Thailand’s pioneering tourism programme just got even bigger, including more of its stunning southern islands
In partnership with Tourism Authority of Thailand
Since July, our fair neighbour to the north has been pioneering new protocol for reopening its most famous island destinations to vaccinated international travellers. What started with the much-discussed Phuket Sandbox programme has now expanded to include Koh Samui and, as of August, the gorgeous southern provinces of Krabi and Phang Nga. And while Malaysia’s Movement Control Orders (MCO) are still in effect, it’s good to know that when we do get travelling again, there will be plenty of luxury resorts, white-sand beaches, amazing sea spots and delicious food already waiting.
Increased travel across Thailand’s islands
Krabi and Phang Nga reopened to tourism on 16 August, making it the third programme the Thai authorities have piloted. The other two initiatives – Samui Plus and Phuket Sandbox – currently allow vaccinated travellers from 69 countries into Thailand. Initially, those under the Phuket Sandbox programme could visit quarantine-free, as long as they had negative RT-PCR test results, a booking at an SHA Plus hotel and a minimum 14-day stay in Phuket before going elsewhere in Thailand. This new extension utilises a 7+7 model that reduces your mandatory stay in Phuket from 14 days to just seven days.
Dubbed the Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension, this new programme allows tourists who visit under the existing Phuket Sandbox initiative access to Krabi and Phang Nga, too. That means, the 7+7 model grants access to popular spots in Krabi and Phang Nga after a mandatory seven-day stay in Phuket.
Snorkellers and scuba-diving enthusiasts will adore the otherworldly islands of Koh Phi Phi, home to the fabled Maya Bay that shot to fame with The Beach in the ’90s. Rock climbers should of course gear up to scale the limestone cliffs of Railay. And for those who have a taste for privacy and luxury resorts, it doesn’t get more idyllic than the laid-back islands of Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai in Phang Nga
Important safety measures
These regions are ideal additions to the Phuket Sandbox initiative, as they are close in proximity to Phuket and easily accessible. Phuket Sandbox has already clocked in nearly 20,000 arrivals since its launch on 1 July 2021 and many SHA Plus hotel rooms are already booked out until the end of September. While that’s only a fraction of pre-pandemic numbers, the bright side is that visitors are likely to have beaches to themselves.
There are also plenty of virus-control measures in place. Vaccinated travellers must obtain transfer forms from their hotel in Phuket, indicating that they have stayed for seven days, as well as a negative Covid-19 test. Once these are obtained, you may travel to Krabi and Phang Nga using approved routes and modes of transports – these include SHA Plus-certified car transfer services or boat and ferry services from approved piers.
Requirements for tourists
In order to qualify for the Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension programme, visitors must not only be fully vaccinated, they must possess negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test results 72 hours before their travel date and valid medical insurance of at least US$100,000 that covers COVID-19 treatment should the need arise.
You will also be subject to a health screening, which includes a COVID-19 test, if you arrive at Phuket International Airport on a direct, non-stop international flight. Don’t forget to get a valid Vaccine Certificate either, and download the required alert notification apps on your phone before your travel dates. Furthermore, vaccinated travellers are required to undergo Covid-19 testing during their stay in Thailand. Travellers who meet all of these requirements can then apply for a Certificate of Entry (COE) at https://coethailand.mfa.go.th.
Still unsure about whether you qualify? Visit the TAT’s Newsroom for up-to-date information. In Malaysia, the TAT Malaysia Facebook page is the go-to resource for official updates and even some exciting giveaways. Alternatively, email your queries directly to the TAT at firstname.lastname@example.org.