Aug 31, 2021
TRAVELERS WHO HAVE BEEN ITCHING to head to Thailand now have an easier way back to one of the world’s favorite destinations. The Phuket Sandbox that allows fully vaccinated people to enter Phuket without being subject to a strict quarantine still comes with conditions, but so far nearly 20,000 have decided that two weeks of lounging on the island’s famous beaches and feasting on local delicacies is a hardship that they are more than willing to embrace. The program is Southeast Asia’s first full-scale attempt at restarting international tourism after most travel ground to a halt in 2020.
Originally sandboxers had to spend a full 14 days in Phuket before venturing out to other parts of Thailand. Now they can now expand their horizons after just seven days and travel to other designated hotspots including Koh Samui, where the Sandbox’s sister program Samui Plus is in effect, for an additional seven days. Known officially as the Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension, the plan is all about keeping visitors and locals safe while reopening the country to visitors eager to partake in the country’s attractions.
How 7+7 Works
There are still strings attached to entering the Sandbox. You have to be fully vaccinated and have been in a low- or medium-risk country for three weeks prior to travel. You have to obtain specific insurance that covers Covid care, book and pay for PCR tests, and apply for and receive a Certificate of Entry.
Travelers also need to provide proof of fully prepaid accommodations for the first 14 days of their trip before they arrive.
While all Sandbox stays currently start in Phuket, the second week of 7+7 extensions include the following destinations: Koh Phi Phi, Koh Ngai and Railay in Krabi; Khao Lak and Koh Yao in Phang-Nga; and Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao in Surat Thani.
How to Travel Within 7+7
Overland and/or boat transfers are available from Phuket to the destinations on the west side of the Thai peninsula. To get from Phuket to Samui and environs, flight capacity between the islands is increasing, but choices are still limited, currently to one daily flight in a 70-seat ATR five days a week.
Where to Stay: 7 Sweet 7+7 Packages
This is where the fun starts. There are tons of great deals to help you scuttle between Phuket and Samui with ease and in the lap of luxury. We’ve picked seven 7+7 packages to suit every style and budget (they’re listed in ascending order of base price), so you can get planning your long-awaited trip to Thailand right now. Be sure to read to the end for the most outrageous, soul-soothing, mental- and physical-health-boosting wellness double-whammy we could find.
1. Movenpick + Pullman
If you’re game for a scenic drive north in the middle of your two weeks, you could start you stay at the beautifully appointed Mövenpick Resort and Spa on long, powdery Karon Beach in Phuket before moving on to the brand-new Pullman Khao Lak Bangsak, in the up-and-coming surf mecca an hour up the coast. Together, you’ve got two sprawling resorts (the Pullman’s lazy river makes for an unbeatably convenient way to cool off) with every amenity for couples or families.
From Bt39,640 net for 14-day deal until December 30.
2. SAii + Santiburi
Courtesy of SAii Laguna Phuket (2)
The One Trip, Two Sensations package pairs SAii Laguna Phuket on the beaches of Bangtao Bay with Santiburi Koh Samui. SAii is in Phuket’s super convenient Laguna resort area, close to great dining and shopping; carbon-neutral Santiburi is an all suites and villas resort on Samui’s north shore. Perks of the package include free transfers, a lunch or dinner in each resort, 25 percent off food and beverage, a spa treatment at Santiburi’s Lèn Spa, and a shuttle to the Santiburi Samui Country Club.
From Bt55,000 net for 14-day deal, including daily breakfast, until December 23.
Courtesy of InterContinental Hotels & Resorts (2)
Looking to maximize your IHG Reward Club points? InterContinental Phuket Resort located in Kamala Beach, Phuket, and InterContinental Samui Resort on Taking Ngam Bay in Samui have joined forces to offer their elegant five-star service on both islands. The Phuket resort has been an IG hit with its stunning aesthetics, including the white temple-inspired Sawan and shimmery crystal walkway, since its opening in 2019, while the cliffside Samui property, divided into luxurious pool-dotted neighborhoods, has its own pier making the nearby great snorkel spots an easy boat ride away.
From Bt64,800 net for 14-day deal, including daily breakfast, until December 20.
4. The Naka Island + Vana Belle
Mix and match two Luxury Collection hotels using the Summer Dreaming promotion. Take a speedboat to The Naka Island, secluded off the coast of Phuket. It’s on its own lush little isle, a private tropical paradise in which most of the accommodations are villas with their own pools. Then, head to Samui, to the all suite and villa Vana Belle (“forest” in Thai, “beautiful” French), an intimate, foliage-filled resort that occupies a sweet spot on Chaweng Noi Beach.
From Bt90,125+++ for 14-day deal, including daily breakfast, until October 6.
5. Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa, Nai Yang Beach + W Koh Samui
How could you go wrong with two luxe resorts that hit it outside the park with their sunsets? The beachfront Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa, Nai Yang Beach is tucked up in the northwest corner of Phuket, and offers all the high seas adventure you could want, via Yacht Haven and Royal Phuket Marinas. Look forward to discounts on food and beverage here, and complimentary roundtrip airport transfers to transition you seamlessly to the second half of your trip. W Samui commands its own idyllic peninsula — this white powder point alone is worth the price of admission — on the north shore of Samui, where you’ll be making yourself stylishly at home in one of their private-pool villas. We hope your Instagram audience is ready for all the brag-worthy, aqua-focused, wow-inducing shots you’ll be posting from this iconic island getaway.
From Bt98,000++ for 14-day deal, including daily breakfast, until December 17.
6. Banyan Tree
Courtesy of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts (2)
Two weeks’ worth of #villalife gets a yes, please! from us. Banyan Tree’s Coast to Coast 7+7 package starts with seven days at the all-pool-villa Banyan Tree Phuket, a wellness resort with adorable bicycles parked outside every door, bubbly at breakfast and a golf course next door. Here, you get Bt4,000 worth of resort credit. Then you move on to the all-pool-villa Banyan Tree Samui, located in the lush jungle overlooking Lamai Bay, where you have a Bt3,000 resort credit. The cliffside ocean views from your villa induce total relaxation, and your soul will be soothed even further knowing that your whole trip helps support Banyan Tree’s many social responsibility projects (the Samui resort sponsors six high school and college students at the moment).
From Bt136,150 net for 14-day deal, including daily breakfast, until December 15.
7. Amatara + Kamalaya
And finally we come to Amatara Wellness Resort on Phuket and Kamalaya Koh Samui on Samui, two powerhouses in the world of wellness that have combined their experience and know-how to create a truly unforgettable wellness experience. Known not just for their lush settings and impeccable service, both properties offer a range of distinctive treatment offerings tailored to their guests’ needs.
For your first seven days in Phuket, you’ll choose one of Amatara’s wellness programs including Detox; Body Detox; Mind Detox; Yoga; Weight Management; Stress and Burnout Recovery; Bespoke Wellness; Spa Revive; or Active.
The next seven days you’ll continue looking after yourself with Kamalaya Koh Samui’s Relax and Renew program, which will restore your balance and energy with a generous sprinkling of pampering thrown in. If you want to focus on other wellness goals, you can enquire about your options and additional fees prior to arrival. Pick the program that best meets your needs and discuss the details during your one-hour wellness consultation on arrival.
At each resort you’ll be spoiled for choice. At Amatara, your package might include the unique Thai Hammam where you’ll be steamed, scrubbed and rejuvenated with relaxing Thai aromatics applied with the methods of an invigorating Middle Eastern steam bath. At Kamalaya your package includes no fewer than eight expert massages during the week, from Vital Essence oil massages to traditional Thai and Indian massages. Additionally both resorts have daily activities that are open to all guests.
From Bt297,500 for 14-day deal, including all meals, treatments in the selected package, service charges, taxes and roundtrip airport transfers, for stays before December 21.