Jabs, tests and apps: A guide to travel in Thailand as COVID controls ease
Tourism operators are offering some irresistible deals now that the government has eased travel restrictions for people in the 29 “dark red” provinces. And those with itchy feet might be dreaming of revisiting the charms of Chiang Mai, the crystal-clear waters of Phuket or many of the other attractions Thailand has to offer.
However, now that the “new normal” has become a way of life, domestic travelers must plan each step carefully before venturing off.
Though airlines have resumed domestic flights, travelers should take note that the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) recommends that people only travel “when necessary”.
Thailand’s COVID-19 situation has eased somewhat, but the daily toll is still around 15,000 new infections and 200-plus deaths.
While airlines and interprovincial bus operators have resumed services on many routes, they advise passengers to check the rules, regulations and requirements awaiting them at their destination. This can be done by visiting moicovid.com
Each province has its own set of measures to screen visitors, especially those from the dark-red zone with the highest infection rate. For instance, some provinces will only accept visitors who have been fully vaccinated, while others are willing to accept a COVID-negative test result.
The list of certified laboratories for a COVID test can be found at moph.go.th.
Are you from a dark-red province?
The 29 dark-red provinces – zones with the highest number of COVID-19 infections and under strictest controls – are Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Chon Buri, Chachoengsao, Tak, Nakhon Pathom, Nakhon Nayok, Nakhon Ratchasima, Narathiwat, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Prachin Buri, Pattani, Ayutthaya, Phetchaburi, Phetchabun, Yala, Rayong, Ratchaburi, Lop Buri, Songkhla, Sing Buri, Samut Prakan, Samut Songkhram, Samut Sakhon, Saraburi, Suphan Buri and Angthong.
If you live in any of these provinces, you need to take extra steps before heading off on your adventure.
Does the North beckon?
Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are famous for their unique northern character and both cities can be reached by direct daily flights from Bangkok as well as bus services.
However, travelers from the dark-red zone will need proof of inoculation or a negative test before they can enter either Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. The result can be from either an RT-PCR or a rapid antigen test, but it must have been taken no more than 72 hours before the trip.
Chiang Mai authorities can also impose a swab test and 14-day quarantine on any traveler arriving from the dark-red zone who they suspect is infected with the coronavirus.
People who have caught COVID-19 in the past 90 days will be exempted if they can produce a doctor’s certificate to prove they have recovered.
Chiang Rai, meanwhile, requires unvaccinated visitors or those without a test result to undergo a 14-day quarantine. Non-residents will be isolated in local quarantine facilities, while Chiang Rai residents are required to quarantine at home.
Visitors to Chiang Mai are also required to register via the CM-CHANA application, while those heading to Chiang Rai must register via the Sawasdee Chiang Rai app.
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Love the South?
Travelers to the tropical paradise of Phuket need to have had two jabs of Sinovac or Sinopharm, or a single jab of AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least 14 days before arriving on the island. They will also need proof of a negative COVID-19 test and their hotel booking.
If they intend to stay on the island for more than seven days, they must undergo a COVID-19 test on the fifth day at their own expense (mandatory from September 8). Visitors are also required to register on the gophuket application.
Krabi, another popular seaside province in the South, has enforced the same rules, though it is slightly more lenient about the COVID-19 test done prior to arrival. Visitors to Krabi are required to register via the QT 14 Krabi app.
Travel restrictions for Songkhla and Surat Thani – famed for its resort island of Samui – are less tight. Visitors to either province require either proof of vaccination or a negative test result. It is also mandatory for visitors to register via the Songkhla Care app or the Save Surat app. Those who do not have proof of inoculation or a negative test will not be allowed to enter. The provinces do not allow quarantine upon arrival.
These southern provinces only offer exemptions to those who have had COVID-19 in the past 90 days and recovered.
Fancy the Northeast?
Thailand’s Northeast, better known as Isaan, has a wealth of fascinating destinations. Among them are Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, and Khon Kaen.
Ubon Ratchathani is ready to welcome visitors from other provinces provided they are fully inoculated or have tested negative. If they lack proof, they will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Registration on the HUGUBON app is also a must and exemptions are only granted to visitors who have contracted and recovered from the virus over the past three months.
Udon Thani, meanwhile, does not require a COVID-negative test result provided the visitor has already been vaccinated. If they have not had their shots, then they must isolate for 14 days at a local quarantine facility. Visitors must register via the COVID-19 Watch Out app, and only people who have contracted the virus in the past 90 days are exempted.
Khon Kaen requires visitors to prove they are vaccinated and COVID-free. Only tests via the RT-PCR method are accepted. Visitors without proof of vaccination or test results are required to undergo 14-day isolation. Only those who have been infected over the past three months are exempted.
Heading to the capital?
Bangkok – which has been a COVID-19 hotspot since April – is welcoming visitors without demanding to see vaccination records or negative test results. Travelers to the Big Mango are only required to comply with rules imposed by authorities at their departure point of origin. For instance, people are only allowed to leave Narathiwat or Songkhla’s Hat Yai district if they can provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result.
By Thai PBS World’s Lifestyle Desk