Thailand was one of the first countries outside of China to experience the corona virus, classified as COVID-19, now declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. So how has it affected the city and Chiang Mai locals and expats?
Here we'll discuss how it has affected the economy and important information local expats should be aware of.
An Economic Crisis
As a popular destination for Chinese tourists, Chiang Mai started to feel the effects of the virus in late January. Suspended flights and China's ban on outbound tour groups has sharply cut the number of direct flights between China and Chiang Mai, accounting for a third of the tourists that usually travel to Thailand during this time. While expats may have initially appreciated the lack of tourists, local businesses suffered.
A recent BBC article reports the disastrous effects for small-scale entrepreneurs. Not only hotels and businesses directly serving the tourism industry are experiencing the economic crash, but also flower sellers, traditional dancers, and songthaew drivers. Hotels have experienced up to 70% reservation cancellations, and local sellers report their income dropping by half over the past month.
In the past week, the seriousness of the virus has grown and things are quickly changing day by day. The EU has locked down and completely closed their borders to non-citizens. The US government has issued guidelines for Americans to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people, and 3 states have ordered a lockdown of all residents to stay in their homes. Humans are experiencing huge lifestyle changes worldwide, with an increase of travel bans and local schools and places of work closed. While the effects of the virus are devastating, humans are uniting in solidarity.
Thankfully the heat of Thailand prevents the virus from surviving long in Chiang Mai. Since it has been in the general public's awareness for the past 2 months, Chiang Mai locals are not hoarding food the same way they are in the US and Australia. Toilet paper and dry foods are readily available, but supermarkets are busier than usual.
Regardless of where you are geographically, the best way to decrease your exposure is by limiting social contact and spending more time at home. We especially encourage expats with underlying health conditions to stay inside and depend on Chiang Mai's FoodPanda and GrabFood for food delivery. Please contact us to help with other day-to-day errands and custom food delivery so you can stay safe inside.
Important information for Local Expats
(updated April 2, 2020)
Unable to travel due to COVID-19:
How to obtain a 30-day Visa Extension
Thailand has closed land and sea borders, causing stress and uncertainty to expats on visas that require an upcoming visa run.
Due to borders closing and the inability to travel, a 30 day visa extension will allow expats to stay in Chiang Mai and postpone visa runs. Provision (clause 2.28) in the current Police Order (327/2557) allows a 30 day extension of stay "based on embassy request." This extension is applicable to any type of entry stamp, including Non-Immigrant retirement visas. In order to qualify for the extension you need to contact your embassy in Thailand and get a letter stating you can't travel. It is noted that some immigration offices may issue the extension without the embassy letter as long as you can show proof of cancellation of your flight.
How to get an immigration-approved embassy letter:
American citizens: If you have not yet enrolled in the STEP program, be sure to do so at step.state.gov. Email email@example.com and tell them to send you a consolate letter via email AND mail you a hard copy to your Thai address. Immigration will request the original, but if this is not possible, you can print colored copies.
British citizens: The British Embassy can issue a letter to support applications to extend existing visas.
To apply, email Bangkok.DocumentaryServices@fco.gov.uk with evidence of:
- Copy of biodata page of passport
- Entry stamp
- Visa stamp/sticker with expiry date
To ensure you will not be penalized, we advise you to obtain a letter from your embassy if they will issue it. Bring the following to the Chiang Mai Immigration office to apply for the 30 day extension:
2 copies of
-Original consolate/embassy letter (or COLORED copy)
-TM-6 Departure card
-Fill out the TM-7 form and two acknowledgement forms (STM-2 Acknowledgement of Overstay Penalties and Acknowledgement of Visa Extension Reason)
-Blue pen and 1,900 THB
Important Note! Unlike a 30-day extension for Tourist visas, the COVID-19 extension begins the day you apply at Immigration (not 30 days from when your visa expires) so go a day or two before your visa expires to maximize your time allowed. Pay the 1,900 THB fee and you will be given 15 days, then go back to Immigration to check in and you will be given another 15 days (no fee at the time of the second check in).
If your country will not issue you a letter and you feel safest staying in Chiang Mai, we can provide a solution. Contact us to learn of your options.
Be sure to follow the most recent post. Note the dates of each update.
(Updated April 2)
Thai authorities have barred all foreigners from entering unless they have a valid work permit or meet special circumstances. They must present a fit-to-fly certificate (issued no more than 72 hours before travelling) and a certificate of entry issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Other visas (retirement, education, marriage, etc) do not grant a foreigner to enter and they will be denied.
Public transportation halted operations and people cannot travel to different provinces. There is still no strict quarantine or curfew in Chiang Mai, but of course social distancing is encouraged.
(Updated March 24)
Starting March 22, all travelers, foreign and Thai, are required to show additional documentation to be allowed into Thailand.
-Present a valid Health Certificate with a negative COVID-19 lab result issued within 72 hours of flight departure upon check in. The lab test and examination date must be clearly stated on the health certificate.
-Health insurance document that provides at least $10,000USD in Thailand (not applicable to Thai nationals).
-Fill out the T8 Health form at the port of entry or download AOT App on your mobile phone.
For expats that decide to travel during this time, we recommend you limit exposure as much as possible. Be sure to stay up to date with how each country is managing borders through official government resources such as the US Department of State.
Closures and Postponements
Under the Emergency Decree, all non-essential services and shops have been closed. Food markets, pharmacies, and convenience stores remain open. Restaurants are open but food is only available for take away and delivery.
These infographics provided by the Australian Embassy help expats understand provisions:
Prime Minister Prayut declares an Emergency Decree to be put into effect Thursday, March 26. He said specific measures concerning the public will be detailed at a later date, though the emergency decree empowers authorities to impose curfews, ban travels, and close down buildings without warrants.
Thai New Year or Songkran celebrations from April 13-15, 2020 are postponed until further notice.
Universities, international schools, and tutorial schools are closed from March 18-31, 2020.
Public spaces such as pubs/bars, cinemas, gyms, and entertainment venues have closed until March 31, 2020.
Popular markets including Tha Phae Walking Street, Wua Lai Walking Street, and Nimman Walking Street are closed until April 2, 2020.
Shopping venues, markets, restaurants, and office buildings remain open but the government has asked for stricter screening and cleanliness.
With things changing quickly, expect inconsistent information and contradictions between government agencies. News is updated daily, so be sure to stay informed and check the publication date on every article. If you have any questions regarding visas and travel, contact us.
Stay safe and enjoy the slow pace of life in the coming days...