Grapevine: May 7, 2021


Are the elderly banned from Thailand?

Our 83-year old and healthy letter writer from Canada, in the last edition of Pattaya Mail, suggested that it was impossible for him to come to Thailand because “medical insurance at my age is not available.” Actually that’s not true, so let’s examine the facts.

Covid-19 cover

Yes indeed, medical insurance against the dread disease is compulsory for all entrants to Thailand irrespective of immigration status. It is compulsory for all visas, visa exempts and permanent residents. But such insurance – Covid specific – is readily available online for inbound travellers to Thailand aged 0-99 years. For details go to The age of the applicant, assuming he or she is not a centenarian, is totally irrelevant. What determines the cost of the policy is the country of departure to Thailand and the length of the insurance required. Thai embassies and immigration accept policy documents from this website.

General medical insurance

Our correspondent is correct that no insurer is likely to grant general medical insurance to someone aged 83. The exceptions might be elderly gentlefolk who have been with their insurance company for many years and have managed to keep up with the premiums. There are also companies which might issue the insurance document to the advanced elderly for a rip-off fee, knowing full well that the exclusion clauses and self-payment provisos mean that there is no chance whatsoever of a successful claim.

But not every visa issued by Thai embassies abroad requires general medical clearance of at least 400,000 baht (in-patient) and 40,000 baht (out-patient). This admittedly odd requirement, at the present time, applies only to the Special Tourist Visa (STV) and any visa based on retirement whether “O” (3-12 months), “O/A” (one year) or “X” (ten years). It is absolutely true that anyone trying to come to Thailand with such a visa, whether new or as a re-entry, will be refused a certificate of entry without such an insurance document.

Yet nothing stops our 83 year old friend from applying, for example, for a 60 days tourist visa which could be extended here for a further month. If he wished, he could then apply at a Thai immigration office for an “O” three-months extension, linked to a one year extension of stay, and thus become a retiree like most of the Thai expat population these days. There is no general medical insurance requirement in that scenario from start to finish.

Another possibility, from Canada, would be to apply to the Thai embassy for a certificate of entry based on visa exempt status, i.e. 45 days on arrival. However, this option may be less flexible than the 60-days tourist visa. Visa exempt entrants may well have to show immigration authorities at the airport an onward air ticket to another country and may have some procedural problems if trying to convert to one year extension.

Other visa possibilities

There are umpteen other visas which do absolutely require Covid insurance, but not general medical insurance. They include visas for foreigners with families here, students, work permit holders and applicants, Elite visa holders, some property owners, Smart visa holders, volunteer workers, permanent residents, certain medical tourists and several other categories.

Nobody would suggest that travel to Thailand at present is easy. It might not even be a good idea for those looking for entertainment as the obvious facilities are firmly closed under government edict. The application procedure through Thai embassies can be very bureaucratic and frustrating. All that is true. But Grapevine’s point is that if an 83 year old farang wants to come to Thailand, he can. Hope to see you soon!