Having reported only around 3500 infections and 59 deaths from coronavirus, Thailand has escaped relatively unscathed from the pandemic. And the country’s military-led government is keen to keep things this way. Thailand’s doors have been firmly closed to the vast majority of international visitors since March, but with more than 20% of its GDP stemming from tourism, this has had a massive negative impact on its economy. In an effort to kick-start this sector, the Thai government is gradually relaxing its pandemic-era visa rules.
Lonely Planet writer Marika McAdam heads out into a paradise of green-topped karst islands and explores a world beneath the waves with The Adventure Club, encountering colourful coral, tropical fish and a majestic sea turtle. Presented by GoPro.Discover Thailand: snorkeling in Ko Phi Phi Leh
The new Special Tourist Visa (STV), which kicked off in October, is designed to allow travelers to enter the country with precautions in place. Initially those who received the visa were required to enter from low-risk destinations, but now Thailand is opening up to mid-risk countries including the US, UK, Ireland, Scandinavian nations and more with a 60-day tourist visa. The Thai embassy in the US and the embassy in the UK both have application instructions on their websites.
Potential tourists apply for the visa and certificate of entry in advance, and if approved, must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, after which they’re free to explore the country. But there are a few extra — and costly — steps in there too. For example, US visitors must show booking conformation of an Alternative State Quarantine hotel; pay a $40 visa fee; fill in a ‘Fit to Fly’ health form; present a negative COVID-19 result from a test taken within 72 hours of travel, and provide proof of health insurance that covers up to US$100,000. Applicants must also show a bank account balance of at least US$17,000 (500,000 baht) each month for the last six months. Requirements are similar for visitors applying from elsewhere.
The 60-day tourist visa can be extended to a maximum 90-day stay. There is also the Special Tourist Visa which allows a 90-day stay for visitors from low-risk countries, which currently includes Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, China and Hong Kong. The Special Tourist Visa can be renewed twice, adding up to about nine months. The list of low-risk countries is updated every two weeks. After quarantine in Bangkok, tourists are free to explore other parts of Thailand as they wish, but the government has indicated that their movements may be monitored by an app or wristband.