A traveler’s checklist for Thailand’s Phuket sandbox program

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Tour boat owner Somsak Betlao wades in shore in the shallow waters of Patong Beach on Phuket province, southern Thailand, June 28, 2021. Somsak is putting his hope on a government scheme to bring the tourists back starting July 1 known as the “Phuket Sandbox.” Even though coronavirus numbers are again rising around the rest of Thailand and prompting new lockdown measures, officials say there’s too much at stake not to forge ahead with the plan to reopen the island to fully-vaccinated travelers. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

PHUKET, Thailand (AP) — Starting Thursday, Thailand will welcome back international visitors – as long as they are vaccinated – to its famous southern resort island of Phuket without having to be cooped up on arrival in a hotel room for a 14-day quarantine.

For a minimum of two weeks they will be free to roam the island, whose preparations include having a major proportion of the local population inoculated for COVID-19.

The icing on the cake is that after that initial 14 days, visitors will be able to travel relatively freely elsewhere in Thailand — subject to the same restrictions as Thai travelers.

The “Phuket sandbox” program is open to visitors from 63 countries and three territories rated by Thailand as low or medium risk for COVID-19. Requirements beyond nationality are more complicated and involve a fair amount of paperwork, in addition to being subject to changes.

The most up-to-date and detailed information will generally be available from the website of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, at www.tatnews.org, or from the nearest Thai Embassy.

Visas for stays of up to 30 days are not necessary for many nationalities. Airlines with direct flights to Phuket include Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, El Al and Singapore Airlines.

The basic requirements before departure for Phuket include:

-Must have been staying in approved home country for at least 21 days before departure.

-Must obtain a Certificate of Entry — COE — from a Thai Embassy or consulate.

-Must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before departure. (Children under six years old are exempted.)

-Must have a negative RT-PCR test for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure.

-Must have a minimum $100,000 medical insurance policy covering COVID-19 treatment.

Upon arrival:

-Must have an RT-PCR test for COVID-19 on the day of arrival, the sixth or seventh day of stay and the 12th or 13th day.

-Must stay for 14 days at approved “SHA+” hotels in order to travel onwards in Thailand. The booking must be confirmed before arrival. SHA+ certifies safety and health standards including having at least 70% of staff vaccinated for COVID-19.

-Must install Thailand Plus and Morchana apps, to track health and location, respectively.

-Must have evidence of negative COVID-19 test results over the 14-day stay for onward travel to other parts of Thailand.

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