Bali left behind as rest of Asia reopens for tourism

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Bali, an extremely popular destination for backpackers, digital nomads and tourists before the pandemic, has reopened in all international tourists last week.

However, Bali still does not receive international visitors. Only 45 (yes 45) international visitors entered Bali in 2021, despite the island partially reopening in October 2021.

And, unfortunately, tourism represents 60% of Bali’s economy.

So why don’t tourists come back to this beautiful island?

bali temple woman

The reason why tourists do not return to Bali

Until last week, Indonesia allowed travelers from 18 countries to enter Bali directly. These nations included:

  • Bahrain
  • China
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Liechtenstein
  • Kuwait
  • Norway
  • New Zealand
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • South Korea
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • United Arab Emirates

Previously, most travelers had to travel to Jakarta, undergo mandatory quarantine, and then fly to Bali. A long and arduous process that most travelers rightly avoided.

Notably, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada were not on this list.

However, tourists from all nations can now travel directly to Bali since last week. So what’s the problem, you might ask?

  • Travelers always must undergo a 5-day/4-night quarantine in a hotel in Bali.
  • Travelers must obtain a Visa before coming in.

Bali’s biggest problem is the visa requirements.

Travelers had to obtain a visa from a local sponsor throughout the pandemic. The Indonesian government called it the VISITOR VISA (B211A).

The visa is difficult to obtain; only worth it if you are going to be spending an extended period of time in Bali (i.e. digital nomad.)

Unfortunately, this has prevented thousands, if not millions, of visitors from entering Bali over the past two years.

Normally, visitors from over 160 nations can enter Bali without a visa. It is therefore a effortlessly destination for Western travellers.

What about the rest of Asia?

Asia is slow to reopen its borders.

Many countries are still pursuing a zero COVID policy. However, some Asian destinations are now reopening to tourism with more relaxed entry requirements than Bali.

Here are some of those countries:

1. Vietnam

A woman with a backpack swims on a boat among the karst mountains to meet her friends.  Tam Coc, North Vietnam.

Vietnam has planned to reopen the country to tourism by April 2021. The country pursued a zero-COVID policy in 2020. As a result, COVID-19 cases remained low until 2021. However, Vietnam abandoned its zero-COVID-19 policy. and reopened after cases spiked in 2021.

The ministry said: “If the country is slow to reopen, it would lose its opportunity to attract foreign tourists as many countries in the region have already restarted their international tourism.”

Vietnam Entry Requirements:

  • Present proof of full vaccination (at least 14 days before entry) or proof of recovery from Covid-19 within the previous 6 months
  • Negative PCR test result after 72 hours of travel
  • Travel medical insurance with coverage of at least US$50,000
  • Separate requirements will apply to partially vaccinated people and children (news to follow)

2. The Philippines

The Philippines has reopened its borders to international tourists for the first time in two years. And, unlike Bali, entry requirements are relatively direct.

Entry requirements to the Philippines:

  • Travelers, regardless of their vaccination status, will need a PCR test performed no later than 48 hours before departure. They will have to provide proof of this test result.
  • Fully vaccinated travelers will not need to undergo quarantine measures but will need to self-monitor for symptoms for 7 days after arrival.
  • Children under 18 do not need proof of vaccination.
  • Fully vaccinated Filipino citizens will no longer need to self-quarantine upon arrival.

3. Thailand

Entry requirements to Thailand have been very confusing for the past 2 years (maybe an understatement). That said, the country recently restarted its Test & Go system, where travelers can skip quarantine if they meet certain criteria.

Entry requirements to Thailand:

  • Travelers need a scanned copy of their passport and visa (if applicable)
  • Proof of fully vaccinated status such as a vaccination certificate, or proof of recovery and post-infection vaccine dose
  • Insurance with coverage worth US$50,000
  • Confirmation of fully paid SHA Extra+/AQ hotel reservations (Day 1 and Day 5 with RT-PCR tests and airport transfer). The hotel for Day 1 must be within five hours of the traveler’s port of arrival, and the second hotel can be anywhere in the country.

4.Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has been open to tourism since 2021. The country has been one of the most relaxed Asian countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite strict COVID-19 restrictions in 2020. Sri Lanka is an excellent destination for surfing, hiking and delicious food.

Entry requirements to Sri Lanka:

  • All travelers visiting Sri Lanka must show proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure or an antigen test within 48 hours of departure.
  • Children under 12 are exempt from the test requirement
  • There is no quarantine for fully vaccinated tourists
  • However, unvaccinated travelers should self-quarantine in a ‘certified safe and secure’ hotel for up to 8 days before moving to normal accommodation.

5. Cambodia

Cambodia reopened to vaccinated international tourists in November. However, any traveler entering the country must present proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test and a rapid antigen test upon arrival. Cambodia offers history, culture and some beautiful tropical islands.

Entry requirements to Cambodia:

  • All travelers must apply for a tourist visa online.
  • You will need proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 days of departure.
  • You will need to take a lateral flow test at the airport.
  • You will need proof of vaccination to avoid quarantine.

6.Laos

Laos, a popular destination for backpackers, reopened to tourism last month. Since January 1, fully vaccinated international tourists from certain countries, including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, can visit Laos for tourism. Laos is excellent if you prefer a relaxing vacation away from the hustle and bustle of Asia.

Entry requirements to Laos:

  • All travelers to Laos must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
  • Travelers must also present proof of a negative Covid PCR test result taken no later than 72 hours prior to departure for Laos.
  • Tourists must have travel medical insurance for a minimum of US$50,000.
  • All visitors to Laos must pre-book a visit to one of the designated green travel zones.

Final Thoughts

Besides Thailand, Bali is the most popular Asian destination for Western tourists. Yet despite Bali’s reliance on tourism, the island’s entry requirements remain untenable for most travelers.

The rest of Asia, however, is reopening and ready to welcome travelers again.

We will keep you posted on Bali.

Read more:

Travel insurance that covers Covid-19 for 2022

Top 5 places to visit in the Dominican Republic

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