The Thai embassy in London is amongst the first diplomatic posts to describe what wannabe foreign entrants must do to enjoy the Phuket Sandbox from July 1. The details also give us some idea of the amendments likely to be made if the Pattaya Sandbox is actually launched on October 1.
Registration to come to Thailand must be via a Thai embassy to obtain the all-important certificate of entry. The requirements include proof of Covid-19 vaccination with the second dose at least a fortnight before departure. There is also a need for a Covid-19 RT-PCR test 72 hours before departure.
Covid health insurance of at least US$100,000, confirmed air ticket directly to Phuket (no transit stop in Bangkok allowed) and confirmation of hotel booking at a registered SHA+ hotel or hotels are all needed. The proposed Pattaya Sandbox will likely specify arrival at Bangkok or U-tapao airports with ongoing travel to Pattaya by “sealed” transport.
Entrants must spend at least two weeks in Phuket before being allowed to travel elsewhere in Thailand. The one exception concerns those whose air tickets shows they plan to stay only for a few days in Phuket before proceeding to the airport for their international flight. Travellers under 18, who are not vaccinated, are allowed to enter via the Sandbox only if they are travelling with their full-vaccinated parents.
One problem for the Pattaya Sandbox will be how to restrict foreigners from escaping from Pattaya during the first two weeks of restriction as there are so many exit routes. There is likely to be a special requirement for tracking apps and even wrist bracelets and facial recognition procedures. The Phuket Sandbox published details do not mention any tracing procedures.
Applicants will need to show they have booked for at least two weeks at a Covid-registered hotel at their destination. Thus it is not possible for returning expats who have a home in Thailand to use the Sandbox route unless they are prepared to pay for two weeks’ accommodation in a hotel they don’t actually need.
There is no special Sandbox visa. Applicants will apply at their local embassy for a tourist or non-immigrant visa or take advantage of the 30 days on arrival exemption. This means that Sandbox arrivals will be able to apply for extensions or new visas in the customary way. The Sandbox initiative has nothing to do with the Special Tourist Visa (STV) which has now been withdrawn in any case.
There is no requirement for any current visa awarded by an embassy to need general medical insurance (non-Covid) with the exception of “retirement” categories. However, the whole matter is currently the subject of an immigration bureau working party which is not expected to report for several months.