Want to visit Thailand? Here’s the Sandbox model at a glance

You set foot on deserted, brilliant white sands as soft as a down pillow. The green-tinted waters invite you to jump in, but you pause for a moment to listen to the powerful waves assaulting the sheer beauty of this beach.

To help feed the next wave, the sea is gently pulling large amounts of water back from the shoreline, making gurgling sounds. The spectacle of nature continues with violent waves pitching forward in thundering blows. You’re breathing the ocean air that soothes your soul, and can’t take your eyes off Thailand’s Andaman Sea, sliding and sloshing between jagged rocks that frame the sandy cove.

Unreal?

We know, it feels like ages since Thailand closed its borders due to Covid-19, but you can visit Phuket’s beaches in July without quarantining. The cabinet approved the Phuket sandbox plan on June 22nd, and more provinces are set to follow if all goes smoothly.

Here’s what we know about the sandbox model at this stage.

Phuket’s sandbox plan in a nutshell

  • From July 1st, 2021, you can visit Phuket without quarantining if you’re fully inoculated and are from a country with low- or medium-risk of Covid-19 transmission. Also, you must have been in your departure origin country for a minimum of 21 days. Children younger than 12 do not need to be vaccinated.
  • You have to fly direct to Phuket if you don’t want to quarantine.
  • You’ll need to produce a negative Covid-19 test not older than 72 hours upon arrival. 
  • You’ll have to get tested for coronavirus again when you land at Phuket’s airport (= day 0) and undergo two more tests (on day 6 and day 13) during a two-week stay in Phuket. Also, you’ll need to pay for those tests yourself, and each one costs 4,000 THB ($125) at most.
  • You need to show receipts of the Covid test appointments.
  • After 14 days in Phuket (plus Koh He and Koh Maithon, which belong to the province of Phuket) and no positive test, you can travel anywhere in the Land of Smiles (though you’ll have to take each province’s requirements into account! More on that later on.)
  • During the 14-day stay in Phuket, although you will be able to leave your safe-certified hotel, you must return to the hotel each night.
  • There’s no minimum stay. Should you want to fly home within fewer than 14 days, that’s allowed, but you must fly direct from Phuket.

According to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), 63.3% of Phuket’s local population have received the first jab, and 30.2% are fully vaccinated. Bookaway’s operations manager Khun Sonthithep Pulsri believes that close to 70% will have received the first dose by July 1st.

An economic boost is unlikely for now

Unsure whether or not they could visit Phuket without quarantining, most people have already booked their summer holiday elsewhere. Also, while lazing by the beach and going for a relaxing massage are allowed, the lady bars remain closed for the time being. In other words, this is your chance to lounge on Phuket’s beaches as though they were all little-known. You can sip on an ice-cold Singha beer, go snorkeling when you feel like it, or enjoy a dip in the sea when the heat becomes too much to bear.

The Phuket Sandbox Model starts with flights from Israel, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore.

Other destinations will reopen on July, 15th, but…

Miss the hippie haven of Koh Phangan, or want to dive in Koh Tao? You can visit Koh Samui from July, 15th and can travel to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao 15 days later, but will have to travel via a “sealed” route scheme and must spend the first three days in an SHA-approved hotel in Koh Samui.

From day 4 to 7, you can travel along sealed routes in Koh Samui, which means some hotels and restaurants that are SHA-approved.

From day 8 to 14, you’re allowed to visit Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. After 14 days in the Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao areas, you’re not allowed to travel to the rest of the country if you’ve entered Thailand via the Samui sealed route model (=  if you’ve flown from abroad to Koh Samui direct). This rule is subject to change and requires close monitoring.

Other tourism hotspots including Koh Phi Phi and some islands in Phang Nga are rumored to reopen in the coming months. 

Here’s the proposed timeline to reopen other provinces with Koh Samui’s sealed route scheme:

  • July 1st: Reopening of Phuket (Sandbox model)
  • July 15th: Reopening of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao (sealed route scheme)
  • August 1st: Reopening of Khao Lak, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Ngai, and Railay (sealed route scheme)
  • September 1st: Reopening of Chiang Mai city, Mae Rim and Mae Teang District (sealed route scheme)
  • September 1st: Reopening of Pattaya and Sattahip (sealed route scheme)
  • September 1st: Reopening of Buri Ram (sealed route scheme)
  • September 1st: Reopening of Bangkok and Hua Hin (sealed route scheme)
  • October 1st: Reopening of the rest of Thailand (rules and regulations to be confirmed)

Documents you’ll need to enter Thailand

  • A visa exempt stay, valid visa, or re-entry permit
  • Proof of Covid-19 vaccination (if you’ve been vaccinated) 
  • A Certificate of Entry (CoE), issued by the Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate in your country
  • A 100K Covid insurance policy, which must cover both travel and Covid-19
  • Phuket SHA+Sandbox Hotels: Proof that you have a place to stay (particularly important for non-vaccinated travelers) and a SHABA certificate from the hotel
  • A medical certificate – obtained within 72 hours before departure – with an RT-PCR laboratory result that indicates coronavirus has not been detected
  • Download the Thailand Plus tracking app before your departure and upload the required information.

While this may sound like red tape, we have competent travel experts that can help you cut through it and answer any questions you may have. Besides, we will update this blog post regularly.

Important things to bear in mind

The 0-day-quarantine will only be applied to travelers who are inoculated (full dose) with a vaccine that’s been approved by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) or the World Health Organization (WHO). These are (as of March 31st, 2021):

  • ARS-CoV-2 Vaccine (CoronaVac) by Sinovac (two doses needed)
  • AZD1222 by AstraZeneca / Oxford (two doses needed); 
  • AZD1222 by SK BIOSCIENCE – AstraZeneca / Oxford (two doses needed); 
  • BNT162b2/CORMIRNATY – Tozinameran (INN) by Pfizer / BioNTech (two doses needed); 
  • Covishield (ChAdOx1_nCoV19) by the Serum Institute of India (two doses needed); 
  • Ad26.COV2.S by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson (one dose needed),
  •  mRNA-1273 by Moderna (two doses needed)

The visitor must’ve got the jab, or the vaccine certificate, respectively, at least 14 days before arriving in Thailand. Inoculated people who fail to produce a valid vaccine certificate, an original paper or a print-out of an online vaccine certificate will have to go into fourteen-day-quarantine. It’s upon the immigration officers and doctors from the Ministry of Public Health’s discretion to determine whether or not a vaccine certificate is valid.

While holidaying in Phuket and elsewhere in Thailand, you must wear a face mask. If you get caught without one, you’ll be fined 20,000 baht ($630) and may find yourself behind bars for one night.

Also, the CCSA has made it clear that disease control measures and close monitoring remain in place. The sandbox plan will be history once the Covid-19 cases spike in tourism areas to more than 90 per week.

Note: While you can go anywhere in Thailand after 14 days in Phuket, Koh He, and Koh Maithon, you must abide by each province’s rules. Here are two examples:

  • Example 1: You fly direct from Phuket to Chiang Mai = no quarantine is required in Chiang Mai because both Phuket and Chiang Mai are green zones
  • Example 2: You fly from Phuket to Chiang Mai with a layover in Bangkok = a 14-day quarantine in Chiang Mai is mandatory because Bangkok is a red zone

As of June 24th, the red zone provinces are Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, and Samutprakan

Lastly, the 14-day-quarantine remains for people who arrive from a country that the Thai government considers a high-risk country. To determine the high-risk countries, the Thai government counts the new coronavirus cases per day as laid out in the table below. A green background means it’s a low-risk country, whereas the cream-colored background indicates a medium-risk country. The amber background and countries typed in red show where there’s a high risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Rules for non-vaccinated travelers

If you haven’t got the jab, you can visit Phuket on 1st July too, but will have to stay in an SHA-approved hotel for 14 days (15 nights). After quarantining and if you’re free of coronavirus, you can visit any province in Thailand, too.

Reopening of the rest of the country

Thailand’s government has declared to reopen the whole country by mid-October, but many organizations have expressed doubts about it.

Trip ideas

Whether it’s Phuket’s old town with its Sino-Portuguese buildings, Koh Phi Phi’s fabled beaches (located in the province of Krabi), or Koh Phangan’s hippie vibe that tickles your fancy, you’ll have free rein after 14 days in Phuket, Koh He, and Koh Maithon.

Look forward to a vacation with a feel-good factor. Your deserted beach with the powerful waves is only a few Bookaway clicks away.

Want to travel across the land and sea?

Get inspired with more stories by travelers, for travelers