Thailand has a new system for entering the country called the Thailand Pass.
It is a free, web-based system that manages your entry to Thailand. The pass is required when you enter by air.
Regardless of your visa status or nationality, you will need a pass.
Thailand Pass Categories
The pass contains three categories, from which you will need to select one when you sign up to the system.
These are as follows:
- Quarantine Exemption
- Sandbox Program
- Alternative Quarantine
Each of these options pertains to the condition of your stay based on country of origin and vaccination status.
Quarantine Exemption (Test & Go)
The Test & Go option is currently paused due to the spread of the Omicron variant. Those already approved for travel under Test & Go before it was paused can still enter Thailand, provided they meet the requirements.
For everyone else, you must apply through the Thailand Pass under the Sandbox and AQ options below.
As the name suggests, under this category you are exempt from quarantine and can travel in Thailand without restriction. This is also known as Test & Go, because you will need to provide a negative test before arrival and a negative test on arrival.
However, as many expats have noted the name is somewhat misleading, as you will need to stay in an SHA+ hotel for one night while you await the result of your COVID test on arrival. Once you have a negative result, you are free to travel around.
So technically you need to quarantine for one night.
The requirements for the Quarantine Exemption category are as follows:
- Certificate of vaccination must be completed at least 14 days, and no more than 12 months, before arrival.
- To be from an approved country, in which you must have stayed for at least 21 consecutive days prior to traveling. There are 60+ countries on the approved list, including the UK, United States, China, Canada, Germany, and Singapore.
- Health insurance that covers COVID-19 with a minimum of $50,000 coverage.
New countries are being added to the approved countries periodically, so do check your local Thai embassy website for details before you arrange your travel.
If your country isn't on the approved list for Test & Go then the Sandbox Program will probably be the best option for you.
You can choose to stay in a specific Sandbox location in places such as Bangkok, Phuket, or Samui. You will be required to stay there for 7 days before, providing you test negative on your final PCR test, being able to enjoy onward travel in Thailand.
During your 7-day stay you can go anywhere within the sandbox area providing you test negative on your day of arrival.
You are tested twice under the Sandbox Scheme. Once when you arrive, and once when you leave.
Please note that currently only the Phuket Sandbox scheme is available to apply for through the Thailand Pass application.
Alternative quarantine is the option for the unvaccinated, but also for the vaccinated while the Test & Go option remains paused.
Under this category, you are required to stay in an approved hotel for 10 days before being allowed to travel around Thailand. During this time you will receive two RT-PCR tests and must obviously test negative.
Vaccination Rules for Entry
You need to be fully vaccinated for at least 14 days before entering Thailand. You don't need to be vaccinated for the Alternative Quarantine.
Here’s a list of the approved vaccines under the Thailand Pass system:
- COVILO (Sinopharm)
- Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
- CoronaVac (Sinovac)
- Sputnik V
Please note that mixed brand vaccine shots are accepted.
If you have been infected with COVID and can prove that by way of doctor's certificate, you only need to have had one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine within 90 days of your recovery from the illness.
Required Health Insurance
The health insurance requirement is to cover your hospital bill should you fall ill with COVID. The policy must explicitly cover COVID treatment to the sum of at least $50,000 (USD).
You can use any insurance company, local or international.
If you are employed in Thailand you can use your Social Security card as proof of insurance, saving you from taking out a new policy.
Making a Hotel Reservation
For your one night's stay under the Quarantine Exemption category, you need to have a confirmed hotel booking at an SHA+ hotel.
SHA+ stands for Safety and Health Administration Plus. It's simply a standard that meets COVID protocols.
For example, SHA hotels require 70% of staff to be vaccinated and undergo regular testing.
There are hundreds of SHA approved hotels, which makes booking easy. You can find a full list at Agoda.com.
The number of days that you need to book a hotel depends on your Thailand Pass option.
For example: when booking under the Quarantine Exception, you only need to book one night at an SHA+ hotel. Your test will be returned within 24 hours (usually much less), and then you can go on to another hotel, or stay there, if you choose to.
The Sandbox requires 7 days at an SHA hotel, and Alternative Quarantine requires 10 days.
COVID-19 Testing Protocols
To enter Thailand, you need to have a negative RT-PCR test result within 72 hours of arrival in the country. Any longer than that and you will need to test again. So if you change your flight date make sure you do another test.
Proof of the test result must be provided via the original document, in English or Thai language. Please note that the result of this test does not get entered into the Thailand Pass web application. You will to present this document upon arrival though.
When you arrive in Thailand, you will need to take another test at the airport. If you test negative and are on the Quarantine Exemption program, you are free to travel domestically, including flights, trains and bus trips.
If you are in the Sandbox program, you are free to travel with the Sandbox area. Unfortunately, the unvaccinated must proceed to their cell for the required 10 days.
Getting a Visa for Your Trip
The large majority of foreign nationals can enter Thailand on a 30-day exemption stamp, which is provided upon entry (immigration stamp your passport with an entry stamp).
The Thailand Pass itself does not require a specific visa. However, nationals of some countries may require a visa to enter. If you are eligible for a 30-day exemption and want to stay for more than 30 days, you should consider the visa options available at your local Thai embassy's website.
I have information on the various types of visa here.
How to Apply for Your Thailand Pass
You can apply for the Thailand Pass online, do that here.
I recommend doing this at least 7 days before you plan to depart. You can apply up to 30 days before your flight.
It doesn't take long, maybe 20 minutes if you have your documents to hand. However, do the application on a laptop or desktop computer, as it will be fiddly on mobile.
Once inside the portal you will need to do the following:
- Choose the correct plan from the three options we previously discussed.
- Enter personal details such as your country of origin, length of stay, date of arrival, etc.
- Upload your vaccination certificate.
- Upload a copy of your passport, booking confirmation, and proof of COVID medical insurance.
Once you receive your confirmation email to say that your application has been received, you will have to wait for an approval in the form of a QR code, which may take a few days.
A QR code is like a barcode that is linked to a specific piece of information, and can be scanned to reveal that information by compatible devices.
Save the QR code to your phone and print a copy out for the trip. You will need it when you arrive in Thailand and possibly at other times during your stay.
How to Contact Thailand Pass
If you have a query regarding your Thailand Pass application, you can contact the 24-hour helpline on one of the following numbers:
- +66 (0)2-572-8442 (this is the main line and the one reported to work best)
- +66 (0)65-205-4247
- +66 (0)65-205-4248
- +66 (0)65-205-4249
I would advise that you call over Skype or some other VOIP program that isn't going to charge a high international call rate like your cell or landline provider will. You will most likely have to hold for quite a while, so prepare yourself for a fairly long call.
Your Questions Answered
I've been getting a bunch of questions on this pass over the past few weeks, so here's a roundup of the most common ones. I'll add to this section once more questions come in and the scheme matures.
I have a Thailand Elite Visa. Do I need the pass?
Yes. All foreign nationals, regardless of a visa, need to set themselves up on the Thailand Pass system.
I'm a Thai National re-entering Thailand. Do I need a pass?
Yes you do. Everyone flying into Thailand needs the pass, including Thai nationals.
We are flying as a family. Do my kids need a pass?
There are different rules for kids. Children over the age of 12 do need a pass. Children under the age of 12 can be added to your Quarantine Exemption or Sandbox application.
How much does the pass cost?
There is no charge. It's free to apply and get set up.
Do I have to show proof of onward travel?
As noted previously, the Thailand Pass doesn't reflect your visa status. If you arrive on a 30-day visa exemption stamp, then you need to have proof of onward travel. This is standard for all tourists.
You may be asked for proof of onward travel when checking in at the airport in your home country, and at the Thai immigration desk when you arrive.
If you don’t have this proof, you might be denied boarding at the airline counter or Thailand Immigration might not allow you to enter Thailand.
I can't remember ever being asked for this proof when leaving my home country, but perhaps they already know this because your return flight is most likely with the same airline and your ticket would be logged on the system by the carrier.
What should I do if I didn't receive my confirmation email?
This happens regularly to me with emails and it's super annoying. The first port of call is to check your junk mailbox. Gmail in particular has a horrible habit of marking legit emails as spam.
If you registered on the system with a mistake in your email address, you will need to register again.
My flight date has changed, how can I change my Pass?
If your flight has changed to within 72 hours of your original flight time, you can arrive using the same Thailand Pass application. If your flight date has changed outsie for 72 hours then you will need to apply again.
What happens if I test positive for COVID-19 on arrival or on holiday?
If you test positive on arrival, you will be sent to quarantine at a nearby hospital. You may not be able to choose the hospital yourself because they will likely take you to the closest one that is handling COVID patients.
Remember that designated hospitals have COVID wards, so as not to mix those patients with the general population, so choice may be limited.
In the event that you catch COVID and diagnose it through a self-test, you should contact your insurance provider to advise them that you are arranging to go to a hospital. You can then ring around a few local private hospitals and try to book yourself in. That way you have more control over where you go.
You can then inform the hotel of the situation so that they can take appropriate action with their cleaning and testing protocols.
The quarantine after a positive test is 10 days. So expect to miss some, if not all, of your holiday. I very much hope this changes soon.
Got a question about the Thailand Pass? Leave it below and I'll do my best to answer it.
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