Despite the novel coronavirus originating in China, the country’s infection rates have subsided exponentially, which is a pattern seen across much of Asia, where testing and tracking methods are more thorough and effective than in many parts of the world. At the same time, India has become an outlier in the region, surpassing 12 million confirmed cases in March. Meanwhile, countries like the Maldives have already completely reopened for tourism, while others, like Indonesia, continue to postpone.
The fall brought on the second wave of rising infections in Asia, but this increase seemed minor compared to much higher surges in other parts of the world. After a new strain of the virus was discovered in the United Kingdom (UK) in December, a handful of Asian destinations that had been allowing some travel from the UK have since suspended flights.
Here’s what you need to know about border regulations and travel restrictions in Asia.
Bhutan's borders are closed and there is an active travel ban in place for most countries including the U.S. Bhutan is part of a tourism bubble with India, but it is not likely that country will reopen for wider tourism until much later.
Cambodian borders began reopening in late May, but e-visa and visa on arrival programs have been suspended and tourist visas are not being issued. Travelers will need a negative test taken within 72 hours of their arrival date and the government has asked eligible travelers to pay a $2,000 deposit to cover the cost of further testing and quarantine. A mandatory test, the cost of which is deducted from the deposit, will be conducted upon arrival. All travelers must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and will be required to purchase a mandatory $90 health insurance policy that will be valid for 20 days.
Although the number of commercial flights has been reduced, China reopened its visa application process to 13 Asian countries and 36 European countries. In late December, all direct flights between mainland China and the UK were suspended indefinitely.
U.S. citizens who already have visas and wish to enter China will be subject to a health screening and a 14-day quarantine. Requirements may vary depending on your port of entry. As of November 6, anyone traveling to China will also need to be tested for COVID-19 and antibodies within 48 hours before boarding their flight. The test must be processed at a laboratory on China's approved list. Any traveler who has been vaccinated with a Chinese-made vaccine will be allowed to enter.
Anyone flying to China will need to fill out a Health Declaration Certificate and obtain a QR code that will be scanned before boarding. The U.S. State Department warns that you may also be asked to install location-tracking software on your devices to access public spaces and businesses.
All non-Hong Kong residents arriving by air from any location other than mainland China, Macau, and Taiwan, where they must have stayed without interruption for at least 14 days, will be denied entry. As of December, any traveler who has visited Brazil, Ireland, the UK, or South Africa for more than two hours within 21 days of arriving in Hong Kong will be denied entry.
Anyone arriving from any country other than China will be subject to a 21-day quarantine at a designated hotel. Before boarding any flight to Hong Kong, the traveler will only need to have proof of their hotel reservation. Once they arrive, they will be tested at the airport and will have to wait for the results to come back before they can proceed to immigration.
Borders remain closed and U.S. citizens will not be allowed to enter India for tourism, even if they hold a passport or visa—unless they have a qualifying urgent need. Business travel may be permitted. Qualifying international passengers must submit a declaration form, submit to a health screening, and quarantine upon arrival. Travelers arriving from the UK, Europe, Brazil, South Africa, or the Middle East will also be tested on arrival.
U.S. citizens will be allowed to enter only if they have an existing and valid visa or residence permit. If allowed to enter, a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours is required and a minimum five-day quarantine at a government-designated facility will be mandatory. Government officials are planning to reopen Bali in July.
Japan is still banning the entry of foreign tourists from most countries, including the U.S., as well as citizens of any other country who have passed through countries on the banned list within the past 14 days. No foreign national will be allowed to enter Japan unless they qualify for an exception. Approved travelers will need a negative test taken within 72 hours, will be tested on arrival, and must self-isolate for 14 days. For those arriving from Brazil, Ireland, Israel, South Africa, or the UK, the first three days of self-isolation must be spent in a government facility.
Most borders remain closed and all entrants will be subject to COVID-19 testing on arrival and a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense. U.S. citizens will not be allowed to enter unless they already hold a long-term visa.
Malaysia has banned the entry of foreign nationals from high-risk countries, including the U.S. Some exceptions can be made for foreign travelers with long-term passes, but they will have to request approval from the Immigration Department first. Other entry exceptions have been made for medical tourists from Brunei, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. These travelers will need to be PCR tested before their trip and must either quarantine or check-in for their treatment immediately when they arrive.
The Maldives is welcoming all foreign nationals, but tourists will be required to show a negative test taken within 96 hours of leaving for their trip. The test results will need to be attached when filling out the required Traveler Health Declaration form online.
All foreign nationals entering Myanmar will need to provide a negative test result taken within 72 hours of departing and will be subject to seven days in a quarantine facility. Travelers are also asked to self-quarantine in their home countries seven days prior to their trip and will need to show "evidence" of this. However, the U.S. Embassy has not yet received clarification on what type of documents will be accepted as evidence.
Nepal has slightly eased its nationwide lockdown, allowing for travel in private vehicles and other previously-prohibited activities. The government has delayed the full reopening of Nepal to tourism, except for travelers on mountaineering and trekking expeditions. In March, the government lifted quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated tourists.
Tourists will need to obtain a visa through their travel agency, provide a negative test result taken within 72 hours of departure, quarantine for seven days at a pre-booked hotel once they arrive in Nepal, and show proof of insurance. On the fifth day of the quarantine, they will also be required to take another test and must test negative before proceeding on their trip.
Short-term visitors are prohibited from entering Singapore. Only U.S. citizens who are also permanent residents will be allowed to enter, but they will also be issued a notice to stay home and quarantine for 14 days. Those who break their Stay-Home Notice (SHN) could be fined up to $10,000 or face jail time.
The government is planning to open for business travelers, who will be required to quarantine in a dedicated facility where they will be frequently tested, but also be allowed to meet safely with locals. As of December 23, Singapore will not allow entry for any passenger, unless they are a citizen or permanent resident, who has spent any time in the UK within the previous 14 days of their arrival.
South Korea's visa-free entry program has been suspended for Europe and the Americas and those allowed to enter South Korea must already have a visa. Most foreign travelers, including U.S. citizens, arriving in South Korea must show a negative PCR test and complete a 14-day quarantine at a government facility at their own expense. After two negative tests, it is possible to be released from quarantine early. The South Korean government has suspended all flights from the UK until April 22.
After staying closed for 10 months, Sri Lanka reopened for tourism in January. Visitors will need to show a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of their flight. Then, they will be tested again on arrival and also on the seventh day of their trip. Tourists will only be allowed to move in between the approved tourism zones.
Since January 1, all flights between Taiwan and the UK have been suspended and foreign nationals will not be allowed to enter or transit through Taiwan unless they qualify for an exception. Anyone qualified to enter Taiwan, regardless of nationality, must submit a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure, provide their travel and contact history, and undergo a 14-day home quarantine.
In December, Thailand loosened travel restrictions for citizens of over 50 countries, including the United States, who apply for a Special Tourist Visa (STV). This long-stay visa is for travelers who plan to spend at least 90 days in Thailand. Applicants will need to show proof of long-stay accommodation to apply. Before flying, travelers will need a negative test taken within 72 hours and will be subject to a 10 to 14-day quarantine at a government facility upon arrival. No short-term visitors will be allowed to enter Thailand unless they qualify for an exception or already have a visa. Starting in July, fully-vaccinated travelers will be allowed to enter Thailand without quarantining, but they must stay in Phuket.
The government has suspended entry indefinitely to all foreigners, with an extremely limited number of exceptions. Movement is heavily restricted and health checkpoints have been set up throughout the country. Those who are allowed to enter will have to present a negative test result and will be subject to more testing and a mandatory quarantine at their own expense when they arrive.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Royal Government of Bhutan. “Travel Advisory." January 13, 2021.
U.S. Embassy in Cambodia. "COVID-19 Information." April 5, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: China." February 19, 2021.
Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States of America. "Notice on Visa Facilitation for Applicants Inoculated with Chinese COVID-19 Vaccines." March 15, 2021.
Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States of America. "Notice on the Launch of QR Code with "HDC" Mark for China-bound Foreign Passengers." November 23, 2020.
U.S. Embassy & Consulates in China. "COVID-19 Information." March 22, 2021.
U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong & Macau. "COVID-19 Information." April 1, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: Hong Kong." March 5, 2021.
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. "Points to Note for Inbound Travellers."
U.S. Embassy & Consulates in India. "COVID-19 Information." February 22, 2021.
U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Indonesia. "COVID-19 Information." February 17, 2021.
Japan National Tourism Organization. "Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advisory Information." April 6, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: Japan." March 24, 2021.
U.S. Embassy in Laos. "COVID-19 Information." April 6, 2021.
U.S. Embassy in Malaysia. "COVID-19 Information." April 6, 2021.
U.S. Mission to Maldives. "COVID-19 Information." March 30, 2021.
Maldives Immigration. "Pre-Entry PCR Certificate with Negative Test Result, as an Entry Requirement for Tourists and Other Short-Term Visitors Traveling to Maldives." September 10, 2020.
U.S. Embassy in Burma. "COVID-19 Information." April 2, 2021.
U.S. Embassy in Nepal. "COVID-19 Information." April 2, 2021.
U.S. Embassy in Singapore. "COVID-19 Information." April 5, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: Singapore." March 22, 2021.
Visit Korea. "COVID-19 Info for Visitors." July 15, 2020.
U.S. Embassy & Consulate in the Republic of Korea. "COVID-19 Information." April 6, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: South Korea." April 2, 2021.
U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka. “COVID-19 Information.” March 30, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: Taiwan." March 22, 2021.
American Institute in Taiwan. “COVID-19 Information.” March 9, 2021.
U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Thailand. "COVID-19 Information." April 6, 2021.
U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Vietnam. "Country-Specific COVID-19 Information for Vietnam." April 6, 2021.