Updated: May 27, 2022
After being closed for 2 years, Thailand is recently open to tourists under two programs: Sandbox and Test & Go. The main differences between these two programs is where you are permitted to travel to. With the Sandbox program, you're required to stay at a designated area for 7 days before discovering the rest of Thailand, whereas Test & Go you don't have to stay in one place, except for the arrival date.
I got a chance to visit Phuket under the Sandbox program. During my visit I had to spend the entire 7 days on Phuket before heading to other parts of Thailand, which I totally don't mind as the island is quite big and there are so many things to see and so much to do.
HOW TO ENTER THAILAND (AS OF MARCH 2022)
There are a number of things you need to do, and though the process can look quite terrifying, it's actually not that bad. Here are the requirements and what you need to do:
A Thailand Pass (you can apply for it here)
A Certificate of Covid Vaccination
Have travel insurance policy that covers Covid for a minimum of 20,000 USD
Have a confirmation/receipt for a SHA+ approved hotel for Day 1 (yes, just for 1 day) and arrival covid test booking receipt.
You also need to take a rapid test on Day 5 and upload the result on Mor Chana app.
For more information regarding the Test & Go program, click here
UPDATE: You no longer need anything to enter Thailand, all restrictions have been lifted up as of June 1, 2022.
REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT THAILAND RIGHT NOW
Thailand is a popular destination and it was really crowded before Covid. The beaches were filled with tourists and boats and you could hardly enjoy paradise or have the views to yourself.
Maya Bay is recently open after being closed down for almost 4 years. It's much more empty and tranquil now since boats are no longer allowed to enter and you can no longer swim here. The government has finally stepped in to help restore and protect the corals, as well as the marine life. I got a chance to visit Maya Bay in February and it was almost empty.
Hotels are so much cheaper than before as most of them are not busy right now. I have seen 5 star hotels in Bangkok reduced their rate to as low as $14/night. If you're thinking of visiting Thailand, now is the time to go.
Most businesses are still open so you can rest assured that you can enjoy all the best experiences that Thailand has to offer.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THAILAND?
The best time to visit Thailand is between November and early April. September-October is the rainy season so try to avoid those months to make sure you'll make the most out of your time in Thailand.
IS IT SAFE TO VISIT THAILAND?
Absolutely! I have been to Thailand many times and have never felt unsafe. I have seen many female bloggers travel alone to Thailand as well.
WHERE TO VISIT IN PHUKET AND KRABI
As my trip was entirely based on Phuket and Krabi, so here are some of my favourite places and activities around the area:
Suay Restaurant Cherngtalay, Phuket
Hands down, my favourite restaurant in Phuket. Suay is a Michelin awarded restaurant and it's quite busy so make sure you reserve a table in advance. I initially expected this place to be really expensive, but turns out the price is not much higher than other local Thai restaurants. An appetizer is around $10/plate but the quality is incredible and you'll really get your money's worth here. My favourite is their foie gras and lamb racks, seriously so good!!
Ei-Te restaurant opened after the pandemic. The chef is a 74 years old lady and she only serves up to 5 tables a day. The restaurant is located in a very relaxing and casual area, with hammock and outdoor seatings. I love the food here because it is very authentic home made Thai food.
Phuket Old Town
If you love vintage and colourful buildings, Phuket Old Town is a must visit! The area is filled with pastel buildings which is really nice to walk around and take photos. There are also many shops and restaurants in Phuket Old Town. On Sunday nights, there is also a night market filled with street food, live performances, and street shops.
Phuket Elephant Care
During my trip, I also had a chance to visit the Phuket Elephant Care and it's an elephant sanctuary. They rescued 4 elephants across Thailand, and these are elephants that have been working hard under the logging and tourism industry. This elephant sanctuary offers a lot of natural space for the elephants to play around and feel like home. They have the entire forest as well as a big pond for them to take a bath. The admission is 3000 baht per person (around $100) and they use this money to buy food and resources to take care of the elephants here as each of the elephants eat up to 300 lbs of food a day.
Visiting the night markets in Thailand is my favourite thing to do. There are many night markets across Thailand, as well as in Phuket. At the night markets, you can find many local shops, authentic street food, and live performances. Prices at the night market are mostly posted right in front of the shops or street stalls, so you won't need to worry about having to bargain the prices at all.
A traditional, street Thai massage is usually range from 250-300 baht per hour (around $10/hour). Oasis Spa is on a much higher price but they provide the most luxurious spa experience in Phuket. Their rate is around $200/hour but you will get a welcome drink, a beautiful outdoor pool, your own private spa, shower, and changing room. If you're feeling like splurging and pampering yourself, I'd highly recommend booking a spa treatment here.
Phi Phi Islands and Maya Bay
Phi Phi islands are incredible landscapes that you can't miss during your visit to Thailand. The water here is crystal clear. You can also visit Maya Bay which is very close to Phi Phi islands.
Thai Cooking class at Blue Elephant
Blue Elephant is very popular for their Thai cooking classes in Phuket, as well as in Thailand. They have many locations across Thailand and their curry paste is sold across the world. We did a Thai cooking class at the Blue Elephant and it was so much fun. We went to a local market to shop for ingredients, learn more about local ingredients, and we even got to try some of the local snacks. After our visit to the local market, we learned to cook 4 different Thai dishes and enjoyed them afterwards. You will also get your Certificate of Completion by Blue Elephant at the end of your class.
Khao Phra Theo National Park
If you are looking for something more adventurous, Khao Phra Theo is a national park that has nature hiking trails to the waterfalls. The hike was pretty easy, just around 15 minutes up to the first waterfall, and 30 minutes to the second waterfall. You can bring your own swimsuit and take a dip in the waterfall as well.
Samet Nengshe is located in Phang Nga province, and it is definitely my favourite viewpoint. I somehow thought that this place is really hard to get to, and I would need to hike up for long hours, but apparently you don't need to do any work to enjoy the view. There is a shuttle bus which takes you right up to the highest viewpoint, and there are a few setups such as a treehouse, swings, and a viewpoint stand to help you get that Instagram-worthy picture. I would highly recommend you to visit Samet Nengshe viewpoint during sunrise. It was so magical and it's definitely one of the most memorable moments of my Thailand Trip.
Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay is such a beautiful and quiet area. You can hire a boat here to get close up views of Phang Nga Bay as well as James Bond island. If you visit Phang Nga Bay between 10am-noon, you will get to see really beautiful natural sand banks. We went around 10am and I got to walk along the sand bank, looking out to Phang Nga Bay. It was such an unforgettable moment!
Big Budha is a very popular attraction in Phuket. The Buddha made entirely from marble and is 150-foot tall. When you reach to the top, you will not only get the view of the Big Buddha, but also an entire view of both land and sea.
I have been to Thailand many times but haven't heard of Bangrong CBT. Bangrong CBT is a Community Based Tourism, where locals teach and show you some of the local activities. We got to do local Thai painting on a tote bag and it was quite relaxing. We also visited a pineapple farm and the locals here taught us how to harvest pineapples as well as how to cut them. I actually didn't know how to cut pineapple prior to my Thailand trip as it seems so complicated, but after the tour I became an expert at cutting pineapples :D
Wareerak Hot Springs and Wellness
Waweerak Hot Springs and Wellness is located deep in the jungle in Krabi. The hot springs here are all natural, and a full spa retreat program here includes: full body scrub, hydrotherapy in natural hot and cold pools, aqua Thai yoga stretch, neck and shoulder massage with herbal compress, Thai handicraft lesson, Thai massage and a wellness set lunch.
Wine Tasting and Cocktails Making at Chalong Bay
Chalong Bay is a local business where rum is made 100% from sugar cane. If you join a day tour here, you'll get to learn how they make their rum and taste all of their types of rum afterwards. They also have cocktail making classes where they will teach you how to make the most authentic cocktails using their own rum.
WHERE TO STAY
There are many hotels available for a low rate at the moment. You can easily find 4/5 hotels for 50$ or less currently, making a bang for your buck wherever you go. Because of Covid, a lot of hotels and services are offering huge discounts, as well as special deals toward tours and stays around Thailand. Here are some of my favourite hotels (these are more on the luxury end):
The Slate Phuket (Read my full review here)
The Slate is a 5 star resort, which is located only 10 minutes away from the airport. The resort is walking distance to the beach, local shops and market.
The Racha is the only 5 star resort located on Racha Yai island, and it is 30 minutes boat ride from Phuket. The water here is crystal clear and the beach is really quite since public boats don't really go to Racha Yai Island.
Keemala Phuket (Read my full review here)
Keemala is one of the most unique hotels in Phuket. The hotel is located on top of the hill, looking out to the ocean and the whole property is built in natural concepts, such as clay cottages, tents, treehouses, and bird's nests. Though there is no beach access, you'll get to fully disconnect and immersed yourself in tranquility and nature here.
Rayavadee Krabi (Read my full review here)
Rayavadee is a destination of its own since the resort is located on Phranang Peninsula, right next to Krabi National Part. The resort has 2 of the best beaches in Thailand: Railay and Phranand Cave Beach. Their Grotto restaurant is also one of the most unique restaurants in Thailand. The restaurant is located under a natural cave, looking right out to Railay Beach and it offers an amazing view during anytime of the day, especially during sunset.
Phulay Bay, A Ritz Carlton Reserve (Read my full review here)
Phulay Bay is one of the 5 Ritz Carlton Reserves in the world. The resort offers enormous accommodations, luxury amenities, and the top personal butler services. Phulay Bay is where you can really pamper yourself and being fully taken care of.
WHY I LOVE THAILAND
Thailand is my favourite country to travel to for many years. I love their rich cultures, beautiful landscapes, how affordable everything is and how kind people are. If you have never visited Thailand, I would highly recommend to visit this amazing country.
A special thank to Elliott Chau @LifewithElliott for helping me out with these pictures!
If you have any questions regarding Thailand, please feel free to comment down below and I'll make sure to get back to you.
Lots of love,