After 15 long months, quarantine-free holidays in Phuket are on the horizon, courtesy of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) pilot Phuket Sandbox plan, which will see the resort island open to vaccinated foreign travellers on July 1. But before you book your stay in the sun (or rain – it is monsoon season, after all), consider these dos and don’ts. Do ensure that you have been fully inoculated against Covid-19 at least two weeks before your departure date with one of the vaccines approved by Thailand – currently Sinovac, Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna – or one certified by the World Health Organisation, which adds Pfizer-BioNTech to the list. Speaking to CNN recently, TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said: “For the initial stage, only fully vaccinated tourists are allowed in, with the exception of children under six.” According to Phuket-based online news platform The Thaiger, “For those between the ages of six and 18, a rapid antigen Covid-19 test will be administered as soon as they arrive at Phuket International Airport.” Don’t expect everything to be as it was before. The pandemic has made planning both arduous and essential, and there are many expensive hoops through which you, the hopeful holidaymaker, must jump before you actually step foot on foreign soil. In addition to a Covid-19 vaccination certificate, you’ll need to present a negative result from a PCR test taken within 72 hours of boarding the flight to Phuket, a valid visa and a certificate of entry from your local Thai embassy, and travel insurance with at least US$100,000 Covid-19 coverage. Then there will be a contact-tracing app that will need installing, proof of personal funds to the value of 20,000 baht (US$640) that should be shown, a health declaration form to be completed, and that’s before you’ve even got to the accommodation. “There continues to be the requirement to stay in an SHA-approved hotel (don’t confuse this with quarantine hotel),” reports Phuket-based hospitality consultancy C9 Hotelworks. Thankfully, this shouldn’t be too hard to comply with; the Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus certificate signifies that at least 70 per cent of a venue’s staff have been inoculated and C9 Hotelworks suggests that “most hotels in Phuket will seek SHA Plus status so the choice is wide”. You will be able to venture forth from the island only after completing a 14-night stay (just don’t call it “a quarantine”), although whether that has to be in one hotel or can be spent at several properties is unclear at the moment. According to financial newspaper Nikkei Asia , visitors “will be allowed to move freely in Phuket upon arrival. If a mandatory test on the fifth day of their stay is negative, they will be allowed a day trip off the island.” As is clear, travel during a pandemic will be far from straightforward – at least initially – so do be patient with the staff and residents you encounter; they will probably be as perplexed by the rules and regulations as you are. Phuket’s economy has suffered greatly since Thailand implemented restrictions on travel, with Nikkei reporting that tourism and related businesses used to account for 20 per cent of the island’s economy. But don’t assume that this will guarantee you a warm welcome. Where to go after Covid-19: new hotels in Thailand, Vietnam and Australia “Many residents in Phuket not involved in the tourism industry are worried about contracting the virus from foreign visitors,” one local told Nikkei . “All who benefit from the reopening say Phuket is ready. I am not confident that Phuket is ready to open to foreigners.” And on that note, don’t be an idiot. International travel might be grounded but that hasn’t stopped reports of foreigners flouting pandemic rules from taking off. Whether it is 109 partygoers – 89 of them from overseas – being arrested in Koh Phangan, in southern Thailand, for violating coronavirus-related restrictions at a prohibited bar party, or influencers being deported from Indonesia for a face mask prank , news of badly behaved visitors travels far and fast, and highlights a lack of respect for the destination being dissed. Travel is an enormous privilege; now more than ever it is not something to take for granted. So, once your privilege is checked, your paperwork is in order and everything else is in place, do have a wonderful time – and let us know how your Phuket holiday goes, because there’s no way we’re going anywhere until Hong Kong allows us to return without having to endure a lengthy hotel quarantine. Bali said to be reopening too, but how? Phuket may not be alone in reopening next month; there are reports that Indonesia will allow Bali, Batam and Bintan to welcome international arrivals too, although details remain scant. “Indonesia announces Bali will reopen to international travellers in July,” reported Australian website news.com.au recently. “Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the nation’s borders would be partially reopened in July, with the destinations of Bali, Batam and Bintan to become ‘locomotive regions’ that will revive the tourism economy for the whole country.” But that seems to be all that’s been said, with no information on entry requirements, including whether prior vaccination will be mandatory or quarantine will be required. Bali has teased its reopening before, without following up; we’ll find out soon enough whether this time will be different. Coral reefs rebound When Bali eventually does reopen, visitors will hopefully find reviving coral reefs, thanks to the efforts of conservation group the Nusa Dua Reef Foundation. Since its founding, in 2010, the non-governmental organisation has been working to reduce the impact of climate breakdown on coral reefs around the Indonesian island. Part of its work involves submerging hexagonal-shaped steel structures, known as “reef stars”, to bridge the gaps in reefs where coral has died and to support regrowth. According to the foundation, it has installed 6,910 structures (and counting) and is helping with reef restoration initiatives in and around Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, West Bali National Park and Tulamben.