For many hoping to visit Thailand, the new Thailand Pass website has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster and has prompted many to simply choose another, easier to visit, destination. German Thomas Hansen is one of them.
The 55-year-old automotive engineer from Cologne and his wife wanted to escape the cold and rain in Thailand, where they have visited four times in the past 20 years. “We very much like the nice people and spicy food and we wanted to support the local tourism sector,” he said.
But the Hansens are going elsewhere. In his own words below, he explains why.
Our virtual journey to Thailand started in the beginning of October with the news report, “Thailand, Reopening the Borders for Tourists Again”. Wonderful!
We start checking the requirements and judge them acceptable. Checking the website of our travel agent, we find a perfect travel arrangement, starting on Nov. 8. Great hotel, perfect flight times, reasonable price; let’s give it a try.
Again, we check the requirements:
- Coming from a low-risk country ✅
- Being fully vaccinated ✅
- Stay in SHA+ Hotel ✅
- Health insurance ✅
- Present a negative PCR test upon entry, not older than 72 hours – Feasible
On Oct. 13, we contacted our travel agent and booked the vacation. Booking confirmation was received on Oct. 15. Still more than three weeks to go.
We opened the (now-replaced) Thailand Certificate of Entry website and chose the Phuket “sandbox” as the entry method.
To get to this point, it already took us some hours of investigation on several other websites. After clicking “Register”, several pages appeared where we had to input our personal data, expected flight date, port of entry, copy of passport, copy of vaccination status, copy of hotel reservation. Then we are asked to upload a document from the health insurance, stating that they cover Covid-19 related treatment cost of not less than US$100,000 covering the entire time of stay.
Oops, we need to contact the insurance company. After a week we get the required document. We go back to the COE website, upload the documents from our computer and the system responds: “Please upload a copy of passport”.
Again, we have to research and learn that you additionally need to press a small button, hidden in the lower area of each input field, to upload the document to the embassy server.
Finally, we made it on Oct. 24 and got six-digit code to check the status or edit the registration or provide more travel details. A few hours later, a confirmation email arrives.
Two days later, the application was rejected with the message that we need to instead use the new Thailand Pass website to obtain a QR code. But the website won’t be available until Nov. 1.
Wow, only 15 days to go, and we are advised to use a brand-new system, starting in eight days, just seven days before our flight leaves. Now we are starting to ask ourselves what may happen in case the application is not processed in time?
We reapply for a CoE, adding a note about our fear that there may be a timing problem between (Thailand Pass) application and approval. By the way; the advised time for application is at least 7 days earlier. The very next day the application is rejected again.
Now it’s time to contact the embassy. We spent hours and hours, trying to call the Royal Thai Consulate-General Frankfurt or the Royal Thai Embassy Berlin. In the end, we were not able to get through; we only heard the engaged tone or could listen the ringing tone going to the “off”; no one answering the phone.
Unfortunately, we did not even hear the wonderful melody of a waiting loop.
So we wait another seven days for the great opening of the new Thailand Pass website.
At 3 p.m. German time, we start the new endeavor.
The website is up and running, we select “Test and Go – Exemption from Quarantine“, acknowledge legal information and confirm.
Then we start feeding the system our data: First Arrival Port in Thailand (City) … and no drop-down choices appear in the select menu.
“CALM DOWN!” I tell myself. We close the browser and start a new session. Now the list appears and we work us through 4 pages of information and upload several documents. Strangely, enough, uploads are only accepted as one single JPEG-format image, no PDF, no multiple pages. So we need to convert multiple page PDF documents into one-page jpg’s.
After uploading all required data we hit “submit” and immediately, a cryptic error message appears on the screen: “Error from API server”.
By this time, we started to get frustrated. Maybe we had typed something wrong or the copy of the vaccination status did not contain the passport number, so we started over again. But we get the same result, “Error from API server”.
Relax, maybe we can try with a different browser. But again and again the same result. OK, then, let’s wait an hour or two. Maybe they recognize the error and will adjust their system.
Two hours later we encounter the same situation; on the very last page we get a message “Error from API server” again and again.
OK, time to do more Google research. We spent hours and hours in several forums. We found out, that the programmers have built in (at least) two errors in the interface.
One is very technical, I don’t understand in detail, but of course I’m not a programmer. They did not consider a standard security mechanism CORS (Cross-Origin Resource Sharing) that prevents our browser from being relinked to potentially insecure server and blocks this connection.
To solve this problem, we need to install a developer extension to our browser, to disable this CORS security mechanism.
Again, we insert all data, hit the submit button and get a new error message: “Passport number already exists”, or something similar.
Again, we had to consult Google to find out the reason for this very simple error. It seems that they expect a 13-digit Thai government identification number, although Germany’s passport numbers contain only nine digits. So, we need to add one or more spaces after the passport number to get through.
(Bangkok Herald: This is, in fact, not true. It was not coded for a Thai identification card’s 13 digits. The text field was coded wrong to require at least one non-numeric entry. So even one space was sufficient.)
We get the first “Success √” popup window. So, it’s time to insert the next passenger details with the same hurdles. Finally, after 11 hours of hassle (just this day) we were able to input our data into the system by the evening.
But we got no confirmation email and had no way to access our data for any adjustments or corrections. In case we had typed the wrong email address, the confirmation will disappear into the ether. Booking a new flight? You need to re-register.
(Bangkok Herald: In fact, bad email addresses created automatic rejections with the Foreign Affairs Ministry having to way to alert the applicant. Type carefully!)
It took us another thrilling 20 hours to get a confirmation email that told us the result of the registration would be sent within seven working days.” Seven working days? That is way beyond our planned date of departure.
To make it short, we received the rejection on Saturday Nov. 6 10 a.m., only 40 hours before scheduled departure time. The application was rejected because we needed to upload a paid hotel reservation that included RT-PCR coronavirus test. We were told to reregister from the beginning.
No shortcut, no direct access to the already provided data. We would need to insert all data again. Of course, we are unable to get in contact with our travel agent to get revised hotel reservation. It’s Saturday. No one to get on the phone before Monday morning, the time we need to leave our home to get to the airport.
That’s it. We paid almost 4,000 euros, spent hour after hour in front of the computer and on the phone, learned in various forums about the mistakes Thai programmers made on the website just to be rejected because of a missing prebooked PCR, worth 50 euros.
Thailand, enough is enough. We wish you all the best and good luck with your new tourist deterrence policy. But don’t be surprised, in case you don’t attract millions of desperately required tourists.