Bangkok pushes back its quarantine-free reopening to November
Though several countries, largely in Europe and the Caribbean, have reopened to fully vaccinated travelers, 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 Nov. 1, according to an update from the country’s tourism board. Here’s what you need to know.
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Thailand will reopen in four phases to fully vaccinated tourists, including Americans, who will be able to visit without having to quarantine.
Currently, travelers 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 Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. (Bangkok was initially expected to open to travelers 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 travelers, 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
If you have a large points balance or just earned a big welcome bonus, there are several ways to use your points in Thailand. However, keep in mind that the country has pretty affordable cash rates for hotels, so you may want to save your balance for another destination.
- Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, a Luxury Collection Hotel: As a Marriott Bonvoy Category 5 property, travelers can use a free night certificate or spend 35,000 points per night on standard dates.
- Conrad Bangkok: Hilton doesn’t have an award chart, so rates vary from 13,000 to 40,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
- Mandarin Oriental Bangkok: Rates start at $589 a night for October dates.
- The Siam: Rooms start at $471 a night for October dates
- Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui: Cash rates start at $458 per night in October.
- Four Seasons Resort, Chiang Mai: Cash rates start at $286 a night for October dates.
- Park Hyatt Bangkok: Award nights here cost 20,000 World of Hyatt points per night.
How to get to Thailand
You may not find much flight availability if you’re flying from the U.S., but consider flying to Thailand with Emirates, Etihad Airways or Qatar Airways.
Emirates recently launched the Emirates Skywards card with Barclays. You can also transfer points from the major transferable points programs (Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points and Capital One Miles) to Emirates Skywards at a 1 to 1 ratio. With Marriott Bonvoy, you can transfer points at a 3 to 1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.
If you were flying from New York-JFK to Bangkok (BKK) in Emirates business, for instance, a one-way ticket would cost you 131,000 Skywards. Out of Los Angeles (LAX), that price would jump to 145,000 Skywards.
Etihad Guest is a transfer partner of three major U.S. transferrable points programs: Amerian Express Membership Rewards, Capital One and Citi ThankYou. Transferring miles from these credit cards is the easiest way for American travelers to earn Etihad Guest miles quickly.
Economy flights to Bangkok are also pretty affordable for flights originating from the U.S., with flights starting at just under $700 for October dates.
If you have American AAdvantage miles, the program allows one-way redemptions, and you’ll avoid the high fuel surcharges British Airways and Iberia would impose.