Bangkok pushes back its quarantine-free reopening to November

Sep 28, 2021

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Though several countries have reopened to fully vaccinated travellers, much of Asia has remained off-limits during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But Thailand has slowly been reopening several provinces through the Phuket Sandbox program (and, more recently, the confusingly named Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension).

Now, the country plans to reopen nine more areas, including Bangkok and Chiang Mai, starting 1 November, according to an update from the country’s tourism board. Here’s what you need to know.

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The latest

Bangkok’s Chinatown. Photo by Gabriel Perez/Getty Images

Thailand will reopen in four phases to fully vaccinated tourists who will be able to visit without having to quarantine.

Currently, travellers to the provinces that have already reopened, such as Phuket, must quarantine for a minimum of seven days before traveling elsewhere in Thailand. The new reopening plans are the most significant travel policy changes the country has enacted since the start of the pandemic.

Phuket reopened in what the country is calling the pilot phase in July.

Bangkok, along with nine other provinces including Krabi and Chiang Mai, will reopen in phase one, which will take place between 1 November and 30 November. (Bangkok was initially expected to open to travellers without a quarantine mandate in October, but it got pushed back a month to November.) Phase two will reopen 20 destinations in December, while phase three will begin in January of 2022.

The measure comes not a minute too soon for local tourism operators. Tourism is one of the nation’s most significant gross domestic product drivers (GDP), and preventative measures against COVID-19 resulted in a massive blow to the industry.

While the Phuket Sandbox was intended to jumpstart travel to the country, just 33,000 tourists arrived in Thailand through the program between July and mid-September. That’s a far cry from the 100,000 tourists the island expected by September. The low numbers are likely due to several factors, including distance and the difficulties in completing the Sandbox application.

But, if the country wants to avoid delays in reopening, it’ll need to combat a worrying surge in COVID-19 cases. Thailand has recorded 1.5 million positive cases of the coronavirus and more than 16,000 deaths. More than 400,000 of the positive cases were from the past month. And just over 23% of the country is fully vaccinated, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

Still, some areas in Thailand have already begun to reopen to travellers, so if you’re planning to travel to the country this year or next, you may want to start looking into your hotel and flight options. As the situation on the ground can always change, it’s best to book your award tickets and hotels now because you can always cancel later down the road if necessary.

Where to stay in Thailand

(Photo courtesy of The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok)

If you have a large points balance, there are several ways to use your points in Thailand. Just keep in mind that the country has pretty affordable cash rates for hotels, so you may want to save your balance for another destination.

How to get to Thailand

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Consider flying to Thailand with Emirates, Etihad Airways or Qatar Airways.

You can transfer points from Amex Membership Rewards to Emirates Skywards at a 1 to 1 ratio or with Marriott Bonvoy, which allows you to transfer points at a 3 to 1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.

Etihad Guest is a transfer partner of Amerian Express Membership Rewards, which is one of the easiest ways to earn Etihad Guest miles quickly.

You can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Qatar Privilege Club at a 3 to 1 ratio plus a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 60,000 points.

Featured image by George Pachantouris/Getty Images

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