The coronavirus rolled into Earth and held it hostage. But it’s been over six months since the pandemic started, and some nation’s are dipping their big toes into the reopening pond.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the current border status of 16 Asian countries reopening for tourism.
Cambodia is closed to most travelers, but people from the United States, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, and Spain can enter the country if they: (source)
Have a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72-hours before arrival
Can prove they have at least $50,000 of medical insurance
Agree to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival
But there’s a twist.
Before arrivées can settle into quarantine accommodations, they must submit to additional COVID-19 screenings at the entry port. Everyone on the passenger manifest must wait in government-run facilities until all the tests come back clear. If even one test returns positive, then everyone on the flight, boat, or train must quarantine in a government facility for two weeks — and let’s just say that Cambodian government facilities aren’t exactly cozy.
Long-term residents from Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Taiwan can start returning this month.
So far, Cambodian officials have reported 275 cases and zero deaths.
COVID-19’s alleged country of origin, China, instituted a draconian lockdown upon discovering the severity of the illness. But it may have worked because millions of maskless Chinese schoolchildren headed back to classrooms this fall.
Currently, however, the country is not totally open for casual tourism.
To gain entry, you must apply for specific foreign-resident and essential-business visas. As of September, direct flights from Canada, Thailand, Cambodia, Pakistan, Greece, Denmark, and Sweden will recommence.
To date, Chinese officials have reported 85,174 cases and 4,634 deaths.
Considering its proximity to mainland China, COVID-19’s point of origin, and its status as an international travel hub, Hong Kong has managed to squash its coronavirus curve.
How’d they do it?
Well, Hong Kong’s cultural mores support contagion containment. For starters, since the 2003 SARS outbreak, Hong Kong residents have taken to wearing masks regularly. Plus, they’re rule-followers who ardently observed social distancing recommendations.
Currently, inbound travelers must provide proof of a negative test plus submit to more checks upon arrival. Furthermore, individuals who’ve been in high-contact countries before entry must have hotel reservations for at least two weeks for quarantining purposes — even those with homes in Hong Kong.
Though the government has loosened some social distancing requirements, masks are mandatory everywhere.
To date, Hong Kong has reported 4,972 cases and about 101 deaths.
India’s contagion rate is up there, but they have one of the lowest mortality rates. Its travel restrictions, however, are complicated.
Certain people — including students, medical professionals, engineers, design specialists, and managers working on projects in India — are welcome back if they obtain the proper visas, test negative, and quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
India also joined an “air bubble” agreement with several other countries, allowing diplomats and other VIPs to travel within the contract of nations.
As of this writing, India has had 2,268,675 confirmed cases and about 45,257 associated deaths.
Indonesia — home of venerated vacation hot-spot Bali — is closed for tourism until at least 2021. Though officials announced plans for a September reopening to “revitalize” its economy, the country remains a “red zone” and decided to keep its borders shuttered until next year to casual foreign travelers.
Since the pandemic’s arrival, 218,382 Indonesians have caught the coronavirus, of which 8,723 have died of complications.
Japan is slowly reopening its borders. (source) Previously, foreigners with Japanese residency weren’t allowed into the country, but officials lifted the ban on September 8.
However, foreign residents must undergo a rigorous quarantine period, and the island nation is still closed to vacationers and most business travelers.
At the time of this writing, COVID-19 has knowingly infected 73,901 people in Japan, of which 1,412 have passed away.
Laos’ coronavirus numbers are only in the double digits! The nation managed to curtail the case count by instituting strict lockdown standards at the beginning of the pandemic. Since March, they’ve shut their borders to everyone except returning nationals and essential shipments. (source)
Currently, domestic travel is wide open, but foreigners probably won’t be invited back before 2021.
As of this writing, Laos has only had 23 cases and no deaths.
Though officials have toyed with partial reopening plans, Malaysia remains closed to foreign travelers. Residents and medical professionals can obtain special entry visas.
Keen to jump-start its all-important tourism economy, the country is hoping to reopen its borders to holiday travelers on October 1, but guests would be required to pass a COVID-19 test at the airport and then quarantine for two weeks on Phuket Island. If they test negative after those 14 days, they’re free to travel throughout the country.
Myanmar’s curve remained relatively flat until September when cases skyrocketed. Nearly all flights are canceled until September 30, plus the country currently observes a curfew. Foreign nationals in the country are urged to find passage on a relief flight out. (source)
As of now, Myanmar has reported 3,015 cases and 24 related passings.
Of the Asian countries, Pakistan is, perhaps, the most accessible at the moment. Road borders flung open in the summer, and international flights with tourists are now operating at 25 percent capacity.
The situation has some people worried. Since easing restrictions back in the Spring, the number of cases has skyrocketed. Yet things remain open.
Currently, the U.S. State Department urges citizens to “reconsider travel to Pakistan due to COVID-19 and terrorism.”
Right now, Pakistani officials are reporting 302,000 cases and 6,383 deaths.
At the moment only spouses or children of Filipino nationals and permanent residents from abroad are allowed to enter the Philippines. They need to submit the COVID test on arrival and undergo a 14-day quarantine.
When the coronavirus hit South Korea’s shores, the Asian country lept into action.
Not only was it one of the first nations to shut its borders in February, but it also implemented one of the best contagion-prevention programs in the world. Although they did shut down partially, officials unfurled an aggressive testing program instead of enforcing acrimonious lockdowns. The approach allowed them to pinpoint and isolate infected parties ASAP.
Currently, South Korea remains closed to non-essential travel, including tourism and most business. Foreign nationals, though, can return home.
As of now, about 22,055 South Koreans have caught the coronavirus, and 355 have succumbed to its deadly grip.
Prasanna Ranatunga, Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism, recently told reporters that he “cannot give an exact date for the reopening of the airport.” Like many Asian countries that rely on tourism dollars to buoy their economies, Sri Lanka hoped to open its borders in September to people from “safe” countries. But an outbreak in a popular sightseeing town triggered a shutdown extension.
To date, 3,234 people in Sri Lanka have caught the coronavirus, and 12 of them have passed away.
Thailand isn’t open to most travelers, but some — like medical tourists and business people from China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong — can secure visas. And yes, “medical tourist” includes “wellness retreats,” also known as resorts. Guests of the country’s king have also been given the green light.
Of those people, some don’t even need to quarantine if they provide proof of a recent negative test.
As of today, Thailand has had 3,475 coronavirus cases and 58 COVID-19 deaths.
Vietnam isn’t opening its borders to tourists anytime soon. However, residents and essential business travelers can apply for special pandemic visas. Like other countries, officials in Vietnam had hoped to welcome back guests in the fall of 2020, but a new wave of cases has curtailed the plans.
Travelers that secure special entry visas must quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. Moreover, people who test positive at airports may not be granted entry.
Vietnam had one of the lowest contagion rates in the world, with 1,054 cases and 35 deaths.
And that’s the low-down on Asian border reopenings. Generally speaking, aside from Pakistan, the continent is pretty locked to international travel except for essential business and medical travel. If you urgently need to get to one of these countries, start with instructions on your country’s embassy page. Good luck!