Last month, Thailand announced that it would suspend new applications for its quarantine-free Test & Go scheme, and close all Sandboxes except for Phuket.
This marked a major setback for its reopening plans, although travellers with existing Thailand Passes could still enter under their original scheme (with an extra free-of-charge PCR test on Day 6 or 7 for Test & Go visitors).
The authorities have now decided to continue the suspension of Test & Go, although there’s a bit of a kerfuffle as to what happens to existing Thailand Passholders:
- Some sources reported that 15 January would be the cutoff date (meaning that anyone with an approved Thailand Pass for entry from 16 January onwards could no longer enter quarantine-free)
- Others reported that the matter is still being discussed and nothing has been finalised
It appears the latter interpretation is correct- as of today, a decision has yet to be made regarding the fate of existing Thailand Passholders. Those holding passes for entry until 15 January should be safe, but those with entry from 16 January onwards will be in for a nerve-wracking week.
|Update: The latest update from the Royal Gazette suggests that the 15 January deadline isn’t happening after all. Read more here.|
What we do know for sure is that from 11 January 2022, Thailand will reopen Sandbox applications for travel to Krabi, Phang-Nga and Surat Thani (which covers Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao). These will join Phuket, bringing the total number of Sandbox locations to four.
Test & Go scheme still suspended; 15 January cutoff mulled
On 22 December 2021, Thailand suspended new applications for its Test & Go scheme. However, it reassured existing Thailand Passholders that they would still be able to enter under the scheme they originally registered.
Travellers who have already received a Thailand Pass QR code (approximately 200,000 applicants) will be allowed to enter Thailand under the existing conditions of the scheme they have registered
-Tourism Authority of Thailand
For example, if your Test & Go Thailand Pass was approved on 18 December 2021 for entry on 30 January 2022, you’d be able to enter Thailand quarantine-free as originally planned.
Test & Go passes will continue to be suspended, but what’s ruffling feathers is the prospect of a 15 January cutoff date. Local media initially reported that all Thailand Passholders needed to enter Thailand by 15 January 2022.
Dr Taweesilp said the CCSA agreed to prolong the suspension of the Test & Go one-quarantine-night-only entry programme until further notice, with Jan 15 the last date for all pre-approved arrivals.
But the ever-reliable Richard Barrow (if you’re planning a Thailand trip, you need to follow this guy) has since secured the following clarification.
The CCSA later clarified that for now, existing Thailand Passholders can enter as originally planned.
Of course, all this means is that no decision has been taken yet. It’s completely possible that they subsequently decide on a 15 January cutoff, which would be bad news for anyone planning enter from 16 January onwards.
In the meantime, Richard Barrow has also said that those who wish to bring forward the date of their entry into Thailand (as a precaution, should the cutoff materialise) can write in to the following email addresses:
This is a special concession; remember- by right, the entry date on a Thailand Pass can only be moved up to 72 hours after the original date of entry (presumably to cater to flight delays), and all other changes require a fresh application (which can’t be done right now).
So the tl;dr is that anyone who planned to travel to Thailand under Test & Go on or before 15 January 2022 is safe, but it remains to be seen what happens after that.
3 new Sandbox locations
Uncertainity about Test & Go aside, what’s known for sure is that from 11 January 2022, Krabi, Phang-Nga and Surat Thani (consisting of Koh Samui, Ko Pha-ngan and Ko Tao) will be added to the Sandbox programme.
This allows fully vaccinated travellers to enter quarantine-free, but does not allow them to travel freely outside their Sandbox zone until Day 7.
|❓ What’s the difference between Test & Go and Sandbox?|
Both Test & Go and Sandbox travellers will take a PCR test on arrival in Thailand, and isolate until a negative result is received.
Following this, Test & Go visitors are free to travel anywhere in Thailand, while Sandbox travellers must stay within their Sandbox zone for the first 7 days before travelling elsewhere.
This means that Test & Go visitors need only book an SHA Extra Plus hotel for one night, while Sandbox travellers must book an SHA Extra Plus Hotel for seven nights (they can book less than seven nights if they do not intend to travel elsewhere in Thailand, and leave on the same day of checking out).
Both are required to take a further PCR test on Day 6 or 7 (the day of entry is Day 0 if you arrive after 6 p.m, otherwise it is Day 1).
Here’s a summary of travel requirements under the Sandbox programme:
- Apply for Thailand Pass
- Present negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours of departure (ages 5 and under exempt)
- Present proof of full vaccination with an approved vaccine (ages 17 and under exempt if travelling with parents)
- Purchase travel insurance with min. US$50,000 coverage for COVID-19 medical treatment
- Book SHA Extra Plus hotel for at least 7 days (for <7 days, must present proof you’re leaving on the day of check-out e.g. air ticket)
- Book and prepay for 2x PCR tests (can be arranged through hotel)
- Take PCR test on arrival and isolate at hotel until negative result received
- If negative result received, stay within Sandbox zone for 7 days
- Take PCR test on Day 6 or 7
- Download MorChana app (Android | iOS) to report the results of Day 6 or 7 test
- On Day 7, a release form will be issued, and free travel around Thailand is permitted
It sounds like a lot of steps, but most of the work is pre-arrival. Once you’re there, you just need to remember to take the additional PCR test on Day 6 or 7.
A detailed rundown of Sandbox requirements can be found here.
Travel from Singapore to Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways offers the only non-stop flight between Singapore and Koh Samui, with PG962/961 operating 3x weekly on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays (SilkAir used to serve this route, but has suspended it after merging with Singapore Airlines)
PG962 offers the most convenient way of getting to Koh Samui, provided you don’t mind wasting the first night (although since you’re confined to your room until the PCR results come out (6-8 hours), another way of viewing it is that you’ll be ready to go from the following morning).
However, you won’t be able to take PG961 back to Singapore- at least if you want to enjoy VTL privileges. There is currently no VTL flight from Koh Samui; all of them start from Bangkok.
What’s not clear to me at the moment is whether you’re allowed to stay in Koh Samui for <7 days, and then take a USM-BKK-SIN flight where you don’t leave the transit area in Bangkok. I distinctly remember reading about “sealed routes” between Bangkok and Koh Samui operated by Bangkok Airways, so presumably such an itinerary would be possible.
I’ll be watching this closely, since I’m hoping to visit Koh Samui at the end of January. In fact, I found that you can book a combination of Singapore Airlines and Bangkok Airways flights directly on the SIA website; the itinerary below would cost S$617 per person.
From what I understand, all bookings need to be on a single itinerary, so you can’t redeem a SIN-BKK ticket on Singapore Airlines and pay for a separate BKK-USM ticket on Bangkok Airways.
Stay tuned- there’ll be a trip planning post soon if all works out!
Thailand will continue to suspend the issuance of new Test & Go Thailand Passes indefinitely, and is mulling a 15 January deadline for entry. While nothing’s set in stone yet, it is possible that anyone with a Thailand Pass for entry after this date may find themselves having to cancel their plans (or face quarantine on arrival).
The good news is that Koh Samui will soon be opening up under the Sandbox programme, and while I really wish there were a VTL flight to Singapore, this is as good as it gets for now.