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.
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: you need to apply for a visa. Even citizens from countries which had visa on arrival pre-Covid need to apply for a visa. I recommend checking with your Thai embassy about the visa process.
Another step is the Certificate of Entry (COE). AFTER you received your visa, you need to register for the COE. (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.
Once approved, you need to get a so-called “Fit to Fly Certificate”, a medical certificate that you are able to fly. 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. 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
You can choose the hotel for your ASQ yourself. The current list of government-approved ASQ hotels can be found here. The categories cover 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
As mentioned previously, 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.