Thailand is a powerhouse in Southeast Asia tourism. In 2019, approximately 40 million tourists visited the country. However, after the arrival of COVID-19, Thailand closed its doors to tourists almost entirely for a year and a half. Earlier this month, flights resumed to bring tourism back, allowing vaccinated tourists to enter Phuket (and later the rest of Thailand). So, of course, we took the first flight to Phuket to tell you everything you need to know about traveling to Thailand!
Currently, only vaccinated tourists and children under 18 who are not vaccinated can enter Phuket. Upon landing on the island, all passengers must undergo a COVID test, wait at the hotel for negative results, and then explore the island and nearby islands such as Coral Island and Ko Racha. Travel from Phuket province to the rest of the country is prohibited during the first 14 days after arrival. Of course, you can leave Thailand at any time.
What do you need for traveling to Thailand?
– Airline ticket to Phuket (cannot be via Bangkok)
– Negative COVID test within 72 hours before the flight
– Vaccination certificate
– Travel insurance covering COVID with a minimum of $100,000 coverage
– Certificate of Entry to Thailand (COE) (instructions for filling out the application form)
– Confirmation of booking accommodation in a “SHA+” (Safety and Health Administration) certified hotel
– Confirmation of pre-payment for COVID tests
Recommended but not required:
– Download the Thai government tracking app in advance (available for iPhone and Android)
– Fill out the T8 migration form in advance
Who can enter Phuket?
The Thai Sandbox experiment is currently open only to citizens of selected countries. Vaccinated Israelis (two doses) are allowed to enter Thailand, as well as their children under 18, whether vaccinated or not. Unvaccinated Israelis, including recovered children, are not allowed to enter the country at this stage.
What is open in Phuket?
Most tourist areas, restaurants, shops, shopping centers, and beaches are open. However, bars and clubs are still closed in most places, so the nightlife in Phuket is very limited. This might change soon as more visitors arrive. For me, it’s a great opportunity to enjoy Thailand in a slightly different way—quieter, more serene, and closer to nature. During our week in Phuket, we had time to dine in restaurants, take a boat trip to Coral Island, visit shopping malls and markets, and stroll on beautiful beaches. We also visited a water park and an aquarium.
What about COVID tests?
The first COVID test must be taken within 72 hours before departing from Ben Gurion Airport. A second test is performed upon landing in Phuket. At the airport, tourists go directly to the hotels and must wait at the hotel until they receive negative test results (usually within about 10 hours). Tourists staying in Thailand for a week or more are required to undergo a third medical test on the sixth or seventh day after arrival and a fourth test on the twelfth or thirteenth day after arrival. Children up to 6 years old are exempt from this requirement. The costs of COVID tests, which must be arranged in advance with the hotel, are around 260 shekels per test as of now. COVID-positive patients confirmed will be sent to isolation in hospitals. It is important to note that, contrary to some reports, if a child under 18 is confirmed to have COVID, they will be sent to isolation in a hospital accompanied by at least one of their parents.
How long do you have to wait in the hotel to receive test results?
We arrived at the hotel around 5:00 PM, and by midnight, the result was sent to the hotel that we were all negative, and we were allowed to leave the rooms. So, test results arrive in about 12 hours or less.
How to fly to Phuket?
The most convenient options are direct El Al flights to Phuket or traveling with fly-Dubai and Emirates via Dubai. Prices are relatively low compared to pre-COVID rates. El Al ticket prices start from $575 (including only an 8 kg trolley bag, additional luggage for a fee). Ticket prices via Dubai start from $669, including a large suitcase. You don’t land in Bangkok on your way to Phuket, significantly limiting the options.
What about hotels?
Booking rates are still low, as the pilot program has just started, and the number of tourists is limited. In the past, we found especially luxurious hotels at relatively ridiculous prices. For example, a new hotel from the Four Points (Marriott group) offers rooms for only 200 shekels per night, or the Shore Hotel (adults-only) offers a suite with a private pool for only 850 shekels per night.
Please note that during the first two weeks in Phuket, only up to three hotels are allowed, with a stay of at least one week. As for Kosmoy, Ko Phangan, and Koh Tao, the Thai Sandbox experiment will be extended to these three destinations on July 15. Tourists will be required to stay in isolation in their rooms and designated areas in each hotel for three days. After that, until the end of the first week in Thailand, tourists can leave the hotel but are requested to stay on the island only. From here until the end of the second week, tourists will be able to travel between the three islands. After two weeks of arrival, tourists will be allowed to leave and visit any other area in Thailand.