Thailand has postponed the reopening date of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and other popular destinations to tourists until November to allow more people to be vaccinated. However, Phuket and Ko Samui will continue to welcome visitors under special tourism programs, and the tourism board has plans to open more areas before the new year.
Thailand's Phuket Sandbox program, where fully vaccinated tourists are permitted to travel to Thailand without quarantining provided they stay in Phuket (and Phang-Nga, Surat Thani or Krabi) for at least seven days before traveling to other parts of the country is set to be expanded to more destinations including: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri (home to Pattaya), Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan.
The program was due to begin this week but Reuters reports that it will now launch on November 1, to give the destinations more time to meet vaccination targets necessary for a safe reopening. "Cities we’ve targeted have not reached 70% vaccination rates and so we have to push out the date to November," Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn told the news agency.
Destinations will open under the sandbox program model, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports, which means fully vaccinated tourists will be permitted to visit them without undergoing mandatory hotel quarantine. They're required to stay in designated areas within their destination for seven days after arrival, after that they will be able to travel elsewhere in Thailand.
Unvaccinated travelers will need to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days if they enter by plane and 14 days if they come over land.
As part of the program all travelers will need to download the MorChana contact tracing app and take regular COVID-19 tests to monitor their health. To facilitate the extension of the sandbox program, officials are seeking ways to make regular COVID-19 testing more affordable for tourists, with the possibility of introducing antigen tests by November.
"We will try to halve the RT-PCR price and allow tourists to use antigen test kits for their second and third tests," Yuthasak Supasorn, the governor of TAT, told the Bangkok Post. "The package price should be universally applied to every province... including the Phuket Sandbox."
Read more: Do you need a visa to go to Thailand?
Tourists are also required to purchase medical insurance with COVID-19 treatment coverage of at least US$100,000, and all relevant health documentation must be completed in English before traveling to Thailand.
Travelers from 70 countries are permitted to take part in the program, including those from the US, UK, and most European countries. Children under 18 are not required to be vaccinated if traveling with fully vaccinated parents or guardians, but must have tested negative for COVID-19 no later than 72 hours before travel. For more information on the sandbox program, see here.
Thailand's tourism reopening dates
First Phase (November 1-30)
From November tourists will be permitted to travel to all areas of Bangkok, Krabi and Phang-Nga, and designated areas in Buri Ram (Mueang), Chiang Mai (Mueang, Mae Rim, Mae Taeng, and Doi Tao), Chon Buri (Pattaya, Bang Lamung, Na Jomtien, and Sattahip), Loei (Chiang Khan), Phetchaburi (Cha-Am), Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin), and Ranong (Ko Phayam).
Second Phase (December 1 -31)
The second phase will see the sandbox model extended to 20 more provinces including Ayutthaya, Chiang Rai, Khon Kaen, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Nong Khai, Pathum Thani, Phatthalung, Phetchabun, Phrae, Rayong, Samut Prakan, Songkhla, Sukhothai, Trang, Trat, and Yala.
Third Phase (1 January, onwards)
The new year will see the reopening of 13 border provinces, including Bueng Kan, Chanthaburi, Kanchanaburi, Mukdahan, Nakhon Phanom, Nan, Ratchaburi, Sa Kaeo, Satun, Surin, Tak, Ubon Ratchathani, and Udon Thani.
This article was first published on September 14 and updated on September 27, 2021.