Malaysia to introduce vaccinated travel lanes

After months of ongoing discussions, the government of Malaysia has announced a string of new ‘vaccinated travel lanes’ (also known as VTLs) with its neighbors.

The highly-anticipated news is yet another step towards recovering from the pandemic, as thousands of business travelers, tourists, and locals can now travel hassle-free between complying countries.

At the moment, Malaysia is opening up vaccinated travel lanes between Thailand, Singapore, and Cambodia, with the possibility of other countries joining in later. These new VTLs are expected to open during the next few weeks, with many intrepid travelers already applying for a Cambodian visa online in advance.

Malaysia – Thailand vaccinated travel lane

Thanks to an abundance of exciting metropolises, a blend of unique cultures, and stunning nature, Asia is one of the most popular regions in the world for tourism. In fact, Asian & Pacific countries are the second-most visited region in the world, trailing right behind Europe.

With such importance placed on tourism, it’s no wonder why many countries in Southeast Asia are keen to reopen. Although it may take some time, key players such as Malaysia and Thailand have already come up with strategies to safely welcome foreign tourism once again.

One plan of action is to create inter-country travel corridors. These special travel lanes eliminate the need for lengthy quarantine requirements, which are often a barrier for potential tourists.

Datuk Seri Dr. Wee Ka Siong, Malaysia’s Transport Minister, noted that “these routes are expected to aid our mutual economic recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in reviving the ailing tourism industry.”

The new VTL scheme promises up to six daily flights between Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, and Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. There are also talks of expanding the air routes to include four daily flights between Kuala Lumpur and Phuket.

Cambodia is also interested in cooperating with Malaysia and Thailand in their quest to create a travel corridor.

Reopening Cambodia is especially vital to their economy, as more than 32% of the country’s GDP comes from tourism — the highest among any Asian nation.

If these talks are successful, Cambodia would reportedly start with two daily flights between Phnom Penh, the capital, and Kuala Lumpur. There is no word regarding flights between Cambodia and Thailand just yet.

Malaysia – Singapore vaccinated travel lane

Although Malaysia and Singapore have tested out various ‘vaccinated travel lane’ pilot programs in the past, the two countries have finally agreed on a permanent resolution.

From April 1st, fully vaccinated travelers can travel between the two countries via any mode of transport, including air and land travel. Under the new rules, travelers will no longer be subject to quarantine or other restrictions as long as they meet the requirements.

This move comes as both countries have learned to manage the virus. Both Malaysia and Singapore have fully vaccinated more than 80% of each population, with hospitalization and deaths also falling.

Those who wish to travel under the vaccinated travel lane program will need to undergo a few steps. This includes registering at the official government website (My Safe Travel), uploading a vaccine certificate, and purchasing travel insurance. Those who are traveling by air will need to provide proof of a return ticket, while those passing through land borders do not.

The most important requirement for the VTL is for travelers over 17 years old to be fully vaccinated. Those who are partially vaccinated (or unvaccinated) will need to undergo the mandatory 5-day quarantine, as well as take a PCR test on the 4th day or an antigen test on the 5th day.

As part of the new vaccinated travel lanes, there are no longer any caps on the number of travelers. Previously, only 4,000 individuals were allowed to travel between the countries daily.

Walter Theseira, an associate professor at Singapore University, noted that Malaysia and Singapore heavily rely on each other as ‘critical markets.’ He continued, “[The VTL] is absolutely crucial for the day-to-day operation of our economy… The personal travel links are also vital, not just for tourism, but also for trade in services and business.”

Malaysia to reopen to international tourism

Perhaps the most anticipated news is that Malaysia will fully reopen to foreign tourists on April 1st. After more than two years of shutting its borders, the government is joining countries like Hong Kong and Australia in welcoming international tourism once again.

Although the full list of entry requirements is not yet available, some preliminary information is already known. For example, inbound passengers will need to provide proof of a negative PCR test two days before departure and undergo another test within 24 hours after arriving in Malaysia. Similar to the VTL between Malaysia and Singapore, those who are not vaccinated will need to quarantine for five days.

Travelers will also need to download a contact tracing app called MySejahtera. Different regions, such as Sabah, may implement additional requirements.

Photo: Pexels, Skitterphoto

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