Thailand’s government has confirmed the long-awaited tourism reopening plan, known as the Phuket Sandbox, will go ahead as planned this summer. This means that vaccinated travellers will be able to enjoy the island of Phuket without the need for quarantine upon arrival. The news marks a major step in Thailand’s recovery from Covid-19, and significant progress towards reopening tourism infrastructure nationwide.
Starting from 1 July 2021, under the Sandbox scheme, vaccinated travellers from low- and medium-risk countries will be able to enter Phuket and enjoy their holidays without quarantine (designated high-risk countries are not allowed entry at this time). The list of countries permitted is being updated regularly by the Thai authorities, and can be found here.
Vaccination entry requirements currently only apply to travellers aged 18 and above. Children between 6 and 18 will also need to pass a Covid-19 test upon arrival; children under 6 can enter, provided their parents or guardians are fully vaccinated and they pass a saliva test upon arrival at the airport.
Arrivals at Phuket International Airport will be required to present a valid Covid-19 vaccination certificate, proving they have completed a full course of inoculations with a WHO-approved vaccine at least 14 days prior to entry; the list of vaccines currently approved for entry are AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac, Sinopharm and Pfizer. Arrivals must also present the results of an RT-PCR test, taken within 72 hours of departure from their home country. They will then have to take another test upon arrival.
In addition to the vaccine certificate and test results, visitors will need to present the following documents: a Certificate of Entry (COE); medical insurance worth a minimum of US$100,000, covering Covid-19 for the duration of their stay; confirmation of accommodation in a SHA Plus hotel, for a minimum of 14 days; and a return flight from Phuket International Airport, if their intended duration of stay is less than 14 days.
Once these steps have been completed, travellers can download and activate either the “Thailand Plus” or “Mor Chana” mobile application, which help to track and trace all new arrivals, while also supporting them with up-to-date information for the duration of their holiday.
Visitors to Phuket will be checked again for Covid-19 at three intervals over the 14 nights they must spend on the island before travelling to other areas of Thailand. After taking the RT-PCR test upon arrival at the airport (at a cost of 2,400 THB), they will need to visit one of seven official swab centres on day six or seven, and then again on day 12 or 13 prior to departure (both the second and third tests are expected to cost around 2,800 THB). All tests must be paid for by the travellers themselves; the results can then be uploaded and saved to their track and trace app.
During the first 14 days of their stay, visitors to Phuket can travel freely around the island, provided they observe local Covid-19 regulations (known as DMHTTA), which relate to social distancing, use of masks, hygiene, testing and tracing. During those first two weeks, travellers can even visit other islands in Phuket Province, including popular locations such as Coconut Island (Koh Maprao) and Coral Island (Koh He). However, islands beyond Phuket Province, such as Koh Phi Phi, Koh Yao or Phang Nga Bay will be off limits during this period, until the traveller has completed 14 nights on Phuket and passed the three mandatory RT-PCR tests. Once these requirements have been met, they will be free to travel further afield.
Between July and September, the Thai government expects to welcome 129,000 travellers to Phuket as part of the Sandbox project. By the time the island reopens, the risk of Covid-19 infection is expected to be extremely low. This is because all international arrivals will have been either vaccinated or quarantined before they start their holiday on the island; secondly, the local population will have already achieved herd immunity following a series of local vaccination programmes in Phuket.
With quarantine restrictions lifted and 4T protocols in place, Phuket is ready to offer travellers a safe and enjoyable return to the Land of Smiles. With more provinces expected to follow the Sandbox example in the months ahead, the future of tourism in Thailand is looking bright.
Note: This article was updated on 30 June 2021 to reflect the latest developments and regulations related to the Phuket Sandbox project. As the situation in Thailand continues to change, we will provide the latest breaking news regarding Covid-19 and its impact on tourism via our social media channels: