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After 18 months of tight COVID-19 travel restrictions and limiting tourists to its so-called Sandbox Program since July of 2021, Thailand reopened to vaccinated travelers from 63 countries without imposing a lengthy quarantine period on Nov. 1, 2021.
To visit the country, travelers have to apply and be approved for the country’s new Thailand Pass digital entry document by demonstrating proof of vaccination, a medical insurance policy for the duration of their stay, overnight accommodations for isolating upon arrival and more.
Eager to join the thousands of travelers entering the country in the first few weeks of the new program, I filled out my Thailand Pass application. Unfortunately, due to several website bugs, a lack of clarity around vaccination rules and confusing sets of forms (not to mention an upsurge in Thailand Pass applications), my submission was rejected.
Multiple times.
Here’s what I learned from the process and how I finally got my approval to visit.
The Thailand Pass registration system went live on Nov. 1 and was immediately flooded with applications, which led to quite a few snafus. My experience included a lot of trial and error, though I was triumphant in the end thanks to a good, old-fashioned phone call.
Would-be visitors must apply for the Thailand Pass via the country’s consular services site.
Thai nationals returning to the country as well as vaccinated visitors from 63 other nations deemed to be low-risk can apply for the Thailand Pass. You can find the full list of countries here, but they include the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Qatar, Singapore and Vietnam, among others.
In order to be considered, applicants must reside in or have stayed in those eligible countries for at least 21 consecutive days prior to arrival in Thailand. I was coming from the U.S., but stopping in Singapore for a few days on my way. Since both countries are on that list, I was within the bounds.
Travelers must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before traveling. Thailand accepts the following vaccines:
In addition, your vaccination certificate must show that multiple doses of vaccines that require them were administered in accepted time frames, such as the second dose of Moderna four weeks after the first, or three weeks between doses of the Pfizer one.
Applicants must gather the following documents to submit along with their application, and the format has to be either JPG or PNG — no PDFs allowed.
I diligently gathered all my documents and was ready to apply as soon as the system went live on Nov. 1. That’s when everything started to go wrong.
Filling out the Thailand Pass form seemed straightforward enough. I started by entering my dates of travel and my arrival flight and airport of Bangkok (BKK).
Then, I continued filling out my contact information and uploading an image of my passport identification page and manually entering my passport number. This was to be issue number one, but I didn’t know it yet.
On the following page, I was asked to provide proof of vaccination including my vaccination certificate and a QR code. I had gotten a QR code from SmartHealth, which I thought would suffice.
I had a single-dose vaccine, but at the time, the system required you to enter two doses, so I put the date of my dose for the first one and then two weeks later for the second one, though I uploaded the same certificate and QR code for both.
My card said J+J on it rather than Janssen, which was to be another issue that I would soon discover.
Next, I had to fill out a page showing my AQ hotel booking, which was straightforward enough, and then on the following page, I uploaded my AXA insurance certificate which stated that I was covered up to the required $50,000. I also made sure to note that I was visiting Singapore on the way to Thailand in the dropdown list of countries visited 14 days prior to arrival.
I just had to hit “Submit,” and that’s where my troubles started.
When I tried to submit my application, an error message popped up that said there was an API server error. Not knowing what that was, I Googled Thailand Pass and API error and came across this helpful article, which said the workaround was as simple as putting a few extra spaces at the end of my passport number.
Apparently, this was an issue with both U.S. and U.K. passports for which some enterprising folks had found a (very simple) workaround.
I backtracked through the form and tried it, and sure enough, it worked. My application was off to the Thai government and I received an email notification that my application had been registered.
Within a few hours, I received my first rejection.
The message I received via email only said:
“Thailand Pass system has rejected your registration due to your vaccine type is not follow with the requirement. If you would like to make adjustments or attach additional documents, please re-register via the following link: https://tp.consular.go.th”
I wasn’t so surprised given I’d had to put two entries for a single vaccination, which other travelers on this Reddit thread had also contended with.
Luckily, the Thai government seemed to have fixed that within a day and made it possible to submit a single vaccination entry, so I went through the entire process again, hopeful that my application would be successful.
It wasn’t.
I got the same error message within another few hours. Well, at least they seemed to be working around the clock.
I immediately tried to reapply and this time, I included a photo of my CDC card with both my original vaccine and the booster I’d received two weeks before along with the correct dates and QR codes for each dose and sent off yet another application.
The next day, another rejection came through saying my vaccination type was not within the requirements.
I tried yet another application with the same information and checked the SHA Hotel box instead of the AQ Hotel box on that page of the form. Two days later, I got the following rejection:
“Thailand Pass system has rejected your registration due to [your] information did not pass the criteria for entering Thailand with your selection type.”
In the meantime, I had read that part of the issue with applications was that CDC vaccination cards do not state your citizenship, passport number or any other identifying information except name and birth date. Nor do they have QR codes directly on them. All of those seemed to be impediments to being processed correctly by the system.
In a last-ditch effort, I used Preview to place two text boxes within the JPG of my CDC card, one with my passport number and another with the word “Janssen” clearly written out underneath the handwritten scrawl of J+J that was on my card.
Fingers crossed, I sent off yet another application, but I also resolved to take matters into my own hands if I could, since my departure date was coming up within two days. All told, I’d been in application hell for a week at this point.
Doing some online research, I found the phone number for Thailand’s Department of Consular Affairs in Bangkok and called late at night my time (early in the morning there) using Skype to dial: +66 2 572 8442.
To my surprise, someone picked up immediately and when I asked if they spoke English, they replied yes and inquired why I was calling. I said I was looking for help with my Thailand Pass application and they transferred me to another office where a woman picked up who turned out to be extremely helpful.
I explained what had happened with all my applications and she said that I was not alone. In fact, several departments were on call helping process Thailand Pass applications since they’d been overwhelmed by the numbers of visitors, many of whom had been having problems like mine.
Over the course of about an hour, she located my application with the correct department and we talked through all the details with her colleague in processing. I verified my vaccination and booster types and dates, my prearranged hotel stay, my Thai medical insurance policy, travel dates – basically, everything that was on the application.
She asked a few questions about my documents, including verifying that J+J was in fact the Janssen vaccine, and was extremely patient translating between me and the processor.
By the end of the hour, she had gotten my application approved and I even received an email with my Thailand Pass QR code while I was on the phone with her.
With just over a day to spare before my departure, I was extremely grateful and relieved.
Looking at the application now, it seems like you get a registration number when you submit your paperwork and that you can use it to check on the status of your application, but this was not available when I applied.
Applying for the Thailand Pass was truly an ordeal, especially because there was no recourse each time I got a rejection other than to go through the whole application fiasco again.
It was doubly frustrating as my entry application for Singapore had been approved within a matter of hours, leaving me stumped as to why I was having so many issues with Thailand. But the process did help me come to a few conclusions.
First, apply as early as possible, and at least a week before your arrival, if you hope to secure a Thailand Pass because the processing time is only growing as more people attempt to travel there.
Second, make sure your documents are as up-to-date as possible and that you have a vaccination QR code to include since that seems crucial. It’s also important that your hotel and insurance documentation displays travel dates and dollar amounts (in the case of insurance).
Hopefully, the passport digit bug is worked out now, but if you do get the API server error, try using between one and four spaces after your passport number and see if that works.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of talking to a live human.
After all the trouble the Thailand Pass system had given me, I was almost ready to give up. But making that call to consular services was my last resort and it was both relatively easy and successful, though it did take an hour to straighten things out.
If you run into similar issues as me, I’d highly suggest calling them directly after submitting your next application and seeing if they can manually process your forms while you’re on the phone.
In the end, I actually had to cancel my trip at the very last minute due to some unforeseen circumstances. It felt even more disappointing given the time and effort I’d had to put into my Thailand Pass application. But, hopefully, my experience and eventual success can help others go through the process much more smoothly.
Featured photo by southtownboy/Getty Images.
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The credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.
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