If you were dreaming of a trip to Southeast Asia, this could be the summer when it finally happens. Most countries in the sub-region – all blessed with mild weather and dreamy coastlines – have eased their Covid entry rules in recent months.
Thailand recently announced it was dropping pre-departure testing for vaccinated visitors; while Vietnam took the unusual step of getting rid of passenger distinctions.
So whether you’re relaxing on a Thai beach, snorkeling in the Philippines, or getting up close and personal with the beautiful wildlife of Borneo at the top of the list, these are the rules you should always know.
And for those still looking for inspiration (perhaps bereft of friends’ well-documented trips to this part of the world since the pandemic began), we’ve included some of the more famous experiences on offer to refresh your memory.
Famous for: Angkor Wat, the “city of temples” in northern Cambodia, is one of the great cultural wonders of the world. Although it has been in use almost continuously since the 12th century, the most striking sights are of the huge trees – strangler figs and banyan trees – that have overgrown the monumental buildings.
Best time of year to go: November to April to ensure clear blue skies.
travel restrictions: European visitors need a visa to enter Cambodia – which can be obtained before arrival here. The country’s visa-on-arrival program has now been reinstated.
Fully vaccinated travelers need only show proof of vaccination. An NHS Covid pass is accepted by UK tourists, but you must have it printed. Unvaccinated tourists must be quarantined for seven days (instead of 14). If you are traveling to Cambodia, the health authorities will supervise a PCR test on the seventh day which (if negative) will release you from isolation. Those arriving by land will also be tested before entering quarantine.
Famous for: Bali’s beaches are a dream come true, but with over 17,000 islands, there are plenty more secluded spots if you still want to avoid the crowds. The jungle town of Ubud, however, must be explored at least once in a lifetime.
In Borneo (the larger part of Indonesia is called Kalimantan), you can pass swinging orangutans.
Best time of year to go: The May-June and September off-seasons are calmer than July-August, and still benefit from magnificent, dry weather.
Travel Restrictions: The rules for entering Indonesia remain quite strict and vary depending on the type of tourist visa you apply for. A breakdown of visa types can be found on the Indonesian Immigration Website.
Fully vaccinated travelers from the UK and EU collecting their visa on arrival must present a certificate with proof of a negative PCR taken within 48 hours of departure. You no longer need to take another PCR test on arrival – unless you have Covid symptoms or a temperature check raises concerns.
Travelers must also complete the Electronic Health Alert Card (e-Hac) form, via the Peduli Lingungi App. And show proof of health insurance that covers the cost of your infection with the virus.
Famous for: Its beautiful beaches. The Visayan Islands in particular have all sorts of sand formations and plenty of diving opportunities.
Best time of year to go: The dry season between November and April. The narrower window from December to February is recommended for exploring more remote areas in a cooler climate.
Travel Restrictions: Double-bite visitors are welcome in the Philippines provided they have proof, and may present a negative Covid test upon arrival. This must be a PCR test carried out 48 hours before departure or an antigen test at least 24 hours before the first leg of your trip.
When registering, you must also fill in the ‘A Health Pass’ form that will generate a QR code to indicate the airline.
All arrivals, regardless of vaccination status, must have travel insurance of at least $35,000 to cover all potential Covid costs.
Children under 12 are exempt from the rules if traveling with a fully vaccinated parent or guardian.
Famous for: Being stuck in the hustle and bustle of its streets and its striking architecture. He has a incredible mix of nature and life at height. Even Changi Airport itself is a treat, with a beautiful butterfly garden to start or end your vacation in style.
Best time of year to go: June-July is high season, but it’s an amazing destination all year round. No matter the weather at one of Singapore’s many amazing restaurants.
Travel Restrictions: Singapore recently eased its Covid restrictions; since April 26, fully vaccinated travelers no longer need to take a test before departure. This also applies to all children 12 and under.
Unvaccinated holidaymakers are still not welcome in the country, according to UK overseas travel advice. But if you are allowed to enter for other reasons, the need for a pre-departure test within 48 hours remains. You will also need to quarantine for seven days upon arrival and take a PCR test to be released.
Famous for: Tropical beaches, golden temples, delicious cuisine and colorful parties.
Best time of year to go: November to March is the peak time to go, with the shoulder season of April to June and September to October also attracting travelers with its warm climate and calmer coasts.
Travel Restrictions: Thailand drops all Covid entry test requirements from May 1. Fully vaccinated tourists will no longer need to take a PCR test before departure or after arrival under the relaxed measures.
If you are considering Thailand for a summer vacation, note that you will still need to sign up for a Thailand pass, where you must upload proof of vaccination and a health insurance policy of at least $10,000. This amount was recently halved from $20,000 in a bid to boost tourism – as the Ministry of Tourism seeks to offset the prolonged impact of the pandemic and expected drop in the number of Russian visitors this year.
Pre-departure testing is also waived for unvaccinated travelers from May. But they will have to quarantine for five days upon arrival and undergo a PCR test on the fifth day in the country. A five-day hotel reservation must be detailed on the Thailand Pass form.
However, the need to quarantine can be circumvented by uploading proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of travel to Thailand.
Famous for: The hills and terraced fields of Sapa, to the limestone islands of Halong Bay. And from top to bottom, the bustling cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, passing through the charming lantern town of Hội An.
Best time of year to go: May to August, according to an expert from Audley Travel. However, November to April are the driest months.
Travel Restrictions: The rules for entering Vietnam are now the same for all travelers, regardless of their Covid status. It’s worth checking with your airline, as some carriers may have different rules.
All visitors must take a Covid test within 72 hours before departure for PCR tests, or 24 hours for rapid antigen tests. Holders of negative tests are no longer required to self-quarantine, so you can continue to enjoy Vietnam’s many splendors.