In my last dispatch, I told you about the need for me to get special medical insurance as they didn’t recognise my social security nor my private insurance. The coverage of the latter wasn’t high enough. There might be some good news soon about this for expats. We are hoping that you will be able to use your social security or private insurance in the future. But it is too late for me as I had to rush to get the insurance before applying for the COE. In the end I had to get a one year policy as I have nearly ten months left on my visa. The cost was as nearly as much as the flight.
Just to recap, I will be entering Thailand next week under the new scheme called “Test and Go” that allows fully vaccinated people from one of the 46 listed countries and territories to enter the Kingdom without having to quarantine. (This list of countries might be longer after the update on 1st December.) At first I thought I wouldn’t be eligible as they said you had to be in one of these countries for at least 21 days. However, they later announced exceptions. If you fly from Thailand to one of these countries for a short trip (any amount of days) and then straight back, then you can still take part in Test and Go. However, if you visit, or do a layover in a country on the way back that is not on the list, then you have to switch to the Sandbox scheme. This means 7 days in a SHA+ hotel in one of 17 approved provinces. But you are allowed to leave the hotel. You just cannot leave that chosen province.
As soon as I got my insurance, I applied for my COE. It is unfortunate that I cannot apply for the new Thailand Pass, but this doesn’t go online until 1st November. Then it takes several days for it to be processed. They say that the maximum time is seven days. From what I understand so far, the documents that I have to submit for COE and Thailand Pass are the same, but the latter is sent to the consular department in Thailand who will issue you with a QR Code. When you arrive in Thailand, all you have to do is show this QR Code to the officials. This will greatly speed up the process. They reckon you will be off the plane and out of the airport within 25 minutes. For myself I presume it will take longer as I have to show all of my documents. But that is presuming I can get on the plane in London. I am still waiting for my COE application to be accepted.
If all goes well and I fly into Bangkok next week, on the 4th November, the required RT-PCR testing will not be done at the airport unlike in Phuket. This is why they can get you in and out quickly. As part of the COE application, I had to book a SHA+ hotel in Bangkok. This includes a hotel transfer and testing. I am booked in at the Hyatt Place. The price includes hotel transfer in a shared van (extra if i want a private limousine), the RT-PCR test, three meals, and a 24-hour nurse and medical consultant. I am arriving early in the morning. Once I have been tested, I have to wait in the room until the test results come out. I have heard it may take 12 hours. This means I might be able to leave the hotel in the evening and not sleep there. I will confirm this next week when I land. However I will stay in the hotel as it is paid for. But if I am negative, I will have breakfast and then check out. If I am positive, then that will be a very different story.
So, back to this evening. I am at Suvarnabhumi airport now waiting for my flight. This is my first international flight since March 2020 when all of this started. It is really a surreal situation. The airport is very quiet compared to its heyday. I was literally the only person in security and at Immigration. But one thing I want to say is that everyone was so friendly. I chatted with the staff at each place for about five minutes. Everyone was smiling and saying hello as I walked by. I’ve never had an experience like that before at the airport. Friends who had flown into Phuket told me much the same thing. Immigration were really friendly and airport staff were super helpful. This is something that obviously needs to continue in the future. Immigration are the first Thais that foreigners meet when they land. First impression are really important.
On flight side at Suvarnabhumi airport there isn’t that much open. Certainly hardly any places to eat. It looks like they are also doing renovations and so it is a bit dark and scary in a few places. Yes, there are some duty free shops open. Yes, I did find one shop at Gate E selling coffee and sandwiches. And yes, I did find a shop selling water at only 10 baht. But my advice to you is to eat first before you go through security and immigration.
My flight tonight is onboard a Thai Airways flight. The first leg of the journey is to Phuket. This section will apparently be about 80% full. I am told that for the next part of the journey to London, there will only be around 50 people on the aircraft. So hopefully I will be able to find a row to myself. Masks are of course compulsory. I believe they will serve food. But do I want to take off my mask. On day two in the UK, I have to do an RT-PCR test.