How to Visit Thailand in 2021

Phuket...and BEYOND

By Laura Stegeman, Get Out There Tours

I monitor Thailand everyday even when there’s not a Global Pandemic creating chaos in virtually every aspect of International Travel, but it’s June 2021 and things are predictably confusing. Add to that recent spikes in positive COVID-19 cases blamed on rogue disco operations amongst the affluent Thais in Bangkok, and things got even more whacked. But, finally, today as a matter of fact, the TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) has confirmed to my team on the ground in Bangkok that the airport doors will swing open once again for International Travelers arriving to Phuket only starting July 1 via Thailand’s “Phuket Sandbox” program.

Let’s face it, COVID-19 is here to stay for a while and travelers will need to make concessions and face inconveniences, including Rapid Tests while abroad, and Thailand is leading the way with an interesting plan to reintroduce tourism into their country. All eyes are on Thailand and their ingenious plan to open up the country in sections as soon as possible to boost economy back into the region after utter devastation due to shutdowns. This prototype will be watched by Bali, Singapore, and the entire region. If things go well, South East Asia will begin to slowly open up by Quarter 4 of this year.

“Phuket Sandbox” is a pilot welcome International Travelers back to Thailand in a slow and controlled fashion beginning on July 1 . The word Sandbox refers to a small, sectioned off area where travelers can safely “play.” Thailand has been vaccinating residents and workers in Phuket first, to safeguard them and us. This roll-out will quickly be followed by Koh Samui Sandbox and Chiang Mai Sandbox. There are many requirements including, of course, that travelers be fully vaccinated with a two dose regiment with the second dose needing to be completed within 14 days and 1 year prior to arrival. No quarantine will be required but a minimum amount of time of 14 days in Phuket is necessary along with the following:
⁃ Visitors must fly into Phuket bypassing changes of planes in Bangkok (this will likely change and allow for BKK transfers)
⁃ Visitors must stay on the island of Phuket for fourteen consecutive nights after which they may travel to six other regions. If travelers wish to only visit Phuket, they may leave earlier than two weeks’ time
⁃ Visitors must take a COVID-19 test upon arrival and another on Day 5
⁃ Travelers must have Travel Insurance covering care and quarantining at a local hospital for COVID-19 related illnesses (minimum $100,000 for Covid Coverage)
⁃ Downloading the Thailand Plus Mobile App before departure from home country
⁃ Visitors must stay at a SHA Plus “approved” property ensuring the staff have been 70% vaccinated

Airlines are scrambling to reroute their flights from Bangkok directly to Phuket with a stop in Europe or Asia. Phuket Airport might get quite busy, but the pilot program will expand to other provinces and tourist destinations very soon (as early as August 1, 2021). By October 1, Get Out There Tours’ original planned stops for November 2021’s departure of Serenity In Siam 4 will be a GO. While the hotels and some logistics have changed, the basic details are almost identical. Here’s how our destination of Chiang Mai will be incorporated into the “Sandbox” plans to open up Thailand to International Travel:
- By October 1, only one week in an approved province is required before travelers can move about to other applicable provinces. Other applicable provinces are Krabi, Phangna (Khao Lak), Chanbury (Pattaya), Koh Samui, and Chiang Mai. To be clear, no quarantine will be required in any Sandbox destination.
- Travelers must fly directly (not non stop, “direct”) into that province. Bangkok is still a pending transit point except for Pattaya where passengers may disembark in Pattaya
⁃ A COVID-19 vaccination certificate dated within 14 days to 1 year prior to arrival
⁃ A negative PCR test within 72 hours of boarding the flight to the destination
⁃ A valid visa and Certificate of Entry from local Thai Embassy
⁃ A mandatory COVID-19 insurance coverage of US $100, 000
⁃ Downloading the Thailand Plus Mobile App before departure from home country
⁃ Accommodation booked in officially approved hotels, certified by the Safety & Health Administration (SHA Plus)

Using the Serenity In Siam 4 Itinerary as an example of how this plan can easily work for a 7 November Trip Start Date, the plan would go like this:

⁃ Arrive in Phuket on 7 November (two days earlier than the original plan)
⁃ Transfer to Coconut Island (the closest thing any traveler can get to an actual island other than Phuket Island because it is actually part of the province of Phuket). The travelers will take a vote in the next month or two to decide if they want to stay the entire week on Coconut Island with a day trip to Koh Phi Phi on Day 5 as an add -on excursion or stay four nights there and three nights back on Phuket proper (also with a day trip to Koh Phi Phi on Day 5 as an add-on excursion).
⁃ On 14 November we will fly to Chiang Mai where we will likely spend our time in two properties depending on early SHA Plus (in time to finalize the itinerary and get flights booked).
⁃ Return flights will be on 21 November allowing for a visit to the Saturday Night Market on the 20th.
This is great news for all wishing to return to or visit Thailand during a time when things have slowed down and returned to the way Thailand was forty years ago. Further, it is our with to return to Thailand and support the people who have been so good to us over the years. We are looking forward to making Mango Sticky Rice with Vannee at Classic Home Cooking, visiting our elephant friends and Soi Dogs, giving Alms to the monks at dawn at Doi Suthep Temple, and tasting Chef Tutu’s out-of-this world farm-to-table delicacies. Won’t you join us and see why we have so many repeat travelers and journey with us and them to The Land of Smiles? See you in Paradise!

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