How to visit Thailand with Test&Go
With the Thai Test&Go program, if you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 you can enter Thailand, spend only one night in quarantine, then freely roam around the country.
To enjoy such a broad travel freedom during the COVID-19 pandemic, you have to fulfill some requirements, submit a formal application, and follow some rules after arrival.
Here you can find tips and tricks to help you make the process as smooth as possible. And you can understand what’s like to travel to and around Thailand on the Test&Go scheme.
Where to find up-to-date information
Any traveler should already know that the situation may change anytime, for better or worse. In fact, the Test&Go program has been already temporarily suspended on December 22nd, 2021 and it will be resumed, with some modifications, on February 1, 2022.
Because things change so quickly, I’m not going to go over the eligibility criteria, documentation requirements, etc. You can find all that and very well explained at TATANEWS.
How to master bureaucracy
I recommend you create a folder in your favorite cloud storage dedicated to your Thailand trip. Then synchronize that folder for offline use on your smartphone.
It’ll be so much easier for you to navigate the bureaucracy before and during your trip. You’ll need to show your documents many times so it’s good to have them ready on your phone. An online cloud copy can save you in situations when your phone is damaged or stolen.
Additionally, scan every single certificate or piece of paper you’re handed over during your stay. Sometimes you’ll have to upload to a website a digital copy of your documentation when traveling to some provinces, flying, etc.
Somewhat of a bad news is that in some cases PDF are not accepted, in favor of image files. If you’re on an iPhone, you can use this handy shortcut to turn any PDF into image.
The best news is that digital copies are widely accepted. No one time I was requested to present a hard copy. Except for my passport, of course.
How to apply for the Thailand Pass
The Test&Go program is centered around the application of a so-called Thailand Pass. A QR code that certifies your COVID approval status. You can apply for the Thailand Pass for free at this link. There are some online vendors that can apply for you. I’m always wary of such businesses, but your mileage may vary.
The Thai authorities advise that the approval of a Thailand Pass can last for up to 7 days. My application was approved in only one day.
I’m not sure why I was approved so quickly and I’m going to assume it was because my vaccinations records (booster included) were digitally verifiable (with a QR code). It can also have been my privilege of white German guy. Or more simply… The approval team may not be that busy.
How to book the quarantine hotel
To apply for the Thailand Pass you will have to book your first night in one of the approved quarantine hotels. The travel website Agoda is your friend here. They have a specific page dedicated to the Test&Go program and they provide all the necessary paperwork. I read that booking your hotel via Booking.com (technically my favorite go-to site for hotel bookings) may lead to some problems, so stick with Agoda.
Once you booked the hotel, Agoda will send you a PDF confirmation that you will need for the application of the Thailand Pass and also to finalize the pick-up service from the airport (more on that below).
I booked the Grande Centre Point Hotel Ratchadamri (SHA Extra Plus) in Bangkok because it was available on the night I needed, it was offering free cancellation, and it was close to a BTS stop for faster transit to the AirBnb I booked for the rest of the first week of my trip.
In the package, you’re paying for the first night at the hotel, the private car from airport to hotel, and the first post-arrival RT-PCR test.
How to book the health insurance
You will need a specific health insurance for the duration of your stay in Thailand. Basically, if you end up getting COVID-19 on Thai soil, the authorities have to make sure you’re taken to a hospital and you can cover the costs.
I was stupidely thinking that my German health insurance, which includes travel coverage, would be ok. I just needed to get the proper paperwork from them. Instead, I quickly discovered that neither my health insurance, nor many other vendors you find online would meet the required $50,000 coverage set by Thai authorities.
So I ended up buying the insurance from AXA, which has a specific page for travelers in the Test&Go scheme. I chose the Plan 1, because I already have an insurance for baggage loss, etc. For a one-month stay, I paid ฿2,250 (equivalent to €60/$70).
How to use the Thailand Pass and the Morchana App
Once you’re approved to enter Thailand (note: this only applies to COVID requirements, you will still have to apply for a visa if you don’t participate to a visa waiver program) you will receive your Thailand Pass in the form of a QR code. Save the document in your digital folder and show it at the port of entry. You’ll probably have to show it a couple of times to different people.
During your stay in Thailand, you’re supposed to use the Morchana App for contact tracing, risk assessment, and to upload the result of your second post-arrival RT-PCR test. It’s important that you activate all the sections of the app and that you’ll allow the app to send you immediate notifications.
You’ll be tempted to scan your Thailand Pass with the Morchana App as soon as you receive yours. Don’t. You will get a frustrating Invalid Thailand Pass error. But when you’re in Thailand on your planned arrival day, the Morchana App will magically accept your Thailand Pass and you can successfully be followed by Thai authorities during your stay.
Although it’s not exactly enforced, you can use the Morchana App to check into a place or business. That’s how authorities will know how busy a place is and for contact tracing. When you leave a place and check out, you will asked to complete a survey to assess the service provider’s compliance with public health measures. Participation is not mandatory.
How to survive the arrival and the quarantine
On your flight to Thailand you’ll be handed over a declaration form on copy paper like the one below. Also in this case, the QR code is probably the most important piece of information for you because it will tell you where to get the second post-arrival RT-PCR test.
Besides the extra documentation (Thailand Pass and pre-departure RT-PCR test), I didn’t notice any change in the process of entering Thailand. Well, the airport was also particularly empty and I didn’t have to wait in line to get my documents checked.
Once you’re in the country and you have all your luggage with you, you will meet your driver who is going to take you to your hotel.
This when the proper Test&Go procedure will start. Before you’re taken to your room, you will have to take a RT-PCR test in the hotel lobby. You will receive your results by the next day.
Until then, you can’t leave the room. You won’t have a room key and you won’t be able to use the elevator. That’s how you’re guaranteed to follow the quarantine rules. Of course, you can order room service or use any delivery app (such as Grab or Line Man) to get some food.
Once your test comes back negative the hotel lobby will call you to give you the good news. When you’re ready to leave, just call the lobby again and they’ll escort you out.
How to book the second post-arrival RT-PCR test
According to the current Test&Go procedure, you’re not only required to get a RT-PCR test on arrival at the quarantine hotel, but a second test on day 5–6 after arrival.
When you scan the QR code on your declaration form, you’ll be taken to this Google Drive folder where the Thai authorities save a list of public and private hospitals where you can get tested. A PDF document is not the best way to know which place is best for you, so I created this Google Maps list for Bangkok. You’re welcome to use it, but keep in mind that I don’t update it, nor I can be sure that all the Google Maps search results were correct. Because I was staying in the Ari area of Bangkok, I went to the Vimut Hospital, which was a short walk away and it also looked quite modern.
I had the good idea of going there on day 2 to understand what the testing procedure was going to be. It was a good decision because I needed to register in advance and the best day for me was almost fully booked. If you decide to go to the same hospital, you can book your testing appointment at this link. As you can see, you will have to upload all your documentation again, including the result of the first test and the declaration form. The test availability will be shown on page 2 of the online form.
On the day of day of testing, at Vimut Hospital, I checked in well before my timeslot and I was immediately brought to the testing corner. I then received the result the next morning via email. Super easy.
In the meantime, however, I was also reminded by the Morchana App to get tested and I was also sent a personalized link to upload the test result. That was the last piece of bureaucracy for the Test&Go program.
I haven’t left Thailand yet, so I will need to understand what’s expected of me when I leave the country, if anything. I will update this article accordingly.
This is in a nutshell my experience with Test&Go. However, you may still have some unanswered question. Feel free to comment on this article if you have doubts or keep reading for the most common questions I could think of.
Is Thailand COVID safe?
We’re all going through this pandemic in our own way. I can explain my train of thoughts, but only you can decide whether traveling (to Thailand) is too much of a risk for your or other people’s health.
I feel safe enough in Thailand for these reasons:
- I’m not in a high-risk group for COVID-19;
- I am fully vaccinated and I also got a booster;
- The procedures to enter Thailand would allow me to identify a possible COVID infection as soon as possible;
- If we use the daily reported cases as a way to measure the risk of getting infected with COVID, Thailand is in a much better situation than many of the countries you may be traveling from (Germany, for me);
- Vaccination rate in Thailand is comparable to the US;
- I couldn’t know this before departure, but I can tell you that locals are taking COVID very seriously, with almost 100% use of masks (indoor and outdoor), frequent temperature checks, and hand disinfection.
I don’t know whether I am putting locals at risk by traveling to Thailand. I’m assuming that someone’s risk status doesn’t depend on being a traveler or not, but on compliance with public health measures.
What if I’m tested positive?
As far as I understand, if any of the RT-PCR tests come back positive, you’re taken to a hospital and you will have to activate your health insurance (see above) to cover the costs.
Yes, this means that your holidays or other travel plans can get badly ruined. That’s unfortunately a risk you have almost everywhere, while traveling. Horror stories of people stranded are making the news daily. Try to have an exit strategy.
What can you expect?
This CNN article has a good overview of the life in Thailand right now. And I can add some additional color:
- As I mentioned above, temperature checks and masks are the norm; sometimes you can find devices around town that can check your temperature while you’re sanitize your hands: so efficient!
- I flew with VietJetAir between Bangkok and Chiang Mai: I couldn’t check-in online because visitors can’t have access to the local vaccination registry; however, at the airport I wasn’t asked about my vaccination status nor I had to show any recent test;
Is it easy to find masks and test kits?
According to my experience, the answer is yes on both counts. Boots and 7-Eleven have plenty of masks and antigen/rapid test kits for your protection and peace of mind. In my opinion, prices were also very affordable, with test kits going for $1–2.
Additionally, if you register for Boots TH, you can chat with a pharmacist and even book additional RT-PCR tests. I didn’t try this service tho.