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Costs of forced repeated tests threaten Canadian Sandbox holiday

Costs of forced repeated tests threaten Canadian Sandbox holiday

PHUKET: Confusion over what extra COVID tests required for Sandbox tourists to travel ‘freely’ to other Sandbox tourism locations has thrown an 11-week holiday by a retired Canadian couple into jeopardy.

By The Phuket News

Monday 20 September 2021, 04:49PM

“As long as all 3 test results are negative, after a 14-night period in Phuket, you will be able to freely travel domestically within Thailand.” Not quite. Tests are required in order to travel to any other parts of the country, including other Sandbox areas such as Samui or Phi Phi Island. Image: Screenshot from

“As long as all 3 test results are negative, after a 14-night period in Phuket, you will be able to freely travel domestically within Thailand.” Not quite. Tests are required in order to travel to any other parts of the country, including other Sandbox areas such as Samui or Phi Phi Island. Image: Screenshot from

The couple, staying in Phuket as Sandbox tourists, were told that in order to travel to Phi Phi Island and Koh Samui as part of their extended holiday would cost them an extra B35,000, or nearly US$1,100, just to have the COVID tests done to allow them them to travel the other designated Sandbox tourism areas.

The couple also sent emails about one week ago to and for clarifications of the rules, but did not receive any response.

The couple, both 72 years old, alerted The Phuket News of their predicament last night. Both of them have been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine and spent eight weeks completing the required Certificate of Entry (CoE) to enter Thailand through Phuket under the Sandbox’ tourism scheme through the Royal Thai Embassy in Ottawa.

“We arrived in Phuket on Sept 7, and will complete the required 14-day stay tomorrow [Sept 21],” the husband told The Phuket News today.

“We both have tested negative through all three compulsory RT-PCR tests,” he added. The results of the third, and final, compulsory RT-PCR tests were issued on Saturday (Sept 18).

The couple landed in Phuket and were impressed by the process at Phuket airport to enter the country. “The airport experience was excellent, compared with all the bureaucracy we had to contend with before coming here. We were out of there within one hour,” the husband said,

The plan was to stay 28 days in Phuket, then one week on Phi Phi (leaving Oct 5), then return to Phuket and fly to Samui to stay there for four weeks, and then return to Phuket for two more weeks before flying home.

That plan was thrown into serious jeopardy by the extra costs and inconveniences of forced repeated COVID tests in order to travel to other Sandbox ’Orange Zone’ areas.

Earlier they were informed that both will be required to undergo RT-PCR tests in order to travel to Phi Phi, and again to return to Phuket, and again in order to travel to Samui, and again in order to return to Phuket, and once more in order to board the flight home.

The RT-PCR tests cost B3,500 each. Altogether the extra tests would have cost an extra B35,000, nearly US$1,100. That is on top of the three tests both have already completed, costing B16,000, or about US$500.

The decision to come to Thailand was based on the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) notice plainly saying in its advisory to tourists explaining the Phuket Sandbox scheme saying, “As long as all 3 test results are negative, after a 14-night period in Phuket, you will be able to freely travel domestically within Thailand.”

That notice, titled ‘Phuket Sandbox FAQs (Updated)’, was last updated seven days ago. The quote above remains on the website today (Sept 20).

No one all throughout the COE process informed the Canadian couple of otherwise.

The couple pointed out that they were exactly the type of tourists the TAT was asking to come to Thailand on holiday through the Sandbox scheme. Not including the cost of air tickets, the couple were set to spend US$16,000 on their holiday in Thailand.

The husband pointed out, “Not boasting, we are retired and relatively well to do. We have booked all through SHA+ hotels, all five-star hotels. We are not trying to skimp on the costs. We are just trying to figure out what all this extra testing is for.

“Keep in mind that Canada is 65-75% vaccinated, and has opened to receiving visitors from all over the world. All that is required is that you are fully vaccinated and have tested negative through one PCR test within 72 hours of travel.

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“With all this, one has to ask what is the point of vaccination?” he added.

“If I had known this before, I would have gone to Portugal and spent my time there with no issues of any kind,” he said.

“It is not practical to keep on taking tests that cost US$100 each when we are fully vaccinated with Pfizer Vaccine.

“Sandbox tourists should be allowed to travel to open tourist areas after completing 14 days in Phuket. We should not be at the mercy of the local provinces with conflicting rules,” he added.

“If we are forced to take test to travel to Phi Phi, then another test to return to Phuket, another test to travel to Samui, another to return from Samui to Phuket, and yet another to take the flight home, it seems to indicate to us that the TAT is asking us to spend US$1,100 more in testing after spending USD700 ($200 for initial PCR test to come to Thailand) in testing (two people) and that Thailand does not believe in Pfizer vaccinations.

“We are also treated differently than local tourists. Local tourists can take antigen tests, but we are asked to take the RT-PCR test,” he said.

“If we are asked to take these tests, we will go back home, and not spend another US$1,100 for traveling to Phi Phi and Koh Samui, and Phuket,” the husband confirmed.

“When we applied to come here, we were given to believe that after two weeks in Phuket, and three negative tests, we are free to travel within Thailand, but that does not seem to be the case.”

In the latest update to the couple’s predicament, The Phuket News was told this afternoon that the SHA+ manager had now informed the couple that to return to Phuket from Phi Phi Island and from Samui would require only an ATK test each time.

“Right now traveling to Samui will require a Samui Health pass, and vaccination certificates, and NO TEST. That is good news too,” the husband said. “This was first confirmed by Bangkok Air, and then by the SHA+ manager at our hotel.”

The husband noted that he only learned of the stricter conditions for travelling to Phi Phi Island after landing in Phuket. The island has suffered an outbreak directly linked to construction workers working on a wastewater-treatment plant there.

“The Phi Phi situation is until Sept 24, and they do not know what the rules will be, and they do not know why Phi Phi wants a PCR test from Sandbox tourists,” the husband said.

“The situation can change any time, so one has to find out the restrictions only one week before travelling,” he added.

The husband also pointed out, “We love Thailand and Thai People, that is why we are here.

“We agree that tourists’ safety is of paramount importance, but going overboard and creating unnecessary requirements compromises the health and safety, not enhance it.”

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Kurt | 22 September 2021 - 11:07:39

Dubai TAT Office warns Thai Government that the complicated COE application  process as well the costs of a PCR test, costs 200-300 Thb in UAE, 8000+ THB for3 tests in Thailand, withhold Arabian quality tourists with money to visit Thailand. Well, scamming is to obvious. Isn't? Thailand, penny wise, pound foolish. They not even hide it.

Christy Sweet | 21 September 2021 - 13:49:10

Seems there is a recent Italian study (DovePress)- not on Covid specifically but it is vital the correct layer of skin be utilized- I think  this is why my injections were barely even noticeable with a 27 gauge needle. I certainly will keep masking, SD, essential trips only, etc. 

CaptainJack69 | 21 September 2021 - 13:18:50

Most people in our source markets are vaccinated and COVID is under control there. In Thailand there's maybe 15% nation-wide (most of that with ineffective vaccines) so tough domestic restrictions are needed to combat it. The ONLY thing that matters is vaccination. Thailand is already 6 months behind and falling every day.

CaptainJack69 | 21 September 2021 - 13:02:59

"PCR tests costs 3500B each".  Bangkok Hospital Group have done a great job of convincing people of that but it's not true. Even on Phuket it can be done for as little as 600B. Yes there are suspiciously few places offering it, but it's real. Why isn't the government doing anything to increase their availability or decrease their costs?

Kurt | 21 September 2021 - 12:53:38

The way Thai officialdom handles the Covid Pandemic in relation with their treatment of Foreigners is a eye opener to the big outside world (which for many Thai not exists). Many Foreigners now experience the real Thailand. Thailand's image get by the day more tarnished by themselves. Destructive. For many years to come Thailand will feel the effects of it.

Kurt | 21 September 2021 - 11:37:28

The story of this Canadian couple is exemplary what is wrong within the Thai flip flopping, and different nonsense rules for tourists only everywhere. Rules that obvious are implemented just for making money and put the foreign tourists at the drain for it. After SHA hotel time a foreigner should be treated the same as a Thai during his further stay.

Kurt | 21 September 2021 - 11:26:06

Thailand should show more appreciation and being thankful towards the few foreign tourist who still like to visit Thailand while Thai are Covid infecting Thai figures are spiking, also on Phuket. The continues over-focus on foreigners is xenophobic thai.

skorchio | 21 September 2021 - 11:22:52

The sandbox was designed to keep Covid out of Thailand (as was achieved in 2020). No one in Govt has actually pointed out that THERE IS WAAAY MORE COVID INSIDE THAN OUTSIDE. So the logical adaptation for policy would be to (from right now) allow all fully vaxxd travelers to enter freely, and when in-country, be subjected to same rules as any other fully vaxxd person. Its not rocket surgery ...... 

Kurt | 21 September 2021 - 11:18:04

For many people is getting a CoE at Embassy a enormous unneeded bureaucratic time consuming matter. Time that Min of Foreign Affairs orders Ambassadors to make it a quick and smooth process, otherwise many foreigners will say: 'Forget going to Thailand, to much hassle and time consuming problems'. And they go other countries to spend their holiday money. 

another overseas scot | 21 September 2021 - 08:42:13

When will this insanity end? | 21 September 2021 - 08:41:24

Come on it's not about the virus it's about the money for test. Day trips for 2 is 14,000  baht. That's enough for a resort beleaguered by Covid to survive on!!

lelecuneo | 21 September 2021 - 08:01:58

stupid people ( officals etc) even with a uniform are still stupid people... and this is the ruin of this beautiful country...they are clearly cluless and cannot decide nor enforce anything at all... is a digrace they are ruining the whole tourist industry with their demential 

pt500 | 21 September 2021 - 06:38:48

I agree the information is conflicting and the situation very frustrating.  Through my travels in Thailand I have learned that translations and instructions are not always clear.  I highly recommend to anyone researching travelling to Thailand to join the several help groups on Facebook and ask questions.  Saves a lot of time, frustration and money

Christy Sweet | 21 September 2021 - 02:44:56

..and the lies, lots and lots of lies. All the time and about pretty much anything. I think lies are actually considered honorable- scamming, too. Hassling whitey is the national sport. 

Christy Sweet | 21 September 2021 - 02:22:08

Getting a taste of the real Thailand, eh? Hassle after hassle after hassle then a rip off, then another hassle then a scam.. or two.. then some  more hassle. 

Ray Dixon | 21 September 2021 - 00:57:52

Well well no surprise to me. I live in Phuket, marriage visa and work permit. I own a business employing staff. Now I am in the U.S and jumping through the nonsensical hoops to get back home. You certainly can kiss good bye to many many potential tourists that wish to come to Phuket via Sandbox. I as a resident, married, have to come back via Sandbox. It is extraordinarily tedious to chase the COE

sama | 20 September 2021 - 22:03:10

Seems that they were given wrong information about the requirements at first. After completing the sandbox, you should indeed be treated as a domestic traveler with exactly the same restrictions and requirements. 
I'm in the same situation of having completed the 14 days sandbox recently. I will head to Ko Samui soon without a recent test result, as none is required arriving from orange zones...

charles | 20 September 2021 - 21:52:44

This stupidity or insanity on the part of the Thai government is now what people expect. once this story gets out into the international media it will be the final nail if the death coffin of Thailand tourism. Tourist will elect to go to Europe/Mexico/Caribbean  for vacations. Dive operators running boats to Racha is OK. King cruiser or Phiphi  requires PCR testing for all including staff   t

Nasa12 | 20 September 2021 - 19:49:48

Well welcome to land of scamming, hope you give a report to news in Canada, about this flip flop country. 


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