Can 'Travel Bubbles' save our summer?
Last updated on 23 June, 2020
At last, the travel industry is making a comeback and people are more than excited to recoup their summer holiday plans. It does come with a little catch though: depending on your departure country, your choice of holiday destinations is going to be quite limited.
‘Travel bubbles’, as known now everywhere, are the first step that many countries have taken towards saving their tourism this summer.
What are ‘Travel Bubbles’?
Simply put, a travel bubble happens when neighbouring countries decide to open their borders to one another, allowing their citizens to travel freely between them and avoid a mandatory self-quarantine requirement.
It’s not entirely clear if they're 100% legal, especially for countries in the European Union, but being a much needed travel option, countries are going ahead with travel bubbles as soon as this week. For the ones outside the bubbles, quarantine restrictions would still apply.
For now among the continents, Europe has proceeded with this new travel trend with Asia and the Pacific expected to follow suit. It is still uncertain whether Africa and the United States will open their borders in the near future and if travel bubbles will be their choice of tourism.
There are talks about possible travel bubbles happening mainly in South-East Asia.
China is considering inviting Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and South Korea to join its ‘travel bubble’.
Vietnam is putting a lot of effort into starting its tourism industry already and June might even bring some international flights to the country but for now Vietnam is in talks with China and South Korea about opening borders to one another.
The Indonesian government has started an internal discussion to draw up plans for a 'travel bubble' between Australia, China, Japan and South Korea.
As of 8 June 2020, China will be the first country to establish the 'fast lane' with Singapore. The 'fast lane' will be established between six provinces in China: Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Singapore is also in discussion with Australia, South-Korea, Malaysia and New Zealand to establish green lane arrangements for essentials business and official travel .
Malaysia is in the early stages of discussion to set up 'travel bubble' with 6 countries: Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.
The first countries that began talks about opening up travel corridors have now officially agreed to form a Pacific bubble when it’s deemed safe. Australia and New Zealand have committed to opening a trans-Tasman travel zone for their citizens. By estimations, it will happen in August at the earliest.
Experts are predicting that Asia and the Pacific will join together in a big eastern hemisphere travel bubble, which will include countries that were successful in fighting the virus. Australia and New Zealand could join forces with South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan and even China.
Europe & Middle East
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have opened borders between the three countries as early as May 15. Anyone else entering from outside these three countries will have to go into a quarantine for 14 days. The Luthuanian Prime Minister stated that Poland and Finland could be next to join the free travel bloc. The Baltic bubble has been a success so far allowing unrestricted travel between the three countries for the past few days.
Slovakia has also confirmed that it will open its borders to Austria and the Czech Republic on June 15. Some technical issues still need to be agreed on between Slovakia and Czech Republic before mid June but both Prime Ministers are positive that the travel bubble between the three countries will happen.
Austria, Germany and Switzerland have opened their borders to one another as of May 16 for citizens, who want to visit their partner or relatives, as well as to owners of agricultural, hunting or forest areas. Germany and Switzerland are also looking into including France in their allowed destinations. The possibility of this is expected on June 15.
Austria is part of yet another open border deal. Apart from being in travel bubbles with Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland, the country is set to open its borders with Hungary on June 15.
Israel, Greece and Cyprus are currently discussing creating their own bubble.
From 15 June, Denmark and Norway will establish 'travel bubble' will be opening up their borders to each other, excluding the Scandinavian neighbour Sweden, where the number of COVID-19 infections is higher.
Is Hong Kong part of any 'Travel Bubble'?
Not yet, however, Hong Kong has plans to establish 'Travel Bubbles' with Macau and Guangdong province. Under the plan, Hong Kong residents with a valid health certificate stating they are free of the coronavirus would be exempt from mandatory quarantine when travelling to the province and the casino hub.
Disclaimer: Changes in local policies are continuously unwrapping, and we will keep updating the list with more destinations and details. In the meantime, we recommend you to check the official websites of the local authorities for the most up-to-date travel information. As much as we would love to encourage you to plan your next trips, in the current situation, we urge you to be conscious about the consequences and consider the risks involved.