8 Southeast Asian Destinations To Visit First Once It’s Safe To Do So


Cheng Sim •  Jun 07, 2020

From scenic beaches and islands to delicious street food, Southeast Asian has it all. As much we miss escaping to our favourite budget destinations in Southeast Asia, there's more to be done before the pandemic situation gets better.

While we wait for the travel restrictions in Southeast Asia to be lifted soon, we can't help but think about the first destination in Southeast Asia we would visit once it's safe to do so. From the scenic beaches in Bali to the bustling streets of Hat Yai, we're fixing our eyes on these amazing cities.

1. Bali, Indonesia

Although the Indonesian borders are temporarily closed, Bali is expected to reopen its tourism sector in July 2020 after a two-month closure due to the pandemic. It's definitely welcoming news for this beautiful island as it depends heavily on tourism.

If you're planning to travel to Bali someday, be prepared to present several mandatory documents at Denpasar International Airport Bali, including a health certificate stating that you're tested negative for COVID-19 and a completed COVID-19 Health Awareness form.

2. Penang, Malaysia

Penang is known as one of the green zone states in Malaysia, which recorded the least number of COVID-19 infections and hot spot areas. In recent weeks, we've also seen selected public parks and nature attractions, restaurants and mosques reopen to the public as the state eases into the new normal.

While interstate travel in Malaysia is not allowed to the public, the Penang government had issued a proposal to establish 'travel corridors' with other green zone states in Malaysia as part of their efforts to revive domestic travel in Penang.

It's going to take a while before we can visit Malaysia's street food capital again, but we'll definitely plan our future itinerary with these travel guides.

3. Hanoi, Vietnam

If there's one good news that ignites hope in Southeast Asia, that would be Vietnam. As reported by The Star, there were no new COVID-19 cases reported in Vietnam for the past 50 days (as of 6 June 2020), which means there's an opportunity for the country to revive its domestic travel in the coming months.

Currently, Vietnam is temporarily banning travellers from entering or transiting through the country to manage its pandemic situation. While we're waiting for further updates on when Vietnam will be reopening its tourism sector, our hope remains high that we'll visit their famous attractions and cities someday.

4. Siem Reap, Cambodia

As of 6 June 2020, Cambodia had recorded 125 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 7 cases from Siem Reap province, which is a good sign for anyone who is planning to visit Angkor Wat. In recent weeks, the government had also eased its travel restriction by lifting the entry ban for the United States, France, Germany, Iran, Italy and Spain.

However, short-term visitors who are given entry to Cambodia must provide a COVID-19 medical certificate, a proof of medical insurance with a minimum coverage of $50,000, and undergo self-isolation for 14 days - which can be a hassle for future leisure travellers.

The mandatory documents may be an extra step needed to visit this country once again, but don't let it deter you from dreaming about your future Siem Reap adventure.

5. Sabah, Malaysia

Since 11 May 2020, Sabah is one of the first states in Malaysia to reopen its domestic tourism, sports and recreational activities under the CMCO. With accommodation, adventure and recreation, food and beverages as well as ticketing services in Sabah reopening with strict SOPs, it definitely gives us hope that we'll visit this beautiful destination someday.

While Malaysians entering Sabah will no longer need to undergo a 14-day quarantine, the Sabah Health Department had shared that it only applies to passengers who are tested negative for COVID-19 and have a confirmation letter from Malaysia's Ministry of Health.

6. Brunei Darussalam

Since 1 June 2020, Brunei has recorded zero new cases of COVID-19, keeping the total number of confirmed cases at 141. While the country is still fighting the pandemic with strict SOPs, the current numbers definitely give us hope that a Brunei getaway could be a possibility once the borders are open.

When in Brunei, you should try the traditional ambuyat at Aminah Arif, sample delicious street food at Gadong Night Market, and experience the untouched nature at Ulu Temburong National Park.

7. Luang Prabang, Laos

There's so much to love about Luang Prabang, the ancient city in northern Laos. Peppered with tranquil temples, street markets and laid-back atmosphere, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the perfect destination for travellers who want to step away from the city's hustle and bustle.

During the trying times of the pandemic, the Laos government had managed the COVID-19 situation well and there were no new cases reported for over a month (as reported on 17 May 2020).

While the travel restrictions are still in place, we hope to experience the serenity of Kuang Si Waterfalls, savour delicious Muslim-friendly snacks, and practice our bargaining skills at Luang Prabang Night Market someday.

8. Hat Yai, Thailand

Credit: Fairuz Othman on Flickr

If we could choose one destination in Thailand to visit after COVID-19, that would be Hat Yai. A Muslim-friendly destination that's situated close to the Malaysian border, there are many reasons why travellers would make their way here.

From savouring seafood tom yam at Salma Halal Restaurant to shopping at ASEAN Night Bazaar, the number of things to do in Hat Yai is endless.

While international travellers are still not allowed to enter or transit through Thailand, the government will be easing their lockdown measures starting 1 July 2020 where restaurants, food courts, museums, shopping malls and other premises will be open, which is a good sign that leisure travel might be in the cards once it's safe to travel again.

As we're going through this period of uncertainty, thinking about our next travel destination is a good way to keep our travel spirits alive. Whether you want to escape to the beautiful beaches of Bali or the bustling city of Hat Yai, Southeast Asia will always be here waiting.