Study abroad and international travel presents unique challenges and risks during this current pandemic.
We have, however, been able to run our fall semester in Thailand in-person with a small cohort of students. We have learned a LOT doing this, and this page is here to answer some of the questions that students, faculty, partner schools and others have about the process. We will update this as needed.
What is the process for getting a visa to Thailand? Is it different than before COVID-19?
The visa and arrival process is more complicated than in the past, but it is possible. In addition to a visa, all travelers to Thailand must be issued a Certificate of Entry, which indicates that they meet the COVID-19-specific requirements set by the Thai government.
Please see our Travel During COVID page for more.
Does Thailand have any restrictions in place for Americans entering the country?
No, at this time Thailand has not issued travel restrictions for incoming American citizens.
What kind of health insurance is required?
In order to be issued a Certificate of Entry, students must show proof of health insurance coverage that will cover COVID-19 treatment in Thailand for a minimum coverage of 100,000 USD for their entire stay in Thailand. Most colleges and universities that ISDSI partners with provide health insurance coverage to study abroad students which meets this requirement and can provide a coverage letter. If a student does not have insurance through their college, we can make recommendations for insurance options they can purchase individually.
I am committed to the program. Should I purchase my flight to Thailand?
No, do not purchase a commercial flight to Thailand. Thailand has suspended all incoming commercial flights. The only approved flights into Thailand are repatriation flights purchased through the Thai consulate travel agents. ISDSI will coordinate flights. Commercial airlines will still show regular flight availability on their websites, even though it is not approved by the Thai government. If you purchase one of these flights and the restriction is still in place, the airline will cancel your flight and make it difficult for you to receive a refund.
Can ISDSI provide a flight itinerary for our flight from the US to Thailand?
Because the only approved flights are repatriation flights coordinated through the Thai consulates, ISDSI cannot purchase flights until the Thai government approves them. Most likely, this means that flights will be purchased 2-3 weeks before the students depart for Thailand. We have relationships with the airlines offering repatriation flights and can provide a good idea of the expected dates of travel, but nothing will be confirmed until Thailand approves and releases flights.
Is COVID-19 testing available in Thailand?
Yes, COVID-19 testing is easy and available throughout Thailand and Chiang Mai.
What is the protocol if a student tests positive for COVID-19 while on the program?
All students will have single rooms. If a student is ill and has COVID symptoms they will get tested for COVID. The Thai government requires that if they are positive they are taken to the hospital, even if asymptomatic. (This is part of the reason Thailand has done such a good job with COVID.)
If a student tests positive for COVID-19, how will their academic experience be disrupted since they will not be able to attend in person?
If a student is remote, we will either Zoom the lectures or assign alternative work for the experiential field work part of the program. If there is a second wave we have a plan to run the entire program either online or in our isolation bubble.
Will students travel outside of Chiang Mai?
Yes. We are experiential and community based so travel is built into the curriculum and program. This is not primarily a classroom based program. To manage the inherent risk we are reducing the number of villages we visit, as well as housing (avoiding home stays when possible). Students will be COVID tested as needed or requested by communities. Villages and areas we travel with are COVID free (Thailand hasn’t had an outbreak for more than three months). Experiential learning activities are outdoors, and we have a comprehensive policy for how to do this in a COVID safe manner (universal mask wearing when appropriate, etc.). We review this and talk with each community we work with on an ongoing basis, and are able to switch activities and locations as needed.
The problem is not the risk from the villages, to be honest. In Spring 2020, villages closed themselves to outsiders — they will refuse American students if they feel we are risk to them. We we are doing everything we can to keep the students COVID free and tested so we do not pose a risk to our community partners.
Are there any travel restrictions within Thailand between different provinces or cities?
Not at this time. There were in the past, but those have all been lifted.
Will students be required to wear masks at all times?
Students will be required to follow all government requirements. At this time, masks are required in malls and other indoor spaces. In general, ISDSI students will not be required to wear a mask when on the ISDSI campus in their “bubble” but should wear one when in public or if there are public events at ISDSI. Thai people often wear a mask when they are sick, even before COVID-19, and view it as a sign of respect for Thai people and Thai culture when foreigners choose to wear a mask.
Does it cost the same to study abroad with the Sustainable Development Studies program during COVID-19?
Because of the complications and inherent risk of traveling during the pandemic, there are increased travel costs. In an effort to keep costs as low as possible for students, ISDSI will cover the following added expenses:
- Housing, meals, and transportation in Los Angeles for 2-day group pre-departure activities
- RT-PCR test in Los Angeles
- Fit to Fly physical in Los Angeles
- Quarantine in Bangkok
- Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
In addition to the baseline costs of the program, students are responsible for the following:
- Airfare to Los Angeles for group pre-departure activities
- Roundtrip airfare to Thailand (one-way from Los Angeles to Bangkok is approximately $1,000)
- Health insurance that covers COVID treatment in Thailand (usually provided by the student’s university)
- Recommended trip insurance
- Recommended COVID-19 test prior to traveling to Los Angeles (we suggest finding an option covered by your health insurance)
What is ISDSI’s refund policy?
If a student withdraws at any point before or during the semester, we will issue a full refund less any non-recoverable expenses (e.g. the cost of the ASQ, etc.). Depending on the date of withdrawal, this could include the cost of housing for the semester since we don’t own our own housing.
Is ISDSI facilitating short faculty-led programs during COVID-19?
If nothing changes with visa and travel requirements to enter Thailand, the following would limit our ability to facilitate a faculty-led program:
- Cost: Pre-departure and in-country quarantine requirements are an additional $3,000 per person (in addition to the program fee)
- Quarantine requirement: Thailand has a two-week quarantine requirement for all incoming travelers, which would be understandably unappealing to programs that are typically 4-5 weeks in length.
- Dates: Thailand is not allowing any incoming commercial flights, which means that all incoming travelers must book repatriation flights through the Thai consulates in the US. Flights schedules are more restrictive (only certain departure airports, certain days of the week) and cannot be booked more than a couple of weeks in advance. All program dates would need to be somewhat flexible.
- Visas: At this time, we don’t have a visa option to get the faculty here. Thailand is not issuing tourist visas. For students, we can get Education visas, but this is not an option for faculty.
In order to make faculty-led programs a possibility, at the very least we would need Thailand to begin issuing tourist visas again (otherwise, the faculty cannot come). Furthermore, in order to avoid the significant additional costs we would also need Thailand to eliminate the quarantine requirement. It is difficult to know how likely this is to happen, even if a vaccine is available.
With that being said, ISDSI is open to developing Summer 2021 faculty-led programs in hopes that the travel and quarantine requirements might change to make programs feasible. Contact [email protected] to begin discussions about a Summer 2021 program!