Limestone karst mountains at James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay © mikolajn / Shutterstock
Limestone karst mountains at James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay © mikolajn / Shutterstock

Thailand is introducing a new long-term tourist visa - but there are conditions

TripFalcon September 23, 2020

Last Update: 2024-01-04 00:14:04

Quarantine getting to you? Craving an international escape? Come October, Thailand could be on your list of options – with, of course, a few caveats.

Having reported only around 3,500 infections and 59 deaths from coronavirus, Thailand has escaped relatively unscathed from the pandemic. And the country’s military-led government is keen to keep things this way. Thailand’s doors have been firmly closed to the vast majority of international visitors since March, but with more than 20% of its GDP stemming from tourism, this has had a massive negative impact on its economy. In an effort to kick-start this sector, in mid-September, the Thai government announced that it would yet again be allowing foreign tourists to enter the country.

The government is calling the plan the Special Tourist Visa (STV). On the surface, it’s a pretty straightforward deal: Potential tourists apply for the visa in advance, and if approved, must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, after which they’re free to explore the country.

But it's not quite that simple. The Bangkok Post has created a rather intimidating flowchart that attempts to explain the steps involved. These include having to hire the services of a third party to apply for the visa, paying in advance for a private or chartered direct flight to Bangkok, quarantine accommodation at a state-approved facility and all subsequent accommodation, providing proof of health insurance that covers up to $100,000, as well as a gamut of documents that includes a criminal background check.

If you’re willing or able to jump through all these hoops, the STV grants a stay of 90 days and can be extended twice, totalling 270 days – nearly nine months – in country. After quarantine in Bangkok, tourists are free to explore other parts of Thailand as they wish, but the government has indicated that their movements may be monitored by an app or wristband.

The STV program is set to kick off as soon as October, initially accommodating one to three chartered flights per week, granting access to a maximum of 1,200 tourists per month. If things go well, the government says it will increase these numbers in the future. It is still not clear which passport holders are eligible for the visa, nor if all tourists will really be expected to pay in advance for accommodation during the entirety of their stay. For details, Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn suggests contacting your local branch of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Source: lonelyplanet