Way before Dylan and I even moved in together, we had already started speaking about going travelling. It was always a dream of ours to go back to Thailand. The original plan was to travel across most of South East Asia over a year… but Thailand was always where we wanted to start.
However, as it has done with most of 2020, COVID changed our plans. Since this new reality of reoccurring lockdowns was apparent in the UK, where we lived, we have been keeping up to date with developments on when and how to get back to Thailand. It was the only thing pushing us forward, at times.
We didn’t want to go back to Thailand merely for a holiday. Rather, we wanted to go to Thailand long-term, and whilst there, keeping our spirits high and fingers crossed that neighbouring countries may let us in. That failing, extending our Visas for Thailand (although this is a whole separate story in itself).
During the months of October and November we were checking updates DAILY on Reddit, Youtube (Retired Working For You is a great channel to follow), Facebook groups and all sources we could find which would give us any insight into when Thailand was going to ‘open up’ for Tourists. Our break came towards mid November when it became clear that recent limitations had been lifted, and whilst previously the Long Stay STV visa was the only option (which unfortunately didn’t allow UK residents to apply) it now became apparent that the TR visa was here!
The TR visa is a ‘regular’ tourist Visa. If you have been to Thailand before you may recall that applying for a visa from the UK (or from Sweden, in my case) was never necessary. Instead, all you had to do was simply show up, and they would give you a stamp in your passport and you’d be on your merry way. A visa upon arrival, essentially.
However, with the TR it does currently require application. In this blog we will be chatting about what paperwork is needed, what costs you might incur, and how long the process can take to get back into Thailand.
If you would prefer this information in video format then please go to our YouTube page where we have posted our first video on this topic! We would love if you could show us some support!
Obtaining a TR visa from the UK:
- You need to be a UK resident in order to apply for this from the UK. However, it is available from other countries as well. For the sake of accuracy, we will simply be speaking about the UK version, as this was the process we went through.
- Contact the Thai Embassy in the UK (in London) in order to start the application process.
- Go to this website: https://www.thaievisa.go.th/
- You will need to provide documents such as:
- A scan of your passport photo page
- If your passport is not from the UK then you need to provide evidence that you have UK settled status (in relation to BREXIT).
- COVID insurance that covers you for up to 100,000 USD
- Proof of ASQ booking (this can be a deposit)
- Proof of flight (there are rumours you can get away with showing your ‘intended’ flight
- At the time we applied they asked for proof of finance (500,000 baht) but this may have been removed by now
- A scan of your passport photo page
- Once the application has been completed online, you need to send your passport off to the embassy with the confirmation page obtained online. This process costs £30 per person, but since you need recorded delivery to send the passports as well as providing a stamped envelope for their return, an additional cost to consider is the ca. £14 for delivery. If this was normal times without Covid, you can also take your passports in person to the London Embassy.
Once your passports come back with a Visa (a few days later for us) the next step is to apply for a Certificate of Entry. This is also completed online, and it was rather speedy for us. The Certificate of Entry (CoE) is free to apply for. Initially, application requires details such as passport number, flight number(s) and personal details such as phone number and your address.
The CoE can be applied for on this website: http://coethailand.mfa.go.th/
Once the CoE has been ‘pre-approved’ you will be provided with a code which you can use to log in and attach additional documents that are needed. These documents are as follows:
- Proof of booking of ASQ. This is your chosen quarantine facility where you will be staying the first 15 days after arrival to Thailand. I will get into details about this further along but bear in mind that at the time of writing EVERYONE does need to quarantine for 15 days.
- Proof of VISA (a photo of the visa from your passport)
- Evidence of COVID insurance that covers you for up to 100,000 USD.
- Plane ticket booking. This is necessary as the flight number is required on the CoE.
- Bear in mind that IF your flights numbers are changed, you will need to reapply for a new CoE. We had to re-apply 3 times as our flights kept changing, so it can be rather stressful if they change last minute!
- To ask for the CoE to be changed you will need to email this email: consular.LON4@mfa.mail.go.th
Now, in order to enter the kingdom of Thailand you need: Visa, Certificate of Entry, a valid passport, a fit to fly certificate (should be able to be obtained from your GP – however we had to go to a private clinic) a negative RT-PCR test, your COVID insurance, confirmation of ASQ booking and a T.8 form. (the form can be downloaded here: https://bit.ly/34X6sAJ.
Please note that you can find empty fit to fly paperwork online (for the doctor to fill in the blanks), and MUST state that you are ‘fit to fly’. In hindsight ours was not quite good enough as it said ‘fit to travel’, but we got away with it. Do NOT take any risks!
It is worth noting that RT-PCR test is a ‘real time’ PCR test. Meaning that the time of the test being taken needs to be recorded, alongside the date. The test itself needs to be taken within 72 hours of flight departure. Meaning that there can be no more than 72 hours between the swab leaving your nose/throat and you getting in that plane seat! There are a few clinics that will ensure that your results are received in time, but they can be pricey.
So far, the costs racked up are (per person):
- Visa: 30£ (+£14 postage)
- Covid Insurance: £162 for 3 months
- RT-PCR test: £149
- Fit to fly certificate: £49
- Flight: £450 (one way) with Qatar Airways London Heathrow to Bangkok Via Doha
In total, without stepping foot onto a plane yet, you’ve racked up a juicy £854. But wait, there is more. Remember when I mentioned staying in a Quarantine Facility? Well, that’s going to cost you.
The hotel we chose to stay at was the ‘S Ram Leisure Hotel’ ar 37,000 baht per person.
There are numerous ones on the scheme. They can range from ‘reasonable’ to super expensive. We went for a place that was on the lower end of the costs. However, it still was £921 per person for the full 15 days. This does include 3 square meals a day, 4 bottles of water daily, a lovely bathtub, a spacious room, a functioning TV with some English channels, and air-conditioning!
The total now coming to: £1780 per person.
You might be saying, what on EARTH, who is going to spend that on a holiday? Remember, this is not a holiday. You have to quarantine for 2 weeks. Unless you have holiday days coming up to your ears, this will only be viable if you are going ‘long-term’. The TR visa allows you 60 days in Thailand. However, it can be extended for a further 30 days – so 90 days in total.
Flying & Immigration Process
The actual flying process is SIMILAR to pre-COVID, however everything seems to take a lot longer. Due to social distancing the boarding process can take much longer as they have to be done in the varying sections. It is also worth noting that although some flights will be socially distanced (our first one from London to Doha was SO EMPTY) whilst some are not (our second flight was pretty packed, and it felt strange being so close to people). We had to wear our masks the whole way, in the airport, on the plane, at the stop-off, until we entered our hotel rooms (or if you were eating or drinking on the flight). We also had to wear a face visor, which was provided by Qatar Airways. This seems to vary from airline to airline, but I was a hot uncomfortable mess a lot of the time, with so many things on my face and head.
Arriving in Thailand was smooth, but since 3 other loaded flights had arrived just before us – it took a while. It was interesting to see how they utilised the space within the airport itself to socially distance people and get the show on the road. There were seats placed along the hallways, for us all to sit in. Staff in full PPE would then come up and check that all your documents are in order. These documents were checked 3-4 times by various staff. You are questioned whether you have any symptoms of COVID and they check your temperature. At this stage the process felt pretty smooth and organised, just lengthy. Once you’ve got your temperature checked, they give you a number tag to put on, so that your specific ASQ hotel can localise you once you exit the airport. There are crowds of drivers and assistants in full PPE waiting for you just outside, to help with your bags and escort you quickly to your ASQ transport.
The transport to the hotel can vary, but because Dylan and myself were the only people from our flight staying at our hotel (S Ram Leisure Hotel) we had a van all to ourselves. We were swept away behind a perspex screen with our driver in a full get-up, whilst the lady assisting in the process had to take a photo of us in the van, to prove that we were on our way! This way no one slips through the cracks!
It was a strange process, but at the moment it felt necessary and organised. It is still the land of Smiles. Although everyone is wearing a mask through that process, it was very heartwarming to be greeted with such kindness and eagerness for foreign visitors to return to the Kingdom of Thailand.
Now, let’s get into the ASQ. As mentioned, there are many different facilities. As I am writing this, I am currently on my 3rd day out of 15 in quarantine. Surprisingly, I have not yet lost my mind.
Pros of Quarantine:
- Safety – you know that everyone has to go through this process, so no one is going to start super spreading Covid around the Kingdom.
- Comfort – I have been super comfortable and it has given both Dylan and I plenty of time to catch up on rest and work!
- Food – if you manage to find a good place (like we have) then you have the luxury of receiving 3 home-cooked meals per day straight to your hotel room door. It is worth noting that we are staying in the S Ram Leisure Hotel, which not only has very good food in our opinions, but also has a microwave in every room in case the food ever arrives cold!
- Part of the package price are two COVID tests that are taken by the Nurse on duty on day 5 and 12.
Cons of quarantine:
- You have to stay in separate rooms if you are not family/married. I can see Dylan across the courtyard/pool area, but I am not able to hug or be near him for 15 days.
- You are 100% stuck inside for the first 7 days. After your first negative COVID test result comes back negative, you are able to book an hour slot outside each day. You have to socially distance during this time, but I am very much looking forward to seeing a change of scenery!
- Your food options are limited. We have been lucky that we have loved our food so far, but if it is not to your liking – then you could be in trouble as some placed do not allow you to order food from the outside.