Despite the novel coronavirus originating in China, the country’s infection rates have subsided exponentially, a pattern seen across much of Asia, where testing and tracking is more widespread than in many parts of the world. At the same time, India has become an outlier in the region by surpassing seven million confirmed cases in October. Meanwhile, countries like the Maldives have already completely reopened for tourism, while others, like Indonesia, have postponed their reopenings indefinitely.
Still, the threat of a widespread outbreak has prompted nations across Asia to shut their borders, halt commercial flights, and implement strict quarantine measures and testing protocols. Here’s what you need to know about border regulations and travel restrictions across Asia.
As of April 15, 2020, Bhutan is closed for tourism indefinitely. Visas were suspended on March 6, 2020, and flights to the country from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Singapore, and Thailand are restricted. The Tourism Council of Bhutan has proposed creating a tourism bubble to reopen the country in March 2021 that may involve mandatory quarantines or designated tourist itineraries, which will ensure that visitors won't interact with locals. However, no official plan has been put in place yet.
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. Additionally, the government has asked eligible travelers to pay a $2,000 deposit to cover any medical care they may need while in the country. A mandatory test, the cost of which is deducted from the deposit, will be conducted upon arrival and there is no requirement to quarantine as long as the test is negative.
Although the number of commercial flights have been reduced, China has reopened its visa application process to 13 Asian countries and 36 European countries. 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. 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.
On June 2, Hong Kong's government announced that all non-Hong Kong residents arriving by air from any location other than mainland China, Macau, and Taiwan will be denied entry. Those arriving from these countries will still be subject to a 14-day quarantine. All inbound travelers from specific countries, including U.S. citizens, arriving at or transiting through Hong Kong International Airport may be tested for COVID-19 before going through immigration and customs.
With some of the highest case numbers in the world, India is still restricting international tourism. All international flights to India have been suspended, but domestic flights within India are operating again at 60 percent capacity.
Despite rising cases and closed borders, internal restrictions have eased and major attractions like the Taj Mahal have already reopened with visitor caps in place. Still, borders remain closed and U.S. citizens will not be allowed to enter India, even if they hold a passport or visa—unless they have a qualifying urgent need. If you do qualify for an exception, all international passengers must submit a declaration form, submit to a health screening, and quarantine upon arrival.
On April 23, the Indonesian government imposed a travel ban that included practically all domestic and international flights, except ones to allow foreign nationals to evacuate. U.S. citizens are only allowed to enter if they have an existing and valid visa or residence permit. Despite original speculation that the popular island of Bali would reopen in the fall, the governor of Bali announced in August that the island would not reopen until the end of 2020.
Japan is still banning entry from 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. The Japanese government announced a new policy that would allow U.S. citizens with resident status and business travelers to enter the country, but they will be tested on arrival and required to quarantine for 14 days, possibly at an airport facility.
In September, Japan began easing restrictions by allowing citizens of Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam to enter, but only if they are traveling for business purposes. The government also announced new plans to open up the country further to travelers from 12 low-risk countries, including Australia and New Zealand, who would be exempt from quarantining beginning November 1. The Japanese government is considering lifting the entry ban and reopening for tourism as early as next spring.
On June 1, the Government of Laos announced new entry and exit regulations to reduce and contain the spread of COVID-19. Most borders remain closed and all entrants will be subject to COVID-19 testing and a 14-day self-quarantine at their own expense. U.S. citizens will not be allowed to enter unless they already hold a long-term visa.
Malaysia closed its borders, restricted international travel, and closed many businesses in March. The government had slowly been allowing tourists to enter from some countries, but on September 7, it banned the entry of foreign nationals from 23 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. The border is officially closed until December 31, but exceptions are also being made for medical tourists from Brunei, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. These travelers will need to be tested before their trip and must either quarantine or check-in directly for their treatment when they arrive.
As of July 15, the island nation of Maldives officially reopened to all international tourists with, initially, no requirement to provide a negative test result or undergo a 14-day quarantine. However, cases rose after the country reopened and as of September 10, tourists are 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.
Myanmar's government has extended restrictions, barred entry for all foreign nationals, and suspended commercial air travel until November 30. Those who can enter Myanmar will still need to show a negative test result taken within 72 hours and follow the quarantine procedure which requires 21 days at a community facility, followed by a seven-day self-quarantine at home. 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, but the government has lifted some restrictions on international flights. The government has delayed the full reopening of Nepal to tourism, except for travelers on mountaineering and trekking expeditions which began on October 17. These mountain-climbing tourists will need to obtain a visa through their trekking agency, provide a negative test result taken within 72 hours of departure, quarantine for seven days once they arrive in Nepal, and show proof of at least $5,000 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. It's not yet known when regular tourists will be allowed to enter Nepal.
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.
All travelers, including U.S. citizens, arriving in South Korea must complete a 14-day quarantine at their place of residence or a government center, out of pocket (about $100 to $150 per night). You won't need to show a test to fly to South Korea, but you will be tested and checked for symptoms upon arrival. Anyone with symptoms will be subject to testing, and all passengers must also log into the Self-Diagnosis Mobile App every day for 14 days to answer questions.
Since March, international passenger flights and have been canceled and international airports are closed. Passengers arriving on cruise ships or private vessels will not be allowed to disembark. The country originally hoped to reopen to tourists in August, but that date has now been postponed indefinitely.
After closing its borders in March, Taiwan has slowly begun to reopen for tourism with a three-phase plan, but not yet to U.S. citizens. Anyone who comes to Taiwan must undergo a 14-day quarantine, submit a health declaration form, and provide their travel history.
Most foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, are not yet permitted to enter Thailand unless they qualify for an approved exception. Anyone who does qualify to enter will still be required to quarantine for 14 days in an approved government facility. While the country is still closed for leisure tourism as of October, it officially reopened for medical tourists in July.
In September, Thailand's government announced that it would introduce a new visa for long-stay tourists who plan to stay in Thailand for at least 90 days and undergo a 14-day quarantine. The Special Tourist Visa (STV) will cost $64 and can be renewed two times for a total stay of 270 days, but applicants will need to show proof of long-stay accommodation.
After three months of low case numbers, Vietnam experienced a large spike in cases in July, forcing the country to reintroduce strict social distancing measures and limit travel to and within the country. 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 taken within three days of departure and will be subject to more testing and a mandatory quarantine at their own expense when they arrive.
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U.S. Embassy in Cambodia. "COVID-19 Information." October 15, 2020.
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