Starting July 15, 2021, Koh Samui becomes the second Thai tourist destination to welcome international travelers. Rules and restrictions are similar to those imposed on its bigger sibling, Phuket which serves as a pilot for reintroducing tourism back to the Land of Smiles, also known as “Phuket Sandbox”.
But before jumping on a plane, there are a number of strings attached – both before and during your trip. So gone are the days of just showing up to your favorite beach resort with a backpack, but we’re going to break it down to help you simplify things.
Here are the Top 9 things you need to know before taking that long-awaited beach getaway to the idyllic island paradises of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
1. You Must Be Vaccinated:
Only fully vaccinated travelers with a vaccine approved in Thailand or by the World Health Organization (WHO) can enter. The vaccine must be administered at least 14 days after its final dose prior to arrival. Please refer to the WHO website for a list of vaccine candidates and their respective statuses.
2. Your country must be on the list:
Below is listed of countries that are designed low to medium risk as of June 29, 2021. It’s important to note this list can change at anytime without notice. Be sure to check with the Thailand authorities before booking your tickets!
3. You must first apply for a Certificate of Entry (COE)
Prior to the pandemic, travelers from most countries can enter Thailand visa-free with just a passport. However, as a way to control who comes in, when, and that all requirements are met, it is now necessary for all travelers outside Thailand to obtain a Certificate of Entry (COE). Click HERE to apply for or to find out more about the COE application process.
4. You must have Travel Insurance with Medical Coverage of at least $100,000
International travelers must have insurance covering treatment and medical expenses including those related to COVID-19 with a minimum coverage of US$100,000. The insurance must cover the total duration of stay in Thailand. Please contact your travel insurance carrier for rates and coverage details. Popular Trip Insurance providers include Allianz and Travelex, among others.
5. Your place of stay must be prepaid, and at a Government-Approved Hotel
The days of “winging it” in Thailand are over. Your accommodations in Samui must be prepaid at a SHA-Plus property. ‘SHA’ is a certification for businesses that meet the basic standards of hygiene and health safety for their products and services in accordance with the nationwide measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). ‘SHA Plus’ is a certification for companies/individuals which have received the SHA certificate and where 70% of the workforce has been vaccinated. During this initial reopening phase, staying at a private residence is NOT permitted. So be sure to confirm with your hotel is a SHA-Plus approved before making your non-refundable reservation!
6. PCR Tests are required before departure, on arrival and during your stay. And your movement will be tracked.
- All visitors must obtain a medical certificate with a negative PCR laboratory result issued no more than 72 hours before departure.
- At time of arrival at the airport, a PCR test (at passenger’s expense) will be administered. Guests must remain on the hotel premises until a negative test result is returned.
- Additional PCR tests will be administered on Day 6 (or 7) and Day 12 (or 13) by the Ministry of Public Health.
- If you test positive for COVID-19, you will be transferred immediately to a designated hospital. Travelers are responsible for all medical / transportation expenses. Hopefully, this is covered your travel insurance.
- On top of the PCR tests before and during your stay, you’re also required to activate two tracking apps throughout your stay to ensure you follow the travel parameters under the Samui Plus Reopening rules.
7. You must stay in Samui for 7 consecutive days before traveling to Koh Phangan or Koh Tao; and 14 days between the 3 sister islands before traveling elsewhere in Thailand.
Vaccinated travelers are required to stay in Samui / Koh Phangan / Koh Tao for 14 days before being allowed to move about the country. Here’s a summary of Samui Plus’ stay requirements:
- Day 0-1: upon arrival at the hotel, travelers must remain in their hotel room until they are notified of negative RT-PCR test results (within 24 hours)
- Days 1-3: After receiving a negative PCR test result, travelers can leave their room and enjoy facilities and services within their resort.
- Days 4-7, travelers can travel on designated routes and on excursions /tours within Ko Samui only.
- Days 8-14, travelers can travel between Ko Samui, Ko Phangan and Ko Tao.
Passengers must stay the first 7-nights at a SHA-Plus Hotel before moving to another hotel in Samui, Koh Phangan or Koh Tao. After staying a total of 14 nights within the 3 islands, travelers may proceed elsewhere (most destinations) in Thailand without restriction (subject to change of course). Please be sure to keep your PCR test results, proof of stay in Samui, and your vaccine certificate.
For those who do not plan on visiting elsewhere in Thailand, there is no minimum stay requirements for Samui (i.e. you do not need to stay 14 days). However, passengers must show an outbound international airline ticket for their departure that coincides with their hotel reservation in Samui.
8. COVID Rules still very much apply in Thailand
Once you’re cleared to leave your room, COVID is still taken very seriously in Thailand. This means:
- Masks are required indoors and outdoors;
- Temperature checks will be done routinely by various venues
- The use of SHA-Plus restaurants, tour companies and taxis are strongly recommended
- There remains venue capacity limits and/or restricted opening hours; Curfews can be imposed on short notice as dictated by local conditions.
- As mentioned above, a tracking apps must be installed and active on your mobile device to verify your movements are in line with the COVID-19 rules.
9. So What’s Next?
As the first major Asian country to open its doors to international tourists, all eyes are on Phuket and Samui now. If all goes well, Thailand plans to expand these sandboxes to other popular tourist destinations such as Krabi, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Pattaya and possibly Bangkok in the coming months. Other Southeast Asian countries are keeping a close eye on these “sandboxes” in hopes of their reopening. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed!
For the latest information on Samui Plus Reopening Rules and FAQ, please visit the Thailand Tourism Authority website. And for those looking to explore the wonders of Thailand when the country fully reopens, check out Explorient’s arsenal of Thailand tours spanning everything from luxury vacations to blissful honeymoons to action-packed family adventures.