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From the Sandbox to Sukhumvit

Thailand is on the verge of opening up again, after several waves of COVID 19 and a series of lockdowns that shut the country off from the rest of the world.

This will reunite families and friends, kick start international study, allow Thai nationals to return home more easily and rejuvenate a tourism industry that is a major part of Thailand’s economic success.

Tourism accounted for 1/5th of Thailand’s global income pre covid, falling from 39.8 million visitors a year in 2019 to a mere trickle in 2020-2021.

In 2019 tourism generated US$62 bn into the Thai economy, so it is little wonder that the government is keen to open the borders as soon as 1st November 2021.

The first stage of this, in July, was the innovative sandbox system. Visitors from designated countries could travel to Phuket and quarantine for two weeks and then travel freely to the mainland with no quarantine. In September the sandbox period was reduced to one week. Visitors are not confined to their rooms and can move freely around the designated zone and are subject to PCR testing.

On the 1st of November 2021, the sandbox program will be expanded for all countries [irrespective of risk level] which can quarantine in one of 17 blue zones for a week [this includes Bangkok, Chiangmai and Hua Hin]. Visitors need to undergo a PCR test on day 6 and wait for a negative result.

On Monday 11th of October in a nationally televised address, the Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced Thailand would open up international borders from the 1st of November. This he said was in order to restore our livelihoods, however acknowledging that this also comes with some risk.

Thailand is slow to meet its vaccination targets of 70% full coverage. Currently, 41.1% of the population is fully vaccinated.

On October 20 The Thai Ministry for Tourism identified 41 low-risk countries [including Australia] who from the 1st of November, can enter Thailand without quarantine requirements if they meet certain criteria.

This includes being fully vaccinated 14 days prior to travel. Remain in low-risk areas 21 days prior to departure. Travellers must carry proof of travel insurance with a minimum US$50,000.00 coverage in case of a COVID diagnosis [not required for Thai nationals]

Travellers must reside in the eligible countries for 21days prior to departure, take a PCR test 72 hours prior to departure and show a negative result and on arrival undergo a PCR test and spend one night in a SHA+ quarantine hotel at their expense to await a negative result

On October 14, Khun Nond Kalinta, the Thai Airways Executive Vice President for Commerce announced that Thai Air will restart flights to 36 international destinations across Europe, Asia and Australia, commencing 31 October with flights peaking in early January.

This includes from 31st October twice-weekly flights to Sydney scheduled for Wednesdays and Sundays.

Day by day, international travel restrictions are being lifted in Australia, making overseas travel a closer reality. New South Wales and Victoria have already abolished quarantine on arrival for fully vaccinated travellers.

This will bring Thailand and Australia closer together and open up possibilities for trade, tourism and freedom of travel for Thai nationals

So make sure you are fully vaccinated and start planning, as that visit to Thailand may be closer and easier than you think.

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