Hong Kong Travel Bubbles: Complete Guide (Updated)
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As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and while many countries have closed their borders to prevent its spread, international travel has been severely impacted. It is a long journey ahead if you embark on international travel : it typically requires two weeks of self-isolation.
People are talking a lot about ‘travel bubbles’ especially as we are fast approaching the Christmas and holiday season and travel corridors may reunite families or provide a change of scenery. According to aviation industry veteran, Hon Lam, Air Canada’s General Manager for Hong Kong and Southern China, he is hopeful “that some, if not all, of the bubbles can be put in place before Christmas.”
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What is a Travel Bubble?
In a travel bubble, countries re-establish connections between them by opening up borders and allowing people to travel freely within the zone without having the need to undergo on-arrival quarantine. These partnerships rely on demonstrating considerable success in containing and combating the COVID-19 within their respective borders.
All over the world, neighboring countries are now negotiating agreements permitting trips across their borders. The world’s first travel bubble was created on May 15 when the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania opened their borders to one another.
AD MediLink experts have gathered the latest information on travel bubbles between Hong Kong and other countries, so you can stay in the know.
Hong Kong Travel Bubble with Singapore (Confirmed but on hold)
This travel bubble was supposed to launch on November 22. However, the launch has been postponed. Once it resumes, this bubble will technically benefit people who have been residing in HK or Singapore, and they will need to test negative for COVID-19 once using a PCR test in Singapore and twice in Hong Kong.
Travellers departing Hong Kong (except Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders) need to apply for an air travel pass between seven and 30 calendar days before entering Singapore. Applications would start on November 12, 8am, and can be accessed here. Travellers are also expected to download Singapore’s contact tracing app TraceTogether before they arrive in Singapore and to keep it activated during the trip.
Travellers departing Singapore need to submit a health declaration form in advance and book their PCR test to be done at Hong Kong International Airport.
The number of people allowed to move quarantine-free in each direction will initially be limited to 200 travelers per day.
In terms of flights, Singapore Airlines was to operate the Singapore-Hong Kong route via flight SQ890, with the return flight SQ891. Cathay Pacific‘s designated travel bubble flight being CX734 returning as CX759.
The key features of this ATB are as follows:
– there are no restrictions on travel purpose;
– travellers under the ATB will be subject to mutually recognised COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction tests and would need to have negative test results;
– travellers under the ATB will not be subject to any quarantine or Stay-Home Notice requirements, or a controlled itinerary;
– travellers under the ATB will be required to travel on dedicated flights, i.e. these flights will only serve ATB travellers and no transit passengers or non-ATB travellers will be allowed on board; and
– the ATB can be scaled by adjusting the number of dedicated flights upwards or downwards, or even suspended, in line with the latest developments and COVID-19 situation in the two cities.
But as Air Canada’s GM in HK reminds us, COVID-19 measures tend to evolve rapidly and it’s “always best to have a back up plan when you travel. You may need to have your trip cut short or extended. Make sure you have the finances, insurances and allow for extra time if your trip gets extended.”
Hong Kong Travel Bubble with Thailand
Thailand’s borders remain closed to foreign nationals, although there are some exceptions. The country prepares to reopen its borders to tourists.
Thailand will require proof of travel insurance with a coverage sum of at least US$100,000 and Covid-19 treatment.
The situation in each country is monitored closely and discussions between Hong Kong and Thailand are already under way.
Hong Kong Travel Bubble with mainland China
Mainland China’s borders remain closed for tourists since February. The Hong Kong government has been in talks with mainland authorities over creating a travel bubble to bring back non-essential border crossings. Such bubble would essentially involve mutually recognised health code systems to show travellers’ health status, potential contacts with COVID-19 patients as well as their travel history.
However, talks stalled when Hong Kong recorded its third wave of COVID-19 in July.
The Hong Kong tourism industry has been battered by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In August for instance, fewer than 4,500 people visited the city, which is a 99.9% drop on the same month last year.
In 2019, the total number of visitors in Hong Kong was around 56 million, of which over 43 million were from mainland China (about 77%).
Hong Kong Travel Bubble with Macau
Hong Kong residents cannot go to Macau, nor can any tourists, since the beginning of the pandemic. Indeed, at the moment only travelers with Macau residency are permitted to enter Macau.
The situation is being monitored very closely and there are ongoing discussions between Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China.
Late September, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam declared that discussions over opening HK’s border in a “gradual and orderly manner” were back on the table. “It is time for us to take a very pragmatic approach to allow people flow, whether between HK and the mainland, or HK and Macau, and HK with other overseas places,” she said.
Hong Kong Travel Bubble with Taiwan
Taiwan’s border remains closed for tourists since February. Hong Kong is considered a “medium to low” health-risk jurisdiction for Taiwan, while Taiwan is not among the 11 jurisdictions that HK Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said are in “travel bubble” talks with Hong Kong.
There are strong economic, tourism and people ties between Hong Kong and Taiwan and a bubble would certainly make sense. However at this stage, there is no clear indication on when such bubble may be realised.
Hong Kong Travel Bubble with Japan
People from 159 countries and regions, including Hong Kong, are currently not allowed to enter Japan unless there are exceptional circumstances. This has been in force since February.
As of September 14, borders of Japan were reopened for some residents from Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Myanmar although they had to have tested negative for the virus and would have to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The situation is monitored closely and discussions for a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Japan are ongoing. More soon.
Hong Kong Travel Bubble with South Korea
On September 4, Hong Kong and South Korea agreed to allow essential business and official travel between them, which required visitors to have pre-departure and post-arrival Covid-19 tests and stick with a pre-approved itinerary for the first 14 days upon arrival.
It has had a similar arrangement with mainland China since May and formed a travel corridor for essential business and diplomatic trips with Indonesia under different conditions since August.
The situation is monitored closely and discussions between Hong Kong and South Korea are believed to be under way, but on a limited basis: business travel is likely to be prioritised.
Health Insurance Requirements To Travel
Some countries have very specific requirements in regards to insurance certificates, like Russia, which requires an insurance certificate that shows the exact dates of your visa application.
It is also interesting to note that some airlines such as Air Canada provide insurance to all Canadian residents travelling outside of Canada, covering all destinations that the airline flies to. When asked about this, Hon Lam explains that Air Canada “wants to give people the peace of mind that they even if they were tested positive on arrival at their destination, their medical and quarantine costs related to COVID will be covered. The health insurance is complimentary and automatically added to Air Canada customers’s booking round trip tickets from Canada, for travel until April 2021”.
Visiting a different country has always come with entry requirements – a visa, a return ticket, or a passport with six months of validity remaining. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have enacted more stringent requirements: proof you purchased international healthcare coverage.
It is the case for Anguila, Aruba, Bahamas, Brazil, Cambodia, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dubai, Ecuador, European Schengen Countries, French Polynesia, Iran, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Seychelles, St. Marteen, Thailand, Turkey, Turks and Caicos Islands, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.
“We are definitely entering in a new era where proof of vaccination or negative tests will become the new entry visa and health insurance may also be part of this new regime” says aviation veteran Hon Lam.
Looking for health insurance? For expert advice, contact AD MediLink now at email@example.com or +852 2606 2668 to receive a free quote. An advisor uniquely trained on the Hong Kong healthcare system will be in touch to answer all your questions about health insurance and healthcare.
This article was independently written by AD MediLink and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.