Updated: May 5
PHUKET, THAILAND: SANDBOX PROGRAMME
The ‘Sandbox’ programme in Phuket is the perfect entry point into Thailand right now...if you don't want to quarantine in a hotel that is. That's what Danielle and I are doing right now, and we can live our normal lives! We can eat in restaurants, visit the beach and go anywhere else we want...as long as we stay in Phuket.
There’s quite a lot of admin to take on if you decide you want to do the same right now. There is good news though! Everything you need can be ticked off in just 5 days. Here's everything you need to know.
DOCUMENTS YOU NEED:
Proof of Covid vaccinations
Flights and SHA hotel bookings
Tourist Visa - If your stay is over 45 days
Certificate of Entry (COE)
3 PCR Tests booked via your hotel
Thailand Plus & MorChana apps
T6 Form - found either on the flight or at the airport in Thailand
You're able to tackle A LOT of this early on, which is great news...but there is a specific order to do things. Step one is to get your covid vaccines, you aren't going to get in without them right now. Once you've done that you can download the NHS health App which gives you access to your covid vaccine passport. Once you're vaccinated you can start working through the bulk of the admin. Do you need a visa? If so which one. Thailand offers a free tourist visa for up to 45 days, so if you're looking at a longer stay then you will need to assess the options.
We opted for the TR (tourist) visa which grants us single entry into Thailand, but we can stay for up to 3 months. It cost £30 and was relatively straightforward for the main part. You can get all the Visa information you need and fill out the application here.
FLIGHTS, HOTELS AND HEALTH INSURANCE
Regardless of whether you need a visa or not the next step is to book flights, hotels and health insurance. It seems a bit backwards to book all this without a visa or your Certificate of Entry (CoE) but unfortunately, it’s just the way it must be done. Make sure everything is flexible and comes with free cancellation to protect yourself. It gets tricky because you need to book all this but there are still a few uncertainties. We booked everything for about 3 weeks in advance to give ourselves all the time we needed to tick everything off.
Please remember that these dates are vital! Your CoE is only valid for the date you specify, so you cannot get into Thailand on either side of that. Book your flights etc. far enough in advance so you are certain you can get everything done. Hotels must be SHA accredited, which means they comply with the ‘sandbox’ rules, and your health insurance must have coverage up to $100,000 to be granted your visa and CoE. We chose Safety Wing which ticked all the boxes we needed for the Sandbox programme and came in at the best price.
THE THAILAND VISA
Now you can apply for your visa if you need to. It's straightforward, just attach the documents it asks for, and go through the various steps. One thing we struggled with when attaching documents was that it asked for a letter of recommendation from someone living in Thailand. After looking through YouTube videos we found comments asking the same question and a solution was simply to book a 2nd hotel after the initial 14 days are up. Book it with free cancellation, and attach the booking confirmation for that. This worked for us, so it should be for you too. Once you’re in Phuket you can then cancel the 2nd booking if you want.
Now is the nervy part as you have to send your passport off. This must be sent with a printed confirmation of your visa payment to the Thai Embassy, and contain a prepaid return envelope inside. We’re in the UK so ours was the London embassy. You don’t have to but absolutely should spend the money to have it tracked to and from the Embassy. That letter contains your most important document inside, so it's worth the money! Ours were successful the first time around, and everything was back in our possession within 3 working days. We received the passports back with the visa attached inside. Some people reported receiving an email asking for more information, so keep an eye on your emails once you've sent them off to avoid any further delays.
CERTIFICATE OF ENTRY (COE)
With your visa granted you then need to apply for a Certificate of Entry. It's all the same documents that you need for your visa so you shouldn't have any problems. You will need to contact your hotel for a Shaba ID and prepay for 3 covid tests, which should cost 8,700 THB. You'll then need to attach the confirmation of the payment to the CoE portal. The whole process for our CoE took approximately 3 or 4 working days, but you can start the process while waiting for your visa to come back if you're under strict time constraints.
TYING UP LOOSE ENDS
There are a few bits still to do, but by this point, you've done most of it! All that's left is:
Registering the Thailand Plus and MorChana apps before arriving in Thailand - you'll be asked to show them plenty of times when you get there.
Complete the T8 form, which can be done a few days before flying.
Complete and print out this declaration form.
The T6 is your final form, but you get given this on the flight. You have to keep the small section that tears off with your passport at all times!
The final form is the T6 form which is an important slip you need to fill out and keep with your passport at all times!
Get a PCR fit to fly test before departure
Although that might seem like a long list it is quite easy to get through quickly. Once you've done that you can sit back, relax and get excited to go to Thailand!
DOCUMENTS YOU'LL NEED
As a couple who like to remain organised we like to have everything printed off and ready to go. Here are all the documents we had in our folders ready to go:
NHS Covid pass
Certificate of Entry
Health insurance coverage
PCR test confirmation
SHABA Plus hotel confirmation
Hotel booking confirmation
T6 & T8 Forms
OPTIONAL - INTERNATIONAL DRIVING LICENCE
As an add at the end, we also got an International Driving Permit. It’s super easy to get and can save you hefty fines if you plan on driving at all while you’re abroad. Danielle and I went to the Post Office with our passport, 2 passport photos and another form of ID. It costs £5.50 and takes just a couple of minutes so well worth doing before you go. I hope this helps you work through the minefield that is travelling to Thailand in 2021.
I did advise there was a lot of work ahead to make this a reality, but it's absolutely worth it! Thailand is an amazing place, and after the past few years, you probably deserve a little adventure! Once you've done all this just sit back, pour yourself your select beverage of choice and wait for the trip of a lifetime.