Travelling to Thailand as a tourist under the Visa Exemption scheme


The Big Buddha Phuket

The Big Buddha Phuket

Note: As of the time of writing, Singapore residents are still advised to defer travelling to all countries except for Australia (excl. NSW), Brunei, New Zealand, China, Taiwan and Vietnam. If you still choose to travel to Thailand, visit this page from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for the latest information and eRegister your trip so that you can be contacted if an emergency occur.

Before we begin, I have created a Telegram group chat if you have any questions on entering Thailand or if you would like to share your experience.


Thailand has been opened for Tourism since October 2020 when the kingdom began issuing Special Tourist Visas (STV). Although it was a much-welcomed step in the right direction for a controlled opening of its borders, the requirements in place were overwhelming for travellers. I will not get into much detail but it required fully paid accommodation for the whole stay and even a bank statement showing at least 500,000 baht (~$21,000) worth of deposits.

On 18 December 2020, the kingdom eased requirements for citizens of 56 countries (including Singapore) and introduced the Visa Exemption Scheme. This new scheme still has a lot of strings attached but the application process seemed a little easier and quicker to get me interested.

Having stayed in the UAE for over 2 months, I was deciding between extending my visa there or spending the next few months in Thailand. I chose the latter but the tricky bit was that I had only 7 days left in my UAE visa when I started planning!

Hundreds of white hair later, I made it on the plane to Bangkok and am now on my 11th day in a quarantine hotel (review here) in Thailand.

In this article, I will be sharing all information that I wish I had easy access to before applying for a Certificate of Entry (COE) under the Visa Exemption scheme. I gathered a lot of great information from fellow travellers in this Facebook group.

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COVID-19 situation in Thailand

Thailand has been keeping the pandemic well within control with only about 4,000 total cases leading up to 20 Dec 2020. However, there has been an outbreak among foreign workers in the Samut Sakhon province in recent weeks. This province is now in strict lockdown.

Because of its proximity (<1 hour drive) to the capital, Bangkok, there has been a few cases leaking into the capital, causing other provinces like Surat Thani, Chiang Mai and Phuket to enforce strict quarantine regulations for domestic arrivals from Bangkok.

However, foreign tourist who arrived in Bangkok could still travel to other provinces without facing a second quarantine IF they travel straight to the airport from the quarantine hotel.

There has been a sharp drop in the number of new cases in the country over the past week and this regulation has now been lifted. Understandably, it will be reviewed from time to time.

Today, there were 237 new cases in the whole of Thailand. 202 cases came from Samut Sakhon and 17 cases from Bangkok.

Click here for historical data of COVID-19 cases in Thailand.


Key requirements

Here’s a breakdown of the key requirements to visit Thailand under the Visa Exemption Scheme:

  1. Hold a passport from a country in this list.

  2. Prove of adequate finances of at least THB 20,000 (S$888) per person or THB 40,000 (S$1,777) per family.

  3. Health insurance with COVID-19 coverage of at least USD 100,000.

  4. Negative PCR test result not more than 72 hours before departing flight.

  5. Quarantine of 15 nights in an Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) hotel upon arrival in Thailand.

  6. Stay a maximum of 45 days (incl. 15 days quarantine) with an option to extend a further 30 days for THB 1,900.

I know, point number 5 is the most difficult hurdle.

If you are a Singaporean (like me) and need to return to Singapore after visiting Thailand, you will be served a Stay Home Notice (SHN) for 14 days upon arrival in Singapore. You may serve your SHN at your own place of residence IF you are staying alone or if everyone in the household has the same travel history.

If all the above are doable, read on!

Application steps

Step 1: Prepare your documents

  1. Scan or take a very clear photo of the inner page (showing your photo) of your passport.

  2. Download your latest bank statement showing a balance of at least THB 20,000 or equivalent.

Step 2: Decide on your travel dates

You need to decide on your travel dates before moving to the next step. It is good to have a little flexibility as well. ± 3 days should be fine. I recommend deciding on a travel date at least 10 days ahead. I managed to initiate step 5 (insurance) just 5 days before my flight but it got pretty stressful.

Step 3: Check flight availability

Check if there are suitable flights on your preferred travel date and the few days around it. It does not have to be a direct flight.

Click here to check all the flights that are approved to land in Thailand.

Step 4: Get quotations from ASQ hotels

I highly recommend sending inquiries to as many ASQ hotels as possible that are within your budget. I wasn’t expecting a lot of them to have zero availability on my preferred travel date and wasn’t left with many options.

There is a fantastic website that lists ASQ hotels with the ability to filter by budget, room size and even special food requirements.

Send your inquiries directly to the hotels via the email addresses that are listed on the above website or through the inquiry form. Remember to include your travel date and number of occupants in your inquiries so that the hotels are able to check for availability. Also, check the hotel’s cancellation policy in case you are tested positive before the flight or got your flight cancelled.

You will be happy to know that most hotels are very responsive in replying emails. I hardly had to wait more than 2 hours for email replies.

I picked Mii Hotel as they were not too expensive (THB 34,900 nett), looked very modern in photos and were very responsive in replying my messages. I am now on my 11th day here and haven’t had much to complain about. I will be posting a review on my stay very soon. Be sure to join the Telegram chat or like Suitesmile’s Facebook page to be notified when the review is posted.

Step 5: Insurance

Steps 1 to 4 were essentially the ‘research’ part of this process. Once you have those stuff sorted out, you will have all the information you need to start the application process.

It is not difficult to get insurance that covers COVID-19. I got my 90-days insurance coverage from AXA Thailand for THB 7,722 (S$343). I used TransferWise to make the payment for minimal fees and fastest transfer speed. AXA Thailand can be easily reached by sending a message on their Facebook page.

If you would like to get an insurance certificate urgently, get it from Tune Protect. A 90-day coverage costs THB 8,000 and you will receive the certificate within minutes.

If you are flying to Thailand on Emirates with a round trip ticket, you will receive complimentary insurance (with AIG) for your whole stay in Thailand up to a year. To receive ‘the proof of insurance’ from AIG, you will need to forward your flight details here.

Note 1: You do not need to get your insurance coverage from a Thai insurance company. It can be from any foreign company that clearly mentions COVID-19 coverage in the certificate and covers a minimum of USD 100,000 in medical expenses.

Note 2: Be aware that some insurance companies do not cover asymptomatic cases. Read the policy wording before deciding on one.

My insurance certificate

My insurance certificate

Step 6: Register for Certificate of Entry (COE)

Once you have paid for and received your insurance certificate, you may register for COE through this link.

COE registration page

COE registration page

IMPORTANT: Choose the right option under “Types of permitted persons”. If you are applying under the Visa Exemption Scheme, as described in this page, click on “Medium Term Visitor – Visa Exemption”.

There are some fields in the form that can be confusing. Here’s what you should know:

  1. Leave “Name of Agency’s company” and “Phone number of agency company” blank if you are not making travel arrangements through an agency.

  2. “Position” refers to your job position or can be left blank (like what I did).

  3. “Overseas address” refers to your home address in your home country.

  4. “Current address in Thailand” refers to the address of your planned accommodation after quarantine. I put in the hotel’s phone number in this field.

  5. Under “Attachment, for further consideration”, I submitted my bank statement.

  6. Under the “Medical Insurance” section, I attached both my insurance certificate and payment schedule. I guess the certificate would have been enough.

  7. IMPORTANT: Double-check if you have entered the correct email address and take a screenshot of the 6-digit code at the end of your application.

You will receive an email once the application is approved. Mine was approved within 1 working day.

This approval does not mean that you will receive your COE. It basically means that you are now approved to apply (step 9) for a COE.

Step 7: Book inbound and outbound flights

To proceed with the application, you will need to submit your inbound flight (to Bangkok) and outbound flight (to prove that you have plans to leave Thailand).

For the inbound flight (to Bangkok) I went ahead to book my award reservation with Qatar Airways Business Class from Dubai to Bangkok (via Doha) with 52,250 Qmiles (transferred from Citibank Singapore). It was my first points/miles transfer to Qatar Airways and the miles were in my account within 2 calendar days from initiation date.

For the outbound flight, I booked an award flight from Bangkok to Tokyo on Japan Airlines with 15,000 Alaska miles. As an Alaska Gold member, I had the flexibility to cancel/change this flight for free if I choose to extend my stay in Thailand. This outbound flight was within 45 days from my planned arrival date.

If you are still undecided on when to leave Thailand, you can probably get away with a cheap outbound flight to a neighbouring country.

Step 8: Book ASQ hotel

Before paying and booking your ASQ hotel, you will need to submit 3 key documents to the hotel. The COE approval, your insurance certificate and your flight booking confirmation.

I made the payment with a credit card authorization form provided by the hotel and received my ASQ booking confirmation within 2 hours.

My ASQ booking confirmation

My ASQ booking confirmation

Step 9: Book accommodation after quarantine

I highly recommend booking a hotel that offers free cancellation and does not require prepayment.

I booked a 7-night stay at DoubleTree by Hilton Phuket with my Hilton points. Booking award reservations with Hilton points gave me free cancellation/change up to 24 hours before check-in.

Step 10: Apply for Certificate of Entry

Almost there!

Once you have completed all the steps above, you can now apply for a COE by adding the required documents. To do this, click on “Confirm/Edit travel” on this page and enter your details.

You can now fill in further information on your trip and upload more documents. The required documents are:

  1. Inbound flight booking confirmation

  2. Outbound flight booking confirmation

  3. ASQ booking confirmation

Like Step 6, there are some fields in the form that can be confusing. Here’s what you should know:

  1. “Last port” refers to the departing city of the final flight to Thailand.

  2. “Port of arrival in Thailand” refers to the city in Thailand that you will be arriving in. (e.g. Bangkok)

I got my approval on the next working day.

Step 11: RT-PCR test

Your RT-PCR test has to be done within 72 hours from the departing flight. Remember, only the RT-PCR method is allowed.

My RT-PCR test result

My RT-PCR test result

Step 12: Fit-to-Fly Health Certificate

If you did your RT-PCR test in a clinic, you could get the doctor to write a Fit-to-Fly Health Certificate to show that you are fit to fly.

Else, you may get it from Dr. Donna Robinson of MedConsult Bangkok Medical Clinic via an online video consultation. It costs THB 400 (S$18) and payment can be made via PayPal. You may reach the clinic on their website, WhatsApp or email.

I used MedConsult’s service for my Fit to Fly certificate and they were very responsive throughout.

My Fit-to-fly certificate

My Fit-to-fly certificate

Step 13: Additional forms

Although these forms can be filled up upon arrival in Thailand, it will make your arrival a little smoother if you have it all prepared.

Step 14: Pre-flight document check

These are the documents that you need to PRINT before heading to the airport to fly to Thailand:

  1. Certificate of Entry

  2. RT-PCR result

  3. Fit-to-fly Certificate

  4. Inbound flight confirmation

  5. ASQ hotel confirmation

  6. Insurance certificate

  7. T.8 Questionnaire

  8. Declaration form

  9. Outbound flight confirmation

  10. Bank statement

  11. Accommodation after quarantine

Step 15: Get on that plane!

Believe it or not, this part wasn’t as straight forward as I thought. Things can still go wrong until you get in that plane to Thailand.

The key is to be at the check-in counter early. Most check-in counters open 3 hours before the flight. There was already a really long line for Economy check-in when I was there 3 hours before the flight. So, it wouldn’t hurt to arrive about 4 hours before your flight.

Here’s where I had a problem. The Qatar Airways check-in manager at Dubai International Airport kept asking me for a “visa” even though I told him that I am going to Thailand on the Visa Exemption Scheme. He wouldn’t budge and wasn’t going to allow me to board without a “visa”.

I scrambled through some official Thai Embassy website to show him the line, “Passport holders from the following countries/territory are not required to obtain a visa when entering Thailand for tourism purposes”. He then made a few phone calls for about 10 minutes before apologising and printing out my boarding passes. Urgh, after all my hard work over the past few days, I could do without that mini-heart attack!

Once you have received your boarding passes, nothing much else can go wrong. Do not miss your boarding time and you are more or less cleared to enter Thailand!

Transiting in Doha went smoothly too.

Made it on the plane!

Made it on the plane!

Step 16: Arriving in Thailand

Arrival in Bangkok went very smooth. I went from plane to luggage within 45 minutes! I got a 45-days stamp on my passport, as I should.

Most, if not all, ASQ hotels include airport transfer in their packages. All I had to do was tell one of the airport staff the name of my hotel and I was directed to the mini bus to take me to Mii Hotel Srinakarin for my 15-nights quarantine (review coming up soon!).

Bottom line

I’ve travelled to Malaysia and UAE since the beginning of the pandemic but this has been the most complicated. Till the next rule-change, this is how you can travel to Thailand under the Visa Exemption Scheme. Join the Telegram group chat if you have any questions for me or other travellers to Thailand.

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