Thailand aims to be the first country in South East Asia to open its borders for leisure travel gradually. After a year in lockdown and a couple of false starts, the Thai authorities are now confident that with the vaccine rollout picking up momentum globally, reopening of borders to vaccinated leisure travel will be a safer affair going forward.
Thailand’s ‘Phuket Plan’ has been built up from the ‘Maldives model’. The details of Thailand’s reopening plan may vary and be tweaked over the coming weeks as the pandemic situation is evolving globally at a fast pace. As it stands now, the rules and protocols to be implemented for the soft reopening are stated below.
Rules For Phuket’s Travel Reopening in 2021
1. The new norms for the return of leisure travel to Thailand, approved by the government last week; however, awaiting final clearance from Phuket’s governor and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, will be tested out in Phuket first.
2. Anyone who wishes to visit Phuket needs to be vaccinated. Getting your vaccine course complete with a formal certification [a vaccine certificate, a vaccine passport or an IATA travel pass] as proof of inoculation is key for any sensible border opening at the moment. This would mean that by July 1, vaccinated residents, especially from Singapore, Israel, UAE, UK, USA, Europe, India and China, could be able to fly directly to Phuket without the need for quarantine on arrival.
3. Vaccinated travellers arriving in Phuket will need to take a fresh PCR test at the airport and install the ‘ThailandPlus’ tracing app provided by the government. The vaccinated traveller also needs to have with them a negative Covid test issued no longer than 72 hours before flight departure, a Certificate of Entry issued by the Royal Thai Embassy, a valid visa and a medical insurance policy.
4. The prerequisite for this ‘Phuket Plan’ also involves inoculating at least 450,000 or 70% of Phuket’s resident population by July 1. The authorities plan to roll out the first round of inoculation from April 15 and the second round from May 15. Thailand is currently relying on AstraZeneca and Sinvoc Biotech vaccines for the population, with 73 million doses ordered to date.
5. It is currently unclear whether vaccinated international travellers will be allowed to travel to mainland Thailand by air, sea or the road bridge after spending seven days in Phuket.
Reduced Quarantine from April to June
From April 2021 onwards, the quarantine period for non-vaccinated travellers to Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Phang Nga and Krabi will be reduced from 14 to 10 days. The quarantine period for vaccinated travellers, from April 1, will be reduced to 7 days.
As of 2019, Phuket was the second most popular destination after Bangkok, attracting 10 million foreign tourists. If this limited reopening of borders in Phuket is successful, the plan will be expanded to include Samui, Krabi, Pattaya and Chiang Main in October. ◼
© This article was first published online in Mar 2021 – World Travel Magazine.