Fifteen nights isolating in Bangkok
Visiting the U.K. in July 2020, I planned to return to Thailand in September yet only certain visas were being accepted. After correspondence with Chiang Mai University I discovered that applications for the Education (ED) Visa were not opening until December. Therefore, I waited patiently as the conditions in both Thailand and U.K. continually changed. This post recounts the process of returning to Thailand, from application to subsequent quarantine hotel on arrival.
Application Process for (Non Immigrant) Education Visa
When the applications for Education (only formal) resumed, there were various changes due to Covid-19. Steps 1-4 below are the same as pre Covid-19 requirements as referred to in Thai Language Study Level 1. At step 5 the process differs, previously applicants needed to visit a Thai embassy but currently applications are completed remotely. Finally, steps 7-9 are specific requirements from Chiang Mai University.
Preparation of Quarantine Hotel
From mid 2020 everyone entering Thailand must stay at an Alternative State Quarantine hotel for 15 total days. When I arranged my journey in December there were 120 hotels enrolled and they are partnered with local hospitals. The hotels are mostly in Bangkok, with several in Phuket and Pattaya, and range in price between £600 and £3000. After applying for the Visa at https://thaievisa.go.th, I posted my passport which was then returned to me within 5 working days. Subsequently, I started the list of following requirements: (see the full list here: https://london.thaiembassy.org/en/publicservice/requirements).
Preparation of Required Documents
- Hotel Booking and Flight Schedule* – Your quarantine hotel/flight must be booked first so you can confirm dates for the following documents. Print copies for travel. Approximate combined cost £1100.
- Health Insurance – Covering medical expense caused by COVID-19 with minimum coverage of $100000. See a list of providers offering this: https://covid19.tgia.org/. Be sure to read the policies carefully and print copies for travel. Approximate cost for 3 months £175.
- Declaration Form – This form is completed and uploaded to your COE application. Print for travel.
- Certificate of Entry (COE) – A one page document stating that you are eligible to enter Thailand. You can use this link for full instructions: https://coethailand.mfa.go.th/. Ensure you carry printouts of this.
- T8 Form – The immigration form that you always fill out when entering Thailand.
- COVID RT-PCR Test within 72 hours of departure – This method of swab test with a lab report showing no evidence of COVID-19 is mandatory. Check with your airline before regarding 72 hour policy as this information can be conflicting. Is it 72 hours from test time or result time? Print your lab report for travel. Approximate cost £150.
- Fit to Fly Medical Certificate – A statement from a GP that you are free of symptoms and fit to fly as scheduled. You can obtain this as soon as you receive your negative test result. Print copies for travel. Approximately £10. From April 2021 this was removed as a requirement.
*I flew with Etihad Airways as they were reasonably priced and they had favourable layover times. Furthermore, I booked The Green View Hotel in Bangkok, 25km from Suvarnabhumi airport.
Arrival at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok
Once disembarking, there was an immediate staff presence to gesture you towards immigration. I reached a cordoned off area, with chairs for passengers to sit, present their documents and have temperature recordings. After my documents were checked, I was given a sticker and passed through immigration. Further, when I exited arrivals, the staff from all the respective ASQ hotels were waiting. Within five minutes I boarded a minivan to Green View Hotel, a half hour journey. The process from disembarking to arriving at the hotel was quicker and less hassle than I had expected.
The Green View Hotel: Chosen Quarantine Hotel
On check-in I showed my passport and COE and was given a brief of the schedule, before heading to my room. The room itself was perfectly adequate; providing views of the garden and containing all essentials including masks and digital thermometer. Meanwhile, I needed to take my temperature twice daily for the nurse who phoned to record it. The first afternoon I traded, made phone calls and then dinner arrived at 5.00pm. Certainly I was eager for a good sleep due to travelling for over 20 hours, so settled down at 9pm.
Settling in and keeping entertained
I recognised that creating and maintaining a routine was particularly important during my stay. I aimed to balance productivity and ‘downtime’, the former to give purpose, the latter to recharge physically and mentally. Each day closely followed the usual schedule I would aim to accomplish: language study, blog development, trading, reading and exercise. Further, factoring in meal times, temperature checks and phone calls resulted in the days passing quickly. The experience enabled me to reflect and focus on activities I might normally create an excuse not to do.
Specific activities and daily tasks
By Day 3 I had adopted a loose but effective schedule. I woke up to the sound of the breakfast trolley and then ate, either before or after a short workout. Subsequently, I worked on web development and Thai study – either Duolingo or written notes until lunch arrived. In addition, I switched my PalFish Free Talk status to online for students to call, of which several engaged. Whilst eating lunch and dinner I enjoyed some football highlights or other YouTube videos. At times I would take a welcome break from screen time whilst eating lunch. Note, my routine slightly changed when I underwent the COVID tests and spent time outside the room (see below).
I aimed to exercise at least once per day, usually in the afternoon after my trading work, but some days twice. Likewise, once I implemented this, the physical and mental benefits were invaluable. Moreover, some afternoons and evenings involved phone calls with my girlfriend, family or friends. At dinner I chilled for a while, reading news or watching YouTube. After dinner I usually logged onto PalFish again as many students enjoy evening study. Lastly, I immersed myself in a good book and aimed to settle down to sleep around 10pm.
Food in my Quarantine Hotel
My meals were placed on a table just outside the room followed by a knock on the door. The menu was varied with a mix of Thai and International cuisine and the portion sizes were certainly substantial. Breakfast included a meal along with bread, fruit and milk, lunch and dinner included a meal with fruit or dessert. In addition, I had already carried snacks and my girlfriend’s parents delivered food, so I had more than enough.
COVID Tests – Days 5 and 12
My first test took place on Day 5 in a communal area setup with chairs and tables. The process lasted no longer than a few minutes and I then returned to my room. Slightly uneasy about receiving the short, sharp pain from the swab, I went for the second test on Day 12. Again the process was fast and I felt content that quarantine testing was complete (provided the result was negative).
Room Cleaning and ‘downtime’ – Days 8 and 13
Having not received a test result by Day 8, I received a call asking if I wanted my room cleaning. A nurse accompanied me to a room with ventilation and refreshments where I waited. Within 15 minutes I was back in my room but the change of scenery was enjoyable. Similarly, on Day 13, I hadn’t received a result, so assumed I would be permitted ‘relax’ time. A call duly arrived asking if I wanted room cleaning and that I could have one-hour outside the room. I walked the circumference of the swimming pool several times before perching on a sun lounger. Meanwhile, with just one day left I felt content returning to the air-conditioned room and continuing my schedule.
Concluding Remarks on Quarantine Hotel Process
Having completed the quarantine, my advice is to ensure you have a purpose each day. Generally I achieved this by having a consistent routine and sensible targets. The experience became quite normal and on reflection, re-entering the outside world after almost felt strange. That said, I was extremely excited to reunite with my girlfriend and Chiang Mai after 6 months. Thailand has such an incredible food scene, interesting culture and remarkable nature and history. These made quarantine worthwhile and now back in Chiang Mai, I’ve commenced studying and continued my work projects.