Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension opens more Thailand beach destinations to fully vaccinated travellers

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If a 14-day stay in Phuket isn't enough to entice you, how about a change of scenery?

Thailand's Phuket Sandbox - a pilot scheme for vaccinated international tourists to visit sans quarantine - has gotten an upgrade, with the recently launched 7+7 Extension programme.

Previously, travellers who wanted to visit other parts of Thailand were grounded in Phuket for at least 14 days. The 7+7 Extension, however, reduces this required stay to only seven days.

Tourists can then spend the next seven days in selected extension areas, namely: Krabi (Ko Phi Phi, Ko Ngai, or Railay), Phang Nga (Khao Lak or Ko Yao), or Surat Thani (Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, or Ko Tao).

You probably recognise each of these as a prime beach paradise - which means travelling to Thailand just got a lot more exciting.

Here's everything you need to know about the Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension.

Requirements for the 7+7 Extension

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Currently, 70 countries and territories have made the cut for the Thai government's list of approved countries for travel - Singapore among them. Existing requirements to enter Phuket remain unchanged, but here's a recap:

Proof of Vaccination:

A certificate of vaccination involving a World Health Organisation-approved Covid-19 vaccine, no less than 14 days before arrival. Unvaccinated tourists must undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Certification of Entry:

An entry permit issued by the Thai Embassy that must be applied for in advance online.

Negative RT-PCR Test:

A proof of negative result from the Covid-19 RT PCR test, taken within 72 hours of departure.

Medical Insurance:

An insurance policy covering healthcare expenses during your stay, with a minimum of USD100,000 (S$135,000) in coverage. All medical treatment for Covid-19 will be at the traveller's own expense.

Proof of Accommodation:

Confirmation of booking from hotels certified SHA+ by the Thai government.

Prepaid RT-PCR Tests:

Travellers are required to take up to three RT-PCR tests during their 14-day stay in Thailand. These tests must be prepaid and come priced between THB 2,500 (S$101) and THB 4,000.

Return Tickets:

Proof of prepaid flight bookings for departing Thailand must be presented.

If you're planning to travel beyond Phuket, you'll need to obtain a Transfer Form from your hotel certifying that you have stayed in Phuket for seven days.

You must also present proof of negative results from two Covid-19 tests, one taken upon your arrival in Phuket and the other on day six or seven.

Finally, you should also have booked and pre-paid for SHA Plus-approved accommodation in your next destination.

READ ALSO: Thailand hopes to welcome tourists to Bangkok, top cities next month

Travelling from Phuket

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International tourists can only travel from Phuket to Krabi, Phang Nga, or Surat Thani via certain approved modes of transport. Those going to Khao Lak in Phang Nga must take SHA Plus-certified car transfer services directly to their SHA Plus hotels.

On the other hand, those headed for Ko Yao Noi or Ko Yao Yai in Phang Nga should hop aboard SHA Plus-certified ferry services from approved piers, Ao Po and Ao Po Grand Marina.

Similarly, travellers to Krabi are required to take SHA Plus-certified boat and ferry services from approved piers (Ao Po, Chalong, Rassada, and Wisit Panwa).

Jetsetters to Surat Thani must take Bangkok Airways' direct domestic flight on the Phuket-Ko Samui route, with tickets to be booked and paid for in advance (from 2,160 THB).

Returning home

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There's a whole playbook for your journey back home too. If you're flying home after staying in Krabi, Surat Thani, or Phang Nga for less than seven days, you first need to travel directly back to Phuket International Airport for departure from Thailand.

You can also choose to stay for less than seven days, and return to Phuket to complete your 14-day stay in Thailand. Re-entry to Phuket requires proof of a negative RT-PCR test result taken not more than 72 hours before your return.

After completing seven nights in an extension area, folks itching to travel to other parts of Thailand are free to do so as well. All you need is a negative test result from your third Covid-19 test conducted on Day 12 or 13, as well as a Release Form issued by your hotel.

Not all fun and games

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In the first two months of the scheme, Phuket has attracted around 26,400 travellers to play in its sandbox.

While that sounds like a respectable number, it's a far cry from the 100,000 tourists forecasted by the Thai government by end-September.

Staggering amounts of paperwork aside, there're pertinent reasons for this muted response.

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While only 83 foreign travellers to Phuket have tested positive for Covid-19 so far - a reassuring 0.3 per cent rate - the rest of Thailand isn't faring so well. Last August saw daily cases hitting a record 23,418, and case numbers currently still hover around 13,000 per day.

To combat the surge in cases, lockdown measures were extended across 29 provinces. This included curbs on travel and suspended flights between provinces, derailing the plans of tourists hoping to travel on from Phuket.

In other words, the 7+7 Extension sounds postcard-perfect on paper - but given Thailand's unstable Covid-19 situation and fast-changing restrictions, there's plenty of risk involved.

Coupled with a 14-day stay-home notice once you're back in Singapore, it's enough to make the most avid sun-worshipper think twice.

For more information on Phuket Sandbox, check out the guide here.

This article was first published in City Nomads.

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