Revised UK travel rules unexpectedly exempt Thai holidays

Brits not banned from Thailand, but disincentives abound.

Against all predictions, the latest UK traffic lights system (August 5) of grading countries according to coronavirus risk sees Thailand remaining at amber rather than moving to red.  This means in practice that UK visitors to Thailand would not to have to self-quarantine at home on their return provided they are completely vaccinated, but must take PCR tests before and after flights.

Because known infections in Thailand are now around 20,000 per day and rising, it had been assumed that UK authorities would strongly dissuade against Thai holidays by a red signal and insist on 10 days compulsory hotel quarantine in UK on return at a new price of 2,285 pounds.  It is being widely assumed in the travel industry that the “rescue” of Thailand is to keep alive the Sandbox concept of vacations currently on probation in Phuket and nearby islands

British transport secretary Grant Shapps said that the newly-released traffic lights update was meant to allow Brits to travel abroad with more security as the system was based on the best medical advice.  Many of Britain’s favorite resorts abroad are now green plus Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore in Asia, although those particular states do not currently allow holidaymakers anyway.  Cambodia and Vietnam remain cautionary orange, whilst the Philippines retains its no-go red status.

But British travel agents warn that the traffic lights could blink again and that amber countries could turn red overnight.  If Thailand were to assume a red mantle, vacationers’ insurance would likely be invalidated and huge extra costs might be incurred as people tried to change their flights to beat any imposed deadline.  In fact, not many countries have moved from orange to red in the latest shakeup, apart from Mexico.

Mark Green, who heads a consortia of travel agents specializing in long haul, said, “Apart from the Sandbox idea in Phuket, which is not doing well anyway, there is virtually no interest in Thailand right now because of the closure of entertainment places, the ban on booze in restaurants and the spike in infections in many areas.  It is not a fun place and is also facing rising political discontent.”

Moreover, foreigners wishing to visit Thailand for any reason cannot just book a ticket and jump on a plane to Bangkok or Phuket.  They must apply for a certificate of entry from the local Thai embassy which involves a multiplicity of documentary requirements, including insurance, according to the precise visa or permission of stay actually applied for.  Mr Green concluded that long haul holidays to Thailand had doubled or trebled in price since the pandemic began and that holidays nearer home would be the norm for the rest of 2021 at least.