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Tourists in Asia Navigate a Patchwork of Policies

While fully vaccinated Americans can fly to hundreds of cities and towns across the country and 27 European capitals, border rules across Asia remain far stricter than in any other region in the world.

Governments in Asia have promised to reopen their borders because of the improved Covid situation and progress on vaccinations. But they are falling behind the rest of the world. Air travel in August across the region was still 10 percent of what it was two years ago, lagging the rebound in the United States. Travelers must navigate an inconsistent patchwork of border restrictions, visa rules and travel corridors — one likely to continue for months.

Vaccinated travelers from a handful of countries, including Britain and Spain, won’t have to quarantine to visit Singapore. But Ireland and Portugal, which have comparable vaccination rates, didn’t make the list. And visitors from only four places in Asia — Hong Kong, Macau, China and Taiwan — may enter by applying for a special pass.

The list of eligible countries from which tourists can visit Indonesia is longer, with travelers from 19 countries cleared to visit Bali and the Riau Islands. People from India, which has vaccinated about a quarter of its population, are good to travel. But those from Malaysia, which has vaccinated 72 percent, or Singapore, 82 percent, aren’t yet welcome.

And the regulations in the Philippines have led to some confusion. Two tourists were sent back to Singapore after they arrived without the proper visas. They were not aware that the Philippines had only opened travel for business or humanitarian reasons.

Thailand is taking a different approach, requiring visitors not to make any stopovers. Tourists can go to the island of Phuket without quarantining if they arrive on a direct flight, and they can tour other parts of the country after seven days. Quarantine-free arrivals to the rest of Thailand will be open to vaccinated tourists from at least 10 countries starting Nov. 1, the authorities said last week.

South Korea has taken yet another path: Instead of allowing tourists to arrive from particular locations, it has allowed people of certain nationalities to visit without a visa. Tourists of one of 49 nationalities may apply for permission to visit.

But a separate list, based on where travelers arrive from, governs who has to undergo two weeks of quarantine on arrival in South Korea; the authorities are adding five countries to the list of those from which fully vaccinated travelers will not have to quarantine starting next month.

Fully vaccinated people flying in from Malawi, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Zambia and Chile will not be required to isolate for two weeks starting in November. Visitors from 16 nations will still need to quarantine, down from 20 in October.

South Korea also relaxed some social distancing regulations on Monday, after several months in which they have been at the highest level in the capital.

Most other countries in the region, including China and Japan, still require visas for vaccinated foreign travelers. Tourists have yet to get approval to enter.

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