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Can I Travel to Thailand Now?

by Melissa Nicholas
Sunset above the swimming pool at Vijitt Resort Phuket with palm trees and islands in the distance

This article focuses on the critical question, ‘Can I travel to Thailand now?’. We’ll detail how you can travel to Thailand and the practicalities of travel.

Although it was one of the first destinations in Southeast Asia to have COVID detected, Thailand had a relatively low infection rate overall during the first year of the pandemic. The Government of Thailand implemented various local lockdowns throughout and with more caution in mid 2021, when cases increased significantly. Infections began to decline again in August 2021 and life is returning to normal.

Thailand originally opened in July 2021 with the Phuket Sandbox scheme and then on the 22nd of October, they announced two wider opening schemes called ‘Test & Go’ and “Blue Zone”. The new schemes began on 1st November with quarantine free travel possible for fully vaccinated travellers.  To enter under any of the three schemes visitors must apply for and obtain a “Thailand Pass”. On 22nd December 2021, due to concerns about the Omicron variant, the Thai authorities temporarily stopped issuing the pass for entry under the Test & Go and Blue Zone schemes, however the pass can still be obtained to enter under Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga and Surat Thai provinces under a Sandbox scheme. The Sandbox scheme involves flying internationally into Phuket and spending the first 7 nights of your holiday in one of the 4 provinces mentioned, you’re then free to explore Thailand.

Is Thailand open for tourism?

Yes it is but the rules are constantly changing. Thailand was initially opening up month by month but took a step backwards with news of the Omicron variant in Dec 2021. We will attempt to keep this blog up to date as things change (last update 11/1/22).

Thailand opened with the Phuket Sandbox scheme on 1st July 2021 – visitors were initially able to enter the country via Phuket where they must stay for the first 7 nights in the country. On 1st of November 2021, Thailand re-opened its borders more widely and fully vaccinated travelers from certain approved destinations could enter more or less anywhere with no quarantine restrictions. The approved destinations included the UK, the USA, the EU, Australia and many more. Entry was based around the ‘Test & Go’ scheme whereby you’d take a PCR test on arrival (either at the airport or in a designated hotel). Once a negative result comes through (within a day), you could go anywhere within Thailand with the requirement to take a lateral flow test (which they will be given on arrival) on day 6 or 7.

When the news broke about the Omicron variant in mid-December, the Test & Go scheme was effectively paused and visitors can currently only enter via the Phuket Sandbox scheme again.  However they are permitted to head straigh to Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga or Surat Thani provinces. We hope that the rules will be relaxed again soon and that inital plans to replace the arrival PCR test with a lateral flow test, will come to fruition too.

Why visit Khao Sok National Park

What are Thailand’s entry requirements?

For the Sandbox – entry requirements are as follows.

  1. Apply for the Thailand pass at least 7 days in advance of travel via this link  https://tp.consular.go.th/
  2. Arrive into Phuket by air from an approved country (currently includes the UK)
  3. Must have been in the approved country for at least 21 days prior to departure.
  4. Must book an international flight that arrives into Phuket (not via Bangkok).
  5. Travellers aged 18 and over must have a vaccination certificate. Those ages 12-17 must have a certificate confirming at least one dose 14 days prior to travel. Under 12’s must travel with vaccinated parents.
  6.  Produce a negative PCR test – certificate issues within 72 hours of departure (children under 6 are exempt)
  7.  Prove that you have comprehensive travel insurance.
  8. Take a PCR test on day 5 or 6 in Thailand
  9. Have a confirmed reservation at an SHA Extra Plus approved hotel in Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani or Phang Nga province for the first 7 nights.

Aside from point 9, requirements for the Test & Go scheme are similar and as follows – it’s important to note that you can not currently enter under Test & Go though- we will up date this blog once it is open again.

Under the Test & Go scheme travellers must be from one of the 63 designated countries and must be fully vaccinated (unless under 12 years old). You must also

(1) Register for a Thailand Pass at https://tp.consular.go.th/  – upload the required documents and allow 3-5 working days for the approval process when you’ll receive a Thailand Pass QR Code (or COE) to present on arrival.
(2) Undergo the RT-PCR COVID-19 test at your accommodation (hotels from an approved list)
(3) Download and install the MorChana app at the hotel
(4) Wait for the test result within the hotel room.
(5) If testing negative for COVID-19, you will receive an Antigen Test Kit (ATK) for COVID-19 self-testing on Day 6-7.
(6) Get an alert for the self ATK testing on Day 6-7, and to record the result in the MorChana application.

You will also need to take a PCR test 72 hours of departure and have an insurance policy worth at least $50,000 covering COVID-19 (most insurance policies cover well in excess of this).

Live From... Thailand

Do I need to be double vaccinated to get into Thailand??

For a quarantine free arrival – yes. The quarantine period will remain at ten days for air arrivals who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. Children under 12 years old do not need to be vaccinated.

Under the Test & Go scheme (currently suspended) children aged between 12 and 18 do need to be fully vaccinated (or one dose of Johnson & Johnson).  However, children aged under 18 do no need to be fully vaccinated to enter Thailand under the Phuket Sandbox schemes (or the Blue Zone scheme which will hopefully be reinstated soon).

What if I am travelling from a non-approved destination?

The Blue Zone (currently suspended) and Sandbox schemes are an option for any travellers arriving from non-approved destinations.

The Phuket Sandbox has been open for double-vaccinated tourists since 1st July and remains open.

The Blue Zone scheme is temporarily suspended but in theory allows visitors to arrive from any country. They need to stay in SHA approved hotels within the Blue Zone for 7 nights.  The Blue Zone includes 17 destinations such as Bangkok, Krabi, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Koh Samui.

What if I am traveling with unvaccinated children aged between 12 and 18?

Children aged between 12 and 18 do need to be double vaccinated (or single dosed with Johnson & Johnson) to enter under The Test & Go scheme. This could be problematic for families with children in that age bracket. However, unvaccinated children between 12 and 18 years old and their families are allowed to enter Thailand under the Phuket Sandbox and Blue Zone scheme (currently only the Phuket Sandbox is open).  You must stay in one SHA approved hotel in Phuket (or the Blue Zone when it opens) for the first 7 nights (you’re not required to isolate in the hotel).

Is Thailand on the UK ‘go’ list?

As of 7th October 2021, Thailand is on the UK ‘go’ list.

What are vaccinations levels like in Thailand?

As of early December 2021, 62% of the Thai population are double vaccinated, and 71% have had one jab. The rates are much higher on islands such as Phuket, where priority was given to people working in tourism.

Like many countries in Southeast Asia, Thailand’s vaccine rollout has increased significantly since early August and is continuing to climb.

Source: The Financial Times COVID-19 Tracker.

Does the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advise against all but essential travel to Thailand?

No. There is no advisory against travel from the FCDO to Thailand based on the assessment of risk to travellers from COVID-19.

Pool villa at Vijitt Phuket. Lights are on in the villas and palm trees and foliage in the garden.

So, what are the Phuket Sandbox and Blue Zone schemes?

Both schemes require visitors to stay in their first hotel for a minimum of 7 nights before they’re permitted to move around Thailand. As the name suggests, the Phuket Sandbox applies purely to arrivals to the island of Phuket.

The Blue Zone covers 17 different areas but is currently suspended.

Testing arrangements are as per the Test & Go scheme but in comparison these two schemes potentially allow visitors from one of the non-designated countries and families with unvaccinated children between 12 and 18 to enter Thailand.

What are SHA Plus hotels?

An SHA Plus hotel has been approved as having enhanced safety protocols, and a minimum of 70% of staff will have been vaccinated. Nearly all of our preferred hotels are on the SHA plus list.

What flights can I take to Thailand now?

Flight schedules are returning to normal. Talk to our travel consultants for more detail on flights, including which airlines are offering the best routes and most flexible terms.

Qatar Airways, Etihad, and Emirates also offer flights from the UK to Phuket & Samui via Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai.

Treehouses at Keemala Phuket. A stream runs down between the treehouses with trees either side.

Do I have to wear a mask in Thailand?

Yes. Thailand has seen enthusiastic mask wearing since the start of the pandemic and it is expected, and mandatory in most public places and in any vehicle with two or more people.

Can I eat in local restaurants in Thailand?

Quarantine free travellers, or those who have completed their quarantine periods, can freely move around and visit bars and restaurants as they wish.

Why should I book a trip to Thailand now?

We believe you should book a trip to Thailand now:

  1. It gives you something amazing to look forward to and get excited about
  2. Booking a trip provides hope and support to all the guides and drivers so affected by the pandemic that people truly do want to travel again
  3. If you depart soon you’ll be a pioneering traveller able to see the country at a time when other travellers will not
  4. For those looking for some winter sun, the islands of South Thailand are hard to beat – Thailand holidays in 2022 will be very special!
  5. Any trip booked with ETG is backed by our Covid Promise. Your deposit is fully refundable, and if you can’t travel to Thailand due to lockdowns you’ll be able to claim a full refund

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