Phuket started to welcome vaccinated international visitors at the beginning of July, and the Koh Samui area joined the Sandbox-initiative two weeks later. The program is expected to expand to include five more regions, including Bangkok, on October 1.
I have previously covered the application process for the Certificate of Entry (COE) with numerous required documents and an interesting transit experience in Singapore. I thought that readers would be keen to know more about the arrival experience at the airport.
I have already covered the application process and transit experience in Singapore in previous articles:
- Phuket Sandbox “Your registration/application for COE has been confirmed”
- Thailand Phuket Sandbox Application Completed
- Thailand Phuket Sandbox COE Amendment
- Singapore Transit Experience
1. Certificate of Entry from the Royal Thai Embassy in Helsinki
2. Predeparture negative Covid-19 PCR-RT test
3. Proof of complete Covid-19 vaccination
4. Prepayment of 3 Covid-19 PCR-RT tests in Phuket
5. Singapore Airlines itinerary Paris – Phuket return
6. Proof of payment and SHABA document from the hotel 1 (first 7 days)
7. Proof of payment and SHABA document from the hotel 2 (next 7 days – where I am now)
8. Proof of insurance coverage for the trip from Axa (comes with Amex Platinum)
9. Delta e-ticket for Helsinki – Paris Air France flight
10. Health questionnaire
- Thailand Plus
There are two apps that you need to have installed on your smartphone and linked to your COE/Profile.
Also, you need to fill out the usual immigration form.
There were some issues with the runway, so the pilot had to circle the plane a few times, and we got a perfect look at the islands.
It was sad to see only one Nok Air plane on the ground.
I was first to de-plane from the Singapore Airlines aircraft and I was surprised to find plenty of people on the jetway, many with wheelchairs. (I had not seen a single passenger needing a wheelchair in Singapore.)
I just kept walking until I reached this immigration hall that had plenty of chairs arranged in an orderly way.
There were an awful lot of employees around. The lady checked that I had all the required documents and that they were correctly filled. I had everything else besides the MorChana app that I installed on the spot, and the person activated it.
Then I moved to the first desk (before immigration) where they pulled up the COE using the number on the application and took the health questionnaire.
Immigration was next and it started with the fingerprints. They had a stamp that I had not seen previously, and you get 45 days instead of the usual 30 with the Sandbox arrival. You can extend this once by an additional 30 days.
Then you head to pick up your bag, although I stopped by a Kasikorn ATM first. I was surprised that I still remembered the PIN (I have an account with them).
The priority bags were already waiting in the arrivals hall (pulled from the belt). Usually, your bags are screened if arriving outside of Thailand in Phuket, but not in Bangkok. This time, I was waived through.
I was starting to wonder where are they doing the arrival tests.
You are then in the arrivals hall with plenty of chairs waiting. So I just kept walking until I came to the station that checks your paperwork for the PCR-RT tests and hands you a tube.
The booths where the first test is performed are all outside, on the left when you walk out.
You can register with your passport and email address on this QR code address, and the test results are automatically emailed to you once they are ready.
You then move to the SHA+ transportation line. I had arranged a pick up with the hotel, and the personnel called someone that a guest from the DoubleTree was waiting for the driver. The driver pulled up and took me to the hotel.
You must stay inside your room until the test result arrives. I was tired and decided to nap for a few hours (I worked most of the time on the Singapore Airlines overnight flight from Europe, so I was exhausted).
The result came in about five hours after it was taken at the airport.
There were many employees taking photos before immigration and members of the press waiting outside.
It turns out that athletes were arriving from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics on this flight who had decided to use the Sandbox program instead of quarantining inside a hotel in Bangkok.
Most of the passengers on my flight from Singapore were Thai nationals, per the flight attendant. However, if you consider the amount of documentation required, this is unsuitable for first-time visitors to Thailand or infrequent tourists.
The whole program makes sense for someone who has ties to Thailand or is a national or resident to utilize the Sandbox scheme rather than spending two weeks inside a hotel room.
I am not sure how Thailand could greatly expand the number of incoming visitors if they keep this level of arrival checks and testing in place. It only works, as the transit experience in Singapore, when you have a tiny number of international arrivals.