Phuket Tourism Sandbox Officially Starts July 01st
After 15 months of what can only be described as despair for Phuket tour operators. The Phuket Tourism Sandbox finally gives a little hope for the islands residents. From the 01st July, much needed tourists can stay in Phuket without being quarantined in a hotel. There are of course rules to be adhered to but they’re not particularly intrusive and so won’t impact your enjoyment of our beautiful island.
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride to get to this point. Frequent moving of goalposts, vaccine issues, different government departments saying different things and the dreaded committee involvement has made the whole process a bit of joke and the final outcome has left us a lot less hopeful than when the plan first started. But it is a start and we’re thankful for that at least.
Final confirmation of the project has gone down to the wire. Embassies won’t be able to approve your CoE (Certificate of Entry) until the official rules have been posted in the Royal Gazette. This only happened late on the 29th June so leaving many potential travelers understandably concerned about their travel plans but you should get final approval before 01st July if you’re traveling on that day.
The final piece of the puzzle that you’ll all be waiting for is the reference number and QR code from the SHABA (SHA Plus Booking Authentication).
How’s The Diving?
It’s been great! We have been running our daily Phuket dive trips on a regular basis but with low numbers. We’ve put a cap of 15 diving guests on our large comfortable dive boat so you’ll have plenty of space to social distance or just lay out in the shade.
Leopard shark sightings have been up and we’ve even had whale shark, manta ray and leopard sharks at Racha Yai. The low numbers although not great for the dive industry has been great for the fortunate few who’re here. Most of the time there’s only one boat on the dive site and with only 15 divers for us, you’re unlikely to run into any other groups.
For the first 14 days of your visit, you’ll only be able to dive at Racha Noi and Racha Yai. The King Cruiser Wreck, Shark Point and Anemone Reef are officially in Krabi province. Once you’ve completed your 14 day island quarantine all dive sites will be available to you.
So Who Can Come?
Vaccinated tourists from low to medium risk countries can enter Phuket. You can find the current list here (in Thai, click the top link for most up to date lists, countries listed in english). The list will change from time to time so please keep an eye on it. You can still come if you’re not fully vaccinated but you’ll be confined to your hotel room for 14 days.
Accepted vaccines are currently: Astra Zeneca, Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sinopharm and Sinovac
Requirements for Phuket Tourism Sandbox
First you’ll need your CoE, issued by your home countries Thai embassy. To get the CoE you will have to be able to tick all the below requirements:
- Proof of full vaccination with a WHO approved vaccine. You must have been fully vaccinated no longer than one year or no less than 2 weeks before departure.
- Negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test taken within 72hrs of departure
- Proof of booked PCR tests with your hotel
- Proof of booking for 14 nights or the duration of your stay in Phuket if less than 14 nights at a SHA+ approved hotel in Phuket
- Health insurance that specifically covers – COVID-19 (minimum coverage US$ 100,000)
You can start the process from the official Thai government CoE application website page here.
Traveling With Children?
Children under 18 years old who’re not eligible for vaccination must have proof of a negative RT-PCR test within 72hrs of departure from their home country. If the parent or guardian receives a positive COVID-19 test, accompanying children will also be required to isolate.
When You Arrive In Phuket
You will be diving into uncharted territory. There definitely won’t be many tourists coming through the airport but it will take longer for immigration to process each passenger. Simply because you’ll have a lot more forms for them to check. So how long it will take, we simply don’t know. You’ll also have to take a RT-PCR test at the airport.
Hoops to jump through upon arrival at Phuket International airport:
- Download the Mor Chana & ThailandPlus track and trace apps
- Fill out TM8 & TM6 arrival card
- Passport and visa formalities
- Show printed CoE
- Show proof of health insurance for duration of stay
- Provide details of SHA+ hotel booking
- Proof of departing international flight if staying less than 14 days
- Take RT-PCR test
After Escape From The Airport
You can’t use public transport to get to your hotel. More than likely your hotel will provide a pick up service. After check in, you’ll have to remain in your room until the you’ve had the result from the airport RT-PCR test. All being well you are now free to go anywhere on Phuket.
Local rules have thankfully been relaxed. The alcohol ban in public places has been partially lifted, restaurants and hotels are now allowed to serve alcoholic drinks with food up to 11pm. Not important for all but we’re sure that will come as good news to some. Gyms, beaches, malls and other public places are open as normal.
The first week must be spent in one hotel. After 7 days you’re allowed to stay in other Phuket hotels. A maximum of 3 hotel changes is permitted for the 14 day island quarantine.
You’ll also be able visit islands in Phuket province including – Racha Noi, Racha Yai, Koh He, Koh Bon, Koh Mai Thon and Koh Maprao. Visiting islands outside of Phuket province is not permitted until you’ve completed the 14 days island quarantine.
During your stay you’re required to take two more PCR tests on day 6/7 and day 12. This will be at your expense if it’s not included in your hotel package. The PCR tests cost between THB 2,800 to THB 4,000 depending on which hospital your hotel deals with. All hospitals on Phuket can provide the test. The results will need to be uploaded on the previously mentioned ‘Mor Chana” app.
A temperature check and scan of the ‘Mor Chana’ app is required daily at your hotel. You’re not permitted to stay anywhere else overnight.
All travelers in Phuket must adhere to the following:
- Mask wearing
- Social Distancing
- Testing for COVID-19
- Temperature check
- Use ‘Mor Chana’app
There are fines of up to THB 20,000 if you’re caught not wearing a mask in public places. Most of these rules will nationwide but different provinces will have different interpretations on enforcement. For the time being we’ve thankfully seen a common sense attitude from the local police so we’re hoping that will remain when tourists finally arrive.
Visits From Friends or Family Under The Phuket Tourism Sandbox
As it stands, if you have friends or family already in Thailand, you can share a room at your SHA+ accommodation. However they will have to meet one of the following three criteria: Fully vaccinated (1 dose of Astra zeneca is exceptable), show a negative COVID-19 test within the last 7 days or fully recovered from COVID-19 in the last 90 days.
Where To Stay In Phuket?
Well, we’re heavily biased for the south of the island. We’re based in Rawai and our dive boat leaves from Chalong Pier which is just around the corner. However, a large expat community has kept the south of the island more open than the rest of Phuket. Most restaurants are still operating and we have some beautiful beaches. The choice of hotels is not as broad as Patong but there really isn’t much going on there with the exception of Nanai Rd. The beachfront and Bangla Rd has seen many businesses close permanently. Some may reopen for the Phuket tourism sandbox.
There will be fewer entertainment options but Phuket is incredibly beautiful at the moment. The beaches are empty, roads are clear and any tour you take will be free of mass tourism. It’s a unique opportunity to see the island and the scuba diving at it’s very best.
If you’re staying longer than 14 days you now have the whole of Thailand to explore. Plan your travel carefully, local provincial rules can be different from the national laws. Localised lockdowns maybe in place, Phuket has largely avoided COVID-19 and most of the population will have been vaccinated before you arrive. Unfortunately we can’t say the same for other regions in Thailand. Curfews, travel restrictions and business closures could all be in effect.
Bangkok has been the hardest hit along with the very south of Thailand. Avoid these places and you should be fine.
Wherever you’re are in Thailand please respect local rules no matter how ridiculous you think they are.
For more information or to book some diving then please Contact Us Now
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