The beleaguered Thai tourism industry has been so devastated by COVID-19 that this has led the Thai authorities to take calculated risks to find ways to open their borders.

The so-called “Phuket Sandbox” which came into force on July 1, is such an experiment and has meant the country could trial a soft opening of their borders that allows tourists to visit Phuket without quarantine.

Fully vaccinated tourists from low to medium risk countries can visit without mandatory quarantine and this includes visitors from the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The only proviso is having to stay in Phuket for at least 14 days before being able to venture into other Thai islands – not exactly a hardship.

So far a hefty 10,000 travellers have taken advantage to travel and stay in Phuket. 

This is about to change. From August 1, tourists will be able to leave Phuket after just seven days to visit certain destinations in Krabi, Surat Thani, and Phangnga such as Koh Samui, Koh Phamgan and Koh Tao.

To travel to Thailand under the “Phuket sandbox” scheme you will need to be fully vaccinated though children under 18 don’t need to be if they are travelling with vaccinated parents.

You must provide a negative PCR test before departure, test on arrival and then seven days later.  COVID-19 travel insurance with at least $100,000 cover (the Thai policies generally cover 3.5 million Thai baht) is essential. This is because Thai authorities need to be assured that the traveller can cover all costs in case they are diagnosed with or die from COVID-19 during their stay in the kingdom.

A certificate of entry (COE) and a valid visa is also needed.

Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, described the Sandbox scheme as having got off to a “very good start.”

“The good thing is that the destination is safe. The community vaccination has already reached the standards of herd immunity,” he told a tourism industry webinar.

“We keep monitoring on the restrictions… we need to prove to everyone, to the local people, to the international tourists to come and see by their own eyes that Phuket is safe to everyone.”