From Phuket in Thailand to Phu Quoc in Vietnam, it seems that Southeast Asia’s tropical islands are the main focus for the reopening of tourism across the region!
The Phu Quoc Sandbox, as it is being nicknamed, is a new scheme that aims to attract fully vaccinated international tourists to the resort island in the south of Vietnam. If successful, it will kickstart a much-needed revival of tourism in the country.
The scheme, announced on 9th September, was due to start at the beginning of October but has since been pushed back to at least November 20th. It is a similar model to the Phuket Sandbox which has proved somewhat successful in restarting tourism in Thailand since it was launched on 1st July 2021.
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How will the Phu Quoc Sandbox work?
Fully vaccinated tourists who can provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test will be able to travel to the island of Phu Quoc as of November 20th 2021. They will not be able to visit the rest of the country, for now.
The Vietnamese government has said that, for the scheme to go ahead, they will need to fully vaccinate all of the residents of Phu Quoc island to avoid the spread of the virus.
The island will first reopen with a trial period of six months, at which time the government will assess how the scheme is going. If it proves successful, the sandbox method could pave the way for the reopening of other tourist destinations across the country, such as Halong Bay and Hoi An.
Can you travel to Vietnam right now?
Since the pandemic began, the country has been extremely strict when it comes to receiving foreign tourists with a straight-up ban on e-visas and visas on arrival. At the moment, only returning Vietnamese citizens and foreign investors are allowed to access the country and even then, each entry application is approved on a case-by-case basis. (Read more about the travel restrictions for Vietnam here.)
The strict entry requirements had meant that, throughout most of 2020 and early 2021, Vietnam maintained very low COVID-19 case numbers and was envied the world over. From July 2021 onwards, however, the country saw a rapid rise in community case numbers, largely due to the highly contagious Delta variant, forcing severe lockdowns in Vietnam’s major cities, particularly Ho Chi Minh City. According to Our World in Data, less than 12% of the population in Vietnam are fully vaccinated (as of 6th October 2021).
Requirements for the Phu Quoc Sandbox
We are currently waiting to hear further details on how the Phu Quoc Sandbox will work. Will international visitors be able to stay in the country after 14 days on the island as is the case with the Phuket Sandbox in Thailand? How many COVID-19 tests will be required during your stay on the island? Will special hotels be designated for the Phu Quoc Sandbox?
There is a lot still to be agreed upon before the island reopens next month. Watch this space. We will be updating this article as soon as new information becomes available.
What is Phu Quoc Island Like?
Phu Quoc Island is a beautiful, tropical island that lies just a one hour flight from the largest city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City. The island is actually geographically closer to Cambodia than it is to Vietnam, lying just 10km from the Cambodian coast and 12km from the Vietnamese coast.
The island is blessed with beautiful white sandy beaches, clear waters with coral reefs and accommodation to suit all budgets. The best time to visit Phu Quoc is November to March when the island enjoys cool sunny days and little rain. July to October is monsoon season on the island bringing heavy rains, high winds and rough seas.
Check out our travel guide to Phu Quoc for ideas of things to do on the island and the best places to stay! And, read more about the best time to visit Vietnam here.
Watch this space. More information on the Phu Quoc Sandbox coming soon.
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