The reopening of leisure travel to Thailand for tourist travellers has been a bumpy road over the 14 months or so since the first visitors were welcomed quarantine-free on initial post-COVID tourism schemes, but the country is now set to become the latest in the region to remove all its pandemic-related border restrictions.
This will take effect in October 2022, as the country’s Centre of COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) agreed yesterday that Thailand will officially end its COVID-19 Emergency Decree on 30th September 2022.
The ruling, which has been in place since 25th March 2020 and has been renewed no fewer than 19 times, is no longer needed as the country reclassifies COVID-19 from being “a dangerous communicable disease” to “a communicable disease under surveillance”.
This will effectively downgrade the virus to the same category as influenza. In other words, Thailand will now be “living with COVID”.
What does it mean for travellers?
Currently travellers heading to Thailand must have either a COVID-19 vaccination certificate showing they were fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to departure, or as an alternative a negative COVID-19 antigen (ART) or PCR test result, issued at most 72 hours before departure.
The cancellation of the Emergency Decree means that from 1st October 2022, travellers will no longer have to show either a vaccination certificate or a negative COVID-19 test in order to travel to Thailand, restoring the process to pre-pandemic norms.
This closes a long and painful chapter for Thailand’s border restrictions over the last two years, which have had a significant impact on tourism and at one point involved lengthy online applications and carrying a plethora of extra paperwork with you on your journey.
Additionally, from 1st October COVID-19 infected individuals in Thailand with no symptoms or mild symptoms will no longer be required to self-isolate, instead simply being asked to wear a mask and practice social distancing.
This will remove the fear many travellers have of testing positive after arriving in the country, then having to isolate in their accommodation.
Singapore currently retains pre-departure testing for unvaccinated travellers, and its health declaration form (SGAC) for all arriving passengers.
Thailand has certainly come a long way since reopening to tourists under the Phuket Sandbox and Samui Plus programmes back in July 2021.
The most major phase of reopening came a year later in July 2022, with the removal of the Thailand Pass.
Tourism, Thailand’s largest economic driver, has increased significantly since the rules were relaxed, with one million visitor arrivals in the first three weeks of September alone, close to half of pre-pandemic levels.
What it means for Singapore – Thailand trips
For those taking trips to Thailand from Singapore, it means that from 1st October 2022 the only requirement in addition to pre-COVID norms will be completion of the SG Arrival Card (SGAC) within three days of returning to the Lion City.
Additionally, those who are not fully vaccinated will need to arrange for a pre-departure COVID-19 ART or PCR test within two days of returning to Singapore.
Both Singapore and Thailand already allow inbound and outbound international flights to be mask-optional, with this policy now being followed by Singapore Airlines, Scoot and Jetstar.
However, some airlines operating to Thailand are currently maintaining their own mask-wearing edict at the time of writing (e.g. AirAsia, Thai Airways and Gulf Air).
Thailand is extending tourist stays
In a bid to boost tourism this upcoming winter season, Thailand’s CCSA has also approved a proposal to extend visa exemptions for tourists.
This move aims to support the country’s economic recovery, which relies heavily on tourism, and comes in tandem with the announcement that the Thai Government will declare COVID-19 an endemic disease from 1st October.
The news means that those who hold one of 64 nationalities eligible for visa exemption when travelling to Thailand, including Singapore citizens, will be able to stay for up to 45 days instead of 30 days.
This could encourage some to take up an extended stay or “work from Thailand” trip during the country’s finest weather season.
Those with nationalities eligible for Visa on Arrival will be able to stay for 30 days, instead of 15 days.
The visa extension will be in effect for entries over the next six months, from 1st October 2022 until 31st March 2023.
Despite taking a cautious approach to reopening during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, tourist-reliant Thailand has since moved leaps ahead of many of its regional neighbours on border measures, and this continues next week with a removal of all entry restrictions.
From 1st October 2022 the travel process to Thailand will return to completely pre-pandemic norms, with no additional documentation or certificates to show and no mask-wearing mandate on board most airlines. Simply book your flight and turn up at check-in with your passport – just like the old days.
Self-isolation requirements in the event of becoming COVID-19 positive with mild symptoms while in Thailand will also be removed, allowing you to continue with your trip without interruption by instead wearing a mask in public.
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)