Visiting Phuket As Thailand Re-Opens For Tourism
Things To Know When Travelling to Phuket In Covid Times
Travelling to Thailand these days is a bit like going back in time. It’s like the old days before mass tourism. Empty beaches with clear blue water and golden sands beckon, major tourist attractions are easy to view right up close, only a handful of tourists and no crowds bustling in the streets. It’s been a tough time, but the good news is that Thailand is now able to receive visitors after the pandemic.
In the first eight months of 2021 the whole country had only had approximately 70,000 visitors, compared to 40 million for the whole of 2019. So the reopening of Thailand as a holiday destination is crucial for a country where 20% of the people earn their living from tourism, and in Phuket the figure is 80%. We’ve recently been to visit Phuket and can tell you that now is a great time to visit and to experience Thailand like never before!
So where can you travel to in Thailand at the moment and how?
At the moment the country is operating what they call a “Sandbox” operation using Phuket and other locations in Krabi such at Phi Phi Island, Railay Beach and Ngai Island as the gateway to the rest of the country. It’s to ensure that tourism (and the handling of the pandemic) is executed in a controlled manner. Under the Sandbox arrangement you fly to Phuket and can stay there (or in Krabi) for 7 days after. Then subject to a negative PCR test on the 6th day you are free for onward travel.
One of the things you need to do is download the MorChana App to your phone for the duration of your stay and this needs to be checked by your hotel every day. With around 90% of the population of Phuket doubly vaccinated (and many triply vaccinated with the booster too!) the locals are longing to welcome visitors again.
Flying From Zurich to Phuket with Singapore Airlines
We had a very comfortable flight with Singapore Airlines to Phuket with a short changeover at Changi Airport in Singapore, which is just over an hour’s flight away from Phuket.
Onboard the staff were super attentive and the food was very good and we had a great selection of movies and inflight entertainment to choose from.
However, on arrival Phuket airport looked quite different. Gone were the non-stop shopping facilities and relaxing lounges, instead a welcome committee of people dressed head to toe in blue hospital style overalls. They quickly and efficiently guided us through immigration and took us to the Covid PCR testing facility. It was all done very efficiently and they checked our App and our paperwork too. Before we knew it we were on our way to our hotel, the SALA Phuket Mai Khao Beach.
The Luxurious SALA Phuket Mai Khao Beach
The beautiful and very luxurious SALA Phuket Mai Khao Beach, is one of the officially designated hotel which complies with all Corona guidelines and is only 20 minutes drive from the airport.
On arrival we were taken to our beautiful villa, with private garden and pool to wait the 4 – 6 hours till we received our test results.
Once our negative test result was confirmed (this test was in addition to the PCR test we took in Zurich a day before flying) we were free to enjoy the hotel facilities and to explore Phuket.
The SALA Phuket Mai Khao Beach is an ideal hotel to stay as is it located on the stunning Mai Khao Beach.
Furthermore, it has a wonderful spa with a whole range of treatments, the rooms are superb, (many have a private garden and pool) and there are two large seafront swimming pools surrounded by stylish cabanas. The cuisine in the hotel restaurant is simply divine.
Chef Tony Wrigley can tempt your tastebuds with an amazing array of beautifully executed dishes, from European to Asian and dining to the roar of the waves on the beach is just so relaxing.
Manager Anthony Van Sleeuwen was friendly and welcoming and takes special care to ensure that your stay is truly comfortable and relaxing. You can read more about the hotel in a separate blogpost coming soon.
What To Do In Phuket
Despite having visited Phuket so many times before, each time I visit I discover something new and find yet more reasons to return. The food we tasted was simply amazing and I have some great restaurant tips for you below, the beaches were simply beautiful as well as deserted and I enjoyed some wonderful excursions to Coral Island, to Phuket Art Village and to the wonderful (and ethical) Phuket Elephant Sanctuary at Paklok.
We even managed to get out into the countryside and meet some of the locals on a pineapple plantation (above) and to visit a coconut and rubber plantation too. Another great activity was a Gin Lab at Chalong Bay Rum Company where we also got to have a tour of the premises.
We also had a stroll around Phuket Town and visited The Memory at On On Hotel (the oldest hotel in the town) which featured in the film The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio.
On this occasion the food we ate was quite simply some of the best I have ever eaten in Phuket. As well as wonderful food at the SALA Rooftop Restaurant at the hotel, we also visited a number of amazing restaurants. We had a wonderful dinner at the SUAY Restaurant Cherngtalay and Chef Tammasak (Noi) Chootong cooked a dinner with the most delicious dishes.
Another memorable dinner was at the BAAN RIM PA Restaurant with Chef Praiwan (Wan) Klongkleaw in Patong which I had first visited on my honeymoon several years ago. For a relaxed dining option with sunset views Kan Eang@Pier Restaurant is a great choice.
In Phuket Town we had a great lunch at RAYA Restaurant and another fabulous lunch in a country restaurant in the middle of parkland close to the Baan Bang Rong Community Centre (see above). On the last day before heading to the Toh-Daeng Restaurant at Baar Ar Joy Restaurant and Homestay we had another delicious lunch before we headed to the airport. In fact everywhere we went we dined like kings!
Boat Trip With 5 Star Marine to Coral Island Phuket
Another highlight for me was the boat trip with 5 Star Marine. We drove to Boat Lagoon Pier and were taken on a boat cruise to Banana Beach on Coral Island for a picnic lunch.
Despite the weather not being perfect we had an excellent time and it was great to see Phuket from the water.
We went snorkelling and swimming off the boat and I managed to see a whole host of amazing fish.
Phuket Art Village
Phuket Art Village, an art collective creating art and sculpture out of abandoned wood and waste washed up on the local beaches was a fascinating place to visit and you can read all about it here.
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary Paklok – A Recommended Ethical Sanctuary
Another highlight was a visit to the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary at Paklok. Unlike many more touristy elephant attractions (which I urge you not to visit) this one is truly centred around looking after old and injured elephants who have been rescued after having been maltreated or abused in the logging or tourism industries.
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary at Paklok currently has 12 elephants and you are not allowed to wash or ride them, simply to watch them from a canopy walkway which gives you great views. There is also a restaurant and cafe there as well as a gift shop where you can buy souvenirs to help support the upkeep of the elephants.
At feeding time you can help them feed the elephants food under supervision. This sanctuary is somewhere these elderly elephants are finally getting some respite in their lives after in some cases a rather grim life. For more information on Phuket Elephant Sanctuary see here.
Do check the official Thailand Tourism website for the latest updates as plans are underway to relax the restrictions further as soon as possible. According to the BBC ,Thailand is planning to end the Covid quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travellers from at least 10 low-risk nations from 1st November 2021. Furthermore, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Thailand would also allow entertainment venues to reopen on 1st December 2021 and permit alcohol sales once again.
In addition to the App that you need to download there are also quite a few forms that you need to fill in prior to travel so do make sure to allow sufficient time to fill them in and if necessary contact the Thai Tourism office or your travel agent for advice or help.
Google Map of Phuket Showing the SALA Phuket Mai Khao Beach Resort
Photo courtesy of Google Maps
Toh-Daeng Restaurant at Baar Ar Joy Restaurant and Homestay – Address: 102 Thep Kasattri Road, Thalang District,
Phuket 83110 Thailand
Phuket Art Village
Ethical Elephant Sanctuary
A Great Time To Visit Phuket
It was so wonderful to be back in Thailand and I thoroughly enjoyed my trip. I must admit I had been slightly nervous of travelling there but I was pleasantly reassured. Everywhere we went there were protective measures in place and it was just great to be able to see so much of Phuket without queuing, without waiting and to be able to savour the amazing sights and scenery. The food was superb, the people were so welcoming and I believe that now is a great time to travel. In fact I am already planning a return trip in the near future!
You may wish to check out these Travel Agencies which all operate in Thailand:
Things You Need To Do Before Travelling To Phuket
You need to:
- check the latest guidelines with Thailand Tourism and your travel agent to find the latest updates
- be doubly vaccinated
- have had a negative PCR test with 72 hours of your arrival in Phuket (& have a further PCR on arrival & wait for the result before going out & have another PCR on day 7)
- fill in all the relevant forms (check with Thai Tourism for full details)
- download the relevant App for your region of Phuket (for us it was the Morchana App)
- fill in the Passenger Locator Form before your arrival in Switzerland
This was a press trip organised by Thailand Tourism and I was hosted by SALA Phuket with a flight from Singapore Airways
All opinions are entirely my own
You can see Phuket marked out in blue on the map below:
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