As a British expat in Thailand (and previously the UAE and China), I would fly home at least once a year before the pandemic.
After all, the charms of living abroad don’t begin to make up for the precious time away from loved ones back at home. As such, after more than a year of quarantine requirements in Thailand, I'm incredibly glad that the country is now opening up to quarantine-free travel.
This makes travel a possibility once again for expats like myself, as we don’t need to take an extra 14 days off work or fork out thousands of baht for an extended (and uncomfortable) stay at an ASQ facility.
But alas, it’s not going to be as simple as packing your bags and booking your flights to Thailand. From getting a COVID-19 PCR test to securing COVID-19 insurance and more, expats will have to navigate a string of requirements before they’re allowed to return.
As I work for Pacific Prime Thailand, a health insurance brokerage, I get many emails and messages from expat friends and acquaintances asking to demystify the process, in particular with regards to the COVID-19 insurance requirements. So much so that I’ll elaborate on this topic in today’s blog post.
First things first, it’s important to point out that quarantine-free travel starting November 1st, 2021 will not be available to everyone.
It’s restricted to those arriving from low-risk countries/territories, those arriving by air, and those who are vaccinated against COVID-19. Proof of vaccination will also be required. That being said, children below the age of 12 who are traveling with their parents or guardians don’t need to be vaccinated.
In terms of the process, eligible travelers will need to:
2) Secure COVID-19 insurance (more on this below)
3) Get a medical certificate with an RT-PCR lab result indicating that COVID-19 is not detected, which has been issued no more than 72 hours before traveling.
4) Book a 1-night stay upon arrival at an approved quarantine facility or SHA Plus-certified hotel, which includes payment for the required RT-PCR COVID-19 test (for Day 0-1), and antigen test (for when symptoms arise or on Day 6-7, whichever is sooner).
Note: For more information regarding the eligibility criteria, including the list of approved countries/territories, and the process, please check out Pacific Prime Thailand’s blog post on the topic.
You can also check out the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT’s) webpage or, if you’re currently abroad, contact your nearest Thai embassy or consulate.
COVID-19 insurance will be required for all non-Thai citizens traveling into Thailand.
The insurance plan needs to have a minimum coverage of at least USD $50,000 and provide coverage for COVID-19, including in-patient hospitalization.
In other words, this is if the patient has to be admitted overnight to a hospital. What’s more, the insurance plan will also need to be valid for the whole duration the traveler will be in Thailand.
In my experience dealing with fellow expats, COVID-19 insurance has been a sticking point. Some of the most commonly asked questions include:
Does my existing health insurance plan meet the Thai authority’s requirements?
If you already have an existing health insurance plan, you can check the policy terms and conditions. You’ll need to look out for what the minimum coverage provided is, whether you’ll be covered for COVID-19, and how long the policy is valid for. If you’re unsure of where to find this information, or if you’re unfamiliar with the insurance jargon, you can contact your insurer or broker to double check.
(If your existing health insurance plan meets requirements, please proceed to question 2. If it doesn’t meet the requirements or if you don’t have health insurance altogether, please proceed to question 3.
How can I prove that my existing health insurance plan is sufficient?
If your existing health insurance plan meets all the requirements, you’ll likely need to evidence this in the form of a table of benefits and a letter from the insurer, which will state key information such as your personal information, period of insurance, summary of benefits, and that the insurance meets the Thai authority’s requirements. You should request your insurer or broker to issue these documents to you before you plan a trip back to Thailand.
Where can I get the required cover as cheap as possible?
If you don’t have health insurance or if your plan doesn’t meet the requirements, you’ll need to look for COVID-19 insurance. There are a number of insurers that offer these plans and all it takes is a quick Google search to compare plans and find the cheapest one.
In my experience, the cost of the plan is of particular concern to expats on longer-term visas, as coverage is required for their entire duration in the country and these plans can be quite expensive.
For this reason, I recommend working with a health insurance broker like Pacific Prime Thailand. As we have unbiased, highly-trained insurance advisors on hand, we take the hassle out of comparing plans.
We also take into account your budget, help you find the cheapest and most attractive option, and carefully explain the ins and outs of your chosen policy. What’s more, we provide support in the event that you need to make a claim.