As of November 1, 2021, Thailand began a new program, Thailand Pass, that was billed as no-quarantine admission to the Kingdom for vaccinated travelers. Thailand Pass, also referred to as “test & go,” requires securing a one-night stay in a government-approved hotel and a negative Covid PCR test on arrival in Thailand. Based on my one-night unofficial quarantine stay, it is hard to imagine how anyone could tolerate a multi-day “real” quarantine.
Other posts from this Covid-19 Thailand trip:
Bangkok Arrival – Suvarnabhumi International Airport
Over the years I’d arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport many times but never in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. The Thai government had imposed many new requirements for tourists to enter the country that would make this arrival unlike any other.
Here’s a screenshot from the web page of the Thai embassy in Washington, DC that summarizes the various programs and requirements for entering the Kingdom of Thailand in effect as of November 1, 2021.
Until November 1, 2021, all tourists arriving in Thailand had to enter under terms applicable to a Sandbox Program or Alternative Quarantine. The so-called Exemption From Quarantine program described in the screenshot above began on November 1. In addition to the requirements mentioned in the screen shot, travelers had to apply for and receive an official Certificate of Entry (COE) or Thailand Pass from a Thai embassy or consulate in their home country before arriving in the Kingdom.
Having a first-row seat on the flight from Tokyo, I was one of the first passengers to disembark in Bangkok.
Just after getting off the plane, all passengers were screened to determine their eligibility to enter the country. Staff directed me to take a seat while screenings for the remaining passengers from an earlier flight were completed.
Within a few minutes, I was directed to a screening line. Having previously experienced a few long lines and waits at immigration at BKK, I was expecting a similar experience. On November 2, 2021, at least, the screening process was fast and efficient. I had all of the necessary documents ready to present in hard copy or digitally.
Reportedly, the wording on the insurance letter causes applications to be denied more often than any other issue. I purchased an annual travel insurance policy from GeoBlue, a Blue Cross Blue Shield company for $260. The policy provides $1,000,000 in medical coverage, $500,000 in medial evacuation coverage, and $25,000 in coverage for repatriation of remains. Probably because there is much less travel now, this policy was significantly cheaper than the annual policy from another company that I let expire during the pandemic. Having medical insurance for travel is wise especially for, ahem those like me who are part of the older generations.
The screening set up was similar to what I’d observed at Narita Airport in Tokyo for passengers entering Japan.
After being screened passengers at BKK have a long walk to the immigration and passport control area. There were no lines, and I walked right up to an officer who reviewed my passport and arrival card. With no luggage to collect, I was through customs and ready to leave the airport at 23:40, just 30 minutes after JAL Flight 707 pulled up to the gate.
If This Is Considered No Quarantine, I’d Really Hate To Experience A Quarantine
Exiting customs I met a representative who would connect me to a ride to my hotel. As required, I had a reservation for one night at a certified SHA+ or AQ hotel. There are many such hotels. My reservation was at Two Three Hotel, which is located near Sukhumvit Road and the Asok Skytrain station. The rate was 4,200 Thai baht or about $125 for one night. The rate is much more than non SHA+ or AQ hotels charge but includes transportation from the airport, a PCR Covid test, and up to three meals.
After waiting for about 20 minutes, a driver was assigned. I followed him to a car parked just outside the terminal. The scene outside was chaotic in contrast to the orderly screening process.
The 30-minute taxi ride from Suvarnabhumi to central Bangkok normally runs about 400 baht ($12) including tolls. The ride took the familiar route on the expressway. The process at the hotel was completely different than a normal check in. All staff are wore hospital scrubs, and, in fact, there was no check in.
As soon as I got out of the car in the parking garage, a lady administered a PCR Covid test. She took swabs of my nose and mouth.
After being tested, I was directed to the elevator and told the room that had been assigned. I didn’t get a key. All of the rooms that were unoccupied were open. Only a couple of rooms on my floor appeared to be occupied.
The room was a very nice three-star accommodation.
This nice but small room would be the world I lived in until the test result came back and I was cleared to leave the hotel. Being unable to leave the room for any reason and having almost no outside view created feelings of cabin fever and claustrophobia.
There was no room service or menu. Guests ate whatever was delivered when it was delivered. Breakfast was the first meal. I was hungry and it didn’t help that the meal was delivered late.
Staff placed meals on a small tables in the hall outside each occupied room. There was no face-to-face contact. It seemed like prison only more comfortable.
Lunch was served in the same manner.
The food wasn’t bad, but it would have been nice to have some choice.
It was a great relief in the early afternoon when the desk notified me that my test was negative. I was free to go to the hotel I’d booked for the stay in Bangkok and departed as soon as a taxi was available. The next post in the series will review the Grand Hyatt Bangkok.
Overall Impression .
Thailand seems to have developed a good system for allowing international tourism while protecting tourists and its population from the spread of disease. The process for getting a Certificate of Entry required some effort but once all documentation was submitted, the approval came quickly. The speed and efficiency of the screening process at Bangkok’s airport was impressive.
After a journey of nearly 30 hours and 10,000 miles, being cooped up in a hotel room was tough to take even though it was for only about 15 hours. Still, for anyone thinking of visiting Thailand in the near future I recommend it if you qualify for the test & go or a sandbox program.
Have you spent time in quarantine? I don’t think I could take it for three days much less seven or 10 as some of the programs require.