Vietnam is reopening its borders to fully-vaccinated international tourists starting March 15, in hopes of resuscitating a moribund tourism industry after a painful two-year closure.
Visitors will still face some impositions — one-day isolation, COVID-19 tests, checking in on a mobile app — but be able to fly into Vietnam’s major airports, or arrive by boat or vehicle, and freely travel about the country.
The news conjures up a recent past when Vietnam was riding high as a global destination darling, with tourism development spreading rampantly across the country, its natural and manmade wonders drawing 18 million foreign visitors who accounted for $12 billion in spending. Those 2019 numbers were wiped out by the pandemic. But now the industry and people around the world yearning to be in Vietnam have the first definitive date for a full reopening. It’s expected to be a years-long revival.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Wednesday finalized the reopening plan as the country continues on a recovery path through its “living with the virus” strategy. By the directive of Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, Vietnam will scrap all of the travel restrictions previously implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Vietnam will restore visa exemptions for 101 countries, including Japan, South Korea, the UK and Italy. It’s also expected to resume e-visa services for 80 countries including the US.
Foreign travelers age 12 and older will be permitted to enter Vietnam next month if they comply with the following:
- Full vaccination against COVID-19
- Negative COVID-19 test result (within 24 hours prior to departure from country of origin for rapid tests; 72 hours for RT-PCR)
- COVID-19 antigen test upon arrival
- 24-hour self-isolation in an accommodation until a negative COVID-19 result is furnished
- At least one COVID-19 mobile app installed and running throughout the stay
- Health monitoring for 14 days
- Medical insurance for COVID-19 treatment worth at least $10,000
Those showing COVID-19 symptoms like fever and cough would have to be tested when they land at any of the international airports in Vietnam.
Given the current upward trend of daily COVID-19 cases in Vietnam, a more detailed health and safety protocol for inbound travelers is expected to be released in the coming days.
Vietnam closed its borders March 22, 2020 and its strict tracking and quarantine policies initially spared citizens from the pathogen. But a major outbreak crippled the economy last year.
After months of lockdown in the second and third quarters of 2021, Vietnam gradually restarted tourism in November via chartered flights, allowing fully vaccinated tourists to visit five destinations. The government said this week that the previous policy on pre-booked tour packages with designated travel firms will be scrapped.
In January, the government further lifted restrictions and restarted regular international flights to and from select cities in Asia and the United States. Fully vaccinated travelers had to isolate at home for three days, instead of spending an expensive week in a quarantine hotel or centralized facility.
This progress in Vietnam’s economic recovery phase comes after the country this month ended all restrictions on international flights. After getting the green light from the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, local and international carriers such as Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines on February 15 started flying again to and from Bangkok, Doha, Dubai, Singapore, and 15 other cities.
Since March 2020, only diplomats, experts, and repatriated Vietnamese were granted permission to enter the country. Even then, travelers needed to furnish several documents, including a costly entry permit and visa.
Data from the General Statistics Office show that there were only 157,269 foreign arrivals in Vietnam in the whole of 2021, 95.9% down from 2019, before the pandemic disrupted the tourism industry.