The Phang Nga Sandbox is a new program that allows vaccinated travellers entry into Phang Nga without quarantine. Starting on July 1, 2021, the Phang Nga Sandbox Program is open to international visitors to the southern province in an effort to boost tourism and aid in the country’s economic recovery.
Thailand, a country that depends heavily on tourists for its survival, was hit hard in the initial lockdowns of spring 2020 in the wake of the massively spreading Coronavirus. With businesses shuttered, beaches lying empty and the normally bustling streets silent, Phuket has been one of the hardest hit areas. Massive efforts have been underway to restore it to its pre-pandemic levels, but without a reopening plan, the area is facing near destruction. The Phuket Sandbox plan is an effort on the part of the Thailand government to get the massive tourist area back on its feet, restoring it to its former glory and allowing tourists to come back and enjoy all that the island has to offer.
As of the 1st November Thailand welcomes fully vaccinated travellers without quarantine.
Who is Eligible to Travel to Phang Nga?
Under the Phang Nga Sandbox plan, the following people are eligible:
- Travelers must be arriving from countries that are considered low or medium Covid-19 risk
- Travelers over the age of 18 who have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine
- Travelers between the ages of 6 and 18 can skip quarantine if they agree to be tested for Covid-19 at the airport upon arrival
- Travelers under the age of 6 may travel without quarantine with fully vaccinated parents
- If the parents or children test positive for Covid-19, they will be required to quarantine for 14 days at their own expense
- Visitors to the country will be required to stay at approved hotels that have met government standards for health and safety
Documents Required for Phang Nga Sandbox Program
In order to visit Phuket, travellers must present a series of documents for eligibility, they include:
- International travellers will need the appropriate visa and a certificate of entry (COE). Certificates of entry are required for all travellers, and are required before the Thai consulate will issue a visa. The visa on arrival program is still suspended, so all travellers will have to apply in advance for a visa and gain approval before booking a flight.
- All flights into the country have to be booked on an approved airline
- All travellers must present a Covid-19 vaccine certificate that certifies that they have received both doses of the vaccine, no fewer than 14 days prior to travel, but no more than one year prior to the date of travel
- All travellers are required to present a negative Covid-19 test result, taken no more than 72 hours prior to travel
- A medical insurance policy that includes treatment for Covid-19 and covers you for the duration of your stay. The policy must include up to $100,000 USD in coverage. You can buy insurance policies online and upload proof of insurance to your online visa application
- Confirmation of Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) booking for 14 nights in a hotel approved by the government.
- Confirmation of flight booking. Once you have been approved for a visa, you will need to include confirmation of your booked flight. If your flight includes layovers, you will need to include confirmation of every leg of the journey. Travelers will be required to upload proof of onward or round trip travel
- Travelers are required to download the Thailand Plus mobile application before travel
The success of the Sandbox Program depends heavily on Phuket’s vaccination rates. The Thailand government requires that by the July 1 opening date, more than 70 percent of the island’s residents must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to ensure herd immunity. Once the vaccinations have reached this level, the government will allow the Sandbox program to move forward. This means that 466,000 residents will need to receive both doses of the vaccine by the end of June.
Visiting Under the Phuket Sandbox Program
The Phuket Sandbox program is meant to bring in much-needed tourism to the region, so visitors are expected to engage in activities that boost the island’s tourism economy. Visitors are expected to spend money in businesses that are designated SHA-Plus, a new initiative meant to boost the economy while keeping the island’s Covid-19 numbers down.
The Thailand Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus Certificate is issued by the Thai government as a means to allow Thai nationals and foreigners to stimulate the economy through tourism while staying safe and stopping the spread of the virus. A business is eligible to be SHA-Plus certified when more than 70 percent of the staff at the businesses are vaccinated against Covid-19.
As of this writing, there are nearly 1,400 businesses in Phuket that are registered as SHA Plus certified. These businesses include restaurants, hotels, excursions and retail stores. Visitors who arrive in Phuket will be required to stay in a SHA-plus certified hotel and present evidence of pre-paid reservation when applying for tourist visas and certificate of entry.
Updates to the Sandbox Program
Initially, government officials required a 14 day quarantine for visitors arriving into Phuket. This has drastically decreased the number of travellers who are planning to arrive on the island, as many are staying for fewer than 14 days and don’t want to quarantine for the entire period. Officials have considered pushing the quarantine time to seven days will attract more visitors to the region. The government has also said that if there are no new infections in July, it will consider changing the quarantine time to one week to better serve visitors.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry has confirmed that the 14-day quarantine is not a true quarantine in that visitors will be confined to their hotel rooms during the stay. They will be allowed to roam the island, enjoy excursions and dine out at restaurants. Traveling off the island for day trips and excursions, however, is forbidden.
Visitors to the region will be tested for Covid-19 on the day of arrival, after the fifth day and after day 12. The Tourist Police Bureau, the governor of Phuket and other private companies will ensure that tourists adhere to the quarantine and remain within Phuket during the quarantine period.
What is the Arrival Process?
When travellers arrive at the airport, they will be required to show their documentation—COE, Covid-19 test results, evidence of health insurance and visa. Children between the ages of 6-18 will be tested for Covid-19 onsite.
Once you are cleared to enter, you will be allowed to travel to your approved hotel, using a SHA-plus certified form of transportation (taxi, shuttle, etc.) After you arrive at your hotel, you may check in as usual, coming and going freely. During the 14-day quarantine period, you will be allowed to explore Phuket with approved tour operators. Travelers are expected to observe DMHTT (Distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing, testing-Thailand Plus).
During your stay, you will be required to check in on the Thailand Plus mobile application daily. The owner of your SHA-Plus certified hotel must report the names of all guests to immigration daily. After your 14-day quarantine period in Phuket has been completed, you will be allowed to travel to other provinces. Before traveling, however, you will be required to take another Covid-19 test before boarding the flight.
The Thai government is expected to welcome 129,000 visitors under this program between July and September 2020. The operation is planned under the 4T model that is designed to minimize risk while maximising profit.
The 4Ts include:
- Targeted Segment: With the program only open to fully vaccinated individuals, the island hopes to stop the spread by limiting the visitors who can explore the island
- Testing Protocol: With rigorous testing protocols in place, the island hopes to stop visitors who test positive from entering the island
- Tracing Application: The island has created an application that will allow them to trace and track visitors to prevent new outbreaks. Each visitor will be required to download this application upon arrival and report in daily. The Ministry of Health monitors this app and keeps updated reports
- Treatment Capacity: The island has taken steps to ensure that there are adequate facilities for treating visitors who are infected with the virus. New hospital beds and treatment staff have been added in order to meet potential demand
The Thailand government is making great strides to restoring Phuket and the rest of the country to its pre-Covid energy. With this goal in mind, the country has instituted the Sandbox program to welcome both international and domestic tourists back to the island. With a few restrictions and precautions, visitors are welcome to come back and enjoy sunny weather, pristine beaches and exciting excursions while staying safe and helping to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.
Sandbox in Phang Nga
Aleenta Phuket Resort is one of the approved hotels and is currently offering a 7 or 14 night sandbox package that includes:
- Luxury Accommodation
- Covid-19 Test (1 – 2 times as required)
- Daily Breakfast & Half-Board (Lunch or Dinner)
- Pampering Spa Treatments or Adventure Tour
- Round Trip Airport Transfer