BANGKOK: The popular Thai resort island of Phuket reopened to tourists from overseas on Thursday (Jul 1) after more than a year without international arrivals due to COVID-19.
It is the first province in Thailand to welcome back international visitors and pilot a new tourism model called Phuket Sandbox, designed to help the pandemic-battered economy recover.
Tourists arriving in Phuket from Thursday are free to enjoy the island. But because some activities are still restricted, here are a few things that tourists need to know before booking their flight to the tropical getaway.
Q: Will be there be a quarantine upon arrival?
A: No. Tourists can move around freely if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no less than 14 days before they travel. They are only required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival and wait for the results in their hotel room. If they test negative, they can travel freely within the province.
Travellers who plan to stay in Phuket for less than seven days must take a second test on Day 6 or 7. If the length of stay is between 10 to 14 days, they have to be swabbed for the third time on Day 12 or 13.
The tests can be done at certified hotels or partner hospitals at travellers’ own expense. If they test positive, tourists will be transferred to healthcare facilities for treatment.
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the cost of an RT-PCR COVID-19 test ranges from 2,500 (US$78) baht to 4,000 per person. All the tests must be paid in advance through hotels.
Q: Can my kids come along with me to Phuket?
A: Yes. Children aged below six who are travelling with their fully vaccinated parents can enter Phuket without prior vaccination against COVID-19.
Tourists under 18 years of age who travel with their fully vaccinated parents are required to present a medical certificate with a laboratory result indicating that COVID-19 is not detected in an RT-PCR test within 72 hours before travel.
READ: Commentary – Thailand’s Phuket sandbox can peel open travel despite limitations
Q: Can I visit the surrounding islands?
A: Yes. Tourists can visit islands located in Phuket if they test negative for COVID-19 upon arrival. There are 37 islands in the province, including Koh Racha Yai, Koh He, Koh Bon and Koh Mai Ton.
However, they cannot visit islands located in other provinces, although they were previously accessible from Phuket. These include Koh Phi Phi in Krabi and the James Bond island in Phang-nga.
Q: Can I travel to other provinces in the country?
A: Yes. Tourists who have spent 14 nights at a certified hotel in Phuket and tested negative throughout their stay can continue their journey to other provinces in Thailand.
Travellers who intend to spend less than 14 nights Phuket must leave the province on an international flight to another country.
Q: Will I have to wear a face mask in Phuket?
A: Yes. Visitors to Phuket are advised to take some precautions during their stay as part of the province’s COVID-19 preventive measures. These include wearing face masks in public, social distancing, hand sanitising and temperature screening.
Q: Are entertainment venues open?
A: No. Pubs, bars, karaoke venues, entertainment venues and businesses that are similar to entertainment venues in Phuket are temporarily closed.
However, tourists can dine in at eateries and consume alcohol there until 11 pm.
Q: Can I go for a massage?
A: Yes. Spa and massage venues are open but the number of customers may be limited to ensure social distancing.