Great news for those of us who have been waiting to return to Thailand!
As of today, tourists from 66 countries are allowed back into Thailand without quarantine for the first time sincegoing into a full lockdown in April 2020.
Like the rest of the world, Thailand’s tourism industry took a massive hit when the borders closed. International arrivals were down by more than 80% and it is estimated to have cost the country more than 40 billion dollars. The hope is that the pilot project “Phuket Sandbox” will be the starting point of recovery for the very important tourism industry.
Phuket Sandbox is a pilot project to open the Kingdom of Thailand to tourists from around the world over the coming months. Under this plan, Phuket Island needed to have vaccinated 70% of its population to achieve herd immunity. This has been achieved and the plan received the final go ahead yesterday by the government.
What do you have to do to be one of the first tourists back in Thailand and be able to enjoy the pristine beaches of Phuket?
First of all, you have to be fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization. Proof of vaccination is to be submitted when applying for a Certificate of Entry at the Thai embassy. In addition to being fully vaccinated, you have to have a negative PCR test issued no more than 72 hours before departure and medical insurance for the whole duration of stay.
Accommodation is to be pre booked for a minimum of 14 days and only at SHA Plus
approved accommodation (certification to reassure that the hotel has taken steps to prevent
the spread of the COVID-19 virus intensely and guarantee that more than 70% of employees
have been vaccinated). Once in Phuket, you can move freely on the island but have to follow
some strict precautions like wearing a mask in public areas, social distancing and allowing the
authorities to track your movement through an app. In addition to these measures, travelers
will have to undergo three Covid-19 tests which are to be prepaid before arrival. The first test is
taken on arrival, second test on day 6 or 7 and third test on day 12 or 13. In the case a traveler
tests positive, they will be referred to specific facilities for medical treatment at their own
expense which needs to be covered by the pre-bought insurance. If you test negative on all
three tests you will be allowed to travel to other regions of Thailand before returning to your
The project has received its share of criticism as it has been labeled too complicated and critics
are skeptical whether tourists will take the risk of coming to Phuket. There is no doubt that the
first few weeks will be complicated but it is a first step, a very important first step, to reviving
the travel industry and I for one am excited! If all goes well, the rest of Thailand is expected to
open its doors completely in the next 120 days. One thing is certain, all of Asia’s eyes will be on
project Sandbox. The success of the project will determine how Thailand and the rest of the
region will open.
If you’re interested in heading to Thailand and playing in the sandbox let us know and we’d be
happy to help you navigate the requirements. If you’re looking at Thailand after the restrictions
have been lifted, check out our First Ones Back Thailand Itinerary!
Confession time: I have always found traveling stressful. That’s right, from that first solo trip to Australia at 7 years old to a quick flight to LA to speak at a conference at 41, I have never been a relaxed traveler. I think this is partly why I’m a good travel coach…I haven’t sailed through life, breezily boarding flights while laughing about the ones I’ve missed, heck no, I go over packing lists, I arrive at the airport way earlier than necessary and I sit at the gate doggedly waiting for boarding to start, refusing to let my kids leave to get a snack in case they aren’t back in time! When I coach people with travel fears and worries I can relate! Just because I’ve done it a lot, doesn’t mean It's smooth emotional sailing!
Over the years I have learned not to change my behavior completely, but at least to laugh at myself and rein it in a bit. Then COVID! Entry requirements, tests needed, full flights with not even 6 inches of distance let alone the 6 feet we’ve become used to.
The first time we travelled was to Hawaii after Christmas for a week break in a villa on the beach. All eight of us! Eight flights that kept changing based on updated schedules and what worked with testing, eight required negative COVID tests done 48 hours before we traveled, eight people packed and wearing masks and eight people to keep safe and entertained AND masked for an entire flight. A week before we left I had gone over my mental checklist and prep list so many times it had become a mantra and I called my sister to tell her it wasn’t worth it. This was too much. My directive as a mother was to keep my kids safe, yet here I was jumping through burning rings of fire in an attempt to possibly put them in harms way. She laughed and told me she would see me there…she is not an anxious traveler. And she was right. We got eight flights booked, we got eight negative COVID tests and we got eight people fed, entertained and masked to Hawaii. Then we picked up the rented minivan, got to our villa and remembered how fun family and pools and vacations and travel all are!
Today my two older kids and I arrived in Belize. While Hawaii was during the pandemic this trip is post (I feel that word is being used loosely) pandemic. Less anxiety right? Heck no! Masks are still required and while I’m vaccinated my youngest isn’t and every cough on the full planes find my eyes on him, making sure his mask is up. While three was definitely easier than eight, we still had to get negative tests and proof of vaccination and packed and entertained and masked.
But then we arrived and like every trip I’ve ever taken in my life, it was worth it! To be out exploring again, to be adventuring! To be living in the world!
So I did the mental checklists, I jumped through the hoops and we made it! But as a travel coach I feel the collective anxiety of my fellow American travelers and the fear of the post pandemic world. We’ve spent a year sheltering, protecting ourselves and our loved ones and then it seemed as if overnight the world opened back up and we are encouraged to skip back out into it. And we should…guides, drivers, hotel staff, they all desperately need us to get back out there. And I encourage you to go, but I also want to recognize the anxiety of it, the added stresses of the testing and masking and no six feeting! This is an anxious time, we are all struggling to come to terms with what we’ve lost, what we’ve gained and what the next year will look like. It’s okay to admit that travel is scary and it’s okay to feel that anxiety. If now isn’t the time for you and your family that’s okay, if it is the time, that’s okay too. I’m owning my anxiety, I’m declaring it worth it and I am giving myself grace to return to the world and myself. But what's a coach without some tips for getting through it.