It has been a long hard wait and we are into the final few days, but it seems like a new dawn is almost on the horizon for all of us travelers! If you got excited reading the title, then you read it right, my friend. Thailand travel is finally (although in phases) re-opening for foreign tourists!
This re-opening drive, dubbed as ‘Phuket Sandbox Plan’ starts with arguably the most famous beach destination of the country, Phuket! The country has been working fast towards preparing to reopen for foreign tourists, which is one of the major drivers of Thailand tourism economy.
In this process, around 60% of the population of Phuket islands have already received the first vaccine shot. It is noteworthy that the country plans to vaccinate 70% of its population by the end of 2021.
Not just that, if this Sandbox Plan to reopen Phuket is a success, there are plans to extend the reopening process to other major tourist destinations like Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Koh Samui by October.
*** Updated on August 18 – Latest Phuket Sandbox 7+7 scheme
The Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension program kicks off on 16 August 2021 allowing eligible international travelers to cut the mandatory stay in Phuket from 14 days down to just 7, after which another 7 nights can be spent at one of these following locations.
- Krabi (Ko Phi Phi, Ko Ngai, or Railay)
- Phang-Nga (Khao Lak or Ko Yao)
- Surat Thani (Samui Plus – Ko Samui, Ko Pha-ngan, or Ko Tao).
However, the existing entry measures for this program remain unchanged – but if you want an additional week outside of Phuket, make sure your hotel issues a Transfer Form indicating that you have stayed there for all 7 nights; and bring along proof with negative results because they’ll need it too!
For more information, do check-in at the Tourism Authority of Thailand here.
Prepare Yourself On What You Will Need When You Visit Phuket
- Fully vaccinated foreign visitors from low – moderate risk countries are allowed as of now
- Visitors will be required to stay inside Phuket itself for 14 days. There will be 2 Covid test on the 6th and 12th day of your stay and if both return negative, you will be then allowed to move out to the provinces.
- Visitors will also be required to install the MorChana tracking application on their phone.
- Or those who have a certificate stating they are COVID-free (proved via RT-CPR/Rapid Antigen Test) no more than within 72 hours of their departure
- For children:
- Those aged under six coming with their fully vaccinated parents are allowed
- Those between 6-18 years of age to undergo the COVID-19 test upon arrival
- Vaccination certificate that proves you are vaccinated no less than 14 days ago, but no later than 1 year before your travel date
- Valid visa
- Certificate of Entry (COE) issued by the Royal Thai Embassy
- A COVID-19 health insurance policy – minimum coverage of US $100,000
- Booking confirmation for a minimum of 14 nights in an SHA Plus-certified accommodation
- Negative RT-PCR Test report for COVID-19 to be produced at the time of entry
- For domestic visitors:
- Those who are either fully vaccinated or have taken one dose of AstraZeneca vaccine are allowed
- Those infected with the virus in the past but recovered in the past three months are also allowed
- If you are in neither of the above two categories, make sure to carry a negative RT-CPR test report which is not older than seven days
✽ Do head to the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s website for more news.
✽ All info as of 23rd June 2021.
17 Places To Visit When You Land In Phuket
If you’re all prepped up with all the prerequisites to visit Phuket, congratulations! But wait – you wouldn’t want to have done all that hard work to only come here and not know how to go about exploring the island, right? Or worse, you wouldn’t want to find yourself in places where there is already a big amount of other foreign tourists, right?
Because after all, you are not the only one who has been waiting eagerly to visit Phuket. So, follow this list of the places to see in Phuket to make the most of your time here!
Beautiful White Sand Kata Noi Beach
Located on the southwest part of the Phuket islands, Kata Noi offers a unique mix of a peaceful vibe and a postcard-perfect white sand beach, all together. Located adjacent to the more famous Kata Beach, Kata Noi is actually what I would recommend if you would like to keep away from tourist crowds.
You can even choose to book your accommodation here overstaying in Phuket hotels. Katathani Phuket Beach Resort, Mom Tri’s Villa Royale and The Shore are the options you can choose from.
Stroll Along the Coastline Of Nai Harn Beach
This beach forms the southernmost piece of sand in Phuket, and the locals seem to love it even more! Lovely white sands adorn its coastlines in front of turquoise waters, but it’s the restaurants of this area that enjoy all the fame (try Sea Breeze for its mouthwatering seafood).
This beach is easily accessible from Phuket town and all you have to do is take a Tuk-tuk to reach here.
Snorkel, Kayak Or Surf On Surin Beach
If Snorkelling, kayaking, surfing or any such activities are on your list, Surin Beach is where you should head to. These are not the only reasons why tourists come here, too! You will often find people sunbathing under the tropical sun on the fine sands of this beach.
Be sure to check out the elusive boutique shops around here and take some amazing souvenirs for home!
Visit The Majestic Phuket Big Buddha atop Nakkerd Hill
A landmark so majestic, it is practically impossible to miss it. The 54-metre tall Big Buddha statue sits atop the Nakkerd Hill near Chalong and it is a truly breathtaking sight.
You can expect to see complete 360 views of Kata Bay and Chalong Bay. There is no entry fee, and the visiting times are from 6 AM to 7 PM, so it is an ideal idea to watch the sunrise from the summit of the white jade marble statue!
Right in the Middle of Phuket Town-Jui Tui Shrine
Now if you’ll be coming to Phuket, chances are you will be staying in one of the SHA Plus-certified Phuket hotels. That means the Jui Tui Shrine should be fairly close to your accommodation, as it is in the middle of Phuket town. It is a vibrant Chinese shine which offers beautiful colours through its ancient architecture.
Built-in 1911, it is a focal point of the city’s Chinese heritage. Jui Tui also acts as the site of the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival (held in October) and it tends to get really busy here around that time during pre-covid. It is still very much available, so take the opportunity to visit the Shrine and you will not regret it.
Visit Wat Chalong
In a city that has more than 20 amazing temples on offer, it can get a bit tough to choose which one to visit on your short trip to Phuket. But it’s a no-brainer to pay a visit to Wat Chalong – arguably the most famous and the biggest of all temples in the town.
The colourful Wat pays homage to two acclaimed monks, Luang Pho Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang. On exhibition, you will see life-sized wax figures of these monks among others inside the temple. Like all Buddhist temples, the morning prayers are something I’d recommend you experience here.
This one is for all the photographers out there. On your visit to the Kata Noi Beach, take a detour to Karon View Point to treat yourself to an unreal vantage point of Phuket island’s most beautiful beaches: Kata Noi, Kata Yai, and Karon Beach – all in one frame!
One visit to this spot and you’ll understand why it’s one of Phuket’s most photographed places.
Khao Rang Viewpoint
Let me introduce you to Phuket’s number one sunset point. At the top of Khao Rang Hill, lies an extremely soothing spot overlooking the twinkling lights of the city below. While it is not that high at its summit, the Khao Rang viewpoint offers romantic views of the city and its shoreline below. Don’t believe me? Go there after the sunset and you’ll see.
You can also enjoy a nice cosy dinner at ‘Tung Ka Cafe’ on its wooden terrace amongst the green trees overlooking the panoramic view below!
Phuket Tiger Kingdom
This place offers you an unbelievable chance to experience the big wild cats up close and personally! Spread over an area of 4 acres, it is located ideally at the foothills of Patong Hill. You can spend 10 enthralling minutes in close proximity with tigers of varied sizes and ages, or even cheetahs!
Bear in mind that you should turn off the flash while taking pictures from your cellphones or cameras.
You can alternatively also opt for a professional photographer to take pictures of you to make your visit to the Tiger Kingdom even more memorable. Check out their website for more info or E-tickets so that you can save the hassles.
Phuket Town Weekend Night Market
Also known as the Sunday Walking Street Market as it is only functional on Sundays, you CANNOT miss out on this on your Phuket trip. From the late hours of the afternoon, the streets are closed to the traffic and this area becomes a ‘pedestrian-only’ zone.
It is a rich amalgamation of clours, music, fragrances and food, all in one place! All the food is authentic and hygienic, and really cheap. All in all, a true Thai experience awaits you at the Weekend Night Market!
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary
Now if being with tigers up close is not your cup of tea, don’t worry – Phuket Elephant Sanctuary has an alternative for you. Set over a massive 30-acre area of a dense tropical jungle, this sanctuary is a rehabilitation home to many of Thailand’s elephants. Most of these massive mammals are sick, old or ill rescues from the logging industries.
Here, you can feed these beautiful creatures, spend time experiencing them bathe, roam freely and socialize with other elephants around.
It’s truly a sight to cherish watching elephants enjoy their newfound freedom here! There are several tours you can choose from. Check their website for more info.
Khao Toh Sae / Monkey Hill
By now, you know that there are several viewpoint spots around Phuket. Adding to that list is the Toh Sae Hill, also known as Monkey Hill due to dozens of troops of monkeys around here munching away on the fruits that grow around here.
It is a rather popular spot among locals for their morning exercises. You’ll find many TV and radio stations around the summit of the hill and a few restaurants at the base of Toh Sae. Be sure to stop along the way as the views are much better on the way up than on the top.
The Legendary Bangla Road Of Phuket
This is where the life of the town really is. Apart from being home to many Phuket hotels, Bangla road becomes the epicentre of lights, local music, Thai food, cheap beer and a friendly atmosphere. It comes to life after sunset after it is closed to traffic with its bars and dance clubs being the spot for tourist attention.
So you can actually say that if never been to Bangla Road, it is almost as good as saying that you had never been to Phuket.
- People that are looking for drinks, head to Soi Seadragon
- Nnightclubs and parties, head to Soi Gonzo
- If you are into shopping, head to Soi Patong Resort
P.S. As per last reports, the government’s officials stated that entertainment venues like pubs and bars will remain closed for the first phase of this reopening process. So it is advised that you contact local authorities to keep a check on when these places will reopen if you plan to visit them.
The Most Famous Patong Beach
The longest beach in Phuket and the most easily accessible, Patong Beach was once a nice peaceful retreat for many. Today, it is still the hub of tourist activities, fancy souvenir shops and some tasty seafood. It is also the home to many parties in Phuket and if you are looking for a busy spot bustling with life, chances are you will end up at Patong!
Simon Cabaret Show
On the list of every well-made itinerary for Thailand travel, has to be an evening of Cabaret which you MUST NOT MISS!
You definitely heard about crossdressers or otherwise known as ladyboys, see them perform in the Cabaret with lip-sync precision and dances that are simply outstanding.
For this, we recommend Simon Cabaret Show as they are definitely the best of the best in Phuket! It offers an intimate theatre experience of gorgeous dancers (cross-dressers basically) in amazing attire and headdresses.
Check out their prices and book an unforgettable visual experience of dramatic music, comedy and fun!
One Of Kind The Phuket FantaSea Show
Phuket FantaSea brings to you an ultimate out-of-this-world kind of experience! This 60-acre theme park showcases the innate beauty of Thailand and its deep-rooted culture with the help of world-class technology and effects. There are 3 main attractions within the theme park:
- Festival Village – A shopping street like no other! There will be always something for both young and old.
- Golden Kinnaree – World-renowned Thai and International Buffet restaurant, they really offer a huge spread that will simply spoil you.
- The fantasy of a Kingdom – A 30,000 seat Las Vegas-style theatre
It is still under review if they will open in time during the sandbox program, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so you can head their website for more tickets and opening details.
Multi-Award-Winning Gourmet Restaurant Mom Tri’s Kitchen
Usually, I would leave the restaurant hopping up to you, but Mom Tri’s kitchen deserves a full-hearted recommendation. The multi-award-winning gourmet restaurant is located ideally on The Kata Beach right in front of the extravagant blue waters and speckless coastline!
The place boasts multi-level terraces amidst lush greenery, and it serves some of the best wines in the country. You can’t miss out on hogging (and drinking) here – this place deserves all your attention!
For reservations, please reach out to them directly.
You are all ready to go!
While the news of re-opening would be music to the ears of many, remember to follow all health and safety protocols on your travels. As you enjoy the highs (viewpoints) and lows (beaches) of Phuket, remember that YOU, a tourist are the main reason why Thailand tourism is re-opening. So enjoy responsibly!