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, 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 TATNews.org 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.
“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.”