Coronavirus Travel Information
Travel Status - 06 January 2022
While the news out of Asia this month is generally positive, the emergence of the Omicron variant has caused some countries to put a temporary brake on their opening. Both Singapore and Thailand have suspended new flight bookings, though travellers who have already booked are still able to travel. Both countries plan to review their reopening plans in January and we’re confident that travel will be resuming early in 2022. Malaysia is still welcoming tourists and Cambodia also recently announced that it was open for business! South Korea is also partially allowing entry for vaccinated business travellers and immediate family of residents. In more good news, both Vietnam and Laos are allowing limited numbers of tourists into selected areas, with the possibility of increasing the numbers and destinations over time.
However, Hong Kong has responded to the Omicron variant by suspending flights from 8 countries, including the US, UK and Australia, until at least January 21st. While foreign travel to Japan is currently not permitted except for special circumstances, the accelerating vaccination program means that there is a genuine prospect that travel will be possible in the near future.
As the various countries' vaccination programmes soldier on, we would expect to see countries opening further or more of them considering sandbox-style programmes like their neighbours.
Overall the outlook is looking good for a return to travel for some of our destinations in early 2022. We continue to work closely with our local partners to develop and follow the robust protocols of WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council) to implement new safety practices and standards. These will strengthen the current health and safety guidelines set out by local governments themselves to create a stress-free travel experience for you.
Government advisories and your travel to Asia
The UK traffic light system has been lifted to red list only, and there are currently no countries that are on the red list, including our Asia destinations. The blanket ‘all but essential travel’ has been lifted and it is possible to visit some countries. However, it is restricted and conditional travel - proof of a negative Covid test and/or vaccination status may be required and quarantine measures still apply in some instances. It is also an ever-evolving situation as the latest concerns over the new Covid variant have demonstrated.
Activity in the US is picking up and it is opening to vaccinated travellers as of late last year. Currently our destinations are listed as level 3s and 4s in the US, but this does not necessarily mean that you cannot travel there. It means restricted and conditional travel per the guidance below.
Advice from the CDC:
Level 4 – Avoid travel to these destinations. If you must travel to these destinations, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel.
Level 3 – Make sure you are fully vaccinated before travelling to these destinations. Unvaccinated travellers should avoid non-essential travel to these destinations.
Level 1 – Make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel to these destinations.
Advice from the State Department:
Level 4 – Do not travel.
Level 3 – Reconsider travel.
Canada has joined the US in allowing travel to certain destinations, but it also falls under restricted and conditional travel. It is essential to check for the latest information on travel and entry requirements.
There has been a lot of positive news from Australia over the last month given that it had locked down and put a blanket ban on all travel in and out of the country last year. It is now starting to allow citizens out of the country earlier than expected.
As of 1 November, Australia’s international borders have progressively reopened (state by state), with fully vaccinated Australians now able to depart Australia without applying for an exemption. In line with this reopening, DFAT have removed the global ‘Do not travel’ advisory. 99% of destinations are now showing RECONSIDER YOUR NEED TO TRAVEL (Vietnam) or EXERCISE A HIGH DEGREE OF CAUTION (Thailand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia)
- Lv 1 EXERCISE NORMAL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
- Lv 2 EXERCISE A HIGH DEGREE OF CAUTION
- Lv 3 RECONSIDER YOUR NEED TO TRAVEL (avoid non-essential)
- Lv 4 DO NOT TRAVEL
DFAT are updating travel advice levels for 177 destinations based on the latest assessment of risk – both COVID-19 and other threats to safety and security.
A global COVID-19 Health Advisory will also be issued in conjunction with the Department of Health, with advice for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.
See below for a breakdown of our destinations vaccination and travel status.
Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos
Vietnam is taking a much more cautious approach to opening its doors to international travellers compared to its near neighbours.
The suggested plan is a phased approach, allowing fully vaccinated travellers entry to Phu Quoc Island, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Danang and Halong Bay under the 'sandbox scheme'. This allows visitors quarantine-free travel. It would allow a controlled amount of visitors to enter by charter flight to these destinations. (NB: only one destination per visit).
The second phase would begin from January 2022, where an increased (still controlled) number of visitors can enter the sandbox destinations and after 7 days are allowed to explore the other sandboxes. One condition being throughout this entire phased proposal is that people are to travel for essential reasons only.
What an exciting time for Cambodia! Not only are they 8th most vaccinated country in the world, but on Monday 15th November they reopened their borders to tourists.
To travel to Cambodia, you will need to:
- Take a test 72 hours prior to departure for Cambodia
- Are required to be fully vaccinated
- Have adequate health insurance covering Covid treatment
- Apply online for an e-visa (type T).
- On arrival at the airport they will take a RTK test, wait for the results (15-20 mins) and if the tests are negative then they are free to travel Cambodia unrestricted of quarantine.
Our sources on the ground have said that they are welcoming tourists in and that it would be good if people were to come in 2022. A lot of the sites and temples are quieter meaning people are freer to move around. We are hoping to gather more intel as to what life is like on the ground over the coming months.
Laos is behind its neighbours in terms of its rates for the vaccination programme, despite being a relatively small population. However, as of the 1st of January Laos is officially open to vacinated travellers from 30 countries (UK, US & AUS are approved). Under the 'Lao Travel Green Zone Plan', tourists are restricted to group tours with authorised tour operators and are able to visit Vientiane, Luang Prabang Province and Vang Vieng District. Phase 2 of the plan is scheduled to begin on April 1st and will likely involve opening more parts of the country to travellers.
For now, travelers can only enter Laos by joining a group tour. Travelers will need to show proof of full vaccination no less than 14 days prior to arrival, a PCR test within 72 of arrival and health coverage of no less than $50,000 USD. Upon arrival, guests download a contact tracing app, ‘LaoStaySafe’ and be asked to take another PCR test. They will then be brought to a ‘LaoSafe’ certified hotel where they must wait 24 hours to receive results from the test. If negative they will then be permitted to explore the Green Zone area while staying in LaoSafe hotels.
As of 22nd December, Thailand has currently suspended its 'Test & Go' scheme that allows fully vaccinated travellers who have spent at least 21 days in any of the 63 Covid-safe destinations listed in the scheme (UK, US & AUS are approved) to enter the country (travellers who have already obtained their pass are still able to travel). Thailand is planning to review this suspension in early January, and we anticipate resumption shortly afterwards. The scheme is being hailed as a success, with a claim of some 85,000 travellers visiting the country since it kicked off. Restrictions in Thailand are slightly more relaxed than other Asian destinations; visitors are required to take a PCR test on arrival, spend one night in a designated hotel and as soon as the negative results come back they are free to explore the country unrestricted.
Once the Test & Go scheme resumes, tourists traveling to Thailand would require the following:
- Register for a ‘Thailand Pass’ at tp.consular.go.th by submitting required documents (below) prior to travel. After receiving confirmation of approval, guests will receive their Thailand Pass QR code.
- Submit proof of full vaccination completed at least 14 days before arrival (if applicable)
- Anyone infected within the previous 3 months can submit a medical certificate of recovery and proof of at least 1 vaccination 14 days prior to departure to Thailand.
- Proof of a negative PCR test result within 72 hours before departure to Thailand for ALL travellers irrespective of age
- Submit proof of medical insurance with at least USD$50,000 of coverage valid in Thailand, paid accommodation and the included PCR Test(s)
- Children under 12 years of age travelling with parents are exempt from vaccination requirements for Test & Go.
- Present Thailand Pass QR code to health officials prior to immigration procedures
- Use pre-arranged transport from the airport to an SHA+ certified hotel for at least one night
- Undergo PCR Test at the hotel (children under 6 years old will have a saliva test) and receive free ATK Self Test to submit electronically on days 6 / 7
- Download MorChana, a contact-tracing app, at the hotel
- Wait for results from the first PCR test upon arrival (up to 72 hours, but normally less than 12 hours).
- Children 6-12 years old must receive PCR tests before flying and on arrival, while children under 6 years old will receive Saliva tests.
- Wear masks in public places including outdoor areas
Malaysia & Borneo
Malaysia & Borneo
Malaysia opened it's doors to a Langkawi 'sandbox-style' opening on Monday 15th November. In short this means that visitors can travel to this beautiful tropical island quarantine free.
This pilot scheme allows fully vaccinated travellers (from all countries) to enter the Island with no quarantine for a minimum stay of 3 days. After 7 days, visitors would be free to explore Malaysia (as long as there are repeated negative PCR tests). This scheme is on trial for three months, at which point success will be evaluated and could potentially lead to a full reopening.
Tourists travelling to Langkawi would need the following:
- Valid visa (if required by country)
- Proof of full vaccination (at least 14 days prior to arrival)
- Proof of full travel and medical insurance with Covid cover of USD$80,000
- Negative PCR test within 48 hours of departure to Malaysia (ages 7 and above)
- Pre-purchased RTK kits to take with them on their trip and there will be required screening sites at the airports and ferry terminals
- Clients must use a travel agency that is registered in Malaysia (note, InsideAsia Tours are covered) and must be accompanied by a guide with all transfers and tour activities. Independent travellers are not allowed to take part in the scheme.
As we would expect there is other accompanying paperwork and certificates which will be required to be shown on arrival. There are also requirements for regular testing and screening when out in resort.
Singapore is one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, and is currently shifting from a ‘zero Covid’ to ‘live with Covid’ strategy. As part of this, Singapore has established a ‘Vaccinated Travel Lane’ (VTL) programme - initially with Germany and now with 8 more countries and more still to join soon - allowing for quarantine-free travel to Singapore. However, due to the emergence of the Omicron variant, the VTL programme is currently suspended from December 23rd until at least January 20th.
Vaccinated Travel Lane – What is it?
VTL allows for reciprocal travel for citizens of Singapore and ‘Covid safe’ destinations without quarantine using a Vaccinated Travel Pass (VTP).
- Currently applies to fully-vaccinated travellers who have spent at least 14 days in the following countries prior to arrival in Singapore: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Maldives, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
- Singapore looks to also include Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the future, but there is no specified date as to when.
Once VTL ticket sale is resumed, tourists looking to travel to Singapore would need the following pre-arrival:
- Fully vaccinated with recognised vaccines
- Departing from an approved country
- Negative PCR result within 48 hours of departure to Singapore
- Flights to Singapore must be with a VTL designated airline such as British Airways (UK), Air France (France), KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (Netherlands), Lufthansa (Germany), Lufthansa (Germany), Asiana Airlines (South Korea), Korean Air (South Korea), Qantas (Australia), Finnair (Finland), and others.
- Visa (if applicable)
- PCR test upon arrival in Singapore
- Clients must self-isolate in hotel while waiting for the results of their PCR test (usually within 12 hours)
- Health insurance covering Covid-related medical expenses with a minimum coverage of SGD$30,000
- Download and install TraceTogether app to aid in contact tracing
Assuming that all the criteria is met and negative results are received throughout the process, then you are able to move about Singapore fairly freely. Please note that there are still limits to how many people are allowed in restaurants and masks are to be worn everywhere in all public spaces, no exceptions.
South Korea boasts an impressive vaccination rate with 79% of the population fully vaccinated, making it one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. The country has opened its doors to some essential business travellers – and immediate family of residents – of late. On the 15th November the process was formalised for Singaporeans to travel to South Korea under the reciprocal VTL (vaccinated travel lane) scheme. The process looks like this:
- Flights must be direct from Singapore to Korea (approved airlines)
- You need to obtain an electronic Visa (K-ETA)
- You must bring a proof of vaccination certificate
- PCR test on arrival at Incheon airport (booked in advance). Quarantine at whichever hotel you’ve booked while awaiting results. Results will be texted/emailed to clients before 10 am the next day.
- You must download the Korea COVID 19 self-diagnosis app and check in everyday with your health status.
- If the trip is over 8 days, then a further PCR test is needed on day 6/7 (you can just turn up to an appropriate hospital for this on the day)
- PCR two days before you leave and pick up certificate of negative test the day before you leave.
This is a pilot scheme in place and based on the success of this, we might see other countries being added to the list to join the scheme. We remain optimistic that South Korea won't be closed for much longer, and that international leisure tourism will return early in 2022 (if not just before).
Japan now ranks among the most vaccinated countries in the world and has seen a sharp decline in infections.
While Japan's state of emergency was lifted on September 30 with case numbers and hospitalisation plummeting across the country, as of December 1st the Japanese government has reintroduced a border closure for new entries in response to the Omicron variant. Individuals with valid residence statuses are allowed to re-enter with strict quarantine measures depending on which country they have arrived from.
No indication has yet been given of when tourism might resume, but the rapidly accelerating vaccination program means that there is a genuine prospect of this changing in the not-too-distant future. Keep checking back to this page for more details as we receive them.
It seems that Hong Kong is still closed to international travellers for now.
UK and USA are considered high risk countries and are not allowed entry into Hong Kong and it is currently only allowing Hong Kong residents to enter the country.
At the moment there is little visibility about plans for reopening or insight into discussions.
We have our eyes on this one and continue to wait patiently!