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Reopening of Thailand - Dispatch 2

Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
This is the second of my special dispatches about the reopening of Thailand to vaccinated tourists from countries on the list. On Friday evening, I am flying to London with the Tourism Authority of Thailand to attend the press conference at the World Travel Market (WTM 2021). They will be launching ‘Visit Thailand Year 2022 - a New Chapter’ and also providing details of Thailand’s reopening strategy to the travel media and tourism operators. (Read Issue #7 for more about this.) I will then be flying back to Thailand on Wednesday. As I will be in a good position to not only learn more about what is going on, but also experience firsthand what it is like flying into Bangkok during the first week of reopening, I will be sending out a series of special dispatches over the next week or so. Then I will get back to my regular weekly Letters from Thailand newsletter on Sunday evenings.

The Re-Entry Permit
Samut Prakan Immigration
Samut Prakan Immigration
This newsletter is going to be mainly about the insurance needed for the Certificate of Entry (COE) and the Thailand Pass which will replace it for most people. But first, if I may, I would like to say a few words about the re-entry permit. I had to visit Samut Prakan Immigration the other day to get this stamp in my passport. (Please excuse the Buriram United football shirt in the picture. I didn’t know the Chief Inspector would come out to greet me.) For those people who don’t know, if you have some form of long stay visa, in my case a Non-B for work, you must get a re-entry permit stamp every time you want to leave the country. Put simply, your extension of stay will be cancelled if you forget to get a re-entry permit before you leave the country.
We’ve had several of our teachers who forgot to get one when they flew out of the country for a holiday. When they came back, the Immigration official treated them like a tourist and gave them a 30-day stamp. The bigger consequence of losing their Non-B status is that they also lost their work permit. I can tell you, it was quite expensive to start again and get them legal. But I digress. I want to ask, why on earth do we need to get a re-entry permit? We’ve already paid 1,900 baht for the extension of stay. Why do we then have to pay another 1,000 baht every time we want to leave the country. (For frequent flyers, you can get a multiple entry one for 3,800 baht.) Are there any other countries that do this? To me this is very much like a tax on expats. And next year they want to give us a tourist tax as well. Where will it end? We are already paying taxes from our salary.
Baggage Claim at Suvarnabhumi Airport
Baggage Claim at Suvarnabhumi Airport
These special dispatches will be mainly about my experience as an expatriate in Thailand leaving the country and then coming straight back in less than 21 days. But I will be touching on things that will be for both expats and tourists. Today I want to talk about the problem regarding insurance. First thing I want to point out is that Thais do not need to take out any special insurance for returning to Thailand from 1st November. They will get free treatment in hospital, which I think is right. It is also right that tourists should be asked to get insurance to cover them for Covid-19 treatment. (Incidentally, this has now been reduced from $100,000 to $50,000.) But my issue with this is that the Thai government is treating expatriates as tourists. Many people like myself pay monthly into social security (SSO). We also pay taxes like Thai people. But for some reason, they are refusing to recognise our SSO.
I have brought this up with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) several times. They are sympathetic, as after all, our social security allows us unlimited health care at our designated hospital. The same as for Thai people. So, why can’t we be treated as Thais? The spokesperson at the MFA has promised me that they will bring it up at the next CCSA meeting this week. Hopefully good news soon. Though, unfortunately it will be too late for me as I will be flying to Thailand in just seven days. But it is a win in my book if I can help others.
The other question that came up is about private insurance that many expatriates have. Several people have told me that they asked their insurance company to issue a letter to say that they will cover for Covid-19 treatment up to the amount needed. The letter also needs to say the policy is renewed annually. Which is great for them. But I rang my private insurance provider and they just laughed when I said I needed them to write a letter that I have Covid-19 coverage up to the value of 1.6 million baht. I know hospitals can be expensive, but not by that much. I also have a basic Covid-19 insurance that the school took out for only 500 baht which is more than enough coverage. But obviously, that coverage is no where near 1.6 million baht.
So, my only option now is to take out an additional insurance policy just for this short trip to the UK and back. But then I hit another big problem. For tourists, they only need an insurance policy the length of their holiday. so, only a week or so. Unfortunately for me, they told me the policy must match the remaining time left on my extension of stay. Sadly, I have about ten months left before my next renewal date which means I need to get an insurance policy for a complete year. The second problem is that none of the insurance brokers have yet reduced the coverage down from $100,000 to $50,000. So, the price I was quoted for the return half of my short trip is almost the same as the cost of the return flight by THAI Airways.
Now, there are a few workarounds. I’ve had several people tell me that they went for a shorter insurance than their “visa” length and it was accepted. But I have also had people tell me that their insurance was rejected as it didn’t match the “visa” length. If you have time, then maybe try the shorter length policy first to see if you have any luck. For myself, I am short of time (I am arriving in Thailand in seven days) and so I might not have any choice on this.
A Quick Q & A by Trunk Travel
My friends at Trunk Travel did a Q & A this morning with an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I am going to paste it below for your reference. I just want to add that it is often difficult to get straight answers from any government official. None of them seem to know the full details and sometimes, are unable to answer when I have specific questions for them. So please be patient if we cannot answer all your questions. This is because the people who are in the know cannot always answer them!
Following a meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and T.A.T, plus other members of the tourism industry of Thailand, we have the following updates -
1. Can we stay in a combination of the 46 safe countries over the 21-days? yes, you can BUT do not mix with any other off the list
2. Can we transit through a not ‘safe’ country? Yes, BUT cannot be for more than 12 hours transit and MUST stay inside the airport ONLY
3. Landing in Bangkok, can we transit to Phuket? Currently, the only allowed transfer through Bangkok is to Samui (sealed inbound flight). Can enter Bangkok under Test & Go and fly to Phuket the following day if negative
4. 2nd test in Sandbox , will it be another RT-PCR? This will change to a professional ATK soon. Date to be confirmed
5. AQ hotels in Blue Zone can get the booking from customers? MFA replied that hotels in the Blue Zone must be SHA PLUS only as of now
6. Phuket and other Sandbox can do Test & Go if come from the ‘safe’ 46 countries?? YES (however, we have spoken to several of the larger hotels this morning and some are offering the Test & Go, some are yet to confirm if they will)
7. Thailand Pass will start running on November 1st, how do travellers wanting to enter on or around the 7th apply for this as they are being denied the COE? The system is mostly electronic, so if the quality of documents uploaded is good, and where applicable shows a QR code, the system will accept relatively quickly. If the documents are not of a good quality, such as hand written vaccination cards, we recommend the traveller to delay their trip by a few days. This will cause a delay of a few days for the Thailand Pass to be issued.
8. When the 2nd test switches to the ATK, where/how does the individual submit the result? Not decided at present.
9. if the 2nd ATK returns a positive, what would happen? The standard quarantine regulations will apply immediately.
10. RT-PCR on day one in Sandbox, where is this done? for Test & Go, it will depend on the individual hotel. For Phuket, it remains at the airport on arrival. Check this with your hotels S.O.P.
11. While waiting for the result, can arrivals use the facilities or do any activities in the hotel? No, stay in room only
12. Thai’s that leave Thailand and return, can they do a Test & Go? If travelling to and from a ‘safe’ country, yes. If not a safe country, the current regulations apply
13. What will be the cost of RT-PCR under the new regulations? Unclear, waffling answering to avoid the facts (politicians!)
14. Can the insurance for entering Thailand be from any country? Yes, as long as it meets the governments requirements
15. Enter as a family, can they stay in the same room? NOT clear at the moment. We hope to know more soon.
16. Flight crews, what rules are applied to them? Sandbox rules.
17. Does the hotel cost include the PCR test on day 0? and if need to refund, how to do so? - waiting for confirmation, but we believe this will be included
18. Does Thailand Pass apply to VoA (Visa on Arrival)? waiting for the answer
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading this far. I think the next special dispatch will be sent from Suvarnabhumi airport on Friday evening. Until next time….
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Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand @richardbarrow

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Samut Prakan, Thailand