Phuket: Alex Outhwaite gives a guide on the Thailand city

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In an attempt to encourage tourism to Thailand’s most popular holiday island Phuket, the Sandbox scheme allows foreign visitors to enter the country without quarantine restrictions, while the rest of Thailand is still experiencing lockdowns.

Travellers must be fully vaccinated but will be able to travel freely around Phuket.

Alex presents Off The Grid and Backpack on Travelxp, on SKY in the UK. She documents her travels on her Youtube and Instagram accounts, where she boasts 156k subscribers and 59k followers respectively.

Last week she travelled to Phuket as part of the scheme, only her second overseas trip in the past year.

“Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come,” Alex said of the scheme.

“It’s time the travel industry got back on its feet, there’re so many people relying on it for their livelihoods.

“I think 90 percent of the economy in Phuket is tourism. It’s really impacted them.”

She went on: “Domestic tourism isn’t quite booming (in Thailand) yet, it is the international tourist dollar that they are looking at, but I think it’s been a success really.

“They’ve had 15,000 visitors in the Sandbox programme. It’s quite unique in the world. It’s looking quite positive.”

According to the travel expert, local reaction to the scheme both in-person and online was positive. She said: “I was thinking when I was posting online how the reception would be, but it’s almost all really, really positive, especially from Thai people responding.

“They’re happy to see tourists starting to come back. Thailand in general has done really well with the pandemic. It’s time that tourists were able to come back safely.”

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She praised the seamless travel, having not encountered long waits at airports despite the paperwork the scheme entails.

“We expected upon arrival in Phuket and also back here that there was going to be a long wait, but we went through the e-gates because everything had been checked already before we boarded the flights,” she explained.

“When we landed in Thailand it was all really straightforward, very efficient, when we arrived, it was a quick PCR test and we flew straight through. I was quite impressed, to be honest.

“We were rushing off the plane thinking, ‘Oh there’s going to be a big queue and we want to be at the front’.

“But because Singapore airlines, which we flew with, was so efficient at checking all of the paperwork it meant they didn’t have to do it again when we got to the UK.”

Thailand asks all travellers under the scheme to take out travel insurance offering COVID-19 protection.

“We had to take specific covid insurance to enter Thailand. It wasn’t even very expensive, it was £32,” Alex said.

“There are not that many places that offer Covid insurance but Thailand was quite specific about having it, because if you test positive you have to go and stay in a certain area in Thailand, and you have to pay for it so the insurance will cover that.”

While trialling an experimental travel scheme might not appeal to some right now, with the threat of changing rules and quarantine restrictions never too far, Alex suggested for the adventurous this may well be the best time to visit Phuket.

She explained: “I went to Phuket for the first time about 10 years ago and had a really great time but it’s a popular place, it’s quite busy.

“So I remember back then going to a few of the sights to see the sunset, it’s beautiful but you’re sharing it with hundreds of other people.

“This time it obviously was quiet. We went to some of the top sites, like the Big Buddha, and there was virtually no one there. I don’t know when you are going to have the opportunity again to see some of those amazing places without the crowds.”

Follow Alex on her Twitter account here

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