Phu Quoc - will Vietnam re-open tourist visas for foreigners in 2021?
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Vietnam to Re-Open to Tourism on March 15th, without Quarantining

Latest news about Vietnamese re-opening to tourists: Vietnam is considered fully-opened to Canadian tourists, and has removed entry-requirements such as self-quarantining and Covid-App tracking for fully-vaccinated travellers.

Update: April 25th 2022

Oct-4th: official announcement that tourists will be admitted to Phu Quoc at the end of November 2021 [source].

Oct-15th: Other cities like Nha Trang announces plan for pilot program in Nov 2021. Ministry announces tentative plans to re-open whole country to international tourism in Q2 2022 [source].

Oct-22th: There is 4-Phase proposal being discussed. Phase 3 would re-open all of Vietnam to tourists in April 2022, with a 3-7 day quarantine requirement upon arrival. Phase 4 would entail a full return to normalcy, in July 2022 [source].

Nov-17th: Da Nang welcomes its first tourist flight from Korea. Tourists require a carefully-regulated packaged-tour including all travel amenities and pre-determined schedule [source].

Nov-20th: Phu Quoc welcomes first tourist flight under restricted pilot program [source].

Dec-7th: The EU/Korean Chambers of Commerce are pressuring Vietnam to normalize international tourism, threatening loss of investment and missed opportunities [sources 1 & 2].

Dec-9th: There is a government proposal to resume international commerical flights starting Jan 1st, but details about quarantines and health-monitoring are to-be-determined [source].

Dec-17th: New clarifications about quarantining: fully-vaccinated arrivals will need to quarantine at home or establishments for 3 days and need negative-PCR tests [source].

Dec-22th: With the Omicron variant surging in Vietnam, the Vietnamese government has officially said that Vietnam must be “flexible” and “live safely with Covid-19”, reducing fears of new tourism shutdowns [source].

Feb-3rd: “Full re-opening” of all-localities tentatively planned for April 30th — maybe sooner. Details yet to emerge, but the government press releases suggest a back-to-normal tourism industry upon completion of the 3rd round of vaccinations [source].

Feb-16th: Vietnam lifts restrictions on the number of in-bound flights, removing the cap on the maximum number of tourists allowed in the country [source].

Feb-22nd: Multiple ministries propose to completely open-up Vietnam starting March 15th, including only 1 day self-quarantine. The proposal still needs official approval [source].

March-10th: Vietnamese state television announces that they plan to reopen tourism in Vietnam, without quarantining, to all tourists on March 15th. Embassies are still not issuing tourist visas; they are waiting for official guidance.

March-20th: The Vietnamese government resumes issuing tourist visas to citizens of 13 countries: UK, Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia and Belarus. Canadians can also now apply to the Vietnamese embassy in Ottawa for tourist visas.

April-25th: Entry requirements have been lifted. Vaccinated travellers will no longer need to self-quarantine nor download tracking-software.

Since early-2020, Vietnam stopped issuing tourist visas to foreigners as part of an aggressive campaign to slow the spread of Covid-19. Now, things are rapidly changing, almost daily.

Since the end of November, there have been a few pilot programs to receive tourist under heavily-monitored and heavily-restricted conditions, in places like Phú Quốc and Da Nang. Both has already re-opened to tourists, and Nha Trang is preparing for a similar pilot program.

RELATED: Things to do in Da Nang – Our perfect 1 week itinerary.

The success of similar programs in Thailand and Cambodia has resulted in a surge of international pressure on Vietnam to fully-reopen and remove onerous barriers to tourism and investment, with petitions from the Korean and EU Chambers of Commerce.

Things are changing very rapidly. On Dec 9th, there was a government proposal to resume international commercial flights starting Jan 1st from a limited number of originating cities, including Beijing (China), Tokyo (Japan), Seoul (Korea), Taipei (Taiwan), Bangkok (Thailand), Singapore, Vientiane (Laos), Phnom Penh (Cambodia), and Los Angeles (USA). This would be limited to only 4 flights/week, for approximatelhy 14,000 travellers per week [source].

In early February 2022, the Department of Tourism has been making press-releases about a “full re-opening” to tourism, akin to pre-Covid conditions and volume [source]. On March 15th, the government resumed issuing tourist visas for 13 countries, without the need for extended quarantining at government-sanctioned hotels (i.e., normal re-opening). The list of approved countries includes: Canada, UK, Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia and Belarus.

As of March 15th, tourist visas are being issued to Canadians.

International Pressure for Vietnam to Re-Open

State-run media is openingly publishing reports about growing pressure from domestic tourism operators and international investors about the dire consequences of Vietnam’s onerous travel restrictions.

For example, the Korean and EU Chambers of Commerce have sent petitions to the Vietnamese government warning about loss of investment and how Vietnam is falling behind its neighbours [source]. Similar grumbles are being published from the tourism authorities [source].

The fact that state-controlled media are openingly publishing stores about such internal and external pressures is interpreted by some Vietnam-watchers as a tacit admission by the Vietnamese government that it will have to re-open faster. Will the onerous 4-phase program be sped-up or scrapped altogether? Look for updates in the next month.

Details About Vietnam’s Quarantine-Free Tourism Re-Opening in Phú Quốc

The details about the program are are changing rapidly, but here is what we know so far:

  • Travelers will need to be fully-vaccinated (i.e., 2 does) upon arrival and must have vaccine passport recognized by Vietnam (negotiated between origin-country and Vietnam).
  • Travelers will require a negative Covid-19 test prior to arrival.
  • International travelers will be tested twice on the first day of arrival for Covid-19, and once upon departure.
  • There will be no quarantine period.
  • The minimum stay on Phú Quốc will be 5 days.
  • The program is capped to 5000 tourists on the island.
  • Mass gatherings will be limited.
  • Transportation between the airport and tourists’ accommodations will be strictly controlled by health & tourism officials.
  • There are at least two participating resorts: Vinpearl in the North, and Sunworld in the South); although more resorts are expected to join. Read more about the Vingroup and Sungroup resorts.
  • Amenities like resorts, entertainment and sport venues, parks and zoos will be available but the tourists schedule and activities will be strictly controlled.
  • The pilot program will target tourists from certain countries, such as Russia, Korea, and China.

The Phú Quốc program and Da Nang program’s are strictly controlled. For example, the Da Nang tourism pilot includes the following restrictions:

  • The package-tour includes specific pre-planned destinations that are approved to welcome foreigners.
  • Tourists can only stay are prescribed hotels.
  • Visit to domestic relatives may be allowed, but must have prior written consent from authorities.
  • Tourists will require continuous health monitoring.
  • Tourists must have a “covid passport” agreement between Vietnam and their country of origin.

Will Phú Quốc Tourists Have Access to the Whole Island?

It is not currently known if tourists will be able to move freely around the island. However, based on Vietnam’s preferred-use of check-points and permit-only travel within cities during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is reasonable to expect that travel within Phú Quốc will be carefully regulated, e.g., via guarded check-points. Until new information becomes available, it is a conservative assumption that tourists will not have free mobility across the whole island.

However, if the program is limited to the Vinpearl Resort and/or Sun World Resort, visitors are unlikely to feel constrained or constricted by the mobility-limits. The two mega-resorts are massive and sprawling, and provide amble space for resort-going tourists to enjoy themselves (assuming you are the kind of tourist who likes resorts).

Fun Things To Do on Phú Quốc

See our full post on Top 10 Things To Do On Phu Quoc

If you are a resort-loving tourist, then the 5-star Vinpearl or Sunworld Resorts have a lot of Disneyland-esque activities, including water parks, discos, marathons, organized beach games, and even recreations of European towns. These all-encompassing resorts feel like a place outside of time.

However, if you like a little rugged adventure with your tropical-island vacation, and wish to see the “real” Vietnam, the best thing to do on Phú Quốc is to rent a motorbike and take 2-3 days to circumnavigate the island.

Our favourite 10 things to do on Phú Quốc that don’t involve resorts

Fishing Villages

Night Market

Strange Religions

See our post dedicated to Top 10 Things To Do on Phu Quoc. We discuss things like hammock cafes, fishing villages, hidden beaches, diving, night markets, and more!

Special Foods to Try on Phú Quốc

Phú Quốc is especially famous for its seafood. You’ll find various exotic and flavourful dishes with snails, sea cucumber, sea urchins, grouper, mackerel and more than you can imagine. On more conservative side, try the grilled mackerel.

If/when you get tired of sea food, here are some other delicious foods to find on Phú Quốc:

  • Casava Waffles – Bánh khoai mì (south) / bánh sắn (north) – these slightly-sweet fried casava-waffles really hit the spot. Filling, simple yet exotic. We couldn’t stop eating these.
  • Bánh canh – this isn’t a Phu-Quoc specialty per se, but they do it very well on the island. These thick savoury noodles are a staple. They come with various vegies, herbs, and meats that make for highly satisfying combinations.
  • Vegetarian Buffet – if you tire of seafood, try the amazingly done faux-meats at the various vegetarian buffets in Dương Đông town. They make unbelievably convincing meat-substitutes, as well as a wide variety of other spicy vegie dishes. The popularity of such Vegetarian restaurants isn’t to accomodate Californian tourists; rather, many Vietnamese choose to be vegetarian on auspicious days, like the first and 15th day of the Lunar-calendar months. Read more here.
The Western side of Phu Quoc has beautiful beaches and resorts
Beautiful beaches on the West-side resort-strip outside of Phu Quoc town. The West-side beaches are open access, clean, and safe for swimming. Photo credit: William @ VietnamDaily
Eastern side of Phu Quoc is away from all the resorts
The eastern side of Phu Quoc is less touristy, with sometimes rugged beaches, sometimes highly-industrialized/fishing beaches, but also hidden gems for explorers. Photo Credit: William @ VietnamDaily
A temple on a rocky outcropping in Phu Quoc town
Temple on the rugged coast of Phu Quoc. Photo credit: William @ VietnamDaily

Cambodia to Re-Open to Tourism Faster Than Vietnam

Cambodia announced (Oct 28th, source) its program re-open in November 2021. Unlike Vietnam, the program would be quarantine-free — tourists will be allowed to roam freely so long as they stay in certain designated areas like Sihanoukville and Koh Kong.

The program is somewhat similar to Vietnam’s proposed 4-stage approach, but with fewer restrictions and an excelerated re-opening schedule. Will the program force Vietnam to re-open faster?

[sources: https://tuoitre.vn/vung-xanh-phu-quoc-sap-don-khach-quoc-te-20210911221656585.htm; https://dulich.tuoitre.vn/cuoi-thang-11-phu-quoc-don-khach-quoc-te-20211004101703278.htm; https://tuoitre.vn/de-xuat-mo-lai-cac-chuyen-bay-quoc-te-cho-khach-vao-viet-nam-theo-4-giai-doan-20211021223449027.htm]

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