Nearly all Southeast Asian countries are eager to attract international tourists who are well on their way to the “slump” after two years of almost complete absence. Domestic critics of Thailand’s recent entry policy, which began on April 1, argue that the country still has stricter rules and regulations for entry than its neighbors. However, a comparison suggests that this is too much of a simplification.
However, Thailand and Cambodia are the only regional countries that have waived the need for pre-flight Covid testing for vaccinated travelers. Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam require proof of negative Covid status before flight every 72-48 hours. This is usually the RT-PCR version, but if lateral flow testing is acceptable, it must be submitted for a professional lab report.
Thailand has been criticized for the cumbersome nature of its Thai passport system. Neighboring countries, however, have a similar pre-arrival registration system. For the Philippines, participants must register online with the Bureau of Quarantine to obtain a QR code and later update the information with their seat number and RT-PCR test result on the actual day of departure. Singapore is pushing for registration through an “automated tool”, while Vietnam requires you to complete an automated passenger declaration form just 12 hours before departure. By the way, Cambodia has the easiest entry requirements in the entire region.
Mandatory health insurance for Covid19 infection is not unique to Thailand. Their minimum requirement of $20,000 is less than the Philippine $35,000, while the Malaysian government website asks for “a relevant insurance policy” without further explanation. Singapore has a $30,000 requirement for unvaccinated arrivals, while Cambodia requires bail to cover hospitalization for anyone who tests positive for the virus.
It’s true, of course, that Thailand is the only country in the region to insist on an RT-PCR test on arrival – with pre-booked hotel quarantine mandatory until the result is available a few hours later. Beginning April 1, participants will also have to take a self-collection lateral flow test on day five and send the result to the same hotel. Whether this works well in practice remains to be seen.
In general, the generalization that Thailand is more bureaucratic in immigration procedures and less tourist-friendly than other countries in the region is debatable at best. But the country that has made the biggest leap in boosting international tourism in Cambodia, which has vaccinated 93 percent of the population.
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