Many people, myself included, have started to see the light at the end of the tunnel for tourism in Southeast Asia and bookings are starting to increase for late 2021 and 2022.
The prospects of travel in many places are still unclear, shrouded in mystery or subject to almost weekly changes.
Here is our latest guide on travel to Southeast Asia.
Please remember to check the latest information for both your own and destination country and cancellation protections before booking as all details can change very quickly.
Like the majority of vaccines, the Covid-19 vaccines are designed to reduce the effects of the virus if you contract it rather than stopping you getting the infection in the first place.
Some vaccines do also reduce infection rates. There have been some encouraging signs that this may be a benefit of Covid vaccines but there is no conclusive evidence at the moment.
Vaccination programmes in some countries are running very smoothly with significant numbers of the adult population already inoculated (50% of adults in the UK have already had their first dose).
However in most Southeast Asian countries the vaccination programme is still in its early days and it may be late this year or even next year before significant numbers have been inoculated. This will delay the reopening of borders unless there is evidence that the vaccine also reduces transmission rates.
The number of flights available are significantly down on pre-pandemic levels. Many airlines are only taking bookings on a reduced number of routes or reduced flight times. Other airlines have not confirmed their flight plans yet.
This means that travel advisors, companies and independent travellers are working with a reduced number of options for bookings being made now.
There are however a number of excellent flight deals to be found if you are prepared to take the risk on making a booking. A number of companies are looking to stimulate sales and take advantage of the limited options in the marketplace. Booking now may mean paying less than if you wait another few weeks or months.
Qatar Airlines for example has some excellent fares on offer for late 2021 / early 2022 to Southeast Asia and are also offering unlimited changes and refunds right now.
Many travel agents, advisors and holiday companies have seen a recent surge in interest and bookings as vaccination programmes in their countries have taken effect.
The main demand has been for later in 2021 but bookings are being made into 2022 and even 2023 in some cases, much further than most bookings would be taken pre-pandemic.
There are some good deals available and, depending on where you live, package holidays will often provide you with more protection that traveling independently or just booking a flight.
Country By Country
The following is a summary of the current position throughout Southeast Asia. Things are changing quickly so keep an eye on all of our updates for the latest travel news for the region.
A recent increase in Covid-19 cases and the first deaths makes an early relaxation in restrictions unlikely.
The tourist hot spot of Bali has been looking at ways to safely reopen for many months now and is now hoping to reopen by June or July this year once significant numbers of locals have received a Covid vaccine.
However the island may be beaten to reopening by the Riau Islands, which includes the tourist islands of Batam and Bintan, which hopes to open as early as 21st April.
It may be considerably later before many areas of Indonesia re-opens to foreign tourists however.
It has been very quiet in Laos and despite low numbers of Covid-19 cases there are currently no plans to re-open the borders.
Many areas of Malaysia are keen to reopen to foreign tourists but ongoing cases have kept the country closed.
Internal travel restrictions has also caused issues with domestic tourism although these are now easing.
Malaysia and Singapore are in talks to recognise both countries vaccination programmes to allow cross-border travel.
Following the recent coup and ongoing protests in Myanmar, travel to Myanmar is likely to be inadvisable for the forseeable future even if Covid-19 restrictions are removed.
The Covid-19 crisis continues in the Philippines and at the time of writing entry restrictions do not appear any closer to being eased. Last week restrictions were tightened following another surge in Covid cases.
The Covid-19 vaccination programme in Singapore is more advanced than anywhere else in Southeast Asia and cases remain low.
There have been a number of schemes within Singapore to try and allow the resumption of travel into the country and, in some cases, into and out of the country, with countries with low rates of Covid-19 infections.
The schemes have had mixed success and a proposed travel corridor with Hong Kong, due to start in November last year, has still yet to begin due to continued cases in Hong Kong.
Singapore and Malaysia are in talks to recognise both countries vaccination programmes to allow cross-border travel.
Singapore may be one of the earlier places to reopen for tourists although it appears that they will be very selective over who will be allowed, at least for the time being.
There seems to be a new story coming out of Thailand every day, either from government departments, local provinces or travel and tourism organisations.
The country has tried a number of schemes to attract tourists but mandatory quarantine has been a major reason for people not travelling to the country.
Last week the most promising news yet came out of the country as first plans for a four-phase reopening were reported followed by news that quarantine would reduce from April. Phuket has plans to reopen from July without quarantine.
It is still not clear what the roadmap will be for the reopening of borders in Thailand. It does however look increasingly promising that vaccinated travellers will be allowed to visit Thailand from October this year.
Until recently tourism within Vietnam was very much focused on domestic tourism.
There have been increased calls from within the country for measures to be relaxed and for a plan to be put into place to start welcoming foreign arrivals later this year.
Work is believed to be taking place by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism to devise a plan to allow vaccinated tourists into the country later in 2021.
Our Travel Plans
We had been due to visit Vietnam earlier this year which was, of course, cancelled due to the pandemic.
When looking at options for early 2022 we looked at all the latest information, rumours and predictions and decided that Vietnam was still a risk.
Thailand appeared to be a much better bet at the moment. Fingers crossed that in late February 2022 we will be in a quarantine-free Thailand.
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