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News Roundup: September 2021

September 30, 2021

It’s time for another snapshot summary of what’s going on across our destinations.

Each month, we put together a brief, bitesize policy summary detailing the current situation related to border openings, lockdown status, and the general outlook for travel to our destinations. For further reading, we share a few news stories for the curious, some related to the travel industry and some we just think you might find interesting.

But first, here’s a brief summary of Covid stats:

General Outlook

We have seen large decreases in cases from August to September in many of our destinations, including Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia in particular. This has resulted in renewed calls for border openings and expansions of sandbox schemes. The outlier here is Singapore which saw a large rise in cases in September.

The desigantion ‘restricted’ within the table is still subject to a fair bit of variation between our destinations. Continue on to the summaries below to hear more about travel restrictions in each country.

Policy Summary

  • Mexico remains open for travellers. There is no need to quarantine or provide a negative PCR test on arrival, though most resorts will ask travellers to fill out health questionnaires.
  • Travellers returning to the US will need to take a PCR test – and most hotels offer this service on-site. The land border with the US remains closed, and Mexico is on the UK’s red list for travel.
  • Mexican states and their restrictions fall within a four-tier traffic light system. See a colour-coded map here.
  • The popular tourist area, Quintana Roo, is listed as yellow, meaning all work can resume at normal capacity, and public gatherings can take place.

In the News

Mexico Columbus Statue removed

Amid an imminent shake-up of US entry requirements, the US government has extended restrictions on movements across the US/Mexico land border.

The Mexican state of Senora has legalized same-sex marriage, making the practice legal in three-quarters of the country’s regions.

Mexico Merida

Policy Summary

  • There has been no change in entry requirements: borders are open to tourists from all countries.
  • Visitors must fill out a health form before entering and show proof of insurance cover of at least $50,000.
  • As of August 1, fully vaccinated tourists will not need to provide this travel insurance policy. They will need to present proof of vaccination.
  • Cases have been slowly rising in Costa Rica throughout the summer – the country remains on the UK red list, and the US advises against travel to the country.
  • Beaches are open from 5 am to 6 pm. National parks are allowing 50% capacity. Bars are operating at 25% capacity, and hotels at 75%. Concerts, nightclubs, fairs and other large gatherings are banned. There is a nightly curfew from 11 pm to 5 am.

In the News

Costa Rica is seeing an increasing number of visitors from Europe, with August being the busiest month so far this year.

The tourist board of Costa Rica is behind a move to offer a digital nomad visa, enticing remote workers to come and live and work in Costa Rica.

Sea turtles came ashore in Ostional, Costa Rica, in a recent arribada – a mass nesting.

Policy Summary

  • The Dominican Republic is open for tourism without any need for quarantine.
  • Some travellers do not even need to show a negative covid test depending on the country of origin. For example, those from the US do not need to present a negative test, but those from the UK do.
  • At the airport, some passengers are chosen at random to take a covid test.
  • All foreign and Dominican passengers entering or leaving the Dominican Republic on commercial flights must complete the free electronic entry and exit form.
  • There are some limited restrictions in place, including social distancing measures, the encouragement of mask-wearing, and a nighttime curfew from 11 pm to 5 am.

In the News

More than 70% of residents in Puerto Plata are fully vaccinated as the region looks to open further to tourism.

However, the Dominican Republic remains on the Uk’s red travel list. The reasoning behind this is that the country does not carry out genome sequencing.

The country has taken the first steps towards a law that will prohibit alcohol consumption in the streets.

Policy Summary

  • Phuket and Samui Plus sandbox schemes are open, allowing quarantine-free travel to Thailand.
  • Those visiting Bangkok need to undergo 14 days’ quarantine unless visiting Phuket first – travellers can effectively quarantine in Phuket, enjoying the freedom to explore, before going on to Bangkok.
  • Restrictions imposed on ‘high-risk’ areas, including Bangkok, were eased on September 1, allowing restaurants to open for in-person dining, though alcohol cannot be served.
  • A curfew remains in high-risk areas from 9 p.m.-4 a.m.
  • Interprovincial travel has been allowed to resume.

In the News

Thailand lays out plans for reopening – cities postponed while beaches are welcoming.

Numerous international newspapers picked up the story that Thailand is desperate for travellers following the Covid-induced slump.

New ‘pocket parks’ open in Bangkok – an attempt to convert dilapidated urban areas into sustainable green spaces.

Policy Summary

  • Vietnam remains closed to international travellers.
  • Hanoi permits non-essential businesses to reopen.
  • Quang Ninh reopens intra-provincial tourism for vaccinated residents.
  • Many southern areas remain under the strictest social distancing order, “Directive 16”.
  • See below for news related to a possible opening in Phu Quoc in November. Government ministers have confirmed plans, but there is debate around the potential timeline.

In the News

Vietnam plans to reopen to tourists with a sandbox scheme in Phu Quoc to be announced soon.

However, other sources insist that Phu Quoc isn’t ready to welcome tourists in October due to poor vaccination figures.

Vietnam strives to return to ‘new normal’ and shift away from zero covid strategy.

Ho Chi Minh City is likely to lift lockdown from early October.

Vietnam Hoi An woman collecting flowers
Policy Summary
  • Japan will no longer be in a ‘state of emergency’ as of October 1. However, steps similar to quasi-emergency measures will be executed by prefectural governors, who have been given the task of setting restrictions while maintaining certain precautions.
  • On September 22, Japan’s health ministry agreed to loosen entry restrictions for visitors who can show proof of being fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. However, this initial loosening constitutes only a reduction in quarantine – from 14 days to 10 days.
  • Ultimately, we are still a way off from seeing widespread travel to Japan.

Policy Summary

  • Air Travel Pass lane is applicable for short term business travellers from Hong Kong, Macao, China and Taiwan
  • Vaccinated Travel Lane is open for short term leisure travellers from Germany and Brunei
  • All visits must be registered through the Singapore government’s Safe Entry and Trace Together apps or by using a Trace Together token.
  • No alcohol is served after 10:30pm. Masks must be worn in public.
  • Singapore heavily fines those who break quarantine rules.
  • Over the last few months, Singapore has moved away from its ‘zero-covid’ policy to an understanding that it will have to live with covid in some form.
Singapore Chinatown food

Policy Summary

  • Passengers are not allowed to enter Malaysia, though there are strong rumours of Langkawi opening soon for international visitors.
  • Since September 16, Langkawi has been open for fully vaccinated domestic tourists.
  • There is either a 14-day or a 21-day quarantine on arrival in Malaysia for international travellers, depending on the country of origin.
  • There is a National Recovery Plan (NRP), under which different states are in different phases.
  • Mask-wearing in crowded places is obligatory. Schools are closed nationwide. Dine-in is available for those already vaccinated.

In the News

There is the possibility that Malaysia will launch a sandbox scheme for Langkawi.

Alternatively, the Prime Minister recently said that tourism could only resume once 90% of the adult population were vaccinated.

Policy Summary

  • Bali’s reopening is to be discussed at a Coordinating Ministerial Meeting on September 30.
  • Foreign travel is still not permitted into Indonesia, except for those under special Travel Corridor Agreements.
  • There are 4 levels of restrictions across the country. Bali and Jakarta are within level 3, meaning that face-to-face learning at 50% capacity is permitted, dine-in is allowed with limited capacity, and certain selected tourist attractions are piloting openings.

In the News

Plans for a Bali reopening are once again being discussed, possibly opening as early as October.

An Indonesian minister has hinted that, on reopening, Bali will look to move away from its image as a backpacker destination.

Hungry monkeys in Bali have resorted to raiding people’s homes.


Policy Summary

  • There is the possibility of entering Cambodia, but it is a complicated multi-step process. Travellers must have valid medical certificates issued 72hrs before travel, proof of medical insurance worth up to $50,000, be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival and undertake a 14-day quarantine with a re-test on the 14th day. They must also deposit $2,000 on arrival, from which certain costs (tests) will be deducted.
  • However, see below as, in the news, government ministers have told airlines to be ready to bring in international travellers from November.
  • Lockdown status varies across the country, varying in severity depending on the number of cases.

Policy Summary

  • Most visa issuances have been suspended, except for limited business visas.
  • Those who can enter have to go through a 10-day quarantine.
  • State of emergency declared until August 2023.  Martial law has been declared, and schools remain closed. Stay at home orders are in place across many different regions.

In the News

“Almost half” of Yangon’s hotels have closed during the pandemic. 70% of tourism workers have been laid off across the country.

The UN has called for immediate action in Myanmar as the economy is in freefall. A human rights chief has said action needs to be taken to prevent catastrophe.

Lake Inle Myanmar

Policy Summary

  • Vientiane is under strict lockdown until September 30, with restricted travel into and out of the capital. Residents are only permitted to leave their homes for essential trips.
  • Elsewhere, schools and entertainment businesses are closed.
  • People entering Laos must undergo 14 days at a state-level quarantine centre, then 14 days at a district level quarantine centre.
  • There are no plans in sight to allow for widespread foreign tourists into Laos.

In the News

Laos locks down capital as Covid cases hit record high

Agricultural tourism is believed to be key to future Laos prosperity

We have recently highlighted progress on the China-Laos railway. This news story gives more detail on how the project is envisioned as part of a broader “sustainable and green economic corridor” for Laos.

Policy Summary

  • China remains closed to international travel. On September 4, China’s top three airlines told analysts the government’s tight restrictions on international flights could last into the first half of next year.
  • China continues its ‘zero covid’ policy with strict restrictions and local lockdowns going into effect at the first sight of cases. There were lockdowns in Xiamen and Putian in September after cases only in the single digits.
  • Life is largely back to normal in China. Citizens still need to use their tracing apps to show they have ‘green’ status to use pubic transport, but most things are open. Things can change quickly.

In the News

US to lift travel restrictions for visitors from the UK, EU, and China.

Chinese travel guides turn to live-streaming

China readies itself for 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing amid international pressure

An enormous ornamental flower basket has been completed in Tian’anmen Square, ready for the national week in October.

xi'an city wall

Policy Summary

  • In the first major easing of border restrictions, some visitors from mainland China have been allowed entry without quarantine from September 15.
  • However, no date is proposed for when widespread travel to Hong Kong may resume.
  • Current social distancing rules are extended for 14 more days until September 29.
  • A full rundown of what you can and can’t do in Hong Kong currently can be found here.

In the News

Hong Kong eases some of the world’s strictest travel restrictions.

Some Hong Kong ex-pats are “up in arms” over lack of a reopening plan, drawing comparisons with Singapore.

Criticism over Hong Kong housing as apartments the size of “two king-size beds” being built

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