Back in June, Thailand’s prime minister announced his intention to open the country to fully vaccinated international visitors by mid-October. With that deadline rapidly approaching, will the man who led the 2014 military coup get his way? Yes. No. Sort of. As so often in Thailand, the answer is complicated. Although a number of destinations are set to reopen by mid-October, it still isn’t clear what restrictions will or won’t apply.
Phased reopening of Thailand
Under the reopening plan, some destinations e.g. Phuket and Ko Samui have already reopened. More destinations are set to follow in October. Set out below is the revised plan (announced on September 9) to reopen Thailand to international visitors. The phased reopening is a huge step in the right direction, but it’s frustrating that full details of the plan have yet to be finalised. Listed below is what has been confirmed so far.
Phase 1: Phuket (from July 1)
Phuket has been open to international tourists since July 1, 2021 under the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ arrangement. Although tourists don’t need to quarantine, there are a number of requirements to be aware of.
Phuket Sandbox advice from TAT Newsroom
Phuket Sandbox FAQs from Fan Club Thailand (TAT UK & Ireland website)
Phase 2: Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao (from July 15)
Ko Samui has been open to overseas arrivals since July 15, 2021 under the Samui Plus scheme. As with the Phuket Sandbox arrangement, there are a number of requirements that visitors need to adhere to.
Samui Plus advice from TAT Newsroom
Samui Plus FAQs from Fan Club Thailand (TAT UK & Ireland website)
Phase 3: Krabi and Phang Nga (from August 16)
Under the Phuket 7+7 Extension scheme, some areas of Krabi province and Phang Nga province can now be visited by international tourists. The scheme came into effect on August 16 allowing visitors to travel to Ko Phi Phi, Ko Ngai, and Railay Beach in Krabi. And in Phang Nga, visitors can travel to Khao Lak, Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai. As with the other travel schemes, there are a number of rules that need to be followed.
Phuket 7+7 Extension advice from TAT Newsroom
Phuket 7+7 Extension FAQs from Fan Club Thailand (TAT UK & Ireland)
Phase 4: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Cha Am, Hua Hin, Pattaya (from October 1)
These destinations are all scheduled to open to international visitors from October 1, 2021. However, with the planned reopening just weeks away, full details of what will or won’t be required have yet to be announced. A similar thing happened with the Phuket and Ko Samui reopening with details not confirmed until the last minute.
Phase 5: Various provinces across Thailand (from mid-October)
From mid-October 2021, the plan is to open up more destinations to tourists. The destinations scheduled to be included are:
Central and West: Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, Ratchaburi
East: Chanthaburi, Rayong, Trat
North: Chiang Rai, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nan, Phrae, Sukhothai
North-East: Bueng Kan, Nong Khai, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani
South: Nakhon Si Thammarat, Ranong, Satun, Songkhla, Trang
The entry requirements have yet to be announced and probably won’t be until much nearer the time.
Entry requirements for quarantine-free travel to Thailand
At the moment, It isn’t simply a case of jumping on a flight to Thailand. Adult travellers must be fully vaccinated, obtain mandatory travel insurance with Covid-19 cover, and book an initial stay at a hotel or accommodation which is registered as SHA Plus. This refers to accommodation with enhanced Covid safety protocols and where at least 70% of staff have been vaccinated.
Different rules also apply depending on where you are travelling from and how long you will be in Thailand. If you are planning to travel to Thailand, you should see the information issued by the Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
There has been lots of speculation on various websites and social media about what the October reopening plans will entail. But at the moment, it is all just speculation. Thai authorities have not yet announced what will be required for overseas visitors intending to travel to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin or Pattaya in October. The initial plans included proposals for so-called ‘sealed routes’, a minimum number of night’s stay at a destination and various other restrictions. However, based on feedback from the initial pilot Sandbox schemes in Phuket and Ko Samui, that may all change. And those changes could also mean changes to the Phuket Sandbox and Samui Plus schemes to make it easier for fully vaccinated travellers.
When will all restrictions be lifted?
The plan is to have Thailand fully open by early January 2022. This appears to be a realistic target, but as we’ve seen in different countries around the world, nothing can be guaranteed. Much still depends on Thailand’s vaccination rollout and the number of domestic Covid cases. But there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic. Since their peak in mid-August, the number of Covid cases in Thailand has been in decline. And the vaccination process has ramped up significantly.
When should I book my flight to Thailand?
The bottom line is, it’s still a case of wait and see what is decided in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I would personally not advise booking any travel to Thailand until the situation is clearer. I am cautiously optimistic that the changes announced in the next few weeks will be positive news for anybody looking to return to Thailand. At the same time, I’m also mindful of my own advice when it comes to Thailand; expect the unexpected and go with the flow.
Fan Club Thailand
Official website of Tourism Authority of Thailand (UK & Ireland). Aimed at travellers from the UK & Ireland, but lots of practical advice for anyone planning to travel to Thailand.
Official website of Tourism Authority of Thailand (Bangkok).
Thailand SHA official website
Find SHA Plus accommodation in Thailand
This is the official website. Please be careful about booking via unofficial sites. A number of travellers have given feedback to say that when travelling via the Sandbox schemes it is better to book directly with the hotel compared to an online booking site.