During the height of the COVID pandemic, especially during the early days, every county handled the virus in its own way when it came to travelers who wanted to visit. Nearly all nations initially shut down, but some reopened quickly (some might say probably too quickly – as this country did), and most of the rest have followed suit, some faster, some slower, some with false starts, and all with varying degrees of COVID-related requirements.
We’re at a point where it’s probably safe to say we’re emerging from the pandemic, since we’re currently at a time when vaccines are available and the current variants are relatively mild for those who are vaccinated or immune. Hospitalizations and deaths continue to decrease, are at the lowest point since the pandemic began, and are generally limited to those who were not vaccinated. However, to be sure, COVID continues, with a variant that’s mild but very contagious. So with all that to consider, the same types of differences in travel protocols between countries continue.
Some nations, such as these 15 in Europe, no longer have COVID protocols for incoming travelers. Others are taking a more careful approach and require visitors to show/do one or more of proof of full vaccination, or show proof of infection, or take a COVID test, or quarantine for a time, etc. And others, like these, still aren’t even open to tourism yet.
International travel to Afghanistan is not permitted. There are exemptions for nationals and pre-authorized travelers. However, most international flights have been suspended until further notice and tourism is still not allowed.
That being said, due to the security situation, terrorist attacks, ongoing armed conflict, risk of kidnapping and high crime rate, most Western countries are recommending avoiding all travel to Afghanistan, regardless of their COVID protocols.
The first case of COVID was in China, and the country quickly shut down virtually everything in terms of movement. Whole cities would be shut down for weeks at a time due to COVID outbreaks (which still happens to this day). Visitors have been allowed in only under specific circumstances and, at times, have had to go through some questionable processes in the name of COVID (remember when Japan had to ask the Chinese government to not do anal swab tests on their diplomats in Beijing?).
To this day, China is still employing a “zero COVID” policy and international tourism has not resumed there.
Hong Kong has been very serious in its COVID policies. However effective April 21st, Hong Kong is lifting some COVID restrictions. Restaurants will be able to operate until 10 p.m. with a maximum of four people per table, while businesses like beauty parlors, gyms, theme parks and cinemas will be allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity.
That being said, Hong Kong is not yet open to travelers (save for Hong Kong residents traveling from overseas, and even they have to go through a whole rigamarole of quarantine and testing upon entry) or tourism in general.
Save for the international teams of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (which were held in 2021. #COVID), Japan has generally been closed to visitors.
On March 1, 2022, select foreign students, business travelers and technical trainees have been allowed into the country in incremental amounts per day (before April 10th, it was 7,000 per day. It’s now 10,000 per day).
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno reiterates that foreign tourists are still barred from entry.
“Japan plans to increase international movements of people in stages by taking into account the infection situation at home and abroad and border control measures that other major nations have taken,” Matsuno said at a news conference, as per the Japan Times on April 1st.
All non-residents and all unvaccinated residents 12 years of age or older are prohibited from entering Macau from overseas locations. U.S. citizens with Macau, mainland China, Hong Kong or Taiwan residency (or those who have spent the preceding 21 days in mainland China) and have the appropriate visa are permitted to enter Macau (as per US Consulate General Hong Kong & Macau).
Macau is not open for tourism.
On January 22, 2020, North Korea was the first country to close its borders to all tourism and travel. Its borders remain closed. It’s been suggested that China is likely to have an impact on the future of North Korea’s tourism since nearly all international tourists must travel to China to get to North Korea.
(That being said, Individuals cannot use a U.S. passport to travel to, in, or through North Korea without a special validation from the Department of State, anyway).
As of March 7, 2022, the country has allowed the entry of international business travelers. As of April 12, foreign relatives of R.O.C. (Taiwan) nationals and valid Alien Resident Certificate holders residing in Taiwan may apply to enter Taiwan. All must apply for a special entry permit. Tourism has not yet returned to Taiwan.
All international scheduled commercial flights to and from Turkmenistan continue to be suspended. All road borders are closed. The International Seaport of Turkmenistan at Turkmenbashi is also closed to passenger traffic. All told, entry into the country is prohibited except for Turkmen nationals and accredited diplomats, permanently registered foreigners, essential workers and some employees of international companies and organizations.
There is no tourism to Turkmenistan at this time.
Most airports in Syria remain closed. The governments of most Western countries do not recommend travel to Syria anyway, due to ongoing terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict, and the risk of unjust detention.
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