Thailand opens Phuket from 1 July


Thailand will open Phuket for international and domestic tourists from July. The Ministry of Tourism and Sports wants to attract both fully vaccinated foreigners and local travellers to Phuket to help boost confidence and shore up tourism demand.

All travellers to the island must come from a medium to a low-risk country regardless of having a vaccine.

Australia and China are the two most significant international sources of health and medical tourism for Phuket, but China remains banned on the high risk list. Australians are on the low risk list but cannot travel overseas.

Key medical tourism markets are Japan, Myanmar and Indonesia but all three remain on the high risk list. High risk country travellers are banned even if they are fully vaccinated.

Low risk countries include Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and Taiwan.  While many EU countries are on the medium risk list, Russia is still banned as high risk. The UK is medium risk but the UK government only allows travel to Thailand if people quarantine for 14 days on return.

The consensus is that while tourism will return to Phuket, it will be many months before substantial numbers of health or medical tourists return.

While medical and health tourism is not banned, they are not currently encouraged. The mass of very confusing and expensive rules and restrictions may also be putting them off going to the country.

Travellers to Phuket will also need a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure and COVID-19 health insurance with a minimum coverage of US$100,000. Upon arrival, they will have another PCR test and will need to install a mobile app on their phones, staying in the hotel until a negative test result.

Thailand Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Thai Chamber of Commerce has said it will support domestic trips to Phuket to build local confidence.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha has committed to fully reopening the country by November. Fully vaccinated visitors and Thai citizens returning to the country should be allowed to enter without quarantine or other inconvenient restrictions. Thailand’s strict state quarantine rules have long been a bone of contention with the prices seen as too high. The reopening is also expected to see businesses in Thailand resume their normal operations and allow travellers to travel freely across the country

Businesses have responded cautiously to the plan to reopen Phuket to vaccinated foreign tourists, as operators aren’t confident they will be able to draw tourists back to the resort island due to the tough requirements it imposes on incoming tourists. As a precaution, tourists will have to remain on the island for 14 days before they are allowed to move on to other destinations in the country.

Phuket, Thailand’s largest island relies heavily on tourism and medical tourism so it is a natural choice to reopen for tourists, and the scheme is still going ahead on July 1 despite the high infection rate in the country.

Tourists will need to fly directly to the island, with the opportunity to transit through Suvarnabhumi Airport via a sealed terminal to ensure safety. In Thailand, the country is operating a colour-coded system that classifies provinces according to their risk level. Phuket is currently an “orange” zone, which means people are allowed to dine in at restaurants at normal hours, whilst the capital Bangkok is under the most severe restrictions as a “dark red” zone.

The Thai authorities will allow visitors from low-risk countries to fly directly to Phuket. It will be the beginning of a pilot scheme named the Phuket Sandbox.

Thailand has been open for visitors since 2020, but all incoming passengers have had to quarantine in a government hotel.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand roadmap to reopen Thailand seeks to attract a million people in 2021.