I’m back in Thailand! After one year of the pandemic, where Thailand completely closed its borders to control the spread of the virus, now they are opening borders again – albeit with some quarantine measures in place. I arrived here earlier this month and am currently quarantining in Bangkok. I am going to share my experience of getting back to Thailand to hopefully help out future volunteers who might want to come onto GVI’s projects in Chiang Mai or Phang Nga.
You should start preparing everything at least a few weeks in advance, especially as more people start going through the process, hotels and flights might book up quickly.
The first step is to get your non-O volunteer visa, which is the same process as it was before. I was entering Thailand from the Seychelles, where unfortunately there is no Thai embassy, so I had to come in without a visa and will change to a non-O in Thailand. However, this is a difficult and expensive process, so I definitely recommend getting your non-O in your home country if possible.
Once you have the visa, you have to apply for the certificate of entry online. Don’t book your flights or hotel before you have done this and been pre-approved. You have to upload your passport and insurance that covers COVID medical. There’s also a slot for other supporting documents, I just uploaded a bank statement there, or you could put your visa documents – if you leave it blank your certificate might not be approved. Mine was rejected the first time until I put the supporting documents (don’t worry if it’s rejected, you can just submit the form again, it’s free to do).
It could take a few days, but you’ll get an email saying your CofE has been pre-approved. Then, you can book flights and hotels, and you have 14 days to upload the details to the same site, in order to get your certificate. Currently, Thailand requires you to do 10 days quarantine in a state-approved hotel. You can find a list of these hotels by searching ‘ASQ’, and they range in price, with the cheapest being around £500, including airport transfer, two COVID tests and three meals a day. Book early, as they do start to fill up. The hotel will give you a confirmation letter which you can then upload to the website along with your flight details.
Things are changing quickly, and there’s talk that the quarantine might be reduced to 7 days, or even less if you’re vaccinated, so keep checking the requirements. I actually booked 14 days quarantine but it got reduced to 10 days, and the hotel will refund me the difference.
Currently you also need proof of a negative COVID test and fit to fly certificate signed by a doctor, which you should be able to get in your home country.
One of the perks of COVID is that there are not so many people flying, so on both flights I had three seats to myself! So I felt quite well-rested when arriving at Bangkok. The whole process through the airport is pretty easy, just make sure you have all your documents printed out – that is: negative COVID test, fit to fly, certificate of entry, ASQ hotel booking, proof of insurance covering medical expenses, and T8 form which you can find online. These will be checked 4 or 5 times from your departure airport to arrival in Bangkok, so keep them handy along with your passport. The airport is easy to navigate and you have workers showing you where to go and what to do through the whole process. Thai people are very helpful, patient and friendly so don’t worry if you are unsure or have questions you can always ask them.
Be warned that if there are a lot of flights coming in at the same time it can take a few hours to get through the airport. When you get out of customs, someone will be waiting to take you to your hotel. You will be in a car by yourself with a screen between you and your driver for protection. You will show your documents again at the hotel and then be escorted to your room.
I’m halfway through quarantine now, and it’s going fine so far. The receptionists are very helpful; if you need anything, you can call and they will get it for you from the convenience shop. The nurse texts you to remind you to check your temperature. I’d recommend bringing some movies and books to keep yourself entertained, and maybe a yoga mat or some resistance bands too!
And just remember that after a short quarantine you get to experience beautiful Thailand!!