What Does the Current International Travel Scenario Look Like?

As lockdowns continue to ease around the world, some countries are welcoming tourists again, and some forming their own travel bubbles. Here’s the low-down.  
What Does the Current International Travel Scenario Look Like?
The coronavirus pandemic forced countries across the world to shut their borders. Photo by: KawaiiS/shutterstock

The last few months have unleashed havoc across the world, as the COVID-19 pandemic almost brought the world economy to a standstill. Among the worst-hit industries are tourism and aviation, as nations scrambled to seal their borders to tourists in a bid to restrict the spread of the novel coronavirus, and most air travel ground to a halt.

Now, six months into 2020, as some countries have begun to, with great difficulty, flatten the coronavirus curve, various governments have started easing border controls, and the tourism industry hopes to milk what remains of the holiday season, albeit cautiously. Indian international travel may reopen from July (the official number of positive cases have crossed 2,97,000 at the time of writing, making India the fifth-worst affected country in the world), and it is highly unlikely for Indian tourists to return to beloved tourist spots soon. However, for ones who plan ahead, we have put together a list of countries from around the world that have laid out their terms of opening up for tourism, to serve as a guide for your future holiday plans. The rules are all subject to change based on each country’s policy, and are updated as of June 12, 2020. 

Very few countries have opened up their borders unconditionally, and ‘travel bubbles’ have emerged between groups of countries with strong cultural, geographic or economic ties. Also, note that permission alone to enter a nation’s borders is not enough; passengers must adhere to new norms such as quarantine on arrival, face masks, random temperature checks, and health certificates. While these measures are necessary right now, it is likely that some of these protocols will be retained even after we have seen off the worst of the pandemic. There are strict guidelines from the World Tourism Organisation, which countries are expected to follow. Travel, as we knew it, is a thing of the past. But who knows what the masked future brings?

 

Asia

Sri Lanka

Status: Open to International Tourists 

In a statement released on June 5, Sri Lanka is throwing open its borders to welcome all international tourists from August 1. The conditions include a hiked visa fee, multiple COVID tests, ban from using public transport, and a minimum six-day stay in the country. 

 

Japan

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

Japan has banned travellers from 111 countries, including India, from entering its borders. The government is coming up with a plan to subsidise holidays in the country, by offering discounts at restaurants, shops and domestic travel. While the subsidies are largely to boost domestic tourism, they do not explicitly exclude foreign visitors. 

Indian travellers may be able to visit Georgia (top left) soon, but things don’t look bright enough to travel to Singapore (top right), Japan (bottom left) or Indonesia (bottom right). Photos by: Standret/shutterstock (mountain), MOLPIX/shutterstock (skyscraper), Sean Pavone/shutterstock (backpacker), DavideAngelini/shutterstock (cherry blossoms)

Indonesia

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

Indonesia has imposed a travel ban on visitors who are coming from or have been to certain countries, but India is not on that list. The government bans all non-essential travellers for the moment. However, foreign arrivals who obtain permission to enter the country need to furnish a health certificate indicating that they’ve tested negative for COVID-19.  

 

Thailand

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

Thailand is not welcoming any international travellers for the time being. In an interview with CNN, Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said, “It is still dependent on the outbreak situation, but I think the earliest we may see the return of tourists could be the fourth quarter of this year.” However, the government is planning to put into place travel bubbles with countries like China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and some Middle East nations, with a special focus on business travellers and those seeking medical treatment in Thailand. However, the government has not released a concrete date for these travel bubbles.

 

Malaysia

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

The government has hinted that borders will be reopened to international travelers soon, and that reciprocal travel corridors might be established with neighbours Thailand and Brunei, before other countries.

 

Vietnam

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

Vietnam will resume e-visa services for visitors from 80 countries, including India, starting July 1. Foreign nationals were earlier banned from entering the country from March 22. 

 

Singapore

Status: Closed to International Tourists

Singapore prohibits the entry of everyone except its own citizens and permanent residents. However, reports suggest that talks of ‘green lanes’ for travel are underway with governments of Australia, and South Korea. Such a green lane has been established with China. 

 

Republic of Maldives

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

The Maldives will gradually reopen its borders to international travellers in July, officials have said. Foreign arrivals will be required to prove that they have tested negative for COVID-19 on arrival.

 

Snorkelling and diving in the Indian Ocean seem like distant dreams as countries like Thailand still remain shut. Photo by: Denis Moskvinov/shutterstock

 

Georgia

Status: Open to International Tourists

Georgia hopes to welcome international visitors from July 1. Reports suggest that tourists will initially only be allowed to visit certain regions identified as green zones by the government, and that the country will reopen in phases.    

 

Israel

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

Israel is considering opening its borders for visitors from countries with low infection rates like Greece, Seychelles, Georgia, and Austria. Other international travellers are banned, and returning Israelis have to quarantine for 14 days. 

 

Jordan

Status: Closed to International Tourists

Jordan has closed all of its borders and shut down its airports till further notice on March 17. In a statement released in late May, there has been no decision on when the Kingdom will reopen to tourists.  

 

Azerbaijan

Status: Closed to International Tourists

Azerbaijan has prohibited citizens of Iran and China from entering, suspended e-visa services for all countries, and shut its borders. Foreign nationals need to apply for a visa through their local embassies or consulates, and provide a medical certificate showing the negative result of a COVID-19 test. 

 

Qatar

Status: Closed to International Tourists

Qatar has announced a gradual reopening of the country, however easing border controls is a part of the third phase, in August. Currently, only citizens and foreigners holding a permanent residence permit are allowed to enter. 

 

Bahrain

Status: Closed to International Tourists

Bahrain has suspended visa-on-arrival, and only those who have a residence permit or essential work can enter. All arrivals into the country will have to undergo a test for COVID-19, and a 14-day quarantine. 

 

Armenia

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

The government has announced that international flights may be allowed to resume in mid-July.

 

Europe

On June 5, the European Union announced that most internal border restrictions will be lifted within the territory by July 1, and the ban on non-essential travel from outside EU was extended till July 1. However, citizens from EU-associated countries like Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the U.K. will be exempt from some restrictions. Moreover, the European Commission has announced that Europe’s external borders will begin to reopen in July. Member states have been directed to draw up lists of non-European countries from where travellers will be permitted and the lists will be reviewed periodically.

A cruise on the Bosphorus leads to stunning views of Istanbul. Photo by: Seqoya/shutterstock

 

Turkey

Status: Open to Select International Tourists 

Turkey hopes to welcome international travellers from mid-June. The government has instituted a certificate programme, which would assure foreign tourists that hotels, restaurants, airports, et cetera, are safe and risk-free. The country might open up to Asian countries like China and South Korea at first, authorities have said. 

 

France

Status: Open to Select International Tourists 

France is restricting all nonessential travellers from outside the EU, and a 14-day quarantine is mandatory. The government hopes to lift all restrictions for visitors from within the EU Schengen zone by mid-June. Earlier, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced an unprecedented 18 billion Euro financial package to boost the country’s tourism sector. 

 

Spain

Status: Open to Select International Tourists 

Spain will allow some international travellers to arrive into the country from July. Officials have expressed hope that all quarantine measures will be lifted by then. Reports suggest that certain regions of Spain might reopen to international tourists before others. Tourism Minister Maria Reyes Maroto has said that thousands of foreign tourists, including at least 6,000 from Germany, will be arriving at the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands as part of a pilot scheme in the latter half of June. 

 

Many countries in Europe including Spain, were severely affected and are now easing up on border controls. Photo by: TTstudio/shutterstock

Italy

Status: Open to Select International Tourists 

Italy will allow international travellers from other EU countries, the U.K. and micro-nations like Andorra, San Marino and Monaco to enter the country, without a two-week quarantine which is currently compulsory.  

 

Switzerland

Status: Open to Select International Tourists 

Switzerland is largely restricting international arrivals, and short-term visa services have been suspended for most countries. However, the country has announced plans to ease border controls with neighbouring countries. Moreover, work permit holders and family members of Swiss citizens are being allowed to enter.

 

The United Kingdom

Status: Open to Select International Tourists 

U.K. is allowing foreign arrivals, on the condition that they have to undergo a compulsory 14-day quarantine after June. The 14-day quarantine rule has been criticised by other European countries, who have spoken of reciprocal 14-day quarantines for arrivals coming from the U.K. This is set to be reviewed in three weeks.

 

Greece

Status: Open to International Tourists 

Greece has opened its borders for tourists from all countries starting June 1. The government has also released a list of 29 countries, arrivals from which will not have to go through quarantine. 

 

Portugal

Status: Closed to International Tourists 

Portugal is currently closed for foreign tourists but is considering allowing tourists from some EU nations and Portuguese speaking nations soon. Though there is no concrete news about borders opening up yet, the government had announced a scheme in April through which travellers whose trips had been cancelled because of the pandemic will be given vouchers so that they can reschedule the trip for a later date. 

 

Sweden

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

With over 40,000 cases, Sweden is slowly easing restrictions. Currently, travellers from the EU can visit Sweden without having to quarantine upon arrival. More countries will be allowed access post June 15. 

Travellers from the EU will soon walk through Cyprus’s (bottom) cobble-stoned lanes again. Photo by: Nikta_Nikta/shutterstock

Cyprus

Status: Open to Select International Tourists 

Cyprus will allow international travellers from 19 countries, mostly EU states starting June 9, in two stages. More countries will be added to the list in the weeks to come. In a novel move, the government has announced that it will cover expenses of any international travellers who test positive for COVID-19 when in Cyprus.

 

Serbia

Status: Open to International Tourists 

Serbia threw open its borders to foreign tourists from May 22, without a COVID-19 test or even a quarantine. National carrier Air Serbia has resumed operations and passengers are required to take strict precautions in order to prevent the spread of the virus. 

 

Montenegro

Status: Open to Select International Tourists 

Montenegro is allowing foreign travellers only from those countries who have a COVID-19 infection rate of less than 25 per 100,000, starting June 1. The government has declared the country free of the novel coronavirus. 

 

Iceland

Status: Open to International Tourists 

Iceland will open its borders to international travellers from June 15. All travellers will be given an option between a COVID-19 test or a 14-day quarantine period on arrival. 

 

Austria

Status: Open to Select International Tourists 

Austria lifted all entry restrictions for foreign arrivals entering through its land borders in early June, except for its borders with Italy, which will reopen on June 16.

What Does the Current International Travel Scenario Look Like? 12

European bucket list goals (clockwise from top left): hiking glaciers in Iceland, discovering local music in Greece, a gondola ride in Venice’s canals, flamenco in Spain. Photos by: Whatafoto/shutterstock (glacier), Veniamakis Stefanos/shutterstock (musician), leonov.o/shutterstock (canal), muratart/shutterstock (flamenco)

Germany

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

Germany is currently prohibiting all nonessential travel into the country, but will likely open borders to foreign arrivals from countries belonging to the EU by June 15. 

 

Czech Republic

Status: Open to Select International Tourists 

Czech Republic has put it in a colour-coded system to allow tourists from the EU. Travellers from the green zone will not require any certification or undergo quarantine. 

 

Poland

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

Poland will allow travellers from other EU countries to enter, starting June 16.

 

Belgium

Status: Open to Select International Tourists 

Belgium will open up its borders to other EU countries on June 15.

 

Slovenia

Status: Open to International Tourists 

In May, Slovenia became the first European country to declare itself pandemic-free. The government loosened border controls to allow foreign arrivals, with a compulsory 14-day quarantine in place. However, travellers from EU member states will be exempted from the quarantine. 

 

What Does the Current International Travel Scenario Look Like? 7

Shutting borders within the EU was a painful, yet necessary, move. As travel eases, these borders are the first to open. Photo by: Zdenek Matyas Photography /shutterstock

 

Slovakia

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

Slovakia started allowing travelers from 16 EU countries starting June 10. The country had already opened its borders to travellers from Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary.

 

Norway

Status: Closed to International Tourists

Norway has firmly shut borders for tourists, with the exception of those from Denmark. As per a statement by the Norwegian ministry, these are going to be eased further post June 15.

 

Denmark

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

Denmark is cautiously opening up borders, and starting
from June 15, tourists from Germany, Iceland and Norway will be allowed to enter the country. They need to show a booking of minimum six nights, and not visit or stay in capital Copenhagen.

 

Apart from the above rules, many European countries have decided to facilitate travel bubbles with neighbouring nations, often as bilateral or trilateral agreements. 

 

Nordic Travel Bubble

Though not a designated travel bubble, Finland, Norway, Iceland and Denmark have opened their borders to each other. Sweden is a notable exception, and it is believed that the country’s higher infection rate is the reason. Officially, Denmark and Norway are a travel bubble. Apart from Nordic neighbours, Iceland, Denmark and Norway, the borders of Finland will also be opened to travellers from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from June 15. 

 

Baltic Travel Bubble

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia formed the first travel bubble within Europe and opened their borders to each
other on May 15. All three nations are now allowing travellers from other European countries. Foreign arrivals from countries with higher infection rates are required to self-isolate on arrival.

 

Portugal and the U.K.

Might reach an agreement on an air bridge between the two nations by the end of June, Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told BBC Radio. The air bridge would mean that foreign arrivals from the U.K. will not have to go through mandatory quarantine in order to enter Portugal. 

 

The Americas

U.S.A. is the worst-hit country in the world, with over two million cases. Photo by: Sean Pavone/shutterstock

Canada

Status: Closed to International Tourists 

Canada has restricted the entry of all nonessential travellers till further notice. Other than Canadian citizens arriving from abroad, some international students, family members of Canadian citizens and foreign nationals who have a permanent residence status in Canada are allowed. All arrivals will have to go through a 14-day quarantine period. 

 

U.S.A.

Status: Closed to International Tourists 

U.S.A. has imposed a travel ban on some countries including China, Iran, Brazil, U.K. and 26 EU countries. Though India is not on the list of banned countries, consulates in the country are closed. Since international flights are only for repatriated passengers, for all intents and purposes, international tourism is currently not allowed in U.S.A. President Trump has recently hinted at allowing travellers from low-risk European countries soon.     

 

Mexico

Status: Open to Select International Tourists 

Mexico is currently closed for foreign tourists, but officials have announced plans to reopen borders in June. In the first stage, international travellers from U.S.A. and Canada are likely to be allowed, followed by other countries. Moreover, some regions of the country will be opened before others, and Cancun is set to welcome tourists as early as June 10. 

 

What awaits you in the Americas? (Clockwise from top left) Wildlife in Galápagos, Canada’s vibrant cities, the tallest palm trees in the world in Colombia, and New Mexico’s dramatic desert. Photos by: FOTOGRIN/shutterstock (sea lion), Firefighter Montreal/shutterstock (city), Richter MachThunder/shutterstock (palm trees), Exequiel Schvartz/shutterstock (desert)

 

Argentina

Status: Closed to International Tourists 

Argentina has prohibited all international flights till the end of August. However, industry experts believe that there is a possibility of the ban being lifted in July.  

 

Colombia

Status: Closed to International Tourists 

Colombia has sealed its borders, and grounded all international flights until  the end of August. Though there has been no concrete announcement, Minister Jose Manuel Restrepo told Reuters that the government will announce an aid package for the tourism industry soon.

 

Ecuador

Status: Open to Select International Tourists 

Ecuador has announced the resumption of international flight services at the Quito International Airport from June 3. All foreign arrivals will be required to serve a 15-day quarantine period. 

 

Cuba

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

The government has announced that the country will reopen to foreign tourists in phases, and that its beach resorts will be the first to open up. Capital Havana will be out of bounds initially, and all incoming arrivals will be tested for the novel coronavirus.

 

The Oceanic Travel Bubble

Australia and New Zealand

Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings can’t wait to flock to the Hobbit movie set in New Zealand again. Photo by: aaron choi/shutterstock

Status: Closed to International Tourists

Australia will not be opening its borders “anytime soon,” is what Prime Minister Scott Morisson told reporters recently. He also said that his government is in talks with the neighbouring New Zealand to create a ‘Trans-Tasman safe travel zone’ between the two countries. One of the first travel bubbles to be floated, the two countries are heavily reliant on each other for their tourism industries. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that a plan for the safe travel zone will be released soon. New Zealand announced itself free of coronavirus cases on June 8. New Zealand has however, opened its borders for essential workers, and partners or dependents of New Zealand citizens.

 

Africa

Tanzania

Status: Open to International Tourists

Tanzania has declared itself COVID-free and has lifted all restrictions on international flights on May 19. The country had initially closed its borders to foreign travellers in April. President John Magufuli said that all arrivals will be thermally screened, and asymptomatic travellers will not have to go through a quarantine period. 

 

Seychelles

Status: Open to Select International Tourists

One of the few COVID-free countries, Seychelles has resumed international air travel from June 1, and allowed foreign arrivals from 19 countries. India however, has not made the list. This list is due to be revised in mid-July. All tourists must have with them a negative coronavirus PCR test. Seychelles earlier banned cruise ships from docking at its ports till 2022.

 

National parks, with their open spaces, will perhaps be the first to allow tourists, like in Tanzania. Photo by: Delbars/shutterstock

South Africa

Status: Closed to International Tourists 

South Africa will remain closed to international tourists till February 2021, according to an official press release issued May 27. The Telegraph quotes Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, “Based on the COVID-19 epidemic expected trajectory, the first phase of the recovery for the sector will be driven by domestic tourism, followed by regional tourism and international tourism next year.” However, the government hopes to reopen the country’s borders sooner if the infection rate
reduces significantly.

 

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  • Tanay Gokhale enjoys writing and follows what he thinks is an eclectic mix of interests. Especially passionate about travelling with good music and a book to boot.

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