnered with Samitivej Hospital. Your test results will hopefully be faster this way.
You can select any hotel offering “Test and Go” if it’s SHA+ Plus-certified (or Alternative Quarantine – AQ, Alternative Hospital Quarantine – AHQ, or Organisation Quarantine – OQ). The booking must be for at least 1 night and include accommodation, food, airport transfer, your arrival RT-PCR test and the Antigen Test Kit (ATK) you take later (details below).
Test and Go hotel pricing
1-night packages for Bangkok Test and Go hotels start at approximately THB4,200 up to THB6,900 per person for standard rooms. Packages might include in-room breakfast and dinner or offer it as an add-on. Some hotels offer couples pricing at slight savings, while others charge for an extra person (approximately THB3,500 to THB5,500 for adults or THB2,500 to THB5,000 for a child under 12).
- Standard rooms from THB4,200 per person (approx US$125)
- Extra adult from THB3,500 (approx US$105)
- Child from THB2,500 (approx $75)
If you want something particularly plush, as always, Thailand’s hospitality awaits. You’ve got options.
As for other amenities (and in Bangkok, that means rooftop pools galore), note that it’s possible you’ll be “let out” early and might get to enjoy some of your hotel’s facilities. Or sightsee nearby – Bangkok’s Royal Palaces reopen on November 1.
How to transit to Phuket or Koh Samui?
For now, your hotel must be within a two-hour drive of your arrival airport. (From Bangkok Suvarnabhumi that takes you about as far as Pattaya or Hua Hin).
For the fastest possible transfer the best option – currently – seems to be an overnight stay at Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport with an onward domestic flight (e.g. to Koh Samui) the next day. (If testing results are promised within 6 hours at Novotel, it’s feasible – on paper – that you could arrive early in the morning and take a late evening flight. However! A pre-booked one night’s stay at a qualifying hotel is mandatory. Let’s assume “2020 Rules” and expect worst-case scenarios – plan to stay the night).
Tip: When booking your Test and Go hotel, check the airport transfer details. Likely, it will only include one-way travel from the airport to the hotel so plan to make your own arrangements for your onward domestic flight.
Then what happens?
Once you’ve had a negative test result, you’re free to leave your hotel room, check out and proceed with your trip. You’re free to travel around Thailand. Stay where you like. Go where you please. Do normal things. (Always wearing a mask).
However, you’ll be given a rapid antigen self-test kit (ATK) to use (A) if you experience any Covid symptoms or (B) on day 6/7 of your trip. You’ll need to show the test result to your hotel and upload it to a Thai travel app used for monitoring such things (the MorChana app).
Children under 12 travelling with parents or guardians don’t require vaccination but must (A) have a negative PCR test (72 hours prior to your flight) and (B) stay for one night in a “Test and Go” hotel. Kids aged 12+ must be fully vaccinated to qualify for this type of travel, and have medical insurance as required for adults.
As of December 16th:
Kids aged 6-17 who are travelling with their parents don’t require vaccination but must (A) have a negative PCR test (72 hours prior to your flight) and (B) complete either the Test and Go requirements or Sandbox requirements.
Kids aged 12-17 who are NOT travelling with their parents must have (A) one shot of an approved vaccine, (B) have a negative PCR test (72 hours prior to their flight) and (C) complete either the Test and Go requirements or Sandbox requirements.
Kids aged 6 and under who are travelling with their parents don’t require vaccination or a negative PCR test before their arrival (however their parents do). The children will take a saliva test on arrival.
Sandbox Thailand travel
(You might also see this scheme called “Living in the Blue Zone”. The blue zone includes lower risk provinces – currently
17 26 of 77).
What’s changed? The Sandbox option used to be everyone’s Thailand travel option. From November 1, it will change in two ways:
- It’s the “Plan B” if your country is not one of the
4663 listed above.
- Your Sandbox options now include
1726 provinces, not just Phuket or Koh Samui.
(For travel from African countries, please see this update).
As explained in the Phuket and Koh Samui Sandbox guides, you arrive on an international flight to an airport within one of the
17 26 provinces (most likely Bangkok or Phuket, but possibly Samui via Singapore).
You’re then transferred to your pre-booked “SHA+ Plus” accommodation. (See recommendations for Koh Samui and Phuket). This hotel can be within a 5-hour drive of the airport – as long as it’s SHA+ Plus and in one of the
17 26 qualifying provinces. Five hours from Bangkok covers a lot of ground, so you definitely have options.
You take a PCR test on arrival. Then, you must remain in your hotel room until you receive a negative result – within 24 hours.
Following that, you’re free to travel around the island or province of your Sandbox selection. You can’t leave your chosen province within the 7-day period (so choose a good one).
After a negative test on day 7, you’re welcome to travel Thailand “normally”. Or, if you’re staying for fewer than 7 days, you must leave Thailand on an international flight.
Children under aged 6-17 travelling with parents or guardians don’t require vaccination but must (A) have a negative PCR test (72 hours prior to your flight) and (B) stay for seven nights in a Sandbox hotel. They must have medical insurance as required for adults. As of December 16th, children under 6 don’t require the negative PCR test before departure but will saliva test on arrival.
10 days of quarantine at Alternative Quarantine hotel. 240 hours. Here’s some reading material to pass the time.
What comes next? (Misc. updates and “TBD”)
November 1: Certificate of Entry becomes Thailand Pass. The Thailand Pass website will go live at 9 am on November 1st, however pre-existing COEs will be accepted. Once live, the Thailand Pass streamlines all immigration documentation (e.g. proof of vaccine, proof of hotel booking and your health insurance) into a single QR code so it will hopefully be a fairly quick plane to baggage claim process (the aim is 25 minutes or less). Plan to apply about seven days before you travel and expect to wait 3-5 days to receive approval.
November 1: The Royal Palaces will reopen (specifically the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha). Why not plan to visit them after departing your Bangkok Test and Go hotel?
January 12: Aussie airline Jetstar will resume its three weekly return flights from Sydney to Phuket.
January 14: Qantas will offer five weekly return flights from Sydney to Bangkok.
Still have questions?
Me too. But that’s absolutely every.single.detail. I can find for now. Even Richard Barrow (expert of all experts) doesn’t have all the answers yet. So take the above as a vague outline and resolve to wait and see for the next month or so. It’s promising, and you can see that it’s heading somewhere quite exciting.
For now, make sure you’re on my email list to continue to get updates. As well:
- Koh Samui: See inside The Koh Samui Guide
- Gift idea: Shop my handmade tropical travel pouches
- At home: The 33 Best Thai Cookbooks [An Enormous Round-up]
Resources and more reading
- 8,452 new Covid cases, 57 more deaths
- Bangkok booze ban to be lifted
- Businesses in Thailand urge government to reverse alcohol ban
- Curfew to end in 17 tourist provinces
- First batch of Moderna doses to arrive Monday
- Koh Samui case numbers (Oct 26)
- Letters from Thailand – Issue #7
- Over 98% of new Covid-19 cases in Thailand are Delta variant
- Places to visit about 2 hours from Bangkok and 5 hours from Bangkok
- Private sector expresses fear over Covid surge if alcohol ban lifted in Bangkok
- Qantas to resume flights from Sydney to Bangkok and Phuket early 2022
- Reopening of Thailand – Dispatch 1
- Reopening of Thailand – Dispatch 2
- Reopening of Thailand – Dispatch 3
- Richard Barrow on Twitter
- Test & Go: Quarantine-Free Thailand Reopening for Vaccinated Tourists From 1 November 2021
- Thailand looks to welcome tourists again — less than half its population is fully vaccinated
- Thailand Pass website launching, accepted from November 2
- Thailand Reopening: Living in the Blue Zone (17 Sandbox Destinations)
- Thailand’s Royal Palaces reopen to visitors on 1 November 2021
- Three schemes set to welcome visitors
- Vaccine Green Zone restaurants