Travel destinations

Top 5 travel destinations in Asia as the region reopens

After two years of quiet isolation, security-conscious Asia is joining the post-pandemic world by reopening its borders to international tourists. For travel bugs that have holed up in Europe and North America during this time, escaping to the East is a surefire way to get back into the wider world. This summer, push the crowds back to these prime destinations for a unique experience in Asia.

South Korea

The East Asian pop culture juggernaut is coming out of hiding. With Netflix series Squid Game and K-Pop sensations Blackpink and BTS gaining international acclaim throughout the pandemic, South Korea’s appeal as a tourist destination appears to be growing as it welcomes the world again.

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

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

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

South Korea requires all international visitors to use its QR code tracking system – Q-Code. Before flying, enter your travel information on the online portal, get the QR 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 looking to dip their toes into the home spa scene should familiarize themselves with the house rules here first, while foodies won’t want to check out this list of must-try Korean delicacies.

Singapore

Want to Instagram from the world’s largest rooftop pool or sample local dishes at the city’s famous food hubs? Southeast Asia’s financial hub is once again open for business (and travel).

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

The city-state is also removing all quotas on the number of daily incoming visitors and testing upon arrival. And a special bonus for mask-weary travelers – mouth coverings will no longer be mandatory outdoors from March 29. will increase from March 29.

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

Singapore is perfect for a stopover with one of the best airports in the world and a host of iconic business hotels. Check out these frequent flyer hacks to make the most of your frequent flyer points and miles from your trip there. Need some extra inspiration? Check out this list of things to do in Singapore in the city-state.

Vietnam

Looking to experience the adrenaline rush of Ho Chi Minh traffic on the back of a scooter, taste an authentic Pho, or soak up breathtaking tropical beaches? After enforcing some of the toughest travel restrictions in the world for more than two years, Vietnam is easing again.

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

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

All international arrivals must complete a PCR test before departure and install Vietnam’s official health monitoring app.

US citizens need a tourist visa to enter Vietnam (like before the pandemic).

With Vietnam reaching 18 million tourists in 2019, the country’s hospitality industry boomed before the pandemic. So now he’s pulling out all the stops to bring the crowds back. Travel writers are reporting tempting discounts at top hotels across the country, so get in soon to take advantage of never-before-seen savings at this budget vacation destination.

Thailand

Whether you seek the excitement of the bars of Bangkok or the tranquility of the temples of Chiang Mai, there will be plenty to beat your pandemic blues in Thailand.

As of April 1, vaccinated travelers will no longer need to take a test before departure. However, a PCR test on the 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 for now. 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 also be a bit understated. The government has banned the usual splashing of water on the streets to curb a potential spike in COVID cases.

The Kingdom’s generally prosperous tourist spots have been abnormally quiet for the past two years. Still, all signs point to a big opening. With Hyatt, Hilton, Melia and several other big names opening new hotels to welcome visitors back, plenty of upscale accommodations will be available.

Philippines

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

The country has taken a step ahead of its neighbours, ending mandatory quarantine measures for vaccinated visitors from February 10 from visa-free countries (including the United States). In the first month since, it recorded over 100,000 inbound arrivals.

The Philippines is preparing to surf even more on the rebound by setting up more than 70 thematic tourist circuits (culinary, history, nature, well-being, etc.). Meanwhile, the national airline added more than 1,500 flights in March.

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

The Philippines has again been chosen as the best beach and dive destination in Asia for 2021, and hubs like Cebu offer a variety of tours and schools to get your scuba diving license. In addition, the country has iconic landscapes, such as the rolling Chocolate Hills of Bohol or the rice terraces of Banaue, for those who prefer to keep their feet dry.
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By Liam Gibson