Unlocking Asia Pacific Travel: Which Countries are Reopened for Tourists Now?
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asia & Pacific has taken the cautious approach to inbound travel and has had some of the strictest border restrictions and closures. At the moment, the countries of the region are in the beginning stages of reopening their borders for tourism. The "unlocking" statuses vary widely, and travelers entering these countries may be required to do everything from self-quarantining, submitting negative COVID-19 tests, and providing proof of health insurance.
Here is everything you need to know about traveling to most Asian countries soon. We strongly advise ensuring your eligibility to travel before booking a flight. Review the entry restrictions, visa suspensions, and quarantine requirements that apply at your destination. For general COVID-19-related health advice please visit the WHO website.
We will be updating this page frequently with the most recent news, so make sure to bookmark it.
It is an astounding revelation that the novel coronavirus birthed in Asia. Yet, the continent has seen a comparatively lowered number of overall confirmed cases and deaths than the other regions. No wonder now many Asian nations are looking forward to opening up their countries and lifting travel bans as they abide by the new norms and ensure safe travels.
COVID-19 has undoubtedly been an unprecedented setback. The past 6 to 8 months have been life-altering on a global scale. As many life aspects have been severely impacted due to the pandemic, opening borders and lifting travel bans with new SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for many countries has been challenging.
As per the statistical data, COVID-19 has been responsible for affecting nearly 48 million travel and tourism occupations and the general public across the Asian nations of India, Malaysia, Maldives, Thailand, Vietnam, and Sri-Lanka, among others.
As these countries have been experiencing decreased tourist arrivals than usual, there is an increased uncertainty with how you should travel in South Asian countries if you are planning to.
Let’s have a look at the top tourist countries of Asia and find out how the authorities are working their way around accommodating tourists and traveling in general with updated SOPs.
As many Asian countries have lifted travel bans and restrictions from Australia and have close alliances with the country, let’s see if Australia has made traveling to and from the continental bases easy or not. The tourist division of the Australian government has been very keen to eradicate any local remains of Covid infection by imposing strict travel bans on non-Australian citizens and students under special surveillance.
DATE: Australia has closed its borders nationwide for general tourism effective from March 20th, 2020.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: There are strict bans, restrictions, and rules put in place. No citizen is allowed to travel internationally for seeking tourism or general travel. Only special permissions can be taken if you want to travel. Similarly, even though many countries have opened borders for Australia, the country has not and will not until the end of the year.
SOPs: Australian citizens all over the world were asked to return and quarantine over a 14-day mandated period. The citizens are allowed to travel and leave the country only under special permission from the authorities for personal emergencies and business handling. For which if the permission is granted, a PCR test upon arrival back is mandatory and 10-day isolation until the tests arrive back negative.
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Cambodia has yet to resume general tourism and has been one of the strictest countries to abide by the mandated travel bans ever since the spread of Covid. The official tourism board for Cambodia has provided all the necessary updates online, helping travelers across borders to stay notified about the situation.
DATE: As of May 2020, Cambodia so-called eased the travel ban but with many rules.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: Even though the lockdown has been eased, it is still relatively difficult if you want to enter the country premises. Cambodia has suspended its e-visa policy as well as visa-on-arrival programs. They have also suspended any tourist-related services since June 10th and added strict requirements of depositing $2000 to cover for any potential COVID-19 expenses.
SOPs: A negative COVID-19 test has to be submitted 72 hours prior to traveling date. Travelers have to purchase a local health insurance package that has been mandated. It covers COVID-19 treatment for $90, valid for 20 days.
The health authorities will conduct the mandated test as per their own requirements and await results upon arrival for as long as 24 hours despite stark conditions. Another test upon the 13th day of isolation would be conducted under the supervision of authorities.
China is the country that birthed the novel coronavirus as we know it. After much speculation and a complete lockdown, many world leaders around the globe were not convinced if China had completely ridden itself of the disease. As recent as August 2020, when China announced that they are working on a vaccine to fight COVID-19, the world accepted the updates.
DATE: As of September 2020, the country is set to open its borders for limited international travel.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: There would specifically be eight countries allowed to enter China under strict protocol being observed by the CNTO (China National Tourism Administration). Travelers from close alliances of China like Pakistan, Cambodia, Denmark, Austria, Greece, and Canada are allowed to travel to and from Beijing.
SOPs: Travelers must undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing and a ten-day quarantine. They should qualify for the standard visa to visit China as the country is not yet open for general international tourism.
Indonesia, particularly Bali, has been a mega tourist attraction in the past few years. Post-COVID tourism has hugely impacted the market that was otherwise thriving. The nation is not yet open for general tourism; it could be delayed until the further end of 2020 as per the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment.
DATE: Initially, the date announced for the official reopening of the Island was September 11th, 2020.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: However, after conducting analysis, the Indonesian government has not announced any other details on reopening its borders any time soon.
SOPs: The mandated SOPs included bringing along a negative COVID-19 test, which, if not present, would be conducted at your own expense upon arrival.
DATE: Japan will see at the end of the year for international and general tourism resuming.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: The country’s authorities have publicly stated that there are a specific number of countries that would be allowed to travel to Japan under strict travel rotations. Only business personnel, investors, and other essential visitors would be allowed in from specified countries.
Countries that are close allegiances to Japan like Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, China, South Korea, and Malaysia would be the very first to cross Japanese borders. After that, Japan would welcome students and, later on, general tourists.
SOPs: All arrivals are mandated to follow a 14-day quarantine setting. Otherwise, a 72 hour before traveling negative PCR test and another upon arrival can help in skipping the 14-day Covid layover.
The country was among the very first to close the country for tourism earlier in March and has been reluctant to start opening again until recently. Off to a slow and steady start to keep things under control, the Malaysian tourism authorities are now selectively reopening the country to tourists that can directly invest in the country.
DATE: Malaysia has yet to open its borders for general tourism. However, As of June 22nd, 2020, the authorities have been making exceptions for particular tourists who can enter the country like medical workers and people seeking immediate health care.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: Many major countries have made it to the list because they are under control and assessed as green zones. Countries like Japan, Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, and Australia are some of the few countries that have started traveling to the Malaysian grounds.
SOPs: All COVID-19 standard operating procedures, as dictated by the World Health Organization, have been mandated to follow by the Malaysian government.
Contrary to many others on this list, Maldives is open to general tourism. The point to note here is that the gorgeous nation of 1190 coral islands is entirely reliant on tourism. COVID-19 brought upon the country a situation for the first time in almost 50 years that restricted tourism and travel to the country. However, since resuming foreign travel, the nation is now back on track to sustain the severely affected economy of the year due to the deadly virus.
DATE: The country reopened its international tourism borders on June 15th, 2020, and resumed the outbound foreign flights with normal traveling procedures.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: There are no further travel bans or restrictions upon Maldives tourism as per the Maldives International Travel COVID-19 updates.
SOPs: Ever since then, the country is open to tourism and travel without any regular post-COVID restrictions. There is not even any testing or quarantining mandated upon arrival in the Maldives.
Bordered closely by Australia’s very own island, New Zealand is also on several lists for Asian countries now opening borders for travel and tourism. However, due to strict precautionary measures, the New Zealand borders are still currently closed for almost all travelers to help stop the spread of COVID-19. This is also stated at the very top of the country’s immigration website, as directed by the tourism and travel authorities.
DATE: New Zealand has been close since March 2020 and will be observing the same restrictions well into next year to maintain closure from Covid.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: The country during the year came close to complete eradication of Covid, only to impose a lockdown again as the cases starting popping up again due to ease in travel. Ever since then, the country under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has rotated travel bans, only to allow citizens or permanent residents of the country as well as diplomats to travel.
Even if you are a permanent resident or a citizen who has to travel back or from New Zealand, you are required to request special permission from the authorities. A list of critical purposes has been stated online that allows you to put in your reasoning for traveling to or from the New Zealand borders.
Upon acceptance, you would be granted a special Critical Purpose Visitor Visa and full details of any people you might be related to across the border. You will also be charged a fee to apply for and receive this visa. New Zealand has yet to open its borders for non-citizen students.
SOPs: Mandatory standard operating procedures have been put in place where 14-day quarantine and a negative PCR test are compulsory before travelling and upon arrival.
The country’s summer season was seen as a highly successful period after much waiting since the peak of the pandemic, where many locals were seen traveling for vacation spots up-north. The initial lift on travel bans came after the official announcement from Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation.
DATE: Soon after the government announced that Pakistan has successfully flattened the curve for COVID-19, as of June 2nd, 2020, the country was open to travel.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: Most of the tourist areas up north of the country have been opened for domestic and international tourism. However, most of the traveling has been seen by locals and domestic travelers as compared to internationals.
SOPs: Opening domestic travel has given the government a better chance to analyze if the masses are following the required regular traveling procedures and wearing masks at all times. Authorities can be seen successfully administering precautions and mandating it for travelers to wear masks.
The Ministry of Health Singapore has stated that as many countries have the situation under control and assessed, there is an increased chance of opening safe traveling on a larger span with a lowered risk of contamination.
DATE: The Singapore authorities have announced fairly recently that they will be opening its borders for international tourism for selected countries by September 1st, 2020.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: The list is relatively shorter compared to other countries opening for tourism, but it is expected to grow. Currently, the government is taking in travelers from Brunei, New Zealand, and other bay areas that are qualifying for travel passes to Singapore.
SOPs: The regular precautions to be taken consist of a mandated PCR test and taking confirmed responsibility for medical bills.
The main concern has also been the uncertainty surrounding the new wave of COVID-19 surrounding Sri Lanka itself, even before resuming domestic air travel. The tourism sector is responsible for a significant 12% of the GDP of the country. Therefore, the rising concern and pressure to resume travel and tourism have been hovering over the officials to consider opening the borders as early as possible.
DATE: Initially, the Sri Lankan government had decided to open the country borders for travel from August 1st. However, as of recently, the officials have delayed reopening plans until the end of August to see further peak situations from green zone countries.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: However, unlike countries opening for selected neighboring nations, Sri Lanka promises to reopen tourism across the globe once they are over the pandemic’s final wave.
SOPs: There haven’t been any sops mandated as the general travel has yet to resume. As far as domestic traveling standards are in question, then masks, sanitization, disinfection, and COVID testing have been regulated all across the country to help in safe domestic travels.
After the successful administration of restricted traveling, the government has taken the initiative to open the country capital Phuket to international tourism from October 1st as per the reports from the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
DATE: Thailand plans on reopening soon completely as they had previously opened the country borders for selective tourism effective July 1st as a test travel plan.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: The authorities first established that the only inbound traveling would be restricted to Thai nationals, families, people in business, and people seeking immediate health services.
SOPs: An updated draft plan issued by the government states relaxed measures for foreigners coming to Thailand. The 3-phase division involves short and long-term arrivals that have successfully reached the final 3rd phase. General tourists and migrants will soon be arriving with mandated regular SOPs of wearing masks and quarantining for ten days upon the arrival.
DATE: Travelers and tourists have been permitted to enter the country as of June 12th, 2020.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: Turkey has been found as one of the only few places that are effective most recently, lifting all COVID-19 restrictions. They are allowing all nations to travel under normal, pre-COVID regulations. It is accepting all nations to visit who meet the Turkish immigration rules as also officially confirmed by the American and Canadian embassies.
SOPs: The associated traveling channels and authorities have mandated facemasks during flights and necessary temperature checks before boarding.
Dubai was one of the few megacities that weren’t as severely affected, given the pandemic’s peak in the traveling season.
DATE: As of July 7th, 2020, UAE welcomed the first batch of foreign travelers.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: Given the traveling orders by the authorities, there weren’t any severe tourist restrictions that would have killed the tourism industry.
SOPs: However, since resuming foreign travel, the mega airlines associated with the nation like Emirates International Airline and Etihad Airways, have mandated authoritarian SOPs for passengers traveling with them, whether in-bound or internationally.
All passengers would be required to be tested negative for COVID PCR testing and carry all the regular mandated travel documents. It is important to note that as a passenger of any connecting flight, you would still be required to follow the mandated SOPs.
Given the current situations surrounding international tourism, Vietnam is looking forward to the end of the year for considering opening the country borders as per the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.
DATE: From March 22nd until further notice, Vietnam has yet to lift its temporarily suspended entry for foreign nationals. The extensions to already staying foreigners were provided till August 31st, 2020, with the declaration of temporary residence and letter from the embassy stating the stay has been extended given the objective reasons.
TRAVEL BANS & RESTRICTIONS: The government has announced not to be issuing visas or allowing entry to foreign travelers for international tourism.
SOPs: The exemptions have been made for only Vietnamese nationals, business officials, and highly skilled workers like software engineers and essay writers that, too, with mandated medical checks and 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
There is no doubt that the post-Covid world is the one no one had ever accounted for. People around the world have been traveling for all reasons for ages. Whether it is for tourism, education, or healthcare reasons, never once have such bans been imposed unless countries have diplomatic relationship concerns.
As the professionals and the general public accept the new normal to live-by, traveling is a huge part of other aspects that have been changed completely. These rules have not only been regulated for the better but for worse, especially concerning students who had already started their educational year.
There aren’t many hopes for a complete pre-Covid travel bans lifting unless there is a vaccine in circulation globally. No wonder the upcoming future for tourism would be the one to look out for as nothing can be said for sure.
Amanda Jerelyn is a Travel Blogger at Dissertation Assistance, the perfect platform for buying assignment help. She has been keen on the travel bans being lifted so that she could travel again. She will soon be updating her experiences on her blogging platform.