- Meagan Drillinger is a New York-based travel writer.
- She spent three months working remotely in Thailand this year as part of their Test & Go program.
- Drillinger says it was an inspiring place with convenient amenities for remote workers.
When I had the opportunity to be one of the 200,000 visitors allowed to visit Thailand last winter with the country’s Test & Go program, I didn’t know what to expect. What I found was Thailand as it had not been seen in over 20 years – an experience that, as a traveler, was rare and romantic, and as a remote worker, inspiring and stimulating.
A step back in time
For more than 50 years, travelers – many of them backpackers – have been lured to Thailand for the cheap prices, enticing food, white-washed beaches and the camaraderie of fellow travelers thousands of miles from home. .
But with time and tourism came investment, development and progress, and much has changed: luxury hotels now tower over centuries-old fishing villages and dusty dirt roads have been paved, with a 7 -11 every 500 meters. Things are certainly much more practical and lucrative, but it has become a different Thailand.
Except during our visit.
At first we were based in Koh Lanta, an island in Krabi province, and on the mainland in Krabi, in the resort town of Ao Nang. Both are accustomed to high volumes of tourism, especially in high season.
But during our stay, which began on December 29, 2021 and ended at the end of March 2022, more often than not we were the only ones on the beach or among a handful of people in restaurants for the sunset or haunting the lonely alleys once chaotic night markets. Boat tours that usually took 35 people only had 11.
A convenient place to work remotely
Because the cost of living in Thailand is so affordable, it’s generally an attractive location for many digital nomads. And even without a crowd of them there, the country was still very convenient to work in.
As a writer planning to work while on the trip, I had my coveted selection of cafe chairs – a real luxury any digital nomad will confirm, as it’s usually a struggle for those with cushions near outlets . WiFi was fast and cafes were plentiful with outlets readily available.
In fact, the winter of 2022 ended up being my most lucrative quarter since I started freelancing in 2015. Publications back home were eager to find out what traveling to Thailand was like when it reopened, j So I had a long list of assignments that kept me busy all the time – and the lack of tourists made snapping dream beach photos for my articles a snap.
Hope for a quick recovery
When we tell everyone who has been to Thailand that we had Ao Nang beach all to ourselves, they are shocked and tell us how lucky we were to see Thailand in a way that she hadn’t been seen for years. (This is of course not the island experience of Phuket or Koh Samui, which was opened up through a sealed Sandbox program and has seen tourism boom for many months.)
It’s hard to feel lucky, however, when so many people who live here are so damaged by the drop in tourism. Sure, it’s been idyllic for me as an American traveler who can walk in with my strong American currency, get my experience, and then go home – but that’s much less the case for people who have to live, work, and operate. here on a daily basis.
Still, I can’t lie that a small part of my heart is grateful to have the opportunity to be one of the few to see this country in a way that will probably never happen again.
What you need to know about the Test & Go program
As a traveler from the United States, I first had to apply for a Thai Travel Pass and present proof of vaccination and a negative PCR test no earlier than 72 hours before my departure. I downloaded all of this for my Travel Pass application, but I also brought hard copies which I was asked to show several times.
I also had to have a reservation for a hotel stay approved for the first 24 hours. These hotels are called SHA Extra+ hotels: They administered a PCR test upon my arrival, and I had to quarantine myself for 24 hours while waiting for my negative results. They also provided sealed transport from the airport to the hotel and all my meals during my stay.
Thailand also requires proof of travel insurance with emergency medical coverage – I used Allianz.
It may sound complicated, but it was actually very easy, and a small price to pay to keep travelers and locals safe, as we are still grappling with the pandemic. It sounds like a great solution to keep everyone safe and help restart an economy that desperately needs one of its biggest industries back.
Editor’s note: As of May 1, 2022, Thailand has removed pre-departure and post-arrival PCR testing requirements for vaccinated travellers. Vaccinated visitors must always present proof of vaccination, and unvaccinated visitors must either self-quarantine or present a negative PCR test before departure.