Government AffairsA quick guide to borders reopening and travel restrictions for major destinations in Asia Pacific and around the world. Keep checking back as we add more updates in the coming weeks.

Where in the world is opening for travel?

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The world is gradually reopening to travel again, and more countries are granting vaccination exemptions to select types of travellers.
The world is gradually reopening to travel again, and more countries are granting vaccination exemptions to select types of travellers. Photo Credit: GettyImages/eggeeggjiew

Updated: 23 March 2021

As countries kickstart their national vaccination programmes, discussions on vaccination certificates for travel are heating up.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) chief Alexandre de Juniac recently stated that travel will likely return in Q3 2021 — spurring hope for a return to normalcy sooner rather than later.

Here's a summary of the latest developments regarding border reopening in Asia Pacific and around the world. Be sure to bookmark this page or check back for updates that will be regularly added here.

SINGAPORE

While Singapore is not in a hurry to relax border measures for vaccinated travellers, it is looking to work a system of mutual recognition of vaccine certification between countries based on HealthCerts, a set of digital standards for issuing digital Covid-19 test result certificates.

At the bilateral level, Singapore has announced on March 14 that it is discussing the possibility of an air travel bubble that will allow residents of Singapore and Australia to travel between both countries without the need for quarantine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Currently, all travellers must submit a health declaration on arrival and serve a 14-day Stay Home Notice at dedicated facilities. Those from higher-risk areas will need to take an RT-PCR test within 72 hours before departing for Singapore and be tested at the end of quarantine.

For business travellers, a series of hybrid event pilots and the launch of [email protected], a bubble facility for short-term business travellers, continue to showcase Singapore’s approach of managing risk rather than eliminating it.

MALAYSIA

Malaysia’s Recovery Movement Control has been extended to 31 March, prohibiting foreign nationals from entering the country even if they have been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, domestic travel bubbles in Malaysia came into effect 10 March, reopening travel between states under the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO). They are Melaka, Pahang, Terengganu, Perlis, Sabah, Labuan, Putrajaya, and the islands of Langkawi.

While it has a Reciprocal Green Lane arrangement with Singapore, this has currently been suspended for three months (from 1 Feb) due to the resurgence of cases worldwide.

THAILAND

Thailand has plans to ease restrictions for vaccinated travellers, including shortening mandatory quarantine for all arrivals, or dropping it completely, according to Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn.

Thailand's Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) had confirmed earlier on 10 March that the Thai government is eyeing an October 2021 reopening with all Covid-19 restrictions lifted.

Currently, travellers from about 45 countries including the US and the UK are eligible to travel to Thailand visa-free, but a 14-day hotel quarantine awaits.

However, this is set to change as the country has announced an “Area Hotel Quarantine” proposal to allow foreign visitors to leave their hotel rooms and roam around the property after the first three days of their mandatory 14-day period. The proposal will initially be considered for five top tourist destinations, such as Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Krabi, Phuket and Surat Thani.

INDONESIA

In late 2020, the government reissued a ban on foreign visitors, temporarily putting a stop to the Reciprocal Green Lane for travel with Singapore (except in certain cases such as diplomats and expatriates).

That said, the central government is drawing up a plan that could allow vaccinated foreign tourists to return to Bali as soon as June 2021 under a travel corridor programme to revive the local economy. The island's major spots, Ubud, Sanur and Nusa Dua, are likely to be included in the pilot project under strict health protocols, according to latest media reports.

Indonesian Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno said the travel corridor arrangement will be offered to countries that are deemed successful in their vaccination programmes. However, some two million Bali residents will first have to be vaccinated before the pilot can begin.

On 20 March, Uno has proposed to launch the Singapore-Batam-Bintan “safe travel corridor” by 21 April, but this concept will only be open to Singapore tourists visiting Indonesia and not the other way round. The Nongsa area in Batam and Lagoi area in Bintan are popular resort destinations for Singaporeans.

MACAU

As of 22 March 2021, foreigners can now enter the Special Administrative Region provided they had been in mainland China in the previous 21 days, according to a new executive order that came into effect on 16 March.

This come on top of holding a mainland China visa and having to return to Macau within the visa's validity period.

For those arriving from Hong Kong, the mandatory quarantine period has also been shortened from 21 days to 14 days from 20 Mar. After serving the 14 days quarantine in a hotel, individuals are required to do a 7-day self-health management period at home.

Transport between Macau and Hong Kong is also restricted to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

TAIWAN

Taiwan has announced the launch of its first travel bubble launching 1 April with diplomatic ally Palau, with Singapore potentially next on the list.

Discussions have reportedly underway between Taiwan and several countries in Asia Pacific, including Japan, South Korea and Vietnam, but the possibilities of a travel bubble with Singapore is "by far the most proactive", The Straits Times reported Taiwanese transportation minister Lin Chia-lung as saying.

Since last December, Singapore had announced a unilateral lifting of restrictions for travellers entering the country from Taiwan, exempting them from the two-week mandatory quarantine and only requiring them to take a Covid-19 test upon arrival.

JAPAN

Japan has lifted its Covid-19 state of emergency as of midnight 22 March in Greater Tokyo, the last remaining area in the country that had been under the restriction since early January.

Attendance at large-scale events such as concerts and sports games will also be gradually eased following the lifting of the emergency. Numbers had been capped at half capacity up to a limit of 5,000, but this will be increased to 10,000.

That said, the country has announced that foreign spectators will not be allowed at the Olympics, to avoid the risk of large crowds forming amid the pandemic.

AUSTRALIA

While its borders are still largely closed, the country is working on a bilateral travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand as well as Singapore. The government is also planning to increase caps on overseas arrivals and is mulling ways to expand quarantine capacity.

Prime minister Scott Morrison was quoted as saying that airlines will be closely involved with vaccine passport plans, and that the type of vaccine may be relevant.

Similar to Singapore, vaccinated foreign travellers will not be exempted from the mandatory two-week hotel quarantines in Australia.

GREECE

Greece's tourism minister Haris Theoharis announced at the just concluded ITB Berlin that Greece hopes to reopen on 14 May in time for the usual tourism season, welcoming all who have been vaccinated, have antibodies or tested negative for the coronavirus.

Until then, a gradual ease of restrictions will ensue, starting with a pilot programme with travellers from the European Union "as well as other countries of departure where the vaccination has progressed, such as Israel".

On this note, a new deal allowing vaccinated Greece, Cyprus and Israel citizens to travel freely between the three countries was also inked on 8 February, during Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis's visit to Jerusalem.

SEYCHELLES

The Seychelles announced earlier this month that it will be reopening to foreign tourists sans restrictions starting 25 March 2021.

With the exception of South Africa visitors, the island nation in the Indian Ocean will welcome global travellers irrespective of their vaccination status, with visitors only required to present a negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior to departure.

There will be no quarantine upon arrival or movement restrictions imposed, but tourists are required to stay in hotels certified as complying with coronavirus measures.

Visitors to the country will still have to abide by other public health measures including the wearing of face masks, social distancing, regular sanitisation or washing of hands.

UK

UK prime minister Boris Johnson in February announced a string of dates to slowly ease a national lockdown, including allowing foreign holidays as early as 17 May.

This has spurred a wave of bookings from travel-hungry British, with the UK’s largest tour operator, TUI, reporting a 500% jump in bookings after the announcement was made.

Discount airline easyJet saw thrice-fold surge in demand for flights while Thomas Cook also reported a 75% increase in website traffic.

ICELAND

Iceland has from 18 March opened its borders to all travelers from the UK and the US who have been vaccinated against or can show proof of a previous Covid-19 infection. 

The move makes Iceland one of the first EU members to remove quarantine and testing requirements for international visitors since the beginning of the pandemic.

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