Samui and Phangan reopening: bars open, 5,000 baht Covid tests

PHOTO: Many bars are open ahead of Samui Plus reopening. (via Instagram)

Koh Samui and the surrounding islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao are preparing for their Samui Plus reopening beginning July 15. The rules for the reopening are more stringent, with 3 full days of quarantine required and then 4 days of being allowed to travel only on sealed routes to specific tourist destinations before finally being allowed to travel freely and to neighbouring islands after 1 week. In contrast, some of Koh Samui’s nightlife seems to be operating unaffected by Covid-19 restrictions and may draw Phuket Sandbox tourists longing for a drink and a night out.

While neighbouring Koh Phangan recently raided an unlicensed spa that locals complained was hosting parties and events in violation of Covid-19 restrictions, many bars and clubs in Koh Samui hotspots like Soi Mango in Chaweng and bars around Lamai and Bophut seem to be open and operating without any restrictions, indifferent to Covid-19 regulations.

On any given night, customers can be seen drinking and dancing without any masks or social distancing in popular clubs and small bars as well as “restaurants” masquerading as bars—no word on if this will change with the Samui Plus reopening.

In Phangan though, the director of government-run Koh Phangan Hospital recently announced they are tightening up testing restrictions in light of the Covid-19 surge and lockdowns in Bangkok and the south. Those who are unvaccinated and travelling from a dark red zone like Bangkok can no longer enter Phangan with a 500-baht rapid Covid-19 test. From yesterday, officials are only accepting RT-PCR test results, and the price for those tests are 5,000 baht each.

Many properties are struggling through the SHA certification process ahead of the Samui Plus reopening, and some are reporting problems qualifying for the Plus designation, in part because it requires all staff to be full vaccinated. Vaccines aren’t always readily available, and with a gap between the first and second shots, many people will not have finished the inoculation fully by July 15.

Still, vaccination drives seem to pop up frequently on the islands, with new dates every few days, some for Thai only and some open for foreigners, especially those working in the tourism sector.

Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao are eagerly poised for the reopening though and have a strong chance of success. The isolated islands have had very little Covid-19 throughout the pandemic, even in the dreaded third wave that hit Thailand exponentially harder. Officials will closely monitor the reopening and say they will close their Samui Plus scheme immediately should they uncover 20 or more Covid-19 cases that cannot be sourced through contact tracing.

Samui aims for 2,000 travellers in the first 30 days of reopening, with 41 SHA Plus certified and 22 ALQ hotels approved. The president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui estimates 1 billion baht of tourist revenue this quarter and 3 billion baht more in the last quarter of 2021, if all goes well and Covid-19 stays under control on the islands. You can find more on the requirements here.


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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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