Top 5 Asia Travel Destinations as Region Reopens

Linda D. Garrow

After two years in quiet seclusion, safety-first Asia joins the post-pandemic world in reopening its borders to international tourists. For travel bugs who’ve been holed up in Europe and North America during this time, escaping to the East is a surefire way to break back out into the wider world again. This summer, beat the crowds back to these top destinations to get a unique first-mover experience in Asia.

South Korea

East Asia’s pop-culture juggernaut is coming out of hiding. With Netflix series Squid Game and K-Pop sensations Blackpink and BTS earning international stardom throughout the pandemic, South Korea’s appeal as a tourist destination looks to grow as it welcomes the world back.

Seoul’s unstoppable nightlife is gradually coming back online. Ready for all-night shopping at Myeongdong? Or getting tipsy on soju while beating out a BTS number at KTV? There is a reduction in social distancing measures, though entertainment venues still close at 11 pm under current pandemic rules.

From April 1, vaccinated travelers can enter quarantine free if they received their latest dose (or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine) within the last 180 days. Otherwise, a booster shot is required to skip quarantine.

Note: the waiver does not apply to vaccinated visitors from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, and Myanmar, who must quarantine for seven days.

South Korea requires all international visitors to use its Q.R. code tracking system – Q-Code. Before flying, enter your travel info into the online portal, get the Q.R. code, and scan it at immigration.

Incoming travelers must also have a negative PCR test result ready (taken no more than 48 hours before departure.)

Those wanting to dip their toes in the spa house scene should first get acquainted with house rules here, while foodies will not want to consult this checklist of unmissable Korean delicacies.

Singapore

Fancy posting to Instagram from the world’s largest rooftop pool or sampling local fare in the city’s famed food hawker centers? Southeast Asia’s finance center is once again open for business (and travel) alike.

Asia’s ‘Lion City’ will let all vaccinated travelers in with just a pre-departure COVID-19 test starting April 1.

The city-state is also doing away with all quotas on the number of daily incoming visitors and on-arrival testing. And a special bonus for mask-fatigued travelers – the mouth coverings will no longer be mandatory outdoors from March 29. Music will be in the air as bans on live music performances are set to go, and limits on group gatherings and crowds for large events will increase from March 29.

Like other destinations, flying to Singapore still requires a negative pre-departure test result taken within 48 hours of flying.

Singapore is perfect for a stopover visit with one of the world’s best airports and a slew of landmark business hotels. Check out these frequent flyer hacks to get the most out of your flyer points and miles from your trip there. In need of further inspiration? Check out this Singaporean bucket list of things to do in the city-state.

Vietnam

Looking to experience the adrenaline rush of Ho Chi Minh traffic on the back of a scooter, sample some authentic Pho, or soak up the breathtaking tropical beaches? After enforcing some of the world’s strictest travel restrictions for over two years, Vietnam is loosening up again.

Vietnam accelerated its plans and fully reopened to travelers on March 15, three months ahead of the original June timeline. Hanoi also announced the resumption of 15-day visa-free entry for citizens from over a dozen countries.

The country no longer requires visitors to show proof of vaccination or undergo quarantine.

All international arrivals need to do a pre-departure PCR test and install Vietnam’s official health monitoring app.

U.S. citizens require a tourist visa to enter Vietnam (as before the pandemic).

With Vietnam reaching 18 million tourists in 2019, the country’s hospitality industry had been booming leading up to the pandemic. So now it is pulling out all the stops to get the crowds back in. Travel writers report eye-watering discounts at leading hotels throughout the country, so get in soon to catch some never-seen-again savings on this budget holiday destination.

Thailand

Whether you are looking for the buzz of bars in Bangkok or the tranquility of temples of Chiang Mai, there’ll be something to beat your pandemic blues in Thailand.

Starting April 1, vaccinated travelers will no longer need to do a pre-departure test. However, one PCR test on your first day in the country and a self-administered rapid antigen test on the fifth day will be required.

The land of smiles is ready to take off the face mask just yet. Thailand’s mandate for masks in public remains in effect, but there is now an exemption for public parks.

Thailand’s iconic Songkran festival will be a little underplayed too. The government has forbidden the customary water splashing in the streets to curb a potential spike in COVID cases.

The Kingdom’s typically thriving tourist spots have been unnaturally quiet the past two years. Still, all the signs point to a grand opening. With Hyatt, Hilton, Melia, and several other big names opening brand new hotels to welcome visitors back, plenty of premium accommodation will be available.

Philippines

Feel like floating through pristine coral reefs, bouncing through Manila’s mega-malls, or chilling in the back of a jeepney? The Philippines’ show is on the road again.

The country got a headstart on its neighbors, ending mandatory quarantine measures for vaccinated visitors from February 10 from visa-free countries (including the U.S.). In the first month since, it has seen over 100,000 inbound arrivals.

The Philippines is readying itself to ride the rebound further by establishing more than 70 themed tourist circuits (culinary, history, nature, wellness, etc.). At the same time, the country’s flag carrier added more than 1,500 flights in March.

Further easing of restrictions is coming. From April 1, visitors will no longer have to file an Entry Exemption Document (EED) upon arrival in the country, though a negative PCR test is still required.

The Philippines was once again chosen as Asia’s top beach and dive destination for 2021, and hubs like Cebu offer a variety of tours and schools for getting your scuba diving license. In addition, the country boasts iconic landscapes, such as Bohol’s rolling Chocolate Hills or the Banaue Rice Terraces, for those who prefer to keep their feet dry.
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By Liam Gibson

Top 5 Asia Travel Destinations as Region Reopens

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