Covid-19 has impacted the ways we travel. Travel has become a rare commodity and many countries implemented travel bans and strict rules for travellers entering the country. Thailand has been using an approach requiring a two-weeks-stay at a hotel, which is called Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ).
This guide offers you an insight into what you can expect from this ASQ as well as detailed information on how to prepare and make it through the two weeks of being stuck in a hotel room.
As quarantine rules keep changing, I have also added updated summaries: One is about my recent one-day-quarantine at the beginning of November 2021 right after the new rules have been implemented. I have adapted the main article and marked it with “Update November 2021” Another one is by a friend who did the 7-day-ASQ in the first week of October 2021. You can find this second update and experience at the end of this post.
1. Before You Fly
1.1 Applications and Documents
While travelling to Thailand was very straightforward before the pandemic, the Kingdom now requires more paperwork and preparation to enter the country.
First of all: Check the current status of entry requirements online at the Thai embassy in your home country. Even countries which had no visa requirements or visa-on-arrival before the pandemic may now need visas. I recommend checking with your Thai embassy directly online or on the phone about the visa process.
Update November 2021: Another step is the Thailand Pass (the successor of the Certificate of Entry (COE)). The COE has been substituted by the Thailand Pass in November 2021. (I have personally not applied for this pass, as I was still applying in a period where the application was via the COE. From what I have seen so far, it is very similar to the COE. I will update this post once the Thailand Pass is up and running and when I have more experience with it.) AFTER you received your visa, you need to register for the Thailand Pass. (Find more information on the website of the Thai government here.) After your registration was approved (which took about one working day in my case), you will need to upload travel documents (flight tickets), the ASQ booking and a travel insurance which covers Covid-19. I advise here to also check with the Thai embassy in your country for recommendations about Covid-insurances. You will be notified if your COE is approved. I got the final approval via email after another working day.
Update November 2021: The “Fit to Fly Certificate” was abolished in mid-2021. It was a medical certificate that you are able to fly. If you need such a certificate for whatever reason, I used the sample supplied at the Thai Airways website and went to my general practitioner to be examined and have it signed and stamped. This certificate must not be older than 72 hours before departure and the certificate has to be in English or Thai language.
In addition, you will need a PCR-test to prove that you are Covid-negative. This test also must not be older than 72 hours before departure.
Moreover, you need to fill out the T8-form. (It was supplied in the confirmation email for the COE but you can also find it here.)
Print all necessary documents and fill out all the forms BEFORE you land in Thailand. I also recommend to print out your itinerary and payment confirmation of the hotel in addition to the hotel booking. You will not have time to do it upon arrival or you will keep everyone, including yourself, waiting for a very long time. You have to present all of them at multiple stages throughout your journey.
Needless to say, pack masks and disinfectant for the flight.
1.2 How to Choose Your ASQ Hotel
Update November 2021: As a foreign national with double vaccination statues, you will still need to book an ASQ Hotel for one night. You will be picked up from the airport, taken to the partner hospital of the ASQ hotel for your PCR test and then you have to wait for the test result at the hotel room.
You can choose the hotel for your ASQ yourself. The current list of government-approved ASQ hotels can be found here. During my most recent trip, I decided to stay at the Avani Atrium in Bangkok again, where I had also spent the two-week-quarantine. The price for the “Test & Go”-package for one night was THB 4,700 (about EUR 122 and USD 140). It included the stay, full board, pick-up from the airport, the PCR-test upon arrival and the antigen self-test.
(The categories for the 2-week-packages covered all price segments and start from about THB 27,000 (about EUR 730, USD 870) and go up to about THB 220,000 (about EUR 6,000, USD 7,100).)
If you can, I recommend investing in a good hotel and a bigger room. I did a lot of research before the stay and I wanted a hotel which also has a reputation of serving good food. Two weeks can be long if the food sucks… You may think about the location of the hotel – a relic from the pre-Covid times, but for ASQ it really does not matter. You are taken directly to the hotel directly from the airport and can only leave two weeks later later. The immediate surroundings do not matter. Our hotel was at Petchaburi Road – off the usual tourist areas and it was nice to have an unobstructed beautiful view of the skyline.
For more information about the hotel I stayed in, you can read my review about the Avani Atrium Hotel here.
Your stay has to cover 15 nights. Initially, I thought 13 nights because I read 14 days of quarantine everywhere. However, the check-in and check-out days are not counted. Hence, 15 nights.
1.3 How to Prepare for Your ASQ Stay
I recommend to get in touch with the hotel even before you book. Ask for more pictures of the rooms and get a feeling for what the service will be like. In some hotels, they allow you to stock up the room before your arrival. You can ask your family or friends to drop some food a day before you arrive. Alternatively, you could also ask the hotel to stock your room up and pay for it.
Some items I had stocked up in advance: bread, cheese, butter, Nutella (important!), water, nuts. I would also recommend to ask for cleaning supplies (multi-purpose cleaner, toilet cleaner and a sweeper for dust), as your room will only be cleaned for the first time on Day 7. You may also want to consider to get some laundry detergent if you do not want to use the hotel laundry service.
Important notice: once you are in the room, you will not be able to receive any food deliveries. Non-food items can be delivered from outside of the hotel. You can also use the local delivery app “Happyfresh” for non-food items and ask the delivery person to drop it at the reception for you.
I also recommend to structure work in advance if you can. About three weeks before my trip, I started to make “packages” of tasks I knew I could do from a hotel room. If you are not working during the two weeks, think about taking up a new hobby or a class which you always wanted to start. There is only so much Netfilx to watch or so many books to read. I recommend to do some research in advance and decide what you would like to do before your trip. Then you can treat it like an intensive course or a retreat and time will pass much faster.
1.4 What to Pack for ASQ
Pack wisely for the ASQ stay. If you come back home to Thailand, you basically need to bring many more things than usual with you. If you come as a visitor, you will also need different clothes than those for your holiday.
I recommend to pack the following:
- Comfy clothes – enough for two weeks in case you do not want to use the hotel laundry service
- Clothing for the “relaxation time” after the first test
- House slippers (if you want more comfortable ones than the hotel ones)
- Toiletries (everything you need, if it will be at your apartment, it will not help you)
- Books, a notepad, pens, headphones, Netflix, iTunes, podcasts – these are really important, even though they may seem like a no-brainer. You never know who may be your neighbour for the two weeks and it may be a good idea to be able to cancel out noise. The TV will have the usual hotel channels. Hence, it will be nice to have more options.
- Yogamat (Our hotel actually supplied us with a yoga mat and an exercise ball, so I ended up with two.)
2. What to Expect when Arriving in Thailand
Upon your arrival in Thailand, you will be guided from the plane to the first document check.
Again: Make sure to print all your documents before you fly and have them ready when leaving the plane. Furthermore, do not forget to fill out your arrival card for Thailand if you are required to.
The airport staff guide passengers to a line of chairs. Travellers are asked to sit down and will have to go through a series of document checks. Try to get off the plane as soon as possible to be ahead in the process and avoid waiting times.
At the first check, the body temperature is taken, travellers need to confirm that they do not have any symptoms and the PCR-test, T8-form and ASQ reservation are being checked. You will then receive a tag with your ASQ number.
After another document check, you will head towards pre-immigration. At this point, your COE will be checked and cross-referenced. If you clear this stage, you can proceed to the usual immigration lines.
After immigration, you can reclaim your baggage as usual and leave the area through customs. At the arrival hall, you will be asked for your ASQ hotel and your ASQ badge will be checked before guiding you to your shuttle bus.
The whole process from leaving the plane to getting on the shuttle bus to the hotel was 45 minutes. It was incredibly well-organised and efficient.
The shuttle bus takes you directly to the hotel. We had to do the check-in at the parking lot in the basement. The hotels partner with local hospitals and the nurse explained the process to us.
We received a welcome package with all the information and contact details of the reception, F&B staff and the nurses and were guided directly to our room.
3. What Does ASQ Look Like
Update November 2021
Process for Fully Vaccinated Foreign Nationals:
The ASQ is currently one night for fully vaccinated foreign nationals. Different rules apply for non-vaccinated travellers or for risk countries. Please regularly check the website of the Thai Embassy in your home country. After arrival, you will be taken directly to the partner hospital of your ASQ hotel. In my case, the hospital had kind of a drive-through testing station. In total, it took me not longer than 90 minutes from landing at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport to the hotel room. (My flight was one of the first ones to arrive after the opening. I guess, the airport will slowly get busier once tourism has picked up again.) You will be taken directly to your room which you are not allowed to leave. Similar to the two-week-quarantine described below, food is left in front of your door. Depending on your hotel and room category, food comes in bags like when you deliver from a restaurant or on plates. Once you received your negative PCR test result, you are allowed to leave the hotel. Depending on your arrival time this may be even on the same day. For me it was early on the next day. On the 6th day counting from your arrival day, you will have to test yourself with an antigen test kit provided by the hotel. The result needs to be uploaded to the Thailand Pass app.
2-week Quarantine Process
As mentioned previously, there may be requirements for a two-week- or one-week-quarantine. For the two-week quarantine, your stay will last 15 nights (14 days plus the check-in and check-out day). During this stay, you are not allowed to leave your hotel room.
I recommend to download the “Line” app, if you are not using it as yet. Most of the communication with the hotel staff and nurses will be via this app.
You will need to check your temperature twice daily (in the morning and evening). If you forget, the staff will remind you via Line or call you up. Your temperature must be sent via Line to the nurse or you register on the COSTE app of the Thai government to upload your temperature there.
On Day 5 (check-in day + 5 days) and Day 12, there is a Covid-test. I assumed that we would be tested upon arrival at the airport, but the first test is on ASQ Day 5. If the first test on Day 5 comes back negative, you can use the hotel terrace or pool area for 45 minutes per day. You can book a time slot for this “relaxation time” in advance and the hotel staff will guide you from the room to the pool area and back. Similarly, they guide you to the test station. Hence, you cannot walk around in the hotel on your own.
The staff is always at a distance and wear hazmat gear, they communicate with walkie-talkies when they bring you to the tests or recreation area. When meals or other things are delivered to your room, they are placed on a tray and table outside of the room, where you have to place them after you finished. Waste has to be left in front of the room in special bags as well. If you need to sign something, the paper and pen will be left on the table, the staff will either wait at a distance or come back later to avoid contact. During the stay, you cannot send anything out of your hotel room.
The “relaxation time” is split in two groups – one for the guests who had one negative test and one for those with two negative tests. Guests can use the pool area but are not allowed to swim. Masks are mandatory even outside and distance has to be practiced.
Food can be ordered from a special menu one day in advance. At our hotel, there were five options for breakfast and five for lunch and dinner. There were set meal times. Normal room service was also available. As I mentioned above, I recommend to do thorough research about the hotel and its food options. At our hotel, we got the food served on plates and with cutlery. In many other hotels, you will receive a cardboard box and disposable cutlery. Our hotel supplied us with plenty of water and also treated us with complimentary soft drinks and snacks in the mini bar. I recommend to check with the hotel in advance, how much water will be supplied. (I came across some hotels, where water was limited to 1.5 liters a day and there were no complimentary soft drinks.)
The room is cleaned for the first time on Day 7 (if your Covid-test was negative) and then on Day 10 and 13. The cleaning was done while we went for our “relaxation time”.
4. How to Make it through the Two Weeks of ASQ
Mindset, mindset, mindset
I did a lot of research about ASQ hotels in advance, but I avoided reading too many reviews or listening to scary stories online or from friends. My strategy was to think positive and try to forget about the fact that I was locked into a “golden cage”. I treated it as if I was on holidays in a resort and the weather is consistently bad, so I decide to stay in.
Establish a Routine
Routines are always a good idea and structuring your quarantine days definitely helps to make the time pass faster. I woke up every day at the same time and had my meals at the same time (except on the weekends, of course). I worked in the morning, had a lunch break and worked again until the “relaxation time”, which I did at 3.30 pm every day. After that, I exercised, finished work and then spent the evening relaxing with a book or movie.
As mentioned previously, if you do not work during your ASQ, try to find an activity to keep you busy – a new language or a new hobby. In my opinion, time will pass much faster if you plan your time in ahead and establish a routine.
I would like to stress the importance of exercising: it really helped me during these two weeks. I usually walk a lot and if you are confined to a hotel room, exercising is a bit difficult. I brought a yoga mat and did a 30-45-minute workout video every day to make sure I move enough. Sometimes, I also used the “relaxation time” and walked up and down on the hotel terrace.
As mentioned above, I recommend to invest a bit more in a nice hotel and into a bigger room if you can, especially if you are two people. Two weeks can be long in a bad hotel, but they can also be really enjoyable in a nice one.
To sum up, my ASQ stay was actually more enjoyable than I anticipated. The thought of being locked in a room for two weeks seemed daunting. But with the right mindset, the right hotel (with good food) and a routine it is definitely doable.
5. Updates October 2021, 7-Day-Quarantine
A really good friend of mine traveled to Bangkok in late September 2021 and did a stint at the Avani Atrium for his Alternative State Quarantine. He was so kind to share his experience with me. It was his second time in ASQ at the Avani Atrium Hotel in Bangkok.
“I arrived at around 1230pm in the afternoon in Bangkok from Europe. Like last time, passengers had little walking to do before the health inspection staff met us and checked our documents. When I applied for my Certificate of Entry (COE), I forgot to fill out my T8 form. However, the staff had some on hand and gave me one. I would suggest that if anyone is considering traveling to Bangkok, that you print out that document and fill it in. The only thing that was different this time was that I was asked to show my boarding pass for each flight. After my documents were checked, I was allowed to proceed to the immigration checkpoint. This was also very efficient, and I was at baggage claim within five minutes. After collecting my bags I proceeded to customs and to the ASQ pickup area. There I was met by the hotel staff who escorted me to the car that would take me to the hotel.
The car was clean, the driver was very pleasant and the trip was surprisingly short considering Bangkok traffic. They needed to document that you have entered the vehicle taking you to the hotel for your ASQ because there have been multiple incidents of people just leaving the airport and not doing quarantine (this is done by taking your picture). Upon arrival at my ASQ hotel, the Avani, I was met by the hotel staff in the basement. This is where they did the check-in formalities and give you a briefing about the hotel’s procedures and policies. As this was my second stay here, this part went very quickly. Afterwards, I was escorted to my room. Unlike my last stay, this time I was tested the day after I landed, and then again on day 5. The day after the result came back negative, I was allowed to go outside to the pool area for some relaxation time (usually about 30-45 minutes) and this is when the housekeeping staff come into clean the room for the first time. (This first cleaning took place on day 7.) The relaxation area is also where the testing is done, a slight difference from my last stay. (Last time, they used a separate area on another terrace.)
The rest of my stay closely mirrored my last one, except this time it was just me on my own. The hotel staff send you the menus for the following day during the afternoon and regularly ask for your temperature check twice a day. About a few days into my stay the Thai government changed the quarantine requirements, so I was eligible to check out a few days early. (At my arrival, the rules had been 14-2 days.)”
More about Thailand
Original article published 03/2021, updated 10/2021 and 10/2021. All information as of the date of publishing/updating and based on the information on the websites (listed above) and the information provided at the location. We cannot accept responsibility for the correctness or completeness of the data, or for ensuring that it is up to date. All recommendations are based on the personal experience of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received by the recommended places above.