Thailand is finally reopening for tourism after two years of consecutive border closures and complex entry restrictions. Even though it is slowly coming out of its shell and allowing more foreigners to visit again, the entry process for Thailand is bound to undergo some permanent changes, as the country intends to start charging an entry fee from August.
Similarly to the Italian hotspot of Venice, which will begin taxing visitors from summer 2022, Thai authorities proposed their own ‘tourist tax’ back in January, in hopes the system would have come into force by April. Due to delays, this never materialized, though it is now likely the fee will be applied from the third quarter of the year.
While there are still some unanswered questions, as the measure is yet to be implemented, and it is far from being unanimous, here is everything we do know so far about Thailand’s proposed new entry fee.
How Much Will Thailand Charge Visitors?
In announcing the measure in January 2022, the Thai government established a 300 baht fee (or $12) for visitors. According to senior officials, the fee will ‘help develop attractions’ and cover insurance costs for foreigners unable to pay for health emergencies when traveling in the country.
Out of the sum, 250 baht will be converted into funds to help Thailand develop its own tourism attractions, and the remaining 50 baht will be used to cover any medical costs for foreign visitors. At present, tourists are already required to present a valid insurance policy with a minimum coverage of $10,000 when arriving in Thailand.
Considering only $1.45 will be converted into insurance cover, and that this small amount is hardly enough to offer comprehensive health coverage, local media have suggested it will ‘only be for specified misfortunes, such as death’. At present, the government is yet to detail how exactly the $1.45 health fee will correlate with the existing insurance requirement.
As for the fee itself, tourists will have to handle their own payments separately, though it will become part of the booking process for flights to Thailand. Explaining this, senior government official Mongkon Wimonrat revealed the fee will be collected via a dedicated webpage, ‘which airlines will be required to adopt’.
How Will Thailand’s New Taxing System Work?
According to Wimonrat, the ‘Thailand Tourism Fee system’ will be integrated into the websites of carriers serving Thailand. Once buying their tickets, travelers will then be directed to an additional screen where they will be able to pay the fee, which is set to become mandatory ‘from August or September’.
300 baht will hardly break the bank, but printing out a payment receipt and carrying proof the fee was paid will add to a growing list of travel documents visitors must hold ahead of flying to Thailand. After all, simply having an ordinary passport is no longer the only requirement for boarding flights to this Asian destination.
Soon enough, applying for a Thai Vaccine Passport could also become necessary for travel.
Some airlines are not at all pleased with the measure, with an unnamed representative expressing concerns that implementing a fee system could squeeze their already-tight budget. As the anonymous official reported, the measure will force airlines to allocate resources and budget to the taxing system when they are ‘still focusing on recovery’.
Initially, the fee will only apply to air arrivals, seeing that Thai authorities are yet to define how other land and sea arrivals will be charged without leading to long waiting lines at entry points. There will, of course, be exceptions: even when flying to Thailand, work permit holders, other expats living in the country and infants will not be charged an entry fee.
Why Is An Entry Fee Needed?
In recent years, overtourism has become more of a global problem.
From the pristine beaches of the Caribbean to the medieval citadels of Europe, world-famous landmarks and cities being overrun by tourists have become an all too common sight. Thailand is no exception, with reports of overtourism preceding the pandemic and sparking a discussion on whether tourists should be taxed long before Covid.
Overtourism happens when an unprecedented number of visitors are recorded in a particular destination, leading to crippling price escalations, harming the landscape, and seriously disrupting the lives of local residents. Venice is a clear example of that, with as many as 193,000 tourists visiting in a single day back in 2019.
While Thailand is far from being as packed as Venice, it has already noted a negative impact on its environment, as one of its most famous beaches closed down due to an overwhelming number of visitors prior to Covid. As a paradisiac destination famous for natural landmarks, having them ruined by mass tourism is a risk Thailand simply cannot take.
As stated by Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the country’s Tourism Minister, in December 2021, Thailand’s focus once it’s fully reopened should be on ‘high-end travelers, rather than a large number of visitors’. Introducing entry fees is an effective and sustainable way of tackling overtourism – or, in Thailand’s case, avoiding it altogether.
What Are The Rules For Visiting Thailand Right Now?
Irrespective of new entry fees and the future implementation of vaccine passes, Thailand already applies some of the strictest border regimes in Southeast Asia right now. While it has lifted a blanket ban on foreign tourists, something Japan is yet to do, it still treats passengers differently based on vaccination status.
Those who are vaccinated are able to easily apply for an online Thailand Pass upon disclosing their personal and health information. On the other hand, there are no pre-departure or on-arrival tests, and fully immunized tourists are no longer required to pre-book a government-approved hotel for their first night.
As for the unvaccinated, they must be in possession of a negative Covid test result issued within 72 hours of departure, as well as apply to enter via one of the alternative Quarantine Schemes. This generally means booking a government-listed accommodation for the first 5 nights of the trip, with a second PCR test to be taken on Day 5.
Health insurance covering both Covid infection and treatment costs is also mandatory, and luckily, we have a whole list of reliable insurance providers that satisfy the Thai government’s requirements. You can view all the available options, compare policies and choose the one that best suits your travel needs clicking here.
Traveler Alert: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance For Your Next Trip!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com