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Bali Left Behind As The Rest Of Asia Reopens For Tourism

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Bali—a hugely popular destination for backpackers, digital nomads, and tourists before the pandemic—reopened to all international tourists last week. 

However, Bali still isn’t getting international visitors. Only 45 (yes 45) international visitors entered Bali in 2021, despite the island’s partial reopening in October 2021.

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

So why aren’t tourists returning to this beautiful island?

woman bali temple

The Reason Why Tourists Aren’t Returning To Bali 

Until last week, Indonesia allowed travelers from 18 nations 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
  • UAE

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

Notably, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada weren’t on that list.

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

  • Travelers still need to undergo a 5-day/4 night quarantine in a hotel in Bali.
  • Travelers must obtain a visa before entering.

Bali’s single biggest issue is visa requirements.

Travelers have had to obtain a visa with a local sponsor throughout the pandemic. The Indonesian government called this the VISIT VISA (B211A).

The visa is challenging to obtain; it’s only worth the hassle if you’re going to spend a prolonged period in Bali (i.e digital nomad.)

Unfortunately, it’s prevented thousands—if not millions—of visitors from entering Bali in the previous two years.

In normal times, visitors from over 160 nations can enter Bali without a visa. So it’s an effortless destination for Western travelers.

What About The Rest Of Asia?

Asia has been slow to reopen its borders.

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

Here are some of these countries:

1. Vietnam

Woman with backpack swims on boat among karst mountains to meet her friends. Tam Coc, North of Vietnam.

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

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

Vietnam’s Entry Requirements:

  • Show 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 from 72 hours of travel
  • Travel medical insurance with coverage of at least $50,000 USD
  • Separate requirements will apply for partially vaccinated individuals and children (news to follow)

2. The Philippines

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

The Philippines Entry Requirements:

  • Travelers—regardless of their vaccination status—will require a PCR test taken no more than 48 hours before departure. They will need to bring evidence of this test result. 
  • Fully vaccinated travelers won’t need to undergo any quarantine measures but must self-monitor symptoms for 7 days after arrival. 
  • Children under 18 don’t need proof of vaccination.
  • Filipino citizens who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to quarantine on arrival.

3. Thailand

Thailand’s entry requirements have been highly confusing in the previous 2 years (perhaps an understatement). That said, the nation recently restarted its Test & Go system, where travelers can skip quarantine if they meet certain criteria.

Thailand’s Entry Requirements:

  • Travelers need a scanned copy of their passport and visa (where required) 
  • Proof of fully vaccinated status such as a vaccination certificate, or proof of recovery and one dose of vaccine post-infection
  • Insurance with coverage worth $50,000 USD
  • 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 for tourism since 2021. The nation has been one of the more relaxed Asian nations during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite strict COVID-19 restrictions in 2020. Sri Lanka is an excellent destination for surfing, hiking, and delicious food.  

Sri Lanka Entry Requirements:

  • All travelers visiting Sri Lanka must show evidence 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 testing requirement
  • There’s no quarantine for fully vaccinated tourists 
  • However, unvaccinated travelers must quarantine in a ‘Safe & Secure Certified’ hotel for up to 8 days before heading to normal accommodation

5. Cambodia 

Cambodia reopened to vaccinated international tourists in November. However, any travelers entering the nation 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.

Cambodia Entry Requirements:

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

6. Laos 

Laos, a popular destination for backpackers, reopened for tourism last month. As of January 1, fully vaccinated international tourists from specific countries, including the U.S, Canada, and the UK, can visit Laos for tourism. Laos is excellent if you prefer a relaxing vacation away from Asia’s hustle and bustle.

Laos Entry Requirements:

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

Final Thoughts

Other than 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 updated on Bali.

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Eve

Saturday 12th of February 2022

4 nights quarantine could be acceptable - but not at the given prices! Why are only five super expensive hotels available for that, what happened to the 21 hotels that were available in October? Too sad for the Balinese - I (and many others) would love to come back soon at better conditions!

Jhon

Friday 11th of February 2022

The biggest problem in Indonesia government is corruption this regime greedy and stupid leaders that's why to much restriction is not only tourism also nations.

Sp

Friday 11th of February 2022

Not going anywhere that needs a test when there are destinations that let you in without testing. They always have an incentive of giving false positive to extract quarantine and treatment revenues and perpetuate their reason for existence.

Ahmad Ali Al Harasis

Thursday 10th of February 2022

I suggest that government should drop visa issue and quarantine, then you will see the Bali lovers in millions in few days in Bali, I will not go for quarantine in The W hotel for 5 days and pay 3 or 4 thousand us dollars or the Westin hotel also with same price , I am vaccinated I will accept PCR test upon arrival in airport and I can do PCR to 72 hours prior departure

J West

Thursday 10th of February 2022

Re: Vietnam. You still need a sponsored visa in advance of entering. Malaysia: Zero international. Thailand is “Catch and Release”.