A complete guide to booking a trip to Thailand when it reopens


Thailand is one of the most touristic countries in the world.

The popular Southeast Asian destination is blessed with rainforests, sandy beaches, miles of coastline, quaint villages, ancient temples, traditional cuisines, affordable shopping options and much more at to explore. These features make the recently reopened Thailand an attraction for all kinds of travelers, but there are a few rules and guidelines to follow.

Before it all ended due to the coronavirus pandemic, Thailand, like many other major tourist destinations, was experiencing a steady increase in the number of visitors. World Bank data indicates that with the exception of 2014, when the military took control of the country, arrivals to Thailand increased sharply between 2009 and 2019. Figures show that just over 14 million arrivals in 2009, the number rose to nearly 40 million. in 2019 – most of them were Chinese tourists.

However, in a blow to the country’s tourism industry the following year due to the pandemic, the number of visitors fell by more than 80% from the 2019 figure. The economic fallout has also been severe. A few months ago, Thailand slowly began to open its doors to foreign tourists.

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Thailand reopens

On November 1, 17 more countries were added to its well-planned entry system designed to boost business and the tourism industry while ensuring security.

As Thailand reopened and lifted travel restrictions after 18 months, it has rekindled hope for people whose livelihoods depend on tourism. The BBC reported that the reopening is expected to attract around 15 million tourists in 2022 to Thailand, resulting in revenues of more than $ 30 billion.

According to Reuters COVID-19 Tracker, coronavirus cases in Thailand as of November 19 were on the decline, with 6,736 new infections reported on average every day, while the vaccination rate was on the rise. As of November 18, more than 54% of the population was fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.

Declining cases and rising vaccination rates have emboldened tourism operators in hopes of a better year ahead.

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Rules for entering Thailand

The Thai government has a systemic reopening plan for the entry of foreigners into the country. Part of this is a color-coded ranking, which divides provinces based on the risk factor for COVID-19.

Provinces designated as “dark red zones” are those with the highest risk of COVID-19 cases, while those marked “blue zones” are the safest. The color codes, in order of highest to lowest risk, are: dark red, red, orange, yellow and blue.

While there are three provinces in the blue zone – Bangkok, Krabi, Phang-nga and Phuket – most of the provinces are in the red zone, including Kanchanaburi and Chiang Mai. The strictest movement restrictions, such as curfews, have been imposed in provinces that fall into the dark red zone.

In addition, regardless of the areas, all nightlife entertainment venues remain closed. According to a November 13 report from Associated press, the reopening of pubs, bars, karaoke bars and other nightlife entertainment venues has been delayed until January 15, 2022.

Thailand reopened
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Procedure to enter Thailand

Travelers are divided into two groups: fully vaccinated and not fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated visitors are further classified into two groups: eligible countries and non-eligible countries.

All fully vaccinated or not fully vaccinated travelers will be required to obtain a negative RT-PCR test report issued within 72 hours of departure. Antigenic tests are not accepted.

The Thai government considers 63 eligible countries as low risk, including Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan , Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, United Kingdom and United States.

Fully vaccinated travelers can only arrive in Thailand after spending at least 21 days in those eligible countries. However, no hotel quarantine is required for these travelers, but they must take an RT-PCR test upon arrival and stay overnight at a SHA Plus or Alternative Quarantine (AQ) hotel until they receive a negative report.

Travel by fully vaccinated visitors from ineligible countries or those who have spent less than 21 days in eligible countries will be limited to “sandbox” areas designated by the Thai government for seven days and seven nights. During this time, they will need to stay at a SHA Plus hotel and will have to undergo two tests – an RT-PCR test on the day of arrival and an antigen test six to seven days after arrival.

Regardless of the country, visitors who are not fully vaccinated or not vaccinated will need to spend 10 nights in quarantine in an AQ hotel and undergo two RT-PCR tests.

All non-Thai travelers, whether fully immunized or not, must have $ 50,000 health insurance coverage.

All costs of testing and hotel accommodation will be the responsibility of the travelers. A list of SHA Plus and AQ hotels can be accessible here, and that of SHA Plus certified hotels are accessible here and here.

What about the children?

Rules that apply to fully immunized travelers from eligible countries also apply to unvaccinated children under 12. However, unvaccinated children aged 12 to 18 accompanied by fully vaccinated parents from eligible countries may be subject to the “sandbox” program.

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What is a “sandbox”?

Under the “sandbox” program, fully vaccinated tourists from non-eligible countries will need to arrive directly at airports in designated provinces that are part of the framework. They cannot leave the “sandbox” area for seven days and seven nights after arrival.

The places that fall into the “sandbox” are Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, Phang-Nga, Surat Thani (Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao) and Chonburi. Travelers can land directly in Phuket, as part of the “Phuket sandbox”, or on Samui, as part of the “Samui sandbox”.

Transfer from Bangkok to “Phuket sandbox” is not possible. However, travelers can be transferred from Bangkok to the “Samui sandbox”.

Documents to visit
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Documents required for entry

Travelers coming to Thailand will need a list of documents prior to arrival. The Tourism Authority of Thailand presents the following checklist for travelers:

  1. A vaccination certificate (fully vaccinated) with an approved vaccine at least 14 days before travel.
  2. Those infected and cured within three months of travel must present a certificate of recovery and a dose of an approved vaccine at least 14 days prior to travel.
  3. Travelers under the age of 12, accompanied by their parents or guardians, are exempt from the compulsory vaccination.
  4. A medical certificate issued within 72 hours of travel (all travelers) with an RT-PCR lab result, indicating that COVID-19 has not been detected, must be provided.
  5. A confirmed payment for a one night stay in a SHA Extra Plus Hosting and an RT-PCR test.
  6. Travelers must have an insurance policy with coverage of at least $ 50,000.
  7. A valid re-entry visa or permit is essential, except for those specifically exempted.

In addition to this checklist, all travelers should register for the Thailand Pass, which replaced the Certificate of Entry System (COE), for hassle-free entry.

All documents should be uploaded to the Thailand Pass website. Once all approvals are complete, a Thailand Pass QR code will be generated. The entire process takes around seven days, so travelers should apply for the pass at least seven days prior to arrival.

According to a November 19 editorial through Bangkok Post, the progress of the request cannot be followed nor any modification of the documents can be made.

The Thailand Pass QR Code must be presented before the health check for immigration checks on arrival. Once the RT-PCR tests and other required formalities are completed, travelers will proceed to their booked accommodation.

The MorChana app must be downloaded and installed at the hotel.

If the test report is negative, fully vaccinated travelers from eligible countries are free to travel anywhere in reopened Thailand. They will also receive an antigen test kit for the sixth or seventh day self-test, a record of which can be kept on the MorChana app.

All travelers are advised to adhere to safety measures such as wearing masks, social distancing, temperature checks, testing and using the alert app.

What vaccines are approved?

Thailand accepts seven different vaccines. These are AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer, Sinopharm, Sinovac and Sputnik V.

The vaccination certificate must respect the time between two doses set by the vaccine manufacturer. It should be noted that the certificate will be rejected if the duration is less than what has been indicated.

A combination of vaccines is allowed if the period between the two doses is as determined by the manufacturer of the first dose.

phuket island
Image credit: Samule Sun / @ samule / Unsplash

Rules for entering Phuket

Those who wish to enjoy the sun, sea and sand can do so via the ‘Phuket sandbox’.

For this, travelers must land directly at Phuket Airport from their respective countries. All general rules, including the Thailand Pass, which apply to foreign travelers entering Thailand, also apply to those entering Phuket.

The “Phuket sandbox” requires travelers to stay at a SHA Plus accredited hotel in town. Travelers staying for less than seven days must fly to an international destination, which means they must leave the country.

Only those who spend seven days and seven nights in Phuket can travel to other parts of reopened Thailand, depending on their test results.

Image credit: Anthony DELANOIX / @ anthonydelanoix / Unsplash

What about the “Samui sandbox”?

The rules for this scheme are mostly the same as for the “Phuket sandbox” scheme.

One major difference, however, is that although a transfer from Bangkok to Phuket is not permitted, one can only come to Samui from the nation’s capital if the traveler’s international flight is connected to Koh Samui by approved sealed flights.

The Thai government states that for such a transfer, “the ticket must be issued on the same booking with an international flight in conjunction with those approved Bangkok-Samui flights.”

(Main images and stars: Rey Melvin Caraan / @ reymelvinwafu / Unsplash)


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