South-East Asia has amongst the strictest Covid rules in the world but there are signs that some countries are opening up but the regions is currently difficult to visit. Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Indonesia are basically still closed, there is limited access to Cambodia but Thailand will opens its borders on 1 November to tourists from 46 countries including the UK.
However, Business travellers can visit South-East Asia if they have a legitimate business requirement.
Below is a short summary however, entry rules change so its vital to check on the FCDO website & your destination countries website.
Covid Entry Situation (updated 11/1/22
Thailand – Thailand – Open. Double vaccinated visitors need to apply to be part of the Blue Zone Sandbox scheme. You need a PCR test before leaving the UK and on arrival in Thailand and then stay for 7 days in the Sandbox quarantine areas before onwards travel within Thailand. There are 4 Sand box areas; Phuket & 3 others. You have to stay in a SHA + approved hotel. Proof of insurance of $50,000 for Covid necessary. Ensure that you fully understand your quarantine provider’s policies.
Cambodia – Open – Apply visa, double vaccine, pre travel negative PCR, purchase $50k medical insurance.
Vietnam – Closed to foreigners except those with special permission. Land borders with Laos and Cambodia shut.
Laos – Closed.
Myanmar – Closed.
Indonesia – Limited Open but NOT to visitors from the UK.
Remains politically stable due to the fact that it's under military governship. On a simplistic level, the country is split between those who support the Shinawatra dynasty - the 'Red Shirts', who are in the majority, rural based and in the north and those in the more traditional elements of society; military, judiciary, supporters of the Royal Family. This second group is broadly known as the 'Yellow Shirts' and whose power base is Bangkok. From August 2020 there have been a series of pro democracy marches, led mainly by students, demanding political change and even challenging the role of the monarchy.
Objective Travel continues to be concerned over the continued threat of a terrorist attack against tourists in Thailand. Whilst to date, Islamist attacks have been generally confined to the southern provinces, intelligence assessments are warning of the threat of further attacks against the major cities and popular beach resorts. Be aware that the Monarchy is held in very high regard and open criticism is likely to result in a prison sentence. On 13 October 2016 King Bhumibol died. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was proclaimed the new king on 1 December 2016 and was crowned in early May 2019. Away from security, we strongly advise travellers not to have tattoos done in Thailand or elsewhere in South-East Asia following numerous stories of people contracting HIV and other blood related diseases/infections.
Whilst Thailand has its problems, most visits are trouble-free, however, visitors should stay alert and speak to the locals for advice. Most people have trouble-free time but be aware of petty scams and theft in areas where there is a high concentration of tourists.
For those going to Cambodia it's recommended to have some knowledge of the genocide conducted by the Khmer Rouge in the period 1978-82. Approximately 25% of the population were killed. Do watch the film 'The Killlng Fields' or read 'First they killed my father' by Loung Ung.
Within Laos, there have been an number of incidents of locals and tourists being attacked and robbed in the Vang Vieng area. In the past, Vang Vieng was very popular with gap year travellers and those backpacking, less so now. The government has responded by increasing police presence, expect to see some police checkpoints. On 24 March 2016, some Chinese visitors were wounded in an attack on a bus but since then the area has become much safer.
A military coup was launched on 1 February 2020 and civilian leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyri have been detained. The military's associated political party polled poorly in the November election in which the NLD party won an overwhelming majority. The military, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, has claimed voter fraud as justification for its move. However, it's a highly rewarding country to visit and if it opens up possible that travel may be safe again once the Covid restrictions have been lifted. The FCDO is currently advising against ALL travel to Myanmar.
Most visits to China are trouble-free however, both business and leisure travellers need to be aware of the high level of pollution in many cities, especially between January and March and also be aware that most of China is an active earthquake zone.
Few people in China outside the major cities speak English so be prepared. The Chinese government does not take kindly to criticism and data security is certainly an issue in China - business travellers should consider their cyber vulnerability.
Indonesia remains a popular destination both for business and pleasure. There is a threat from terrorism and in the past there have been significant attacks in Jakarta and on the island of Bali. The threat level tends to rise over the Christmas period when a lot of tourists flock to the tourist areas. The eruption of Mount Agung on Bali in November 2017 has resulted in thousand of locals being evacuated and it has caused many flights to be cancelled. The situation has now stabilised and the exclusion zone has been reduced but the situation needs to be monitored. In late August 2018 and late September earthquakes on Lombok and a Tsunami on Sulawesi killed hundreds of people.
In August 2019, a Dengue Fever epidemic was called by health officials after over 146,000 cases and over 100 deaths.
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