Thailand Opens for Tourists: Travel Restrictions 2021

If you are wondering if it is possible to travel to Thailand in 2021 or what are the travel restrictions for tourists, in this article we will provide the main information for those who wish to enter Thailand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thailand resumed receiving tourists in Phuket from July 1, in Koh Samui from July 15, and then is gradually opening other tourist destinations so it can be said that Thailand gets open for tourism. However, in order to enter Thailand without quarantine, you must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and complete a series of steps with strict conditions that are currently applied for travelers.

Thailand is now open for travelers

As of now, Thailand has developed 3 programs - “Phuket Sandbox”, “Samui Plus” and “Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension” to abolish or minimize quarantine restrictions for vaccinated tourists from abroad. By using one of these programs, travelers will be able to relax on the island without going through quarantine. However, if you want to continue your journey to other provinces of Thailand, you must first complete a 14-night stay in one of following programs.

1. Phuket Sandbox

The Phuket Sandbox program was launched on 1 July 2021. The famous tourist destination of Phuket was the first province to welcome tourists since Thailand's borders were closed over a year ago. Entry to the island without further quarantine is allowed for travelers who are vaccinated with one of vaccines that are approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Ministry of Health of Thailand.

Hotels for Phuket Sandbox

Travelers wishing to enter Thailand without quarantine via Phuket must stay in designated accommodation by spending at least 14 nights in SHA Plus Hotels. This certification guarantees that 70% of all employees at the accommodation have completed vaccination.

Permitted movements within Phuket

During the stay in Phuket, tourists can freely move around the island and visit tourist sites.

Detailed information about the program can be found below:

Phuket Sandbox


2. Samui Plus

Following Phuket, starting 15 July 2021, the specific areas and routes on the three islands of Surat Thani province - Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao - became the second Thai tourist destination to reopen to vaccinated visitors from abroad.

The so called “Samui Plus” model is a separate travel program from Phuket Sandbox with stricter protocols applied to tourists.

Hotels for Samui Plus

Under Samui Plus model, tourists must stay at 2 types of hotels:

Permitted movements within Koh Samui & nearby islands

According to the Samui Plus program, travelers will be limited in movement and must stay in the hotel for the first 3 days.

  • Days 1-3 (hotel-based): travelers may leave their hotel room but are required to stay within the premises of the hotel.
  • Days 4-7 (sealed route): travelers are allowed to travel within specified routes/travel programmes on Koh Samui.
  • Days 8-14 (relaxed): travelers may travel within Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

Update! The islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao have also become part of the Sandbox 7+7 scheme together with Krabi and Phang-Nga provinces.

Detailed information about the program can be found below: 

Samui Plus


3. Sandbox 7+7 Extension

Starting from 16 Aug 2021, Thailand has continued to reopen more destinations for tourists in the provinces of Surat Thani (Samui Plus), Krabi and Phan-Nga under the scheme called "Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension".

Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension

The 7+7 program allows tourists to switch between the tourist destinations after completing a 7-night stay in Phuket. Travelers can transfer only by approved transportation such as authorized flights on the specific routes or certified boat and ferry services from approved piers.

 Currently, Sandbox 7+7 designated areas are:

  • Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao in Surat Thani Province (Samui Plus).
  • Koh Phi Phi, Koh Ngai and Railay Beach in Krabi Province.
  • Khao Lak, Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai in Phang Nga Province.

Hotels for Sandbox 7+7 Extension

Under Sandbox 7+7 Extension model, tourists must stay at the following hotels:

In the following links you can find the complete lists of authorized SHA Plus hotels in the designated areas to spend your last 7 days of Sandbox 7+7 Extension:

Detailed information about the program can be found below:

Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension


Thailand's Reopening Requirements and Rules

Thai authorities put strict conditions on those who choose Thailand for their holidays during COVID-19. A big part of entry conditions under “Phuket Sandbox”, “Samui Plus” and “Sandbox 7+7 Extension” programs are the same.

The general requirements for entering Thailand can be found below:

  1. Check if you are eligible. A valid passport and proper type of Thai visa or eligibility to use Thailand visa exemption is also needed.
  2. Obtain a Certificate of Entry (COE) in advance from Royal Thai Embassy/Royal Thai Consulate General before departure to Thailand.
  3. Come from a country considered as low/medium-risk area and stayed in one of the approved listed countries/territories for at least 21 days before departure for Thailand.
  4. Fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with a vaccine approved by Thai FDA/Thai Ministry of Public Health/ WHO no less than 14 days before departure. Travelers must show a Certificate of Vaccination issued by a government authority. Children under the age of 18 travelling with their parents are eligible without proof of vaccination.
  5. Obtain a valid Health insurance policy that covers medical expenses including treatment related to COVID-19 with a minimum of 100,000 USD throughout the period of stay in Thailand. You can easily buy the special package of Thailand insurance online to meet all these requirements.

  1. Obtain a confirmed and fully paid booking of stay at approved hotels.
  2. Obtain proof of payment for RT-PCR COVID-19 Tests during the first 14 days of stay in Thailand.
  3. Reserve Air ticket to Phuket or Samui. If you are planning to stay there for less than 14 days, air ticket for an international flight from Phuket or Samui to another country will also be needed.
  4. Get COVID-19 free certificate (RT-PCR method) no more than 72 hours prior to the departure time. The negative result must be presented to the airline check-in counter.
  5. Travel from the airport to your first hotel by certified transportation arranged in advance.

COVID-19 Tests

During the 14 days of any program, travelers must take 3 RT-PCR COVID-19 tests:

  • The first test upon arrival at the airport and await the test results in the accommodation
  • The second test on Day 6 or 7 
  • The third test on Day 12 or 13

All the mandatory COVID-19 tests need to be pre-booked before arrival and proof of payment for RT-PCR tests must be submitted when applying for Certificate of Entry.

As in most cases you will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result for boarding the plane when traveling back home from Phuket, you will need to make an additional COVID-19 test before departure. Generally hospitals in Phuket provide COVID-19 testing service and the package of COVID-19 Screening can be varied depending on the type of the test and where you get tested. The cost of an RT-PCR testing ranges from 2,500-4,000 THB per person and a COVID-19 rapid Antigen test ranges from 500-1,000 THB per person.

Bangkok Hospital Phuket, one of the leading hospitals on the island, is offering the package including COVID-19 RT-PCR Testing, Fit-To-Fly Certificate, Test reports and Consultant fees with results within just 24 hours (Next Day) for 3,500 THB. The package can be booked online with discount at 3,400 THB

If after staying in Phuket you will be traveling around the country and will be flying back home from Bangkok, you will find this list of COVID-19 testing in Bangkok useful.

Further Updates on Thailand Reopening

There are still many uncertainties regarding further reopening of Thailand, so we would recommend contacting your local Thai embassy before making any plans or reservations.

In the meantime, follow our Facebook page for the newest updates on traveling to Thailand.


Important Note

Keep in mind that during COVID-19 pandemics the rules and regulations are often changed, sometimes even at the last moment. We advise you to contact Thai embassy or consulate in your country to make sure the information is always up to date.