Pattaya Sandbox sealed transport routes may bite the dust

They are hoping to avoid sealed routes when enjoying a Pattaya holiday.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has indicated that some of the least popular aspects of the Move On Pattaya program are to be reviewed. Under the initial Sandbox proposals, international visitors to Pattaya would be restricted to sealed routes during their first seven days of vacation. Nobody has clarified in detail what these sealed routes would mean, but they most likely refer to no-stop group tour buses being the compulsory transport for the first week.

The sealed routes were not part of the Phuket Sandbox because Phuket is an island which it is difficult to exit without formal permission. Pattaya, on the other hand, is full of motorway, highway and minor exits which are not monitored by officials, except perhaps during curfew hours. Thus naughty-minded visitors may be tempted to join the Pattaya Sandbox scheme with the sole intention of deserting it at the earliest opportunity to roam free.

But now TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn has suggested that all Sandboxes throughout Thailand should have the same regulations and avoid sealed vehicles. He is looking for a simple system whereby tourists activate the Mor Chana tracking app and are checked once daily by their base, SHA-Plus approved hotel to make sure they are still sleeping there. Governor Yuthasak also indicated that the cost of three RT-PCR tests necessary for new arrivals should be reduced in price from 8,000 baht, or alternatives such as antigen test kits should be allowed for tests two and three.

Thanet Supornsahasrungsri, acting president of the Chonburi Tourism Council, welcomed the move away from sealed routes which he had said would be highly unpopular. He hoped that Pattaya Sandboxers would be able to move more freely within the Chonburi provincial region once the first RT-PCR test had been done. The Thai Cabinet is expected on Friday this week to give the go-ahead to the Pattaya Sandbox and maybe some others. However, changes and updates could well continue into October.

It remains unclear where the international Sandboxer tourists will come from. Jeffrey Watkins, who represents a British travel consortium, said Thailand was far from full open and seemed geared to welcoming tour groups rather than individuals. “Coronavirus remains a big issue in Thailand and we are waiting to see if the British and American authorities remove the country from their ‘do not enter’ category.”

But European travel agents welcomed the prospect of sealed transport being abolished. One said, “Most Europeans link sealed transport to Lenin’s train trip to Russia in 1917 when he was forbidden to leave the carriage in case somebody shot him. It’s an unfortunate image for leisure tourists.”