There’s been much talk over the last few weeks about Thailand opening up to travellers from around the world in an effort to revive its critical tourism industry, with the potential (ultimately) for those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine to be immediately free to roam and explore on arrival.
We first wrote about these plans back in January, when the country’s Tourism Council confirmed a new “Welcome Back to Thailand Again” campaign that is slated to launch in Q3 2021.
Under these proposals, mandatory arrival quarantine in Thailand will be replaced by proof that you have been fully vaccinated, which means showing that you have received the second dose of vaccines currently being administered.
Thailand is making a start on relaxing quarantine
Although we haven’t yet reached the ultimate goal of quarantine-free travel to Thailand, the government there is making a promising step towards it by confirming the current 15-day hotel quarantine period for all travellers will soon be relaxed as follows:
- COVID-negative fully vaccinated travellers: 7 days hotel quarantine
- COVID-negative unvaccinated travellers: 10 days hotel quarantine
These are both a significant improvement, effectively halving the mandatory quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers. Here in Singapore there are already 218,000 residents having received both COVID-19 doses, while in some countries like the USA the equivalent total is an impressive 33 million.
These numbers will only increase in the weeks and months to come, giving Thailand a potential ready supply of tourist visitors.
While these new more lenient arrival quarantine limits haven’t yet come into effect, they will do so by April 2021, according to the country’s health minister.
Current entry requirements for tourists visiting Thailand include:
- Travel with a passport from 56 countries under a visa exception scheme (Singapore is included)
- Register for a Certificate of Entry (COE) at least 10 working days prior to arrival
- Book your flights and your chosen hotel for quarantine
- Obtain a ‘Fit to Fly’ certificate and negative COVID-19 test result
Here’s how the quarantine then currently works, plus how it is proposed to work from April 2021.
Thailand arrival quarantine requirements
Fit to Fly
Fit to Fly
Fit to Fly
|On arrival||PCR Test||PCR Test||PCR Test|
|Day 7||PCR Test
|Day 10||PCR Test||PCR Test
|Day 15||PCR Test
Note: Days of PCR testing for proposed quarantine programme are assumed at this stage.
Currently Thailand is proposing the reduced quarantine period for vaccinated travellers only applies if you’ve received both shots within three months of your arrival date, though this rule is likely to be progressively extended as evidence surrounding the longevity of vaccine efficacy is updated.
Thailand is still proposing to further reduce or completely do away with the quarantine requirement for vaccinated travellers later this year.
Resort roaming may become possible after 3 days
Another of Thailand’s proposals, though not yet in force or even guaranteed, is that once you’ve cleared a ‘Day 3’ COVID-19 test, you will be able to leave your room and make use of hotel or resort facilities for the remainder of your quarantine period, with safe distancing and mask-wearing.
That would potentially mean, for vaccinated travellers, 3 days confined to your room (which can be a pool villa, by the way!), followed by 4 days of full resort usage, before being free to transfer to any location in Thailand for the rest of your stay.
Singapore Airlines launches hotel quarantine packages
Before you depart for Thailand you currently book your own quarantine hotel, from an extensive list ranging from budget to luxury properties.
That’s quite unlike when you arrive in Singapore and undergo an SHN period, which is served at an allocated property over which you currently have no choice (though there are already noises being made about this potentially changing soon).
To tap into the market for tourism to Thailand, Singapore Airlines has now launched packages offering up to 15% off Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) packages at selected hotels in Bangkok and Alternative Local Quarantine (ALQ) packages at selected hotels in Phuket.
These deals are still marketed only for 15 nights, per current requirements, but as outlined above those are set to reduce to 7 or 10 nights next month, which will also significantly reduce their cost.
Singapore Airlines has negotiated discounted rates at 24 hotels in Bangkok and 13 in Phuket, accepting ASQ/ALQ bookings for travellers arriving from overseas.
Prices range from THB 28,500 (S$1,250) to THB 260,000 (S$11,400) for one person, inclusive of:
- A 16-day / 15-night stay
- Airport-to-hotel transfer
- 3 meals per day (full board)
- Free Wi-Fi
- 2 COVID-19 tests
These inclusions are mandatory, and therefore are common to all ASQ/ALQ hotels in Thailand.
Depending on your chosen hotel, you may also be offered additional inclusions, like fitness equipment and Halal food.
Not all of SIA’s options will definitely be good value, with the official list of ASQ/ASL facilities open for you to choose to spend your quarantine period extending to 133 properties in Bangkok (109 more than SIA is offering) and 24 in Phuket (11 more than SIA is offering).
It’s absolutely worth checking directly with individual properties, both online via their website and via email, to ascertain what deals they are offering.
Agoda also has a dedicated Thailand Hotel Quarantine site, though the selection is limited and we have heard it’s still usually better to approach your preferred property directly to secure the best deal.
You can reduce the cost of ASQ/ALQ bookings by staying in the same room with your child (under 15 years of age), or with your partner or spouse.
For a couple, you’ll need a legal marriage certificate, or you will need to show proof to the hotel that you are living together and sign a consent form, meaning unmarried couples (including unmarried same-sex couples) can stay together.
You must arrive on the same flight as your children / companion to quarantine in the same room or villa.
Golf quarantine packages
For the golfers out there, Thailand is already offering a tourism package allowing you to head onto the course after a negative ‘Day 3’ COVID-19 test for the remainder of your quarantine period.
That currently gives you 11 days “on the links” before you come up for parole, but that should reduce to just four days of golfing before being free to pursue more interesting hobbies elsewhere in Thailand!
There’s a dedicated website outlining the available options.
Singapore Airlines is operating daily flights to Bangkok using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and twice-weekly services to Phuket on the Boeing 737-800.
These schedules are valid until 31st May 2021, after which the airline is still loading its normal flight programme, which then gets trimmed on a monthly basis closer to the time.
On the Bangkok flights it’s great news for Business Class travellers – the popular long-haul 2013 seat is guaranteed on all flights.
Sadly, the intimate (and excellent) single-row First Class cabin is not being sold on these services (yet…!). Similarly, Premium Economy is not offered for sale or redemption on this route.
For Phuket services it’s a different matter, with SIA operating its Boeing 737-800s inherited from SilkAir. Though these will eventually be replaced with Boeing 737 MAX 8s sporting flat-bed Thompson Vantage Business Class seats, for now you’ll have to make do with a 2-2 configuration recliner option on this short flight.
Thankfully catering has moved up a notch, with Laurent-Perrier Champagne also being poured.
Whether you head to Bangkok or Phuket on Singapore Airlines, the same redemption rates apply using KrisFlyer miles, as shown in the following table.
|KrisFlyer Redemption Rates
Singapore ⇆ Bangkok / Phuket
It would be great if a targeted ‘Spontaneous Escapes’ type deal was resurrected for these flights, offering mileage discounts for last-minute bookings, but that probably won’t sit well until general government advice shifts from discouraging overseas trips.
What about quarantine in Singapore?
Currently those returning from Thailand face a mandatory 14-day SHN period, served either at home (under certain conditions) or in a dedicated facility at their own expense.
While that’s something those who work from home may be able to consider, it will discourage a lot of people, so for the reduced quarantine visit to Thailand for travellers from Singapore to really take off there would probably have to also be some relaxation here.
Good news on that part is that the Singapore government has already hinted towards a future relaxation of SHN requirements for vaccinated travellers returning from certain countries, subject to pending (but almost inevitable) evidence that vaccines reduce transmission, even when a vaccinated individual succumbs to the virus.
“If you have the vaccination, you travel to a high-risk place, you come back, can that SHN be shortened, or even done away with completely? That is the big question.
“We still don’t know the extent to which a vaccination can completely – or how significantly – help reduce transmission risk. So, those studies are still pending. If indeed the data shows that transmission risks can come down significantly with vaccination, then certainly, we will consider reducing drastically the SHN or even doing away with it.”Lawrence Wong, Singapore Education Minister
While peer-reviewed studies are still awaited, data already points to a potential four-fold decrease in transmission among those fully vaccinated in the UK, and even more in a preliminary Israeli study.
If proven, it means that even if vaccinated people get infected with COVID-19, they are less contagious and would therefore offer protection to unvaccinated people.
Theoretically a “vaccinated with testing” combination should then be a safe proposition for incoming visitors and returning residents, but time will tell what scheme the government ultimately come up with, and whether it will be extended to those arriving or returning from Thailand in due course.
As COVID-19 vaccines roll out globally, there’s more and more positive news for travel in 2021, especially by the second half of the year.
We recently reported about Bali’s latest proposals – and one thing’s for sure – barring any major outbreaks Thailand is certain to be in early on the act.
It’s interesting that Singapore Airlines is effectively promoting travel to Thailand with these latest ASQ/ALQ packages in Bangkok and Phuket, despite the Singapore Government still advising citizens against foreign travel.
“Less like a quarantine, more like a relaxing holiday” isn’t the sort of line you’d expect the boss to approve just yet (and by ‘the boss’ we refer to the fact that Singapore Airlines is effectively government owned, with Temasek Holdings pulling 55% of the strings).
This could be a promising sign that travel relaxations in general are on the cards for vaccinated Singapore residents in 2021, though of course SIA is probably advertising these deals predominantly for US and European travellers.
For now, leisure travel to Thailand remains complicated, though it’s increasingly becoming less so. Those who can work from home for 14 days on their return to Singapore might be tempted, especially if already vaccinated and therefore soon able to take advantage of 7-day arrival quarantine in Thailand itself.
Let’s hope future benefits for vaccinated residents returning from overseas start to take effect here in Singapore this year, allowing more travel options to be progressively unlocked.
(Cover Photo: Aman Resorts)