A country-by-country guide to visiting Asia: Only the Maldives will welcome you with open arms
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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.
Asia has been at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic, both for early infection rates as well as stamping out outbreaks in a number of countries. But as with many regions, the rules and regulations for visiting foreigners vary — sometimes on a daily basis.
If you want to find out where U.S. travelers can go right now, follow this link for our complete guide to which countries are allowing visitors from the U.S.
Bahrain — Open, with restrictions
Due to COVID-19 precautions, foreign travelers cannot enter Bahrain without holding a valid e-visa prior to boarding. Visas are no longer issued upon arrival.
Otherwise, entry to the kingdom is restricted to Bahraini citizens and residents, GCC citizens who do not require visas, diplomats, military personnel, airline crew or holders of official, service, or UN passports.
All entering travelers must undergo Bahrain’s enhanced COVID-19 testing procedures upon arrival, at their own expense and must self-quarantine for 10 days from the date of arrival. Furthermore, tourism is suspended until further notice. All individuals must wear face masks in public venues, while gatherings of more than five people in any public space are prohibited, including for religious gatherings. Private beaches are open with mandatory health precautions, while all religious places are closed for practicing until further notice.
All food and beverage outlets are available for takeout and delivery service, although most dine-in options are closed. Some restaurants have been allowed to set up private dining for groups of 10-20 people with advance reservations. Finally, all grocery stores and commercial outlets are open.
Bangladesh — open, with restrictions
U.S. citizens are currently allowed to enter Bangladesh, but must produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test, taken no later than 72 hours before departure. Children under age 10 are exempt from the requirement. Travelers must also submit to temperature checks and other government requirements as needed.
Furthermore, the country is still under medical curfew restrictions through Aug. 31. From 10 p.m. to 05 a.m. each day, nobody is allowed outside except for a medical emergency, to buy medical supplies, to go to work or to bury or cremate the dead.
Bhutan — Closed for tourism until further notice
Although the nation of Bhutan has done a great job of keeping the coronavirus pandemic at bay, tourism has suffered alongside of the shutdown. The country, which is known for protecting its nation’s resources even during non-pandemic times, shut down its tourism program indefinitely as of March 6, 2020.
Brunei — Closed to foreigners Until further notice
Brunei is still observing strict coronavirus measures, with a total no-outsiders policy (including for transit passengers) in place since March 24, 2020. Travelers who can enter Brunei must undergo a COVID-19 test upon arrival, followed by a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Temperature checks and health declarations will also be collected from travelers upon arrival in the country.
Cambodia — Open, with restrictions
Cambodia is beginning to open back up to visitors. On May 20, it was reported that Cambodia would reopen its borders to tourists from six countries including the United States. People from America, France, Iran, Italy, Germany and Spain are allowed to enter Cambodia. There are still severe restrictions. All visitors will need a test proving they are COVID-19 free within three days of their arrival in Cambodia. They will also need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Tourists will also need to prove they have $50,000 worth of health insurance coverage.
It will still be difficult for visitors to try to enter. Cambodia has suspended e-visa and visa-on-arrival programs until further notice, and has also suspended tourist-related services as of June 10.
The Health Ministry said arriving tourists would be taken to a government center for quarantine and testing, but details remain sketchy. In a statement, Health Minister Mam Bunheng said, “All passengers, both Cambodian and foreign, who are traveling to Cambodia, are admitted to waiting centers for the COVID-19 tests and that they are waiting for results from the Pasteur laboratory.”
Tourists from the U.S., Italy, Germany, Spain and France had been forbidden within the country’s borders beginning March 14.
As of Aug. 19, 2020, Cambodia has only had 272 confirmed cases of COVID.
China — Closed for tourism until further notice
The coronavirus pandemic originated in China late in 2019. However, the Chinese government says it has passed the peak of the outbreak.
China suspended entry for nearly all foreigners, and slashed the volume of international passenger flights to and from the country in March and strict anti-travel measures remain in place.
People who are proven healthy can generally move around within their own cities now, but they are being closely tracked via their cellphones, and temperature checks in public are common.
China is allowing South Koreans to travel to some Chinese cities on business, but strict measures are in place to make sure outbreaks don’t spread. The Wall Street Journal reports China has reportedly discussed reopening travel with some 14 countries. The plans might involve creating so-called “green lanes” that would fast-track some business travelers. China has already established one with Singapore.
Tourists from outside the country are still not welcome, and there is no timeline on when that might change.
Hong Kong — open, with restrictions
Right now, a very select number of foreigners are allowed to enter Hong Kong. All non-Hong Kong residents arriving by plane from any location other than mainland China, Macau and Taiwan will be denied entry, including into the airport facilities, until further notice. Entering travelers must also bring proof of clean health in the form of a negative COVID-19 test, and be willing to be subject to the requirements of local government officials as needed.
As of July 13, Hong Kong re-closed parts of the city again after a small resurgence in cases, including popular attraction Hong Kong Disney.
India — Closed for Tourism until further notice
India announced back in March that it was no longer allowing foreigners into the country. A suspension of international flights has been lifted, but only for humanitarian or essential travel.
According to the local U.S. embassy, commercial air travel is picking up slowly within the country. Several airlines have been offering flights to European cities that have connecting flights to the U.S.
India had begun to ease its internal lockdown, as it entered phase 2 of lockdown on July 1. But there’s no word yet on when foreigners might be welcome again.
There has been at least 23,000 deaths from COVID-19, but the real death toll is thought to be higher.
Indonesia — closed for tourism until further notice
The death toll in the world’s fourth-most-populous nation is over 3,650. To manage this crisis, the government has taken uncustomary measures like canceling this year’s hajj pilgrimage.
Meanwhile, Bali is opening tourism in three phases, with the final phase allowing international tourists. This date for full reopening is set for Sept. 11, 2020, although the Ministry of Tourism has yet to approve foreigner visits onto Indonesian soil.
The government has allowed airlines to resume domestic flights with certain restrictions. International travel is still banned with few exceptions. Specifically, there are talks of reopening Bali to tourists by October, but that is still subject to change.
Japan — closed for U.S. Tourism until further notice
Prime Minister Abe has lifted the state of emergency for all of Japan and is undergoing a reopening of its economy, but is still holding onto its entry ban for more than 100 countries, including the United States.
The government has also announced that foreign travelers are required to submit a PCR test taken before their departure and upon their arrival in Japan and will also need to submit a detailed itinerary that includes accommodations and places they intend to visit. Visitors are asked to refrain from using public transportation as well.
Japan was supposed to host the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in July, which has now been pushed back to summer of 2021, and may even be further delayed.
Kazakhstan — Closed for tourism until further notice
Kazakhstan has had more than 49,000 COVID-19 cases and 264 deaths. The president’s spokesman was hospitalized with the disease.
The landlocked central Asian nation began emerging from a two-month lockdown back in May, but social distancing rules and closed borders remain in effect. International flights from Azerbaijan, China and South Korea are expected to resume soon, and other countries may follow later including from Czech Republic, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates.
U.S. citizens are strongly discouraged from entering the country, and can no longer do so without a visa through November 2020.
Kyrgyzstan — Closed for tourism until further notice
Kyrgyzstan reopened some of its businesses in early May and allowed the national curfew to be lifted. Malls and markets were able to open their doors May 25, along with public transportation. Domestic travel is still barred. No international flights are allowed in or out of Kyrgyzstan, and as of now, all foreigners are denied entry into the country.
Laos — Closed for Tourism until further notice
All tourist visas into Laos have been suspended until further notice, and any foreigners who are allowed to enter the country must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Macau — Open, with restrictions
Macau is one of just two countries in the world that the U.S. State Department has designated at a “Level 1: Exercise normal precautions” travel advisory. (The other is Taiwan.)
Coronavirus is under control in the former Portuguese colony, but travel is still limited due to active cases in its neighboring regions. The government is in active discussions to ease travel restrictions, however, with plans to relax them between Zhuhai, China and Hong Kong.
For now, limited flights are operating into the country. But non-Macau residents who have been overseas within the past 14 days are denied entry. All incoming travelers must present a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival, and visitors coming in from Hong Kong must produce negative COVID-19 test results dated within the past 24 hours. Successful entrants should expect additional health screening procedures along the way.
Malaysia — Closed for U.S. tourism until further notice
Malaysia banned tourists in the middle of March along with a nationwide shutdown. Most businesses were allowed to reopen in early May. Malaysia is still advising tourists to avoid coming. In fact, current travel restrictions on all foreign nationals – with very limited exceptions – have been extended to at least August 31. Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has eased some restrictions on internal travel.
Malaysian health director-general, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, said that reopening the borders is the last thing the country will do as it slowly eases restrictions.
One of our readers – Brodi – said, “All foreigners (except spouses of Malaysians) are still barred from entering the country, even if they hold a residency visa. Only Malaysians are allowed to enter, and are subject to the 14-day quarantine in a government facility (typically a local hotel) at the travelers’ expense.”
For now, travelers who do make it into the country must undergo COVID testing upon arrival and enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine in a government-mandated facility at their own personal expense.
Maldives — Open
Mongolia — Closed for tourism until further notice
Mongolia is closed for international travelers until further notice, and all inbound travel is on hold, although rare exceptions may be made for relatives of Mongolian citizens. Anyone who does enter the country must undergo health screenings and a mandatory quarantine of up to 21 days.
Nepal — Closed for tourism until further notice
Nepal almost opened for business in mid-August, but had its lockdown extended at the last minute through Aug. 31. No foreigners are allowed at this time, and businesses are still operating on a strict essential requirements basis only.
Pakistan — Open, with restrictions
Travelers entering the country must undergo heightened health screenings upon landing, and fill out a health certification form upon arrival. Asymptomatic travelers will enter a monitoring database, while symptomatic passengers will be asked to quarantine at a government facility.
The Philippines — Closed for tourism until further notice
Philippines President Duterte has lifted a lockdown on Manila and other high-risk areas as of June 1. But by mid-June, the President put central Cebu city back on lockdown with the surge of new cases.
A ban on international travelers went into effect on March 22, and it’s unclear when this restriction will be lifted. There are more than 47,000 confirmed cases, with a majority of them in Manila.
The Bureau of Immigration stated on May 11 that no foreigners were allowed into the country. Spokeswoman Dana Sandoval said, “Only Filipinos, their foreign spouse and children, accredited foreign government and international organization officials, and foreign airline crew shall remain eligible to enter the Philippines.” As of Aug. 19, no foreigners are allowed into the country without a valid visa, regardless of their relationship to a Filipino citizen.
Like other countries in this section, Philippines is considering a “travel bubble” with Australia and other regions that are “infection-free.”
Singapore — Closed for tourism until further notice
Singapore was an early leader in the fight against coronavirus — implementing screening of foreign visitors and some of the first quarantines. Contact tracing kept numbers and deaths low. It was also one of the first countries to ease its lockdown after that widespread testing and tracing led to a decline in cases. But a resurgence in cases has now forced it to reimpose severe restrictions. The country entered phase 2 of reopening on June 19, meaning that most businesses have reopened with social distancing measures in place.
While Singapore’s borders are still closed to tourists from the U.S. and certain other countries, the country is beginning to relax transit restrictions at the Changi Airport. It is also testing a “fast lane” for business travelers from certain Chinese provinces and municipalities, removing the need for a mandatory 14-day quarantine for them. It is planning to create travel bubbles with other countries as well.
South Korea — Open, with restrictions
While South Korea has been praised by other countries and media outlets for its success in its early fight against the coronavirus, a late resurgence of cases is seeking to thwart those efforts.
South Korea temporarily suspended its visa-free entry and visa waiver programs for most countries (U.S. and the U.K. nationals are still permitted to enter visa-free) back in April, with the suspensions sill in place. While the country is technically open to foreigners on short-term visits, most — with limited exceptions — are subject to on-site COVID screening as well as a 14-day mandatory quarantine at a government-designated facility at their own expense. The local U.S. embassy notes that this will cost approximately $100 USD per night, and passengers will be required to sign a release form agreeing to these conditions before departing.
Sri Lanka — Closed for tourism until further notice
Sri Lanka has begun to ease coronavirus restrictions, such as shortening curfew hours and allowing travel between cities except for Colombo and Gamapaha, since lockdown began.
Limited tourism was set to begin again on Aug. 1, but has yet to reopen. Under the proposed reopening plan, groups of travelers from selected countries will have to have a valid COVID-19 test done in one of Sri Lanka’s two international airports – Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) or Mattala International Airport (HRI) — and will have to stay in approved hotels that have met the safety and sanitation requirements. Popular tourist locations will be open with regular temperature checks. Individual travelers will still not be welcomed.
Taiwan — Closed for tourism until further notice
This island nation has had one of the world’s most successful responses to the coronavirus outbreaks. However, one aspect of successful containment involves greatly limiting the number of incoming travelers from other countries. To that end, Taiwan has banned international travelers as of March 19, including all transit passengers passing through the nation en route to other destinations.
Taiwan is planning to relax entry restrictions for certain nationals and will announce regulations regarding quarantine requirements. It is also looking at allowing transit passengers at Taoyuan International Airport.
Tajikistan — Closed for tourism until further notice
Tajikistan is somewhat open, but only nominally. The airport is still limiting most commercial flights. Many U.S. travelers will find it extremely difficult to get in and out of the country, and must also undergo COVID testing and a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
Thailand — Closed for tourism until further notice
As of now, Thailand remains closed to most tourists until further notice, despite many hints that borders might reopen. All current travelers who enter the country must produce a certificate of entry from the Kingdom, as well as undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine.
Timor-Leste — Closed for tourism until further notice
Timor-Leste is still under a state of emergency to limit COVID-19 spread. The current mandate expires Sept. 4 and may well be extended. Any travelers who do manage to enter the country must undergo a 14-day quarantine with no exceptions.
Turkey — open, with restrictions
Turkey is open for business as of early June for travelers from a number of countries, including the U.S. However, travelers should note a couple of precautions unrelated to COVID-19:
- The U.S. State Department’s travel advisory guide lists Turkey at Level 3: Reconsider Travel, due to concerns over terrorism and arbitrary detention. Travelers are strongly advised to avoid the areas bordering Iraq and Syria due to terrorist activity.
- U.S. travelers will still need to apply for a visa before entering Turkey. You can do so via e-visa application, which takes about three minutes.
- Additional cautions for Turkey travelers include:
- Stay alert in locations frequented by Westerners.
- Avoid demonstrations and crowds.
- Stay at hotels with identifiable security measures.
- Monitor local media and adjust your plans based on new information.
We should also note that Turkey has reported more than 200,000 coronavirus cases with Istanbul especially hard-hit.
All travelers must wear masks in the airport and on board flights inbound for Turkey, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Travelers who show signs of COVID-19 including but not limited to fever, runny nose, cough or respiratory distress will not be allowed to board flights or enter the country. Upon arrival, travelers will be asked to fill out a passenger information form and undergo medical screenings for infection, and anyone showing symptoms upon arrival will be tested for coronavirus. Anyone who tests positive will be referred to a Turkish hospital for quarantine and treatment.
However, the Turkish embassy’s website states that tourist travelers do not need to provide specific health documentation to enter or exit Turkey unless they are arriving for medical treatment.
Anyone over the age of 65 must observe curfew from 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. every night.
Masks are mandatory in all public areas in a number of provinces, and required in crowded public areas such as shopping malls or supermarkets. To be safe, bring at least one per traveler, and be prepared to wear it at all times.
Turkmenistan — Closed for tourism until further notice
Turkmenistan closed its borders when the first cases of coronavirus were reported globally. However, the country itself has not officially reported any cases of the virus to the World Health Organization, claiming it has not infiltrated the borders. However, hospital employees from Turkmenistan insist there is a COVID-19 outbreak.
On June 10, Turkmenistan and Iran reopened their borders to each other for road and rail travel. The opening was delayed from June 1 due to new sanitation practices. There is no plans at the moment for tourism to restart.
Uzbekistan — Closed to U.S. tourism until further notice
In mid-June, the Uzbekistan government announced a nationwide project to guarantee safe travel by implementing safety measures at tourist sites. Uzbekistan is so committed to this program that the government promises to compensate tourists $3,000 if they catch COVID-19.
As of Aug. 15, full-scale international travel has resumed for countries that are in the “green” and in the “yellow” in terms of COVID-19 containment efforts:
“Green” countries are China, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia and Japan. Citizens who have stayed at least 10 days in this territory and arrived in Uzbekistan will not be quarantined.
“Yellow” countries are Azerbaijan and all EU countries except Great Britain and Spain. Citizens arriving from these countries will undergo a 14-day quarantine at home.
All other countries not mentioned above, including the United States, fall under the “red” category, and visitors from these regions will be denied entry into Uzbekistan.
The country is opening regionally based on the containment of COVID-19. In areas with less infection, businesses and sports arenas have resumed working. Domestic tourism has resumed and air and train travel is permitted domestically from the capital to major cities and provinces.
Vietnam — Closed for tourism until further notice
Vietnam is in the process of slowly reopening. Back in early June, Vietnam announced that foreigners from these 80 countries (including the United States) could start to visit on e-visas starting July 1. However, it’s now mid-August, and there are more than 5.5 million COVID cases in the U.S., and Vietnam has yet to lift its international travel ban. Foreigners were originally banned as of March 22, and it is uncertain when the Vietnamese government will revisit this travel advisory.
Some tourist attractions have reopened, and there is some good news to report. Domestic tourism within Vietnam is now open again, and Vietnam is in talks with several other countries to created so-called “travel bubbles” allowing citizens of trusted neighbors to visit. In addition, the government is planning to resume international commercial flights to certain regions. Vietnam has had about 332 cases and zero deaths from coronavirus.
Featured photo by Patrick Foto.
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