Coronavirus (Covid-19)PhuketTourism

Confidence low in Phuket as sandbox hopes marred by rules and restrictions

PHOTO: Flickr / jeiline

As Phuket prepares for its July 1 re-opening to vaccinated holidaymakers, tourism operators on the southern island aren’t quite jumping up and down with excitement. The much-discussed sandbox scheme comes with some tough rules and restrictions that some fear will put people off visiting. Top of the list is the requirement to stay on the island for a minimum of 14 days, increased from the previously-mandated 7 days, before being able to visit the rest of Thailand (although you can have a shorter trip to Phuket but would have to depart from Phuket Airport).

According to a Bangkok Post report, tourism operators feel this minimum stay is excessive and will have a negative impact on bookings. Wichai Ruangcharuwattana from Sunshine Tour Phuket points out that many hotels and boat operators rely on running day trips for tourists. The 14 day rule means tourists will not be able to visit places like Koh Phi Phi or James Bond Island in the neighbouring provinces of Krabi and Phang Nga respectively. He believes the 14 day rule should be revised back to to 7 days.

Chalermlak Kepsap from the Holiday Inn Express Hotel in Patong, and Mayor of Patong, agrees. She fears the 14 day rule will stop foreign tourists returning to the island.

“It will be difficult for them to remain on the island for 14 days. This may be too long, considering the number of tourist spots and activities on the island. It will be more helpful if they adopt a 7 day rule because tourists will have a chance to visit other destinations.”

However, Sirikorn Bunyasiri from the Phuket Travel Agents Association feels more optimistic about the sandbox scheme.

“Flights to Phuket are expected to increase, though it is not known whether tourists will come in large numbers. Many airlines are trying to increase flights after almost 2 years, and everyone is looking at Phuket. If it is a success, others will follow suit.”

Meanwhile, Don Limnanthapisit, who heads a committee in Phuket’s historic old town, says he’s in favour of the 14 day minimum stay, but is concerned about tourists spreading Covid by refusing to adhere to disease prevention measures.

“Though incoming foreign tourists will be required to show proof of vaccination, this does not mean they are totally free of the virus. Foreign tourists may not want to wear their masks in public. When they arrive in Phuket, they want to enjoy themselves drinking. If we cannot control them, this may lead to a new wave of infections.”

Comment below with your thoughts about the re-opening of Thailand to general, vaccinated travellers, via the Phuket sandbox program.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Maya Taylor

A seasoned writer, with a degree in Creative Writing. Over ten years' experience in producing blog and magazine articles, news reports and website content.


  1. I agree, I planned to visit Phuket for 7 days and then to BKK to see my girlfriend as she is living in BKK and not vaccinated. She is now going to risk flying to me in Dubai as there is no quarantine here. People want the flexibility to travel around, they will lose tourists, I’m one that they have lost.

    1. I understand what your saying but Dubai are a lot further on with their vaccination process than Thailand hence no quarantine… hopefully Thailand will get there arse into gear with mass vaccinations and get everyone vaccinated

  2. “Though incoming foreign tourists will be required to show proof of vaccination, this does not mean they are totally free of the virus.”

    This is in direct contradiction to what we have been told in the U.S. We’re vaccinated (with Moderna), we can’t catch the virus (with a 95% probability, unless we do extremely dangerous behavior) and since we can’t catch it we can transmit it.

    The vaccines work. Cases will drop quickly. Life is back to normal here. We still wear masks (to be polite), although many people don’t. But the cases aren’t climbing.

    Coming to Phuket in late August. Booked two weeks so we are OK. But the government changing the regulation from 7 to 14 days probably upset a lot of people. It will certainly turn some if not many away.

    Hopefully by August the government will have some experience with the new setup and realize that vaccinated tourists aren’t spreading the virus and that they can therefore back off the restrictions. Thailand is not comparable say to the Caribbean or even Europe where the restrictions are far less. (Just a test, no tracking, etc.)

    Looking forward to a great trip.

  3. I think a 7 day stay should be sufficient considering that we come with a vaccination certificate and a covid test. Also, the cost of the approved Hotels Are not known yet and if prices are the same as for the quarantine, I believe a few would be coming to Phuket. Especially not the one who owns a property. Why to stay 14 days in a Hotel when your own an Appartement?

  4. Minimum stay is only if they want to leave phuket to other parts of the Kingdom. I’m sure if people want to come for the usual 5 days they can – this is need urgent clarification and media

  5. I understand the desperation, but they should really just come to terms with the reality that mass tourism is canceled for at least another yr, probably 2, best case scenario. Focus on domestic travelers for now.

  6. I believe a 7 day stay requirement for vaccinated people with negative PCR is more than enough. The 14 day rule for vaccinated tourists is more like a quarantine which is not reasonable. Many people will cancel their trips and go elsewhere.

  7. They should be pessimistic, it’s a marginal plan at best and a poor plan at worse. I predict a small bump and then a slow trickle afterward. Not enough to get things going again but just enough to open up and go broke. There are too many issues with the plan, things that make you want to go somewhere else. Fly into BKK and if you miss the one flight to Phuket, you get stuck in the airport over night. You are not stuck in Phuket for just 14 nights but more like 16 to 18 days. You can’t take a PCR test until day 15 and it usually takes 2-3 days to get the results. Oh and heaven forbid you test positive at any point. It’s straight to a hospital or even worse a field hospital for 14 days. Are they really worried about getting Covid from incoming tourists? It’s way more likely the tourists will get it from the locals.

  8. “Meanwhile, Don Limnanthapisit, who heads a committee in Phuket’s historic old town, says he’s in favour of the 14 day minimum stay, but is concerned about tourists spreading Covid by refusing to adhere to disease prevention measures.”

    Don thinks that the VACCINATED (including Pfizer and Moderna) tourists are ill-discipline and refused “to adhere to disease prevention measures” and these tourists will bring the viruses to Phuket.

    Did Don not realize that it was the unvaccinated Hi So Thais and government officials, who failed to adhere to disease prevention measures, were the real culprits that caused the current wave of infections since April?

    7 day stay is a limit but 14 days in Phuket is a deal killer for sure. I wanted to visit other provinces but the 14 day “quarantine in Phuket” has burnt up my desire to visit Thailand in July. Not sure if ended cheaper to fly to Spain for 7 days instead of 14 days in Phuket (an Island). I feel sorry for the locals in Thailand. Stupidity and greed (of the Prayut gang) never fail to prevail. Not a difficult decision to make on which country to visit. Phuket is out 100%.

  9. @Mat – Yes but….5 days in Phuket and then returnees have to spend 14 days in quarantine on their return. The math is all wrong. If I was willing to spend 14 days in Thailand, I would like to visit other provinces instead of just Phuket alone. I will spend 14 days in other provinces and only maximum 7 days in Phuket=21 days. Is this not going to bring more tourists dollars to Thailand?

  10. As an expat living in Thailand it makes it more likely I will choose to visit my home country because when I return I won’t have to spend 14 days in a hotel room. But I’m traveling a bit and spending plenty of money in Thailand either way, so the impact on people like me won’t likely help the tourist industry much beyond the airlines.

  11. @Werner you are definitely right. My family won’t come until we can go back to our home. I think our home is safer than a certified hotel. as for tourists who would bring the virus, I think it is easier for Thai returning and traveling without vaccination and testing-
    however we are guests in Thailand and if we want to enter we must observe their rules. But we can decide not to come back yet and we will try to get our 6 months elsewhere as soon as possible.
    the airlines will want to travel full and if this is not the case, it will take little to suspend flights

  12. Mr Don is worried the farang won’t wear a mask. Don’t worry, there will be an officer behind every palm tree ready to pounce on an unsuspecting farang. With the usual range of fines like 1,000 to XX,XXX baht for no mask – the number will depend on what side of bed the officer got out of in the morning.

  13. A 14-day quarantine is crazy when you have both had covid with antibodies and taken a vaccine. This means that people soon do not care about being vaccinated. There will be no difference between those who do not take the jab. That you would still infect others after vaccic and antibodies then is minimal. You are more lucky to win the highest prize in the lottery. So 7 days in phuket should be enough for those vaccinated with antibodies.

  14. You can fly to the canary islands or south coast of spain from the Uk for next to nothing and no need for quarantine. Why would you come back to this S***HOLE on a 13 hour flight and all the bulls**t?

  15. It is becoming patently clear no country is convinced the vaccine even works. Is this because its experimental or because variants keep appearing that they have no clue about.
    Little point in majority of people having the vaccine if they have to remain imprisoned.
    It’s going to be a hard sell unless some more wake up.

  16. @Ratzig. As you say, the guy commenting about tourists obviously has no clue about how the recent wave of Covid started in the country, and he never will and neither does he care. The continual and perpetual negative comments about “foreigners, visitors and tourists”, along with the instilled xenophobia courtesy of Thai media and education will ensure he only ever has a negative view about tourists (only Foreign ones mind you). It’s times like this when the successive governments mantra of dirty foreigners plays against their plans.

  17. What a bunch of selfish bar-stewards, with a very few exceptions, here and in Phuket.

    What about the rest of the country?

    What about all the other Thais who are suffering and will continue to suffer, who are “vulnerable” but won’t have any chance of being vaccinated because the lion’s share of the vaccines are going to Phuket, then Pattaya?

    No wonder so many mainstream Thais who don’t rely on stinging the tourist trade for a living are getting sick of those in Phuket, as well as the tourists Phuket relies on.

  18. For myself, I don’t want to go to anywhere else in Thailand but Phuket. It’s a meeting place for me. Visa on arrival. Good food, great beaches. For the global tourists,who want to go everywhere and see everything, give it another twelve months.

  19. Why do I have to stay some where for 14 days, I’ve had both vaccines and would test myself also, what’s the point of having it If the Thai government won’t let you roam freely.No wonder they haven’t a pot to piss In

  20. Having had 2 vaccine shots, and willing to test myself, I can stay in a house I rent with private pool in Phuket. Then why should I pay 2 weeks hotel?
    I won’t come. So bad news for all the restaurants and shops I frequent when there and who will miss my money. I don’t mind the closed bars.
    It probably will be France this summer. Brittany, Provence or Dordogne maybe?

  21. There seems to be a lot of confusion about a vaccinated persons ability to be a carrier. As I understand it a vaccinated person can be but only for a very short period until their own vaccine assisted immune system has killed off the virus.
    The question is whether that period is hours or a few days.
    Some scientific data from the Thai gov may calm travellers anger if it supports 14 days, but I expect it’s more likely to highlight that they don’t know what they’re talking about.

  22. Everyone is missing the point. The Thais do not want to give up the overpriced accommodation that ferangs are compelled to stay at.
    That being so, they will invent any false “safety” rule to carry on this scam, previously called quarantine.

  23. If it were up to me…. I would keep the travel-on limit at 7 days. However….nobody died and made me PM….so I will accept the 14 day Phuket Island limitation.

    Thailand is betting everything that the Sandbox plan will work and it will later carve out channels for tourism to expand out to all provinces. So if the first 2-3 months are slower than expected….but SAFE for tourists and residents… will be good for everyone in the country.

  24. @RATZIG – Try flying to Mexico City for some days before taking a domestic flight to Yucatan. Many great places both for relaxation and party (cancun, playa del carmen). Coral beaches that can compete with anything in Krabi ans thai islands. No restrictions and no covid requiremens and a 6 month visa on arrival for most countries.

  25. @Andy W – It’s a good assumption that the Thai govt. has not studied the science behind the effects of being vaccinated and looked at what the US CDC has said about the so very low chance of getting COVID or spreading it after the second vaccination. From the studies, the people that contract it have either been exposed right before their first shot, contracted it before the second shot OR their bodies are in the very small group that did not respond to the vaccine to build the antibodies to fight it off. If you are negative 72 hours before your fly and vaccinated, that should be good enough with one test on day 5 and then freedom to leave Phuket. Those that spout off about helping all those people in Phuket don’t realize that many of the restaurants and businesses will not be open still for a long time because it’s not financially feasible to spend money you might not have to reopen only to have no business because the “tourists” won’t come or canceled their plans after the quarantine was raised to 14 days. The majority of people coming will be ones with family in Thailand or business people that have to be there. And who wants to be forced to pay for 1-3 tests over a 14 day period at your own expense when the hospitals force you to pay $100US or more for a test? Just my opinion.

  26. We just canceled our trip. Too many uncertainty. We just dont have enough PTOs. Simple as that.

    And too many restrictions. Vacay planning should be fun but this Phuket trip has been nothing but uncertainty.

    See y’all in 2022.

  27. I will be heading to Phuket at the end of July to spend some time with my Thai wife, who I have not seen in almost 18 months due to COVID. We originally planned to spend eight days in Phuket and then eight days in Krabi before heading to Huan Hin for five days and then heading to our home in northeast Thailand for a few days. Had to cancel the hotel in Krabi and we will now be spending 16 days in Phuket. I don’t care. I will get to see my wife after missing her for the past 18 months. Where we go is not important to us. Spending a month together is. But to break it up, we are staying at two different hotels in two different areas of Phuket. Both are SHA, so there will be no issue with the move.

  28. @Brian Birks Yes I agree with you its very crazy decisson they have take it seems that they not want some tourist come to thailand.Most all country open for full vaccinated people.It must bee very much wrong with thai goverment and they changes rules from week to week Why chang from 7 days to 14 days.I dont go there like many other

  29. Does TAT have a list of hotels in Phuket that are fully staffed and ready to take in people? With online bookings for hotels, how does anyone know what the state of the hotel is in? If people do their online homework before making a flight/hotel booking they are definitely not going to be feeling comfortable with what they read. Let’s face it… it’s just another case of not thinking everything through before making the rushed decision to push ahead with the opening of the island.

  30. @EdwardV – Agreed. What are the chances that fully vaccinated foreigners with a negative PCR test will give Covid to any locals. The chances are far higher falling off a balcony in Pattaya, or getting scammed by a taxi in Phuket, or getting into a motosai accident etc….just saying. It seems some Thai officials hesitate coming out and saying it “You shouldn’t really come, just wire us your money”.

  31. Per Thai authorities, “the ‘Sandbox’ initiative is aimed at bringing back tourism, even expats or Thais with a home in Phuket will be required to book a hotel that complies with Covid-19 safety standards before travelling to other parts of Thailand. The requirement to book a ‘C-19 safety standards hotel’ is to cover those who will travel to other parts of Thailand, after the initial 14 days, in Phuket.

    That’s clear as mud: 1) Without any quarantine or nighttime curfew, can a Phuket home owner stay at their own home, overnight, whether booked into a hotel or not? 2) If the Phuket home owner only plans to stay in Phuket, for the entire 14 days, does not plan to travel elsewhere in Thailand, and plans to leave directly from Phuket for another country, is the home owner required to book a Phuket hotel?

  32. @Энди В. -99% of thailand population started to know that body temperature over 37 isn’t normal. Even they are finished university it was sacred medical secret .. what we can wait from it?

  33. This is just another complete mess. I live in Patong, I need to go home in July/August and will return fully vaccinated. Before travelling I will have to have an approved COVID test, and during my quarantine period I’ll have to repeat the process. I cannot do the quarantine in my own home even though I represent almost no risk whatsoever and I’d be allowed out the hotel anyway. What’s the difference? At the same time, this country is a mile behind the ball getting people vaccinated, does not have any sort of test and track system, has a dubious testing regime, and does not support local,people who test positive – so they will avoid testing and continue to work even if they have symptoms – because they have no choice. Tourists will not come back to this regime. It’s pie in the sky thinking by people who clearly live in a different world – which you can do if your unlikely to get voted out of office. Will I come back? Not until this farce is over.

  34. @CraigF – first lockdown was 15 months ago. Why you not see her for 18 months? Why you not live in the same country as you wife? Just another complaining foreigner with no money or time for ASQ.

  35. 14 days will not attract any tourists at all I think. Only foreigners with family or loved ones in the country had set their hope unite for seven days in hotel and then go home to wherever in Thailand.

    With 14 days and 4 expensive tests it may not even interest people like us.
    7 days ONE test, that should do it if you are fully vaccinated.

    If going as a normal tourist for 14 days I would not even consider Phuket at all. Much easier to go pretty much anywhere else.

    Maybe cancel my plans and go through ASQ in BKK again instead.

  36. one more articale from news soures but I still looking forward to find somthing official or atleast not from news papers or news website, looks like its only to make people to think that phuket will opne soon and they issu ton of plans to confuse all of is but eventualy they will not allowed any one to come.

  37. @Yucca – Not that it’s any of your business, but I work in Africa and I was not permitted to travel by my employer due to COVID. If I left, they would not allow me to return. The last time I saw her was when we went on a vacation to the US prior to the COVID outbreak. Since then, I have been trapped in Africa.

  38. @Yucca – Also, please point out in my post where I complained. I did exactly the opposite, accepting the situation and planning on making the best of it. Obviously, English is not your first language, but you really should work on your comprehension skills.

  39. I was lucky enough to do the 7 day quarantine with vaccine and test process that was available for only a few weeks in April-May. I knew they change the rules every 2-3 weeks and when i saw that I had to jump on it. Did the government and helath officials see any covid case relation with us 7 day, 2x vaccine dose arrivals? My guess is no or they would mention 7 day didn’t work. It is just cluelessness, a bit of greed and mismanagement that is making the rules for arrival. I was just in Chiang Mai next to the American consulate at the morning vegetable market and there was plenty local people with no mask, absolutely no social distancing, no contact tracing and the airplane back to Bangkok was 100% full. It seems like vaccinated with negative test is a far lower risk than the free for all behavior thats going on elsewhere.

  40. HISO Mafia is making a business out of Covid restrictions. Once they get their claws in it’s hard to tear then out. The 14 day ASQ – testing regime for the fully vaccinated is shameless.

    Don’t get me started on the vaccine delays re: the home made batch of local Astra-Zeneca launch …coincidence….sure it was.

    Is it comforting that the vaccine lab has no previous experiance in producing these highly sophisticated vaccines? I though immunology specialty took years of specialized training and expertise? I’m supposed to believe that Thai has managed to forego the traditional education hurdle?

    The ugly reality seems to point at one single commonality…as cash flow from traditional scamming (whores and booze) dried up…the new scams are ever more insidious. Greed went up as cash flow dwindled…not a good sign for the future.

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