“Test & Go” Is Back: Thailand Relaxes Entry Requirements from Feb 1
Starting February 1, 2022, fully vaccinated travelers from around the globe can apply for a Thailand Pass with quarantine exemption under the “Test & Go” program (originally introduced in Nov 2021, then suspended due to the emergence of the Omicron variant). The system will re-launch at 9 a.m. Thailand time (GMT+7). See the official announcement here.
The new Test & Go program has two additional requirements. First, you need to apply at least 60 days before your intended departure date. Second, while travelers are not required to stay in quarantine, you must reserve and stay at SHA+ approved hotels for the first day of your arrival in Thailand, and again on the fifth day, to await the results of your RT PCR test.
A plan was also approved to add new destinations to the Sandbox Program, including Pattaya and Bang Lamung districts, Si Chang and Sattahip districts in Chon Buri, as well as Koh Chang in Trat. See the announcement here. The Sandbox Program has already been implemented in Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Krabi and Phangnga.
Test & Go Requirements
1. COVID-19 Health Insurance (minimum coverage of 50,000 USD). It is your responsibility to ensure that your health insurance policy covers Covid-19 treatment internationally at hospitals. Otherwise you will need to pay the extra cost.
2. COVID-19 Certificate of Vaccination/Recovery. If traveling with a parent, legal guardian or minor, travelers under 18 years old are not required to show proof of vaccination.
3. Confirmation Letter from Hotel for Day 1. This letter, issued by an AQ (alternative quarantine) hotel or SHA Plus+ hotel, confirms pre-paid accommodation and airport transfer. You must remain in the hotel room while waiting for the RT PCR test results on day 1 and day 5. There are no exceptions to this requirement, even if you already have a home in Thailand.
4. Confirmation Letter from a Hotel for Day 5 or 6. This letter confirms pre-paid accommodation, RT-PCR testing and was issued by an AQ/SHA Plus+ hotel. Travelers have the option to book different hotels for their accommodation on Day 5.
The Process, Start to Finish
1. Visa Application. The first step is to apply for your visa at a Thai embassy or consulate in your home country. Depending on location, you may be able to complete the process entirely online (check eligibility here). Additionally, you want to get health insurance if you do not already have it. Finally, scan the photo page of your passport as well as your vaccination/recovery certificate.
2. Thailand Pass Registration. Now you are ready to apply for Thailand Pass under the Test & Go category. You must do so at least 60 days prior to departure.
3. Fly to Thailand. A prearranged airport transfer will be made on Day 1. At your hotel, you will be asked to take an RT PCR test. Additional security measures have been implemented to ensure guests do not leave without receiving their test results.
4. Receive 1st RT PCR test result (Day 1). After getting your test results, you are free to leave the hotel and travel freely throughout Thailand.
5. Receive 2nd RT PCR test result (Day 5). Five days later, you will be expected to check in at your second accommodation, take another RT PCR test, and await the results.
6. Enjoy Thailand. After testing negative, you are free to enjoy Thailand for the remainder of your visa without any restrictions.
Test & Go vs. Sandbox Program
After passing your first test, Test & Go allows you to travel anywhere in Thailand. While you wait for the results of the second test, you must stay at a SHA Plus+ partner hospital and a SHA Plus+ hotel on Day 5. You can, for example, have your first test in Bangkok while you wait for your second in Chiang Mai.
Compared to the Sandbox plan – essentially a 14 day island quarantine – the main difference is that you must remain on the island for 14 days, whereas Test & Go allows you to travel freely throughout the country.
If you already applied for the Sandbox Plan and wish to change to Test & Go, you will need to start the registration process over in February, when the system relaunches. There may be a delay of up to a 7 days before your QR code is issued.
Will Test & Go Last?
It is important to remember that in the event of a serious outbreak or high rate of infection abroad, the government is likely to suspend Test & Go again. So the Sandbox plan will serve as a backup plan in such an event.
But once you are approved for Test & Go, you are good to go – even in the event of an outbreak. As in December, they will likely simply stop accepting new application by disabling the Test & Go portal online, but approved travelers will be allowed to proceed to Thailand as planned. There is no strict cut-off date.
Can I Extend My Visa After It Expires?
One question tourists invariably ask, as their visa expiration date approaches, is “How do I extend my stay in Thailand?” Generally speaking, there are 3 options here:
1. Extend your visa. Tourist Visas can be extended twice for an additional 30 days each time (60 days in total).
2. Convert to a new visa type. Alternatively, it is possible to convert your Tourist Visa into a longer-term visa through a local sponsor (Business Visa, Education Visa, Volunteer Visa, etc). The only downside is that you will need to pay an expensive “processing fee” (1,000 USD or more) in order to do so inside the country, without exiting and re-entering.
3. Get a long-term visa in the first place. Instead of getting a short term Tourist Visa, you can apply for a longer-term visa at the beginning of the process. There are a number of options in this case, depending on your situation. For example, if you work remotely in the tech space, you can even get an annually renewable Business Visa through an Employer of Record (EOR) like Shelter, which allows you to live and work in Thailand indefinitely on a work permit, pay taxes, receive social security benefits like healthcare – the whole works.