Bangkok pushes back its quarantine-free reopening to November

Sep 27, 2021

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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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The latest

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

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

(Photo courtesy of The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok)

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.

How to get to Thailand

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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

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.

Screengrab from Emirates

Etihad

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.

Qatar

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.

Featured photo by Peerapas Mahamongkolsawas/Getty Images

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