While Thailand has resumed its Test & Go scheme, it’s still keeping the Sandbox around as a fall back measure should the COVID-19 situation worsen.
In case that day should come, here’s my experience applying for a Thailand Pass under the Sandbox scheme for travel to Koh Samui.
|🏖️ Sandbox Requirements|
As a reminder, regardless of which scheme you’re entering Thailand under, every individual aged 18 and above must submit a Thailand Pass application (children aged below 18 can be registered as a dependent in an accompanying adult’s Thailand Pass application).
It’s recommended you apply at least seven days before departure, and having gone through the process, I suggest you start sooner rather than later. You don’t want to be stressing about missing documents and possible reapplications with the clock ticking down to your flight.
Thailand Pass: Getting Started
Applications for the Thailand Pass are free-of-charge (beware of lookalike websites that impose a fee!), and can be done via https://tp.consular.go.th/
In this article we’ll cover the application process for The Blue Zone Sandbox (Sandbox Programme).
I’ll be applying for the Surat Thani Sandbox (which includes Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao), but the steps are largely similar for someone applying for the Phuket or Krabi Sandboxes.
Click “select” and you’ll be brought to a declaration screen. Read through the terms, check the box at the bottom and click “confirm”.
The next screen asks for the details of your journey to Thailand.
Purpose of Arrival
Tourism was not an option, so I just selected “Travel”.
Departure from country/ area
Select the country you’re starting your journey from.
First Arrival Port in Thailand (City)
My itinerary is SIN-BKK-USM, but I was told by the hotel to put Koh Samui (and not Bangkok) as the first port of arrival in Thailand. I double checked with them and they were quite insistent Koh Samui was the right option to put- I guess they know better!
As a reminder, if you’re applying for the Phuket Sandbox you’ll need to fly directly to Phuket- only Koh Samui allows transit in Bangkok at the moment. Fortunately, Phuket International Airport is a lot better connected than Koh Samui.
The hotel told me to put my BKK-USM flight number in this field.
Date of Arrival
While it’s recommended that you apply for the Thailand Pass at least seven days before your intended travel date, the system allows you to select any arrival date that’s not in the past. You don’t want to cut it too close, obviously.
Estimated Date of Departure from Thailand
The departure date is only an estimate, which gives you the flexibility to extend your trip if you wish (subject to Visa requirements).
If the original trip duration specified on your Thailand Pass is at least 7 days, you can extend it at will without further approval.
If the original trip duration specified on your Thailand Pass is <7 days, you will need approval to extend it. Ask your hotel to contact the local Command Centre to approve the request.
Thailand Pass: Personal Information
After providing trip details, you’ll then be prompted for some basic personal information. There isn’t an awful lot to explain here- just enter your personal information and upload a copy of the passport information page.
Thailand Pass: Vaccination
Here’s one of the most annoying steps in the entire application process.
Travellers need to upload proof of vaccination, but this section of the Thailand Pass portal doesn’t accept PDF files- only jpg, jpeg and png. This means you’ll need to screenshot each page of your Notarise certificate, stitch them together into one long image, then upload them two (or three, if you’re boosted) times- one for each dose.
I hope you know how to convert PDFs to JPGs- the Thailand Pass team must have received so many enquiries about this they’ve even created a special article on the topic.
At the risk of repeating myself, each vaccination dose requires you to upload a separate certificate of vaccination, so you’ll need to repeat the process for the second and third (if applicable) doses.
In addition to the vaccination certificate, you can also upload the vaccination certificate’s QR code which supposedly leads to faster approval.
You’re meant to crop out the QR code and upload it, but try as I might, the Thailand Pass portal refused to accept any of the QR codes from my Notarise certificate- not the one labelled Online QR verification nor the ones labelled Offline QR Verification (EU DCC-compatible). It kept telling me “QR Code is not valid”.
My workaround was to:
- Scan the Online QR verification code using my phone (i.e the non EUDCC one)
- Copy the URL generated
- Generate my own QR code via The QR Code Generator
I uploaded the self-generated QR code and it worked fine. Just like the vaccination certificate, you’ll need to upload the QR code once for each dose.
|❓ Which QR code to use?|
|As mentioned earlier, your Notarise vaccination certificate will have different types of QR codes. There is a single QR code labelled “Online QR verification” and two (or three if you’re boosted) QR codes labelled “Offline QR Verification (EU DCC-compatible)”. From what I understand, it doesn’t really matter which one you submit.|
Thailand Pass: Contact & Accommodation
Sandbox travellers must book an approved SHA Extra+ (not to be confused with SHA or SHA+) or AQ accommodation.
|SHA Extra+ Hotels|
|I recommend you use the link for SHA Extra+ Hotels, it’s much easier to navigate. Toggle the language to English on the top right.|
Travellers to the Surat Thani Sandbox are allowed to change hotels up to three times, with the caveat that the first night must be in Koh Samui. After the first night (and obtaining a negative PCR test result), you can move to Koh Tao or Koh Pha-ngan.
Travellers to Krabi, Phang-Nga, or Phuket can change hotels twice within the first seven days within the province.
The problem is, the Thailand Pass portal only allows you to submit information for a single hotel booking. I’m staying at two different places, so I submitted the information for the first hotel here, and the second hotel in the “additional documents” section (see below).
A screenshot of the booking confirmation will suffice.
Thailand Pass: Medical Insurance & Additional Documents
Sandbox travellers must purchase travel insurance with a minimum US$50,000 (~S$67,300) coverage for COVID-19 medical treatment.
The problem with most Singapore travel insurance providers is that their certificates don’t actually state how much coverage you have. For example, here’s what MSIG issued me.
My MSIG policy actually has S$130,000 of COVID-19 medical expense coverage, but that’s not stated anywhere in the certificate. It took three phone calls with customer service before I could get an endorsement letter that, ironically, might even make things worse.
Notice how it says “COVID-19 is not covered by your policy”, before going to explain how this separate endorsement actually provides coverage for COVID-19. Sure, I get that, but you think the average person processing hundreds of Thailand Passes per day is going to bother to read beyond that first line?
So I’d avoid MSIG insurance like the plague, and just buy AXA’s Sawasdee Thailand policy. It’s very affordable (THB560 for an 8-day trip) and the insurance certificate states in black and white the amount of coverage provided.
Under the additional documents section, you’ll at the very least need to upload the document sent by your hotel once you’ve made payment for the 2x RT-PCR tests. Thankfully, this section supports PDF files.
The Thai Embassy has informed me that if your stay is less than five days, you only need to book 1x RT-PCR test.
I would also recommend uploading:
- The policy wording of your travel insurance (important if your insurance certificate doesn’t state how much COVID-19 medical expense coverage is provided)
- Any additional hotel bookings, should you be staying in more than one hotel (since there’s a limit of three additional documents, you may need to combine screenshots into one file should you be staying in three different hotels)
Thailand Pass: Processing times
Once your Thailand Pass application is submitted, you’ll receive a six-digit confirmation code (it’ll also be emailed to you). Use this to check your application status and for any correspondence with the support team ([email protected]).
How long does processing take? It’s anyone’s guess. Some people got theirs within minutes, others in hours. Thailand Pass, amusingly, has an account on Medium where they dispense such nuggets as:
There seem to be tips and tricks circulating on the internet as to how one could speed up the approval process by filling in the registration form in certain ways or doing certain things. They do not work, and would actually delay your application.
Here are the true tips and tricks to get Thailand Pass to process your registration quickly.
- Do not submit multiple applications of the same trip.
- Do not include irrelevant characters in your full name.
- Fill in the passport number accurately. Do not include spaces or irrelevant characters.
My first Thailand Pass application was submitted at 8.52 a.m on 13 January and rejected at 5.52 p.m on 15 January. It said I needed to upload the certificate for my 1st and 2nd dose of vaccination- which I did – but I submitted exactly the same documents at 6.22 p.m on 15 January and got approved at 4.26 p.m on 17 January.
Changing hotels requires the submission of a brand new Thailand Pass application, so I’d try to avoid that if I were you. You are allowed to change your arrival flight up to 72 hours after your original arrival time (not before)- I believe this is meant to cater to flight delays.
Filling out the Thailand Pass application form is more painful than it needs to be- the stubbornness of the QR code reader, the inability to submit PDFs for most sections, the ambiguity regarding first port of entry, the virtually non-existent customer support. But it’s the price for entering Thailand at the moment.
Thailand Pass applicants: what kind of turnaround times are you seeing?