One common question we receive from clients planning to retire to Thailand is whether or not “now” is a good time to travel and retire in Thailand, or should I wait until the pandemic is over. The answer is never a simple yes or no as each person comes from a different part of the world. Some clients are coming from the US, others are coming from the UK (including Eastern Europe), and a smaller number are from countries such as Australia.
To help, we thought it might be useful to put together a list of pros and cons received as feedback from overseas visitors arriving here in quarantine from those countries. Hopefully, the feedback we received will help guide your decision making and address any concerns you might have about traveling or not traveling to Thailand at this time.
- Thailand is recognized as #1 in Asia (and #2 behind Australia globally) as one of the best countries in the world for their response to the COVID-19 epidemic. The Thai government has reportedly managed to contain the virus much better than other countries and with very low death rates (Thailand Business News). Something to consider if concerned about Thailand’s management of the crisis.
- Visas are still available for tourists to travel or retire to Thailand. Many other neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia have either closed their borders to tourists or have very restricted entry. Latin American countries, such as Brazil, Ecuador, and Columbia, do not allow US tourists full stop. Unless you are a national from one of these countries, Thailand may be one of the few countries currently open to you as a foreigner seeking to retire.
- You currently do not need to have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to gain entry. This is likely to change soon given the likelihood that vaccination may well become a mandatory requirement to board an aircraft. Whether or not it becomes a compulsory requirement in applying for a visa is yet to be seen. However, in terms of vaccination, it seems likely there will be more conditions placed on air travel in the future, rather than fewer restrictions. Another reason why now might be a better time to travel than later.
- The paperwork. Yes, there is a mound of paperwork and processes to go through including applying for a Certificate of Entry, Applying for Insurance, evidence of savings, evidence of income, booking a flight, negative COVID-19 test, and a doctor’s certificate 72 hrs before your flight. Communicating by email with the Thai embassy and all the different agencies involved is undoubtedly a challenge. This is unlikely to change in the short term and the introduction of the vaccine is only likely to add more paperwork in the future to what is already a time-consuming process.
- You’ll miss the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Yes, this may be so but recognize that the first people to be vaccinated in your country will be front-line health care workers, hotel quarantine staff, followed by people in aged care, the elderly, and others at risk. It may be another 12 months before the vaccine is offered to the general population. If you are delaying plans to travel to Thailand simply to ensure you are in the queue for the vaccine, then you may be in for a long wait. Also, it is entirely probable that once the vaccine is rolled out that you will be able to purchase the vaccine in Thailand (Thailand will start rolling out the first 50,000 doses of AstraZeneca for emergency use this month). It’s quite probable you may end up with better access to the vaccine in Thailand on a paid-for basis than what might be possible in your own country.
- Risk management (I could pick up COVID-19 on the journey). You may think that traveling is dangerous and it’s safer to remain in your home country for the time being. For now, staying indoors, wearing a mask, frequent handwashing, and distancing yourself from other people seems like the safest option. That may be true to some extent but it’s well known that transmission happens more easily in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation versus outdoors where the fresh air disperses the virus particles and people are more easily able to distance themselves from each other. If you’re in the US or the UK, you may be at a greater risk of exposure to the virus in your own country than being outdoors in Thailand. It’s also important to realize that “you may leave your country behind but that doesn’t mean you also get to leave your fears behind.” To mitigate these risks you may choose to purchase a first-class ticket (for more personal space and less contact with other flyers and flight attendants who are attending to other passengers), stay at a more expensive hotel that provides a VIP taxi for one person from the airport, and find accommodation which allows 1 hour of outdoor activity each day by yourself, so as not to expose yourself to other travelers who could potentially be carrying the virus. It is agreed that now is not the time to travel to Thailand on the cheap but as pointed out earlier, Thailand is #1 in Asia for managing the COVID-19 epidemic and #2 in the world behind Australia so a high level of monitoring is provided once you enter the country, go through the airport and continue to quarantine. At least the risks can be mitigated and the price you are prepared to pay can reduce your exposure. Whether or not you are prepared to pay more to mitigate the risks will differ greatly depending on your financial situation. This level of peace of mind may end up costing you more in the short term but this is unlikely to change soon. Not at least until a large percentage of the world has been vaccinated and worldwide travel returns to some kind of normality.
We recognize that whether you choose to retire to Thailand at this time or delay your plans until the world recovers from COVID-19 is very much a personal decision, but hopefully, the pros and cons laid out above have provided several key factors to consider. From someone on the ground, it seems quite clear that the likelihood of things returning to normal within the next 12 months is very small. Experts agree that it will be years before travel returns to anything near the normality it was in February 2020 when the virus first started to take its grip.
Whatever you decide to do, you can count on Thai Expat Club/Health for help and support when it comes to getting the right health insurance plan to match your personal needs.
If you have questions or require any further information, you can contact Thai Expat Club/Health by telephone or WhatsApp at +66 89-897-9435.
Wishing you good health and safe travels.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this report has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable. However, Thai Expat Club makes no representation as to the accuracy and completeness of such information nor do we accept any liability for any loss or damage of any kind arising out of the use of the information or opinions in this report. Information and opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice. Readers are advised to do their own research before making decisions relating to travel to Thailand. All rights are reserved.