Joining a list of other Asian countries opening up to travelers, Vietnam is the latest tourist hotspot in the continent to announce ambitious plans to scrap almost all existing travel restrictions. This time, even sooner than initially expected in June, with March 15 set as the official re-launch date.
Following the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, Vietnam imposed incredibly strict Covid protocols at its borders, forbidding entry to all foreign nationals irrespective of vaccination status. However, as the world starts healing from the latest wave, and more and more countries abolish restrictions, this dire scenario could again change.
Full Reopening Now Possible By March 15
As announced by Vietnam’s Tourism Ministry on February 15, it is becoming increasingly likely the rising Asian star will lift “nearly all” travel restrictions from March 15, or three months earlier than originally planned by state authorities. This could mean overseas visitors, including Americans and Canadians, would once more be welcome in the country.
Although the proposal still needs the Prime Minister’s approval, Vietnam seems to be rushing to keep on a par with neighboring nations, such as Thailand and Cambodia. Both of them allow entry to non-citizens traveling for tourism purposes under certain conditions, including being vaccinated and undergoing testing.
In spite of the good signs, the review in measures still does not mean immunized travelers are completely in the clear: in fact, the drafted proposal still maintains a one-day quarantine for arrivals, as reported by the CNN, besides pre-departure and on-arrival testing. It is still surely an improvement over a complete entry ban.
When Covid was declared a pandemic, Vietnam quickly imposed one of the toughest border regimes in the world. It meant that, for most of the crisis, very few visitors have been known to have reached Vietnam, dealing a crippling blow to its tourism industry, which comprised nearly 10% of the GDP in 2019 alone.
When it comes to arrivals, a mere 157,000 were registered in 2021, compared to the pre-pandemic highs of 18 million in 2019. The sharp drop in arrivals is largely attributed to the government’s crackdown on international travelers in the fight against Covid. However, as the World Health Organization stated, such measures have proved “inneficient”.
Will Tourists Be Allowed To Visit Again If Vaccinatted?
As of now, we still do not know what Vietnam’s new entry rules will look like from March 15, as discussions are ongoing, though it is safe to assume it will entail a vaccination proof requirement, as well as PCR and/or rapid testing mandates.
As for the unvaccinated, they may not benefit from Vietnam’s reopening in the short-term, with the country being unlikely to follow Mexico’s lead in lifting all Covid-related requirements. In Asia specifically, Sri Lanka remains one of the few destinations still welcoming unvaccinated American tourists, though they are subject to further testing.
Currently, foreign visitors are in principle not allowed to enter Vietnam, as the change in the rules is yet to be effected. The country has temporarily suspended the issuing of tourist visas, which also included simplified visa procedures for both Americans and Canadians, who had been allowed to obtain a visa on arrival prior to 2020.
Select categories of travelers may still enter the country, including diplomats, certain high-skilled workers, and holders of residence permits. But all is not lost for the average traveler who cannot wait for March: those who join official group tours to destinations that have been pre-approved by the Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism also qualify for an exception.
When traveling to Vietnam on a tour package, U.S. and Canadian citizens are expected to present the following at the border:
- Proof of complete vaccination against Covid completed no more than a year preceding arrival, or present an official certificate of recovery not older than six months;
- A negative RT-PCR/RT-LAMP test within 72 hours of boarding;
- Travel insurance that includes Covid treatment, with a minimum coverage of $50,000;
- Tour package booking via an approved travel agency.
If flying this winter, and especially to strict destinations such as Vietnam, travelers are advised to purchase health insurance that covers Covid in advance. Besides being an official requirement for travel to the country, it also protects the insured from the high costs of flight cancelations, quarantine, and even Covid treatment while abroad.
Traveler Alert: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance For Your Next Trip!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com