Tourists hoping to enter Thailand by land should maybe think again

Contrary to some reports, arrivals by land are not now easier than by air.

The Thai foreign affairs ministry is reminding international travellers that most land border crossing points remain closed to foreign tourists and expats. The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration agreed on Friday to abolish pre-flight virus tests for all fully-vaccinated arrivals from April 1, but this does not mean that the Test and Go entry bureaucracy has collapsed for those flying in or just wanting to walk across a border.

The CCSA announcement clarified that, in addition to airports, only four land border posts were open to tourists and expats: Nongkhai and Udon Thani (near the Laos border) and Songkhla and Satun (near Malaysia). But entrants there still need to apply in advance via the digital platform Thailand Pass by uploading several documents including vaccination status, proof of booking into a Thai hotel pending the result of the RT-PCR post-arrival test, the US$20,000 insurance requirement as well as personal documentation. This process can take up to seven days according to the Tourist Authority of Thailand website.

There are no Thai immigration posts on the Cambodian border currently accepting tourists and expats, although the Cambodian government website indicates that Koh Kong and Poi Pet are theoretically available for entry into Cambodia. Visitors to Aranyaprathet crossing, in eastern Thailand, said that only goods transport, local farmers, tradespeople and guest workers with work permits were being admitted.

A spokesman for the Declaration of Thai Industries (DTI), which has campaigned for freer travel rules, said foreign tourists by land could use only the four designated entry points and must bring with them the Test and Go permission which includes a QR code. “You can’t just arrive with your passport as in the past.” DTI also pointed out that Cambodia and Vietnam, main competitors to Thailand’s tourist industry, had recently introduced respectively 30 and 15 days permits for vaccinated arrivals by air without the need for any prior approval or online booking.

Many foreigners in Thailand have wondered when land borders will re-open to facilitate visa runs and short visits to neighboring countries without the heavy cost of air fares. Until Thailand collapses the need for prior online approval of wannabe entrants, the land border opportunities will remain limited for most visitors as the documentation required is the same. However, visitors arriving by sea by yacht, not a big number, can apply to the local immigration authority for a Certificate of Entry on their port arrival.

In a related move, Thai immigration authorities are reminding long-stay tourists and expats that holding a re-entry permit on leaving Thailand does not bypass the need to apply for online Test and Go prior to coming back. “A valid re-entry permit protects an existing visa, but all entrants require prior Thailand Pass permission irrespective of visa status,” confirmed a Bangkok immigration hotline consultant. Returning expats have been refused boarding of their flight when they failed to show a Test and Go QR code.