Thailand

Last updated October 13, 2021

Today’s Status, Looking Towards Spring 2022 — Green

We’re happy to share that we have volunteers in this program for Spring, Summer, and Fall 2020 semesters, and plan to send volunteers to this location for the Spring 2022 semester.

Because of some remaining visa and Covid restrictions, the semester may be a few weeks shorter than before Covid, just less than 3 months. Recent infection surges have made severe restrictions that affect travel, teaching, and other aspects of the program. Be sure to read the details below to see the latest updates about the Thailand program. Starting with the Fall 2021 semester, the Covid vaccine is now required for Thailand.

Check below to get more details on some key aspects that we’re watching (it’s stuff you’re going to want to know). Also, this info can change frequently, so check back often!

Getting There

Quarantine will be reduced again to 7 days (for vaccinated travelers) instead of 14. When Thailand initially re-opened, travelers were required to quarantine for 14 days. The length of the quarantine was shortened and then increased back to 14 days during the most recent wave of cases. There is a proposed plan to eliminate the quarantine for vaccinated travelers from 10 countries (including the US) beginning November 1st — we’ll need to wait and see if that plan is made official.

Toward the beginning of 2021, Thailand started processing the type of visas that ILP volunteers need. Because of Covid, the visa has a few restrictions that weren’t there prior to Covid, but still allow ILP to have a semester in this location.

Volunteers should be prepared for a 7-day quarantine on arrival, but starting with Fall 2021, volunteers have been able to bypass a quarantine with the “Phuket Sandbox” program (travelers instead stay 7 nights in Phuket upon arrival but can participate in virtually all activities within Phuket). The Phuket Sandbox program will likely continue, but if cases go up, it will be discontinued. The first few months have gone well with relatively few Covid cases in Phuket.

You can now get some commercial flights from the US.

Daily Life

Because we are using the “Phuket Sandbox” program (and due to school requirements), all ILP Thailand volunteers must be fully vaccinated 21 days prior to departure. 

The Thai government does not allow any exceptions, even if you have had Covid already, even if you are unable to get the vaccine for health reasons, (or any other reason).

As of October 13,, Thailand currently has 153.5 cases per 100,000 people, which is an increase from previous weeks.

The nation has maintained a careful response to Covid-19. Even with the past summer months bringing the worst outbreak experience in Thailand, case numbers are still much, much lower than rates per 100,000 people than in the US.

The Thai government has been closing in-person classes and evaluating re-opening them about every 2 weeks. They were opened most recently around June 15th and then closed again on the 1st of July through October 1st. When in-person classes are prohibited, volunteers teach online. 

As of October 1st, some schools were allowed to re-open for hybrid classes with some in-person students and some online classes. This was great news to get. We expect that other schools will follow and hope that by the end of the year — barring another wave of Covid cases — all schools will be back to in-person classes.

As of this update, classes have been online for 2.5 months and we expect that classes may continue to be online in some locations for an extended period of time, possibly the entire semester, but could also open again as soon as November in some locations. The Thai government won’t say what they will do beyond a 2-week period because their decision is based on the intensity of Covid cases, which change regularly (and why things are evaluated in short windows). For the last six weeks Covid cases have been going down and that is why in-person classes are starting to re-open

Some students (ages 12-18) in Bangkok have gotten the vaccine as part of a campaign encouraged by the Health Ministry. Some schools are looking to reopen  to in-person learning once 70% of students and teachers are vaccinated.

Covid restrictions change almost every week. There have been weeks that many things are open with capacity limits or reduced hours. There have been frequent closures of some public venues such as cinemas, gyms, and some parks. 

Volunteers have always been able to find some restaurants, cafes, many stores, and even malls that are open, even when many are closed. Be aware that any county in Thailand that has an increase in cases can change the restrictions without notice, closing most activities.

Because of the high risk of Covid, volunteers are required to take more expensive private transportation and are not allowed to take public transportation in most instances.

It is important to note that there have also been some localized closures. We’re seeing stricter regulations in areas of higher traffic, which currently encompasses Bangkok and Chiang Mai, among other provinces.

Out & About

There are some other restrictions and policies to keep in mind. Thailand has issued health and safety standards for the public to follow that may sound familiar: standing at least 1 meter away from others, avoiding touching your face, wearing a mask in public places (indoors and outdoors), etc.

However, there are some standards that may be new to you like limiting conversation and speaking quietly when in public or especially on public transportation like buses or taxis. It’s encouraged that you don’t spend more than 1 hour with others (reducing your contact time), and that you reduce time in enclosed spaces.

For the most part, things are open, just with exceptions.

Beginning in May 2021, Thailand is instituting restrictions depending on the infection rate in each province. There are three color levels: dark red, red, and orange. Depending on the rating of the province, different regulations and restrictions are in place. 

For the most part, the country is in “red”, which is the middle level. In red provinces, masks are required, gatherings have to be under 50 people, restaurants are open with adjusted hours, or just with takeaway options. Regulations are slightly looser in Orange Provinces, and stricter in dark red provinces (though there was a loosening of some restrictions in dark red areas beginning October 1st).

In general, many things are closed compared to before Covid, but locally you will most of the time be able to find stores, malls, restaurants, cafes, temples, and other places that are open (though not all will be open). When traveling to tourist areas, some attractions have gone out of business but many of the most popular activities are open. Volunteers in the “Phuket Sandbox” in August went to several different beaches, temples, Monkey Hill, various markets, the Phi Phi Islands, malls, and enjoyed other favorite activities. Check with the ILP Takeovers Instagram account for more specifics of what activities recent volunteers have been able to do. 

The infection rates also affect transportation. A recent group had to take a 21-hour drive to the southern beaches since all flights through Bangkok were shut down. After arriving in the tourist coastal areas where infections were lower, groups are reporting they are finding more things to do.

While travel around Thailand is looking good to certain areas, traveling to another country isn’t realistic right now. 

Remember how there’s currently a quarantine upon arrival in Thailand? If volunteers left the country they would need to quarantine after returning, not including quarantine time in the country they would be traveling to. So traveling out of the country and then back for a vacation isn’t possible now.

The good news is that Thailand has oh-so-much to do and there’s really no reason to leave for a vacation anyways. You have everything from cities, to jungles, to beaches (and more).  Most volunteers in the past have missed out on some amazing Thai vacation spots because they chose to jet over to other countries instead. But trust us, even if you spend all of your vacation time in Thailand, you still won’t see it all.

Thailand has been hit hard by the shut-down for a year and many tourist activities have gone out of business. Sadly, some things have shut down, but there are plenty of things that are open including various beaches, temples, markets and malls, cafes, popular islands to visit on vacation, elephant sanctuaries, and other favorite activities.

Starting September 1st, some domestic flights are allowed to operate (after a period where domestic flights were cancelled). Limited flights are at 75% capacity, and may require proof of vaccination or a Covid-19 test (which can be more than $100) for those who are not vaccinated.

Okay, now what?  Should I still apply for Thailand?

As outlined above, we currently have volunteers abroad for a Fall 2021 semester (and we’re planning the same for future semesters), so we recommend getting a jump on your application ASAP if you have read and understand the current/anticipated precautions present for this program.  If you’re considering traveling in Summer 2022, Fall 2022, or even Spring 2023, now is a great time to start your application for those semesters as well (this country is a popular one, and tends to fill up quickly).

We are so excited for volunteers to be back in Thailand!

What is traveling and living in Thailand like right now?

For Thailand, things have slowly been opening back up both for domestic and international tourism. We’re seeing some of the same precautions you’d take at home (like wearing a mask and social distancing) as well as some heightened precautions and closures that depend on the current infection rates. Just like there is a risk to go out in Utah right now, there will be risks to traveling anywhere, including Thailand.