By Barry Kenyon

Anything and everything about Thailand
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Jun
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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by Jun »

Flight ~£500 upwards. One's normal airline might not be operating.
Visa £30 + Secure postage both ways £13.80

Insurance: TBC Probably £2~300, but is very difficult to find suitable policy. Note, the TGIA insurance only covers covid-19, so most responsible people will want other insurance for broader medical insurance.

COE: I haven't checked if a fee applies here
RT-PCR test: £100~500
Fit to fly: £40 ?

Quarantine: 30,000 baht upwards. Interesting options perhaps near 50,000 baht
Cost of hospital if failing a PCR test TBC. Beware there are many insurance policies which do not cover this.

Thankfully, after all that, I see some of the hotel prices are below normal levels, so things might improve after quarantine.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by gerefan »

Agree Jun’s figures except somewhere half decent for quarantine will be a bit more than 30,000 baht.

Flights from London are now going up as Christmas approaches (nothing too bad) but I see Qatar flights in January are still pre covid prices at £459 (including baggage). Interestingly the hype, fear, scaremongering etc., about prices never being the same post covid doesn’t seem to have materialised ...yet!

No direct flights from Heathrow apart from the rare ones with Eva. No BA flights (thank goodness) and no Thai Airways (anyway would you sit in an aircraft full of Thai’s who don’t need a covid test?).

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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If you are living in Thailand under the "O" retirement visa, you have nothing to worry about as long as you stay in Thailand. But if you exit Thailand, retirement visa or not, you could encounter problems trying to come back.

In my opinion, if you are an "O" retirement visa holder, currently living in Thailand, the safest thing to do in order to be able to remain in Thailand is to do just that - remain in Thailand.
___________________________________________________________

Pattaya expat retirees worry about their immigration future

By Barry Kenyon

November 29, 2020

Thousands of elderly expats are concerned about the prospects for their one year extensions of stay, based on retirement, as Thai embassies abroad appear to be insisting on two insurance policies to return to Thailand. Many are fearful of leaving Thailand in case they don’t qualify to return.

All entrants to Thailand, as is well known, now require Covid-19 insurance to the value of US$100,000 (just over 3 million baht) as part of the package of documents they require to obtain the certificate of entry from their local Thai embassy. This insurance is very easy to obtain online from the Thai General Insurance Association which levies a straight fee dependent, not on the age of the applicant as long as he or she is 0-99 years, but on the country of departure. As an example, a 12-months policy costs 23,040 baht if travelling from UK, or 4,480 baht for a two months’ tourist holiday. No matter whether you are 9 years old or 90.

For most categories able to apply to come to Thailand – diplomats, business people, work permit holders, students, Elite visa holders, some property owners, farang with Thai dependants, film crews, tourists with a two months visa, etc., etc., – there is no further insurance requirement. The only necessity is cover for future coronavirus infection. Not hospitalization cover for any other reason.

However, a few categories do require an additional insurance for general (non-Covid) medical purposes to the value of 400,000 baht (inpatient) and 40,000 baht (outpatient). This requirement was introduced in 2019 for holders of the “O/A” one year visa, based on retirement, issued by Thai embassies abroad. As these retirees have tried to extend for a further year at Thai immigration, they have been told to obtain such insurance from a Thai company. The problem, of course, is that the Thai insurers do not welcome elderly foreigners trying to insure comprehensively for the first time. True, some companies will consider applications from those in their 70s, but usually require a comprehensive medical report and detailed questionnaire. Exclusions and get-out clauses are common and are hardly surprising.

The additional general medical insurance requirement also applies to the “O/X” ten-year visa (an expensive and complex choice) as well as the recently-announced Special Tourist Visa (STV), but that particular option is restricted to applicants from countries with low infection rates which rules out US, UK and most of Europe. Over the past two weeks, many Thai embassies have added the second insurance requirement to those seeking an “O” one year visa for retirement. The inference is that applicants will need Covid-19 insurance and a separate policy for other potential sickness.

Pattaya expat Charles Williams, who is 78, summed up the dilemmas. “I have an annual extension of stay, based on an “O” visa given to me five years ago at the local immigration. I do not need any kind of insurance to renew it. But if I leave Thailand and want to return, I am likely to run into the double whammy of needing two insurance policies. The Covid 19 one is no problem as it is available cheaply to anyone up to 99 years, but the general medical cover will be impossible for me at my age and with my heart condition. I do have my own British insurance but have been advised that the rule is now Thai policies only.”

The net result is that Charles fears leaving the country because of problems ahead with the Thai embassy and wonders whether he will have to remain in Thailand for the rest of his life or lose his right to stay here.

Another elderly expat, American James Montgomery, said he was considering changing his status from retiree to Elite visa holder which would enable him to return to Thailand with coronavirus insurance only. There is no requirement then to have general medical insurance. James is currently applying for a five year Elite visa for 500,000 baht, knowing that the price rises to 600,000 baht in the new year.

A third expat from Norway said he was looking into the option, if he went abroad, of using his purchase of a condominium as the basis for a return visa instead of relying on his retirement extension.

It should be noted that each Thai embassy abroad is responsible for the content of its website. There are ambiguities. Thus the Thai embassy in London suggests that those who hold a current (not expired) “O” visa and a valid re-entry permit might be able to return with Covid-19 insurance only. But the embassies in Switzerland and in Denmark specifically rule out this loophole.

The whole confusion has likely arisen because several government agencies are involved in visa regulations: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (which runs the embassies), the Thai immigration bureau (which can issue “O” visas and annual extensions) and the Tourist Authority of Thailand (which regularly publishes visa updates). The time for them to start talking together is already overdue. No question about that.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Mass tourism to Thailand might never return

By Barry Kenyon

December 4, 2020

The governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand has intimated that the country may never get back to welcoming 40 million foreign visitors every year. Yuthasak Supasorn said that although Thailand had relaxed entry restrictions for some groups in the past two months, there were only 1,200 international arrivals in October, a far cry from the three million a month prior to the pandemic.

He was referring to the fact that more categories of foreigners could now apply for the essential certificate of entry from their home-based Thai embassy. The newer groups have included farang who have bought their own condominium here and investors who have obtained the Elite visa. There is also a 60-day tourist visa available from most countries, including the US, the UK and most of mainland Europe. However, the need to quarantine in a registered hotel for two weeks on arrival is proving to be a negative factor for many.

Yuthasak stressed that the resurgence of the coronavirus is likely to hamper international travel for some time. According to a survey by 29 TAT overseas offices, tourists said they will be unlikely to take overseas trips before next summer. Even then, there may be resistance as air travel is likely to become more expensive and with extra rules. Even the rebound from China may be slower than predicted as it was far from clear that the Chinese government would be encouraging its citizens to take overseas vacations in 2021 rather than domestic ones.

The governor said the most sensible tourist policy for Thailand was to boost domestic trips by Thais and expats to achieve 1.2 trillion baht from 170 million internal trips in the calendar year 2022. As regards the foreign market, the best estimate was that 8 million non-Thais would enter from mid-2021 to mid-2022. He suggested that Thailand should promote itself as a holiday paradise for the better-off providing safety, hygiene and a focus on higher spending.

Jason Hammond, spokesman for the Pacific Asia Travel Association, said that Thailand’s tourist industry would certainly improve once a safe vaccine was available globally in 2021 or 2022, but might look different. “It might be harder to offer cheap vacations like in the past because costs are rising all the time including more expensive aircraft seats and the possibility of mandatory insurance of some kind.”

He added that the numbers of westerners visiting Thailand had been going down for many years and there was no reason for this trend to reverse as the country was no longer seen as a cheap, long-haul destination.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Barry Kenyon wrote:
Fri Dec 04, 2020 5:45 pm
to mid-2022. He suggested that Thailand should promote itself as a holiday paradise for the better-off providing safety, hygiene and a focus on higher spending.
Focus on higher spending = charge as much as you can get away with?!

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Competition will limit the ability of Thailand to push up prices.
Also, some of the hotels and guesthouses in places like Pattaya will have a hard time converting to a premium business model.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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gerefan wrote:
Fri Dec 04, 2020 9:23 pm
Focus on higher spending = charge as much as you can get away with?!
For whatever reasons, if Barry Kenyon is correct, then it seems to me Thailand wants to attract high end tourists seeking luxury, at least for now.

I believe he is correct about the quarantine rules being a major deterrent. I don't see how Thailand can avoid that until a reliable vaccine is available.

Also, in order to attract tourists I think Thailand needs to do away with some of their insurance rules. I don't see why proof of insurance that would pay for hospitalization in Thailand wouldn't be enough no matter the source of the insurance. It makes zero sense to me that it has to be purchased from a Thai company. Whose brother-in-law is hoping to make a fortune from that rule?

And this 40,000 baht outpatient rule - what would be wrong with Thailand setting up something akin to escrow accounts where those who prefer to self-insure could deposit the 40,000 baht and it has to stay there to pay for outpatient bills if the person cannot or does not come up with the money out of pocket. Just like the 800,000 baht retirement visa rule, if any of that money is used, then it has to be replenished within a specified period of time.

I believe if Thailand wants to resurrect the tourism industry, the powers-that-be need to understand and deal with foreign travelers in a way palatable to them. In my opinion, what Thailand is doing at the moment - that isn't it.

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Don’t rely on a passport and a certificate of Covid-19 vaccination to revive Thai tourism any time soon

By Barry Kenyon

December 5, 2020

Business hopes in Thai tourist destinations, such as Pattaya and Phuket, that a soon-to-be-available vaccine will bring about a quick international recovery by mid-2021 are sadly premature. The logistics of vaccinating the necessary 70 percent of the Thailand’s population of around 67 million people any time soon are overwhelming as they are throughout the world with its total population of 7.8 billion. Nothing on this scale has ever been tried in human history.

Firstly, the vaccines and vials to house them have to be manufactured in huge quantities and placed in cold storage. They then have to be transported to health centres which will need to be freeze-farms capable of having facilities to deal with temperatures of minus-70C. Then there’s a list of roll-out priority groups: firstly front-line health workers, then vulnerable groups such as the elderly. And most vaccines currently on trial require a booster jab some weeks after the first. We could be looking at a time scale of at least two years to achieve even a modest herd immunity.

Although the available vaccines are perceived to have a 90 percent success rate in trials, that figure could drop over time or outside of clinical conditions. Nobody knows. Moreover, some people – for example many cancer patients – are unsuitable for vaccination and there is a growing anti-vax movement worldwide which is discouraging the whole notion of technology solving the problem. The fact that several US presidents feel the need to be on TV receiving their jabs tells you a great deal.

Thus, the mere availability of a vaccine does not automatically translate into life returning to normal. In Thailand, many victims of the pandemic – mostly found on airport arrival or in quarantine – are capable of community transmission but are also asymptomatic with uncertain consequences for the general population that could be with us for years. Previous experience suggests caution too. Millions died in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, but its descendant “seasonal flu” still kills every year. According to the United Nations, HIV has killed 12 million people worldwide including 600,000 as late as the calendar year 2019. Vaccination is a weapon but not a total solution.

Some optimistic commentators are predicting that travel to Thailand by mid-2021 will require only a passport and a certificate of Covid-19 vaccination. This is most unlikely as the virus will still be capable to being passed to the general population on a huge scale. By that time, the total number of Thais to have been vaccinated is likely to be no higher than 25 percent. Nobody is even guessing about foreign expats, mostly vulnerable through age, who doubtless will need to pay through the nose to be jabbed. Indeed, vaccination proof could be one more document to add to your documentary list to obtain the one year extension of stay from your local immigration bureau. Not now but later.

In reality, most immigration policy has already been set for the whole of 2021 and probably longer. Those wishing to enter Thailand seek the approval of Thai embassies abroad, provide a portmanteau of documents and possess coronavirus insurance. Some may also require general medical cover beyond Covid-19. However, it is possible that possession of a vaccination certificate might avoid compulsory quarantine on entry as already tentatively mooted by health ministry officials.

What is clear is that everyone needs to stock up on masks, not throw them away, observe social distancing and frequently wash hands. Tracing and testing still have a long future in Thailand with its leaky borders and the ever-present danger of migrants slipping into the country unobserved and untested. The numbers of foreign visitors to Thailand will rise modestly as more potential tourists learn about the mechanics of dealing with their local Thai embassy. But Pattaya’s bars, massage parlours and fun palaces won’t suddenly fill up because a vaccine has been found. This life-saving development is perhaps the end of the beginning. But sadly it’s not the beginning of the end.

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As Thailand eases foreigner entry, her neighbors double-down on restrictions

By Barry Kenyon

December 7, 2020

The Thai government daily is coming under sustained pressure to liberalize immigration restrictions on foreigners wanting to visit the country. Business owners in Pattaya and Phuket, tourism pressure groups and spokespersons for hotel chains are united in demanding the immediate start of travel bubbles with suitable partner countries and the shortening (or even the abolition) of quarantine requirements. And the government often responds sympathetically. Just this week the secretary of Thailand’s National Security Council, General Nattaphon Nakphanich, said he was discussing with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “more convenience” to potential foreign travellers over visa issues.

However, the situation in nearby countries is very different with very few foreigners, and no tourists, allowed to land at airports. All land borders between Thailand and her neighbors remain closed to foreigners except for very limited exceptions for certain guest workers seeking employment in Thailand after compulsory quarantine. Cambodia in recent days has actually stiffened immigration regulations by abolishing the so-called sponsorship scheme under which business people and experts had been allowed to self-quarantine at a place of their choice. Starting this month, all foreigners must quarantine for 14 days at a government-registered facility. They are not five star hotels.

Cambodia, which is just as dependent on foreign tourism as Thailand, also has a complex permission system from its embassies worldwide. No tourist visas are granted and visas on arrival were suspended last March. Business visas are possible but a deposit of US$2,000 is required to cover testing and quarantine costs, whilst medical insurance of at least US$50,000 is also needed along with Covid-19 tests prior to departure. Locals in the tourist town of Siem Reap say most restaurants and bars are now closed and the once-vibrant Angkor Wat temple site is deserted.

The situation is similar in other neighboring countries. Tourist entry to Laos and Vietnam is not possible and the loophole for diplomats and highly skilled foreign workers is dependent on written permission from the foreign ministry bureaucrats. Flights to and from Vientiane are sporadic and the wearing of masks in public was recently made mandatory. As regards Vietnam, the country has suspended all inbound commercial flights – except for repatriation of Vietnamese citizens – from December 1 until further notice. Anyone not wearing a mask in public or disposing of it inappropriately is subject to an unspecified fine.

Myanmar has some of the strictest entry rules of all. Only foreigners with a “compelling case” can be considered by the appropriate Myanmar embassy and the compulsory quarantine period is 28 days: 21 days in a government facility and a further week at your home or hotel address. Malaysia does appear to be allowing back foreigners with long stay visas, such as the second-home permit for 10 years, but tourism is banned and a government agency issues entry certificates based on voluminous documentation. Masks must be worn in crowded areas and on public transport and all foreign student arrivals were recently banned until the new year at the earliest.

One can only hope that Thailand’s hitherto successful policy of identifying coronavirus sufferers in quarantine and limiting community transmission cases by an effective trace and test system can be maintained. But there are worrying signs. In Pattaya, for example, several malls are now relying on a voluntary temperature-taking machine without human supervision to ensure that all visitors record their entry on an app or with a pen. Given its leaky borders with neighboring countries, Thailand has been very lucky so far. But a second-wave outbreak would likely see the end of all visa liberalization talk.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Barry Kenyon wrote:
Tue Dec 08, 2020 9:32 am
a second-wave outbreak would likely see the end of all visa liberalization talk.
Barry is more optimistic than I am. So far any talk of visa liberalization has been just that - talk. I think most of us are well aware of how many times talk, in the end, amounted to nothing. We will see.

It seems obvious to me that Thailand's powers-that-be would like to bring relief to the tourism industry, but not at the cost of any risk of bringing Covid into Thailand and potentially starting an epidemic. As I've said, Thailand simply is not equipped to be able to deal with a massive outbreak. The powers-that-be know that. Despite the tourism crisis the potential health crisis is the priority. People having money problems compared to large numbers of people dying from Covid - Covid prevention is the priority. It is hard for me to disagree with that stance.

Will an effective vaccine solve the problem? We just have no way of knowing yet. Even if an effective vaccine opens Thailand's borders, the next question would be just how many tourists will actually come in numbers that can rescue the tourism industry.

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