RM1,000 entry fee a turn-off for Malaysians going to Thailand

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Exorbitant fees and stringent requirements imposed on inbound travellers to Thailand have become a major turn off for many Malaysians to visit the neighbouring country despite the border’s reopening since early this month.

Checks at the Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and Security (ICQS) Complex at Bukit Kayu Hitam showed things remained quiet at the border’s checkpoint.

It is understood that the situation was largely contributed by stringent requirements set by Thai authorities. It includes inbound travellers having to pay at least RM1,000 as an entry fee.

The situation was a stark contrast to the pre-Covid-19 pandemic era as Bukit Kayu Hitam border check-point was usually swarmed by individual travellers and tour buses.

A local tourism player, Ooi Jui Hu, 32, said his three friends and he had to fork out RM5,000 for hotel booking in Hatyai.

Other than that, he said they also had to buy insurance coverage worth US$20,000 (RM84,536) with premium fees of RM500 for a person, for a seven-day stay.

“The RM500 premium fees is the cheapest you can get and if you plan to stay longer, you’ll have to pay higher premium fees depending on how many days who wish to stay there,” he said.

“We also have to bear for the RTK swab test cost of RM350 each upon arrival at the hotel,” he said.

Last week, the Immigration Department in a statement said only 6,980 travellers were recorded entering the Bukit Kayu Hitam border checkpoint, as compared to 160,818 people in Bangunan Sultan Iskandar, Johor Baru, as of April 4.

Lee Ai Choo, 47, who operates cross-border insurance services in Changlun said there was no immediate impact of the border reopening.

“As for now, most of the travellers using land border checkpoint at Bukit Kayu Hitam are not driving their own vehicle.

“I think the number of travellers to Thailand will pick up once the Thai authorities ease the requirement imposed on inbound travellers,” she said.

Her sentiment was echoed by Napoh eatery operator, Abdul Rashid Mohd Salam, 55.

“I haven’t seen anything (economic impact) of the border reopening because most of my clients are still lorry drivers and local residents.

“That is why we decided to only operates between 4pm and late evening during this fasting month,” he said. – NST