a row of gold statues in a temple

Few things in life rival the excitement of a first trip to Asia. And yes, it’s an incredibly large and diverse place, but anywhere you end up, it’s unlikely to be anything less than wowing. It’s precisely why travellers around the world are wondering: so, when can we visit Asia again?

Government Travel Advice: even if a country does choose to open up, key elements of travel, such as insurance are defined by your local government travel advice. For countries stating essential travel only, it’s important to consider risks before booking.

Countries Making It Clear

Hong Kong has announced the extension of mandatory 14 day quarantine for all travellers through the end of the year 2020, effectively killing off any hopes of a return to tourism related travel as we know it. At least, for this year.

Many countries appear to be following suit, with only a few glimmers of hope to see anything in Asia which isn’t the Maldives, in 2020. And yes, the lovely Maldives atolls are currently open to virtually any visitor.

a row of gold statues in a temple


Thailand is yet another country unlikely to open up as widely as once thought. The country has extended emergency orders for a further month, through August 31st, and intends to only allow regional travel initially, with partners including Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

International visitors to Thailand were initially expected to be allowed re-entry via travel corridors in September, but the dates remain to be seen. Foreign visitors from outside of Asia will initially be limited to film crews and medical tourists, according to Bloomberg.

Whenever it does open for broader international tourism, Thailand has promised subsidies which will discount hotels prices and other tourism related offers for visitors.


Japan is focused on domestic tourism, with a controversial campaign to subsidize domestic trips within Japan. The promotion, which kicked off this previous week has already been forced to change tact, after a rise in Tokyo covid-19 cases saw the city excluded from the promotion.

As for tourism outside of Japan, the country is appealing to local partners in Asia and Pacific first, with no clear signs as to when US, Canadian or European visitors will once again be allowed entry.

As a key trading partner to both the United States of America and China, Japanese authorities are acutely aware of issues which could stem from opening to one, but not the other. Accordingly, initial talks involve corridors with Australia, New Zealand and Thailand.


Malaysia has soften its stance on only allowing travel from covid-19 “free” areas, in favor of creating a stoplight system similar to those found in other countries, where a list of “green” countries with the lowest rates of infection may once again be allowed to travel.

Unfortunately for those in the Western world, regional countries including Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, China, Australia, New Zealand and Cambodia are first up as green country candidates.

The country has offered no further guidance as to when western visitors may once again enter, but if bilateral agreements are being made with other APAC countries, it’s safe to say it’ll be a while. Of course, a traffic light can change in the blink of an eye, so there’s always hope.

a building on a lake

Bali, Indonesia Shows Potential

Indonesia has been particularly vocal regarding a possible return to international tourism, but much remains to be seen.

The Governor of Bali suggested that pending successful domestic tourism from July 31st, 2020, international visitors could once again be welcomed beginning September 11th, 2020. The move would be subject to broader Indonesian travel decisions, but as far as ‘hope’ goes for a 2020 trip, Bali is a top contender.

In response to covid-19, Indonesia has actively sought to promote its numerous destinations which offer equally if not more stunning locations than Bali, but with fewer tourists and resorts, offer more in terms of natural social distancing.

Cambodia For $3,000?

If you can manage international flights and hotel and still have $3,000 to fork over on arrival as a deposit, in addition to at least $50,000 of medical coverage, Cambodia isn’t entirely out of the question.

The country is technically open to visitors, but only those who can bring a negative covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival, and comply with putting down a $3,000 deposit on arrival, of which circa $2840 will be returned, if a test on arrival also comes out negative.

Oh, and the latest advice still sounds like you’ll need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival even if you test negative. Furthermore, if anyone on your inbound flight tests positive, you’ll be forced into supervised quarantine If that hasn’t put you off, have at it.

Singapore, Korea, Taiwan Singing Similar Tunes

According to the Straits Times, Singapore recorded less than 1,000 total visitors in each of the last few months, and doesn’t plan to change current tourism protocols for in any wide way for “some time”. Basically, it’ll be unlikely for outside visitors, or at least those coming from outside Asia to be invited back before the end of the year.

Like South Korea and Taiwan, initial tourism efforts will be domestic, regional and largely business focused, aiming to return investors and exhibitions within the region.

Taiwan is said to be operating a three tiered plan, already in Phase 1, with international visitors in the last phase. Currently restrictions against international visitors are set to expire at the end of July, but are expected to be extended.

65181704 - sunrise at seongsan ilchulbong, jeju island, south korea.

South Korea is almost entirely closed, but a few exceptions apply, even to visitors from the United States, Europe and elsewhere. That is, of course, if you’re ok with 14 days of government approved quarantine, or a special personal exemption from the Korean embassy for business travel.

Korea currently offers a fast lane arrangement with China, where approved business travellers are able to cut down on quarantine times. Even those offered quarantine exemptions must agree to digital tracking and daily health monitoring.

It’s hardly leisure travel as we know it, but what is these days?

Hope For The Best, Plan For 2021

With the exception of the Maldives, a personal embassy exemption from Korea, or anyone who wishes to chance it with a $3,000 deposit to enter Cambodia, the best travellers hoping to rediscover Asia can do right now is hope.

Optimistic signs of rapid covid-19 vaccine developments are emerging, and if health risks can be further mitigated, countries will become a lot less squeamish about opening up to tourism and all the wonderful things that come with it.

Asia is largely off limits for now, and while totally understandable, it’s hard not to be just a little bit sad about missing out on this fantastic part of the world.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. the hope hangs with Bali in September. I don’t see any other ASEAN countries that will open for the rest of this year.

  2. Good for these countries for getting some control over covid whereas America is in dire straights. Keep it off limits until it makes sense to do so.

  3. Yes, very sad that I had to cancel all my trips to Asia this year. Very sad.
    Totally bummed out that I can’t go anywhere till next spring at the earliest.

  4. Just booked Business Class x3 tics to Cebu City from ANC for next January. Lots of award space on CP using AA miles. Hoping for the best.

  5. Thailand Just announced our current state of Emergency has been extended to August 31,2020 with Talk of September again. Also note all arriving expats who don’t hold Thai passports require a mandatory lockdown 14 quarantine at a facility you must pay for (About $2800) for 14 days…..Thailand recently let in some diplomats without quarantine and they had Covid. People were very upset at this….I do not see opening till first 1/4 2021 imho.

  6. Has anyone heard when the Philippines are likley to reopen to tourisim from Europe again.
    I’m sitting on 2 flight tickets one to Sabah, Malaysia the other to Singapore to Iloilo Philipines I’m in the process of trying to get married and have the house completed since February this year.

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