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 is more widespread and effective than in many parts of the world. At the same time, India has become an outlier in the region by surpassing ten million confirmed cases in December. Meanwhile, countries like the Maldives have already completely reopened for tourism, while others, like Indonesia, continue to postpone. The fall season has brought on the second wave of rising infections in Asia, but this increase seems 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.
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 announced 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 the cost of testing and quarantining. 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. Starting December 1, 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 the UK or South Africa for more than two hours within 21 days of arriving in Hong Kong will be denied entry. The ban has also been extended to travelers arriving from Ireland and Brazil.
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.
With some of the highest case numbers in the world, India is still restricting international tourism. 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. Qualifying international passengers must submit a declaration form, submit to a health screening, and quarantine upon arrival. Travelers arriving from the UK will be tested on arrival and will be quarantined for at least seven days at a designated hotel at their own expense.
Until January 25, non-Indonesian travelers will be prohibited from entering, unless they qualify for an exception. 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 test taken within 72 hours is required and a minimum five-day quarantine at a government-designated facility will be mandatory. Despite original speculation that Bali would reopen in the fall, government officials have not set a date for reopening tourism to the island.
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. Any Japanese citizen or resident who has visited the UK within 14 days of arriving in Japan will not be allowed to enter. 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. The first three days of self-isolation must be spent in a government facility. Before the December restrictions, the Japanese government allowed U.S. citizens with resident status and business travelers to enter the country but traveling for tourism was not allowed.
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 on arrival 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. Other entry exceptions are 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.
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 non-tourist travelers arriving from the UK will need to self-isolate for 10 days and will be tested twice before being released.
In 2021, international flights will resume and 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. As of December 23, Nepal has restricted all passengers traveling from the UK and the Embassy of Nepal has stopped issuing visas until further notice.
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 at a pre-booked hotel once they arrive in Nepal, and show proof of insurance worth at least $5,000. 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. 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. All travelers, including U.S. citizens, arriving in South Korea must show a negative test and complete a 14-day quarantine at their place of residence or a government center, out of pocket (about $100 to $150 per night). 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. The South Korean Government has suspended all flights from the UK until January 28, 2021.
After staying closed for 10 months, Sri Lanka reopened for tourism in January. Visitors will need to be tested within 72 hours of their flight. Then, they will be tested again on arrival and on the seventh day of their trip. Tourists will only be allowed to move in between the approved tourism zones. Flights between Sri Lanka and the UK are suspended indefinitely.
As of January 1, 2021, all flights between Taiwan and the UK are 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 test taken within 72 hours of departure, provide their travel and contact history, and undergo a heavily-enforced 14-day 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 two-week 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.
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." January 19, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: China." January 13, 2021.
Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States of America. "Notice on Airline Boarding Requirements for Certificates of Negative Nucleic Acid and Anti-Body Blood Test Results." October 29, 2020.
Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States of America. "Notice on the Requirement Adjustment of the Nucleic Acid rt-PCR and IgM Serum Antibody Tests." December 19, 2020.
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." January 4, 2021.
U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong & Macau. "COVID-19 Information." January 19, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: Hong Kong." January 16, 2021.
Hong Kong Airport. "Latest Compulsory Quarantine and COVID-19 Testing Arrangement." December 25, 2020.
U.S. Embassy & Consulates in India. "COVID-19 Information." December 31, 2020.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: India." January 18, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: Indonesia." January 15, 2021.
U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Indonesia. "COVID-19 Information." January 14, 2021.
Japan National Tourism Organization. "Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advisory Information." January 20, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: Japan." January 16, 2021.
U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Japan. "COVID-19 Information." January 19, 2021.
U.S. Embassy in Laos. "COVID-19 Information." January 20, 2021.
U.S. Embassy in Malaysia. “COVID-19 Information.” January 19, 2021.
U.S. Mission to Maldives. "COVID-19 Information." January 20, 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.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: Maldives." January 16, 2021.
U.S. Embassy in Burma. "COVID-19 Information." January 19, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: Nepal." December 24, 2020.
U.S. Embassy in Nepal. "COVID-19 Information." January 20, 2021.
U.S. Embassy in Singapore. "COVID-19 Information." January 21, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: Singapore." January 18, 2021.
Visit Korea. "COVID-19 Info for Visitors." July 15, 2020.
U.S. Embassy & Consulate in the Republic of Korea. "COVID-19 Information." January 20, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: South Korea." January 20, 2021.
U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka. “COVID-19 Information.” January 20, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: Sri Lanka." January 16, 2021.
Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: Taiwan." January 16, 2021.
American Institute in Taiwan. “COVID-19 Information.” December 31, 2020.
U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Thailand. "COVID-19 Information." January 19, 2021.
U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Vietnam. "Country-Specific COVID-19 Information for Vietnam." January 21, 2021.