With so many changes going on due to the roll out of vaccines, it can be difficult to ascertain what is happening around the world with regard to travel. To help cut through the confusion, here is where our 9 destinations currently stand and what to expect in the months ahead. From regional updates to vaccinations on our destinations and booking recommendations per country, keep reading to find out more.
While Asia’s overall numbers remain lower than many parts of the world, there has been a significant uptick in COVID infections recently due to spreading of the ‘UK variant’. Overall, destinations have reacted quickly by implementing effective safety measures and, while numbers remain elevated, the situation seems to be stabilizing.
Compared with western nations, vaccinations in our destinations have progressed slowly. Helped by their relatively small populations, Singapore, Cambodia and Laos have all made reasonable progress while Indonesia has done fairly well considering its large population.
BOOKING RECOMMENDATIONS 2021-2022
With the above points being taken into consideration, the question on everyone’s mind is: when will travel open up in Asia again?
This of course depends on a number of factors and every destination will be different. Any prediction more than a few months in advance is purely speculation at this point.
However, based on our experience on the ground here, we feel the summary above is likely to be accurate. Some destinations such as Thailand (Phuket), Indonesia (Bali) and Singapore may cautiously reopen to travel by Q3 of this year. Asia overall, however, is likely to begin normalizing by the start of 2022.
Keep in mind that, due to uncertainty, we offer flexible cancellations that allow bookings to be changed or cancelled without penalty up to 14 days before arrival.
Despite efforts to contain COVID so that travel could return prior to Olympics, Japan remains effectively closed to tourism while facing its fourth wave of infections. The Olympics will go on in July and August, but foreign visitors will not be able to attend. A vaccine passport system is being implemented that may allow for a resumption of international travel in the future, but it’s still too early to predict exactly when this will happen.
Despite a significant uptick in COVID infections recently, Thailand is still technically open for international tourism. With the resumption of a universal 14-day quarantine-on-arrival, though, few are considering travel to the Kingdom despite some attractive options such as quarantining at a golf resort. As of this writing, however, the government is pushing ahead with its ‘Sandbox’ scheme that would allow vaccinated travellers to enter Phuket without quarantine by July. This is contingent upon the success of a vaccination drive on the island that looks to have 70% of its residents vaccinated by then. So far, they are on schedule with this but, with the recent increase in infections, it remains to be seen if the Sandbox scheme will go forward as planned.
With its significant success in controlling COVID up until recently, Vietnam had plans of a staggered reopening phase with travel bubbles in central Vietnamese beach towns that was set to begin between July and September. With the emergence of another wave of infections both within the country and regionally, this plan has been shelved for the time being. Furthermore, Vietnam’s quarantine on arrival for visitors has been extended from 14 to 21 days since 5 May.
Despite its success in controlling the spread of COVID, Cambodia has recently seen a sharp rise in cases that have brought many provinces back under lockdown and a curfew in some areas until 21 May. Despite this and similar to Thailand, international travel to Cambodia is technically open, although safety measures that are currently in place make it both costly and complicated. Since 30 March, visitors must arrange a visa in advance, have a negative COVID test within 72 hours of departure and quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. In addition to this, visitors must also pay a $2,000USD deposit in service charges to the Cambodia government to pay for potential medical care. Relative to the rest of Southeast Asia, however, Cambodia has made significant progress with their vaccine drive.
Unfortunately for Myanmar, COVID isn’t the only barrier to travel. A military takeover and subsequent unrest plunges travel recovery into further doubt. Barring a significant change of circumstance, leisure travel to Myanmar will not be advisable for the foreseeable future. However, we would like to inform you that we are in close contact with our colleagues and staff on the ground there and, despite these setbacks, spirits are high and everyone is safe.
Similar to Thailand, despite the arrival of new COVID variants, Indonesia is pushing ahead with its Travel Corridor Agreement (TCA) programme, which would see a return of international visitors to the islands of Bali, Bintan and Batam in July. Other sites under consideration for the TCA programme are Yogyakarta in Java, Belitung Island and Lake Toba in Sumatra. While many details remain unsettled, TCA would allow citizens from countries with low infections and high vaccinations to visit these areas. Talks are currently underway with Netherlands, UAE, China and South Korea. This is likely to change in weeks and months ahead.
Up until very recently, Laos had one of the lowest COVID infection rates in the world. While overall numbers still remain low, there has been a sharp rise in cases in the past few weeks that have caused the country to consider lockdowns to control the spread. Leisure travel to Laos remains off limits, and those who enter face a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival.
Like other countries in the region, Malaysia is currently seeing a surge in COVID cases. Leisure travel for international tourists remains off limits, and those with permission to enter the country for other reasons must quarantine in a government facility. In February, Malaysia launched its nationwide vaccination programme which is on target to inoculate 80% of its 32 million people within 2021.
Despite a rise in infections recently, Singapore is planning to go ahead with plans to open a travel corridor with Hong Kong, although the timing of it has been delayed due to recent circumstances. They are also looking at plans to reopen for vaccinated travellers later in the year. Their vaccination programme is also moving ahead quickly.