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Thailand is reopening – and its new visa lets you stay for nine months

Long-term visitors will be allowed from next month, but the quarantine will remain in place

By
Huw Oliver
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We could all do with a sun-splashed adventure after the horror of 2020 – and now it looks as though you might be able to hit up the night markets of Bangkok or the mountains of Chiang Mai before the year is out. Thailand has already reopened its borders to foreigners with work permits, residency or families in the country. Now it has announced that nationwide leisure travel will also return.

The country’s government this week signed off on a new ‘special tourist visa’ scheme, which will allow non-residents to visit freely for the first time since the country’s borders closed in March. The Bangkok Post reports that the new visas are expected to launch on October 8.

But you won’t be able to pop over for Thailand for a couple of weeks’ sightseeing. The new visa scheme is aimed at long-staying visitors, who will still have to quarantine in a state-approved facility for 14 days on arrival. The visa will be valid for a 90-day visit and can be extended twice, to a maximum of just under nine months.

The country is due to receive its first foreign visitors next week when a flight carrying 120 travellers from Guangzhou in China lands on the resort island of Phuket, Thailand’s tourism minister Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters.

Only certain nationalities deemed ‘low risk’ will be allowed in to start with, a government spokesperson said. Visitors arriving on the new visas will have to provide proof of their long-term travel plans, such as booked accommodation, along with a negative test result from within 72 hours of arrival.

The new plans do not include an update on the proposed ‘Safe and Sealed’ programme, which was previously floated for October. This would have allowed you to fly into Phuket and self-isolate for 14 days at a designated beach resort. You’d be required to take a Covid-19 test at the beginning and end of the quarantine period, after which you’d be free to travel throughout the rest of the island. Leaving Phuket would require another seven days of quarantine and a third test. 

Both the new visa plan and the ‘Safe and Sealed’ scheme are aimed at reviving Thailand’s tourism industry, which contributes 20 percent of the country’s GDP, employing more than four million people in regular years.

Either way, if you’re looking for your fix of street food and tropical islands, Thailand could be back on the agenda – as long as you’re in it for the long haul. And as our essential Thailand travel guide shows, there’s plenty to stick around for.

Remember, many countries are still warning against all non-essential travel and some are quarantining all overseas arrivals, including their own returning citizens. Check all the relevant restrictions before you think about travelling.

Where can you travel right now? Here’s what you need to know.

How safe is flying and is it safe to stay in a hotel? We asked the experts.

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