Travelling may once have been a luxury for some but for the past few months it has been nigh on impossible.
The world has been on lockdown.
In the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against non-essential international travel, and then the UK Government implemented a 14 day quarantine for anyone returning from abroad.
There was muted joy for many in the UK though when travel was put back on the options list when it was announced that from 10th July dozens of countries would have a travel corridor exemption meaning you would not need to self-isolate on your return. However following further outbreaks a number of countries have been removed from the list of countries with exemptions.
But what does this actually mean?
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The FCO has announced that their advice against all but essential travel has been lifted for a number of countries including Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Although in theory you could now travel to these countries in practice they all have restricted entry to foreign nationals. There is still an advisory against travel to Indonesia, Myanmar (Burma) and the Philippines.
The government has also announced a number of countries which are also exempt from the requirement to self-isolate on return. To complicate matters there is separate requirements for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Currently those exempt from self-isolation are Brunei (apart from Scotland), Malaysia (apart from Scotland), Thailand and Vietnam. Countries where self isolation are still required are Brunei (Scotland only), Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia (Scotland only) Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines and Singapore.
If you are not travelling directly from your destination country and make a “transit stop” to change planes then you are likely to need to self isolate if that country is not also on the exemption list.
Country by Country
We have compiled the latest COVID-19 statistics for South East Asian countries on our COVID statistics page.
We have also compiled individual pages on how countries in South East Asia have dealt with the pandemic, links in the country by country guide below.
Vietnam currently is exempt from FCO advice not to travel and is also listed as being exempt from self-isolation requirements for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Life returned to normal, in many ways, in Vietnam which locked down very early. As a country that has suffered from pandemics in the past they have a very good system in place to identify and react to threats. They initially reported no Covid-19 deaths and the case of a British pilot who was on life support in hospital for 65 days has been celebrated as he prepares to work back to the UK.
Unfortunately after almost 100 days of no new cases Vietnam reported community transmission in Da Nang on 25th July. Cases linked to this transmission, in an area popular with Vietnamese tourists, were later reported in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The Vietnamese authorities evacuated more than 80,000 travellers from the area as it entered a partial lockdown and travel to and from the area is now restricted.
By the 12th August Vietnam had recorded 866 confirmed cases and 17 deaths from COVID-19.
Vietnam has not yet opened its borders to foreign travellers. So for the time being you cannot travel into Vietnam.
Cambodia has been added to the FCO exception list advising against all but essential travel. You would however need to self-isolate on return as it does not appear on any of the home nations exemption list.
In theory the air border is open but you have to:
- Get a visa before arrival, you cannot get a visa on entry at the present time
- Have a medical certificate from a “competent” health authority stating you do not have Covid-19 dated no longer than 72 hours prior to arrival.
- Have proof of insurance including a minimum of US$50,000 medical cover
- Deposit US$3,000 for Covid-19 service charges which includes a Covid test plus overnight stay at a hotel while waiting for results. If you test negative and have no further issues then you will get any remaining money refunded when you leave.
Land and Mekong River borders with Laos, Thailand and Vietnam are all still closed.
If you do enter into Cambodia then there are no current travel restrictions internally. Many, but not all, hotels are open although you are likely to need to take a temperature check on arrival. Shops, restaurants, bars and beaches have re-opened.
Cambodia has reported 268 total cases of Covid-19 with 220 so far recovered and no reported deaths.
Laos has been added to the FCO exemption list advising against all but essential travel. You would however need to self-isolate on return as it does not appear on any of the home nations exemption list.
Visa on arrival has been suspended and visas are only being granted to people travelling from countries that do not have a current COVID-19 outbreak. The Thai – Laos border is currently closed.
Internal travel has largely returned to normal, face masks are required and temperature checks may be requested in some locations. Many hotels and most businesses have now re-opened as long as preventative measures are in place.
Laos has reported 20 total cases of Covid-19 with 19 so far recovered and no reported deaths
Thailand is now exempt from the FCO advice against all but essential travel advice but there is still the requirement to self-isolate on return with all four home countries.
At the present time very few foreign nationals are being allowed into Thailand which does not include tourists. If you do manage to enter you will be required to quarantine for 14 days in a State Quarantine or Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) facility.
A Deputy Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand was reported as saying that he did not expect foreign tourism to restart until 2021.
A few days later however on 10th August the Deputy Director General of the Department of Tourism and Sports, said that the Ministry of Tourism and Sports will propose the opening of five Thai islands to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). The five islands, Koh Phangan, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Phuket were to be proposed as they could be easily monitored and quarantined to ensure the safety of locals and tourists. We wait to see further developments.
For people already in Thailand, visas have been extended until 26th September. Domestic travel has started but with many restrictions and limitations. Some hotels have re-opened, although will require a temperature check and travel and medical declaration. Many other businesses have re-opened where distancing can take place although restrictions do vary between provinces.
Thailand has reported 3,356 total cases of Covid-19 with more than 3,100 recovered and 58 reported deaths.
Singapore is now exempt from the FCO advice against all but essential travel advice but there is still the requirement to self-isolate on return.
However Singapore is still closed to foreign nationals without specific permission.
Singapore is currently in its Phase 2 of its response with fines or even imprisonment being imposed on those who disobey the rules. Face masks must be worn when outside of your residence. Most businesses have re-opened with measures in place and the requirement to record visits using a phone app or by signing in at the entrance.
Singapore has reported 55,395 cases of Covid-19, 50,128 recovered and 27 deaths.
FCO still advises against all but essential travel to Indonesia.
Indonesia are slowly removing restrictions although there continue to be localised hotspots throughout the country. The country reported 1,942 new cases and 79 deaths for 11th August.
Domestic and international flights are operating with restrictions and pre-travel requirements.
Face masks and social distancing are compulsory and punishable if rules are not followed. Most businesses have re-opened with social distancing measures in place.
Indonesia has reported 130,718 cases of Covid-19, just under 86,000 recovered and 5,903 deaths
FCO still advises against all but essential travel to the Philippines.
Only people with specific Visas are being allowed to enter the Philippines and must have a booking at a quarantine facility and undertake COVID-19 testing.
The Philippines has suffered a surge in infections in parts of the country and orders are in place to contain the spread. The latest daily figures show 4,444 new cases and 93 new deaths. Local lockdowns are in force in some areas and internal travel can be restricted, conditions vary throughout the country.
The Philippines has reported 143,749 cases of Covid-19 and 2,404 deaths
Malaysia is now exempt from the FCO advice against all but essential travel advice. It was added to list of countries exempt from self-isolation in England from 11th August and is also exempt in Wales and Northern Ireland but there is still the requirement to self-isolate on return in Scotland.
Malaysia currently prohibits entry into the country to foreign nationals apart from those in specific categories. If you do get permission to enter the country you will be required to quarantine for 14 days at a designated Government facility and download the MySejahtera app.
You are allowed to enter if you have a connecting flight through Kuala Lumpur Airport, remain airside and do not need to transit between terminals.
Many areas of Malaysia have reopened although with restrictions in place including temperature checks. Face masks are required at all times.
Malaysia has reported 9,114 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 8,817 recovered and 125 deaths.
Don and Vic are two Australians travelling throughout South East Asia who found themselves stranded in Malaysia as lockdown started. More than 100 days later they are still there. Read their story in Don and Viks’ COVID Adventure.
Brunei is now exempt from the FCO advice against all but essential travel advice. It was added to list of countries exempt from self-isolation in England from 11th August and is also exempt in Wales and Northern Ireland but there is still the requirement to self-isolate on return in Scotland.
Entry to Brunei is severely restricted and is unclear who, if any, foreign nationals would be allowed into the country.
Many businesses are still closed and restaurants and cafes are only open for takeaways.
Brunei has reported 141 cases of Covid-19, 138 recovered and 2 deaths
The FCO advises against all but essential travel to Myanmar.
International travel is banned and some regions require quarantine for internal travellers. There have been reports of police making checks on travellers already in the country to ensure that they are following all requirements. Face masks are compulsory.
Myanmar has reported 360 cases of Covid-19, 313 recovered and 6 deaths
It is even more essential to have good travel insurance now than it was before the pandemic. However your options for cover are limited if you want coronavirus to be included.
It is important to check exactly what is covered and what isn’t as they may vary greatly between different insurers. Remember you must not travel against Government advice otherwise your insurance will be invalid.
If you have any coronavirus symptoms you must not attempt to travel.
What Do You Think?
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