The Tourism Authority of Thailand has provided information from the Thailand Ministry of Public Health, or MoPH, on the requirements for a pilot program for Thais and non-Thai nationals referred to as the “Phuket Sandbox.” Under the sandbox model, the Thai government has reopened the southern island province of Phuket to fully vaccinated travellers without a quarantine requirement.
In order to be eligible for the sandbox model, Thai nationals as well as foreign expatriates and travellers must be coming from a country or region that has a low to medium risk of COVID-19 infection as published by the MoPH. All travellers must have also been present in the country or regions that travel originated from for at least 21 days before departure from that area.
All travellers participating in the Sandbox initiative must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with a vaccine that is registered with the MoPH or approved by the World Health Organization. Vaccination must have been done at least 14 days before the date of travel and all travellers must have a vaccine certificate or card to prove they have been vaccinated. Unvaccinated minor children under 18 years of age traveling with their fully vaccinated parents or guardians are required to have a COVID-19 test performed prior to traveling to Phuket in lieu of a vaccination card or other proof of being vaccination.
The Thai government approved the Sandbox travel model that allows foreign travellers who have been fully vaccinated to enter the country without observing a 14 day quarantine period. The measure was approved in June and went into effect on July 1, 2021 for only the island province of Phuket in advance of the Thai borders fully reopening for visitors.
Phuket Sandbox Regulations
The Phuket Sandbox program was officially announced on 29 June 2021 to operate under the following guidelines:
- Thai nationals, permanents residents and foreign visitors traveling from the approved low or medium risk countries are eligible to travel to Phuket under the Sandbox model.
- Fully vaccinated adult travellers 18 years of age or older entering Thailand from countries with a medium- to low-risk infection of SAR-CoV-2 virus must be fully vaccinated for at least 14 days before their departure date and must be able to provide a vaccination certificate.
- Minor children under 18 years old who are traveling with a parent or guardian must prove they have had a negative COVID-19 test results not more than 72 hours before their travel date. Proof must be in the form of a medical certificate showing a negative test result from a RT-PRC or rapid antigen laboratory test.
- Fully vaccinated traveller must stay at least 14 nights on the island of Phuket before they can travel elsewhere in Thailand.
- All travellers must have negative COVID-19 test results before they can travel to other areas of Thailand.
Phuket Sandbox: Eligible Countries
Travelers flying to Thailand from countries regarded as low or medium risk of SAR-CoV-2 infection are eligible to participate in the Phuket Sandbox model. The list of eligible countries approved by the MoPH as of August 20, 2021 includes:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
Any travellers who are not a national of any of the above-listed countries must have been physically present in the listed country for at least 21 days before traveling to Phuket.
If there is one person on the flight who tests positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Phuket, all travellers will be required to isolate in a quarantine hotel, at their own expense. It is recommended that passengers sit two or three rows away from each other if the flight to Phuket is not full and the flight crew agrees. This social distancing procedure may allow travellers to forgo this quarantine period.
REQUIRED SANDBOX DOCUMENTS
Travelers are advised to avoid crowded places for at least 14 days before their travel date. All travellers must register their travel via the designated travel system, must undergo all customary immigration and customs procedures and are required to present the following documents upon arrival in Phuket:
- Application for a Certificate of Entry to Thailand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A Thai visa or eligibility to use the Thailand visa exemption.
- All travellers must present a COVID-19 vaccination certificate indicating they have been vaccinated at least 14 days prior to arrival, but no more than one year previously. The vaccine must be approved by the World Health Organization or the Thai Authority. Travelers must submit their proof of vaccination certificate when applying for a Certificate of Entry.
- Proof that the mandatory Phuket Sandbox COVID-19 Test, purchased directly from the Phuket Swab Appointment System, has been paid for.
- A health-insurance policy showing coverage of at least $100,000 USD (equivalently to 3,289,550 THB) that includes COVID-19 related treatment for the total duration of the intended stay. All travellers can purchase a special package of AXA Thailand insurance online to meet these requirements.
- Travelers must present documentation of a prepaid booking at a SHA Plus hotel(s) for at least 14 nights. Travelers must stay at a Samui Plus hotel for the first seven nights. After the first seven nights, travellers are allowed to move to another SHA Plus hotel for the next seven nights.
- Travelers staying on Phuket for less than 14 nights must depart from Phuket International Airport.
- Hotel requirements may be reduced for travellers who have previously flown abroad from Phuket. The length of stay in Phuket can be less than 14 days, however, travellers must leave Phuket on or before the date of the permit to stay.
- An airline ticket for the direct international flight to Phuket from a country on the above approved country list. Travelers planning to stay less than 14 days must show an airline ticket for an international flight from Phuket to another country.
SANDBOX APPROVED HOTELS
While there is no quarantine requirement for travellers under the Sandbox initiative, for safety and health measures standards, tourists are required to stay at a hotel that has received SHA+ certification issued by the Thai government. Government approved hotels can be booked through the OTA, such as Booking.com and Agoda.com. Approved hotels can also be booked through travel agencies or rooms can be booked directly with a SHA Plus hotel. A QR code with an official confirmation number will be generated when the hotel is booked. Following is a list of currently certified hotels in Phuket:
- Bang Tao Beach Hotels
- Chalong Hotels
- Kamala Beach Hotels
- Karon Beach Hotels
- Kata Beach Hotels
- Mai Khao Beach Hotels
- Nai Harn Beach Hotels
- Nai Thon Beach Hotels
- Nai Yang Beach Hotels
- Panwa Beach Hotels
- Patong Beach Hotels
- Phuket Town Hotels
- Rawai Beach Hotels
- Surin Beach Hotels
Visitors will be allowed to travel to other Thai destinations once they have completed the required 7 nights in Phuket.
Required COVID-19 Testing
Travelers are required to have three COVID-19 tRT-PCR tests or a rapid antigen tests performed, at the travellers expense, during their stay in Phuket:
- The first test must be executed upon arrival. Travelers must wait at their designated accommodations until they receive the results of their first test.
- A second test on either the 6th or 7th day of the stay.
- The third test on either the 12th or 13th day of the stay.
- Most travellers will be required to undergo an exit screening before departing Phuket and be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding the plane when leaving Phuket.
The mandatory COVID-19 tests must all be pre-booked and prepaid via the Phuket Swab Appointment System. Most hospitals in Phuket provide COVID-19 testing. The cost of an RT-PCR test ranges between 2,500-4,000 THB ($75 to $125 USD) and COVID-19 rapid Antigen test cost is from 500 to 1,000 THB ($15 to $125 USD) per person. Bangkok Hospital Phuket is currently offering a testing package that includes the COVID-19 RT-PCR testing, a “Fit-To-Fly” certificate and test reports with 24-hour results for 3,500 THB, or $106 USD. A 100 THB ($3 USD) discount is offered for booking online. The Nabon Inter Medical Clinic in Phuket provides the RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen test starting at 690 THB, or about $20 USD.
Testing Positive for COVID-19
Any traveller experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms must immediately undergo a test. If any person traveling in a group tests positive, then all members of the group must be tested. Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 will be referred to specified healthcare facilities for treatment. Travelers are responsible for any medical expenses not covered by the required COVID-19 insurance. If testing positive and traveling in a group, then the remainder of the group must be transferred to a Phuket Alternative Local Quarantine, or AQ/ ALQ, Hotel for 14 nights. Quarantined travellers are responsible for all expenses while under quarantine.
Direct Flights to Phuket
Among others, Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qatar Airways, EVA Air, Korean Air all offer direct flights to Phuket. Travelers should contact the airlines directly for current flights requirements.
Suspension or Discontinuation of the Phuket Sandbox
The success and continuation of the Phuket Sandbox program depends in large part on the vaccination rates on the island. The Thai government has stated that 70 percent of the island’s residents need to be vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to achieve herd immunity before fully reopening to visitors. This translates into at least 466,000 residents being vaccinated. The Sandbox program may be suspended or discontinued at any time if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in Phuket. An outbreak will be defined as follows:
- Infection rates reaching over 90 new cases per week.
- More than three districts, or six sub-districts, see an increase in infection rates.
- There are over three new cluster outbreaks.
- The total hospital bed capacity on the island exceeds 80 percent.
- New COVID-9 variants spread to an uncontrollable level.
Departure from Phuket
All international travellers are advised to follow all of the guidelines and measures of the respective country of their destination when leaving Phuket. Travelers heading to other Thai destinations from Phuket are required to show proof they have completed the required 14-night stay with a letter of confirmation from SHA Plus hotel along with all other requirements per the guidelines announced by the local jurisdictions they will be traveling to.
Keep in mind that COVID-19 pandemics rules and regulations can change suddenly and all travellers are advised to contact the Thai embassy or consulate in their own country for the most accurate information. The third stage of Thailand’s reopening is scheduled for the months of October to December of 2021 when Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Krabi, Phang Nga and Koh Samui will all begin allowing vaccinated tourists without requiring a quarantine period.