Travelling Overseas During Covid-19? Here’s What You Need To Prepare

Mikaela Anthonysamy

Mikaela Anthonysamy

Last updated 21 February, 2022

While Malaysia’s borders remain closed (at the time of writing), travellers from here are allowed to head overseas. There are several countries that have opened their borders for tourism, and you can check out some of them here:

Related: 10 Countries Tourists From Malaysia Can Now Visit Without Having To Quarantine

In this article, we’ll cover some of the things that you should have ready before making your voyage. Bear in mind that each country will have their own rules, so not all of them will require what’s listed below. But you can use this as a general guide for what to prepare for your trip.

1. Proof of vaccination

Most countries that are open for tourism once more require travellers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Those who aren’t might either be barred from entering the country altogether, or they might need to serve a mandatory quarantine—something those who are inoculated might be able to skip.

But being vaccinated alone isn’t enough; the vaccine that you’ve taken must also be recognized in your destination country. For example, months ago, many countries such as the UK did not accept Sinovac—a vaccine given to a large number of people in Malaysia. And while more countries recognize Sinovac now, there are still some that don’t. 

There are also vaccines that aren’t accepted because of where they are manufactured or distributed. One instance would be Covishield, an Indian version of Oxford-AstraZeneca that is not recognized in Malaysia even though AstraZeneca itself is.

Once you’ve confirmed that your vaccine is accepted, make sure to bring along your vaccination certificate with you. This can come in the form of a physical copy or e-certificate in your phone. Check if the destination country also requires you to upload this certificate prior to arrival.

2. PCR/RTK tests

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While there may be some countries who will allow unvaccinated travellers in as long as they’re willing to undergo a quarantine, almost all of them will require you to get tested for Covid-19. If you travel to the Maldives for example, you will need to get tested 96 hours or 4 days before leaving. On the other hand, the US requires travellers to get tested one day before departure.

However, with the Omicron variant around and amid fears of another Covid-19 wave, countries have also ramped up testing. Take the Langkawi travel bubble for instance. At present, travellers need to get tested pretty much everyday—sometimes with a PCR test and other times with an RTK Antigen test.

Some destinations can also ask you to get tested upon arrival, on the 3rd day, 5th day, 7th day of arrival, and so on. As these rules change from time to time, make sure you check proper sources such as government websites on what the exact requirements are during your travels. This can help you set aside the right amount of money for these tests and you can also be more mentally prepared for them.

3. Quarantine facilities

As mentioned earlier, some destinations have scrapped quarantine altogether, but there are others that still impose this. In most cases, travellers will either be allowed to quarantine at home, or they’ll need to go to a designated quarantine facility such as a hotel. Again, in order to be more prepared, find out whether you need to quarantine in your destination, what options are available to you and the cost of all of this.

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You’ll also need to check if you have to be under quarantine when returning to your country. At present, travellers who are returning to Malaysia from overseas must serve one week of quarantine. Home quarantine is available, but you’ll need to apply for it first. If your application is rejected, you’ll need to stay at a hotel instead. 

Malaysia also has slightly different rules for high-risk countries where there is a community spread of the Omicron variant. Those returning from these countries will need to wear a digital tracker if they want to quarantine at home.

4. Other local Covid-19 regulations

While Covid-19 has plagued the whole world, not all countries have taken the same measures against it. Some still have mask mandates, some have removed masking requirements for vaccinated people, while others have even made Covid-19 vaccination mandatory.

In Malaysia, for example, certain social activities are now permitted, but this may not be the case in some countries. To avoid getting fined for breaking rules like this, please check any local regulations thoroughly before you get there. Unfortunately, saying you didn’t know a particular rule existed might not be enough to save you from being penalized. So to be safe, do your homework on the laws in your destination country.

Related: Best Travel Insurance Deals in Malaysia 

5. Miscellaneous travel documents

With international travel opening up just recently, it goes without saying that many of our travel documents such as passports and visas would have expired. This might be a no-brainer, but it’s possible to overlook even the simplest of things. Make sure all of this is valid before your travels, and that you also have sufficient pages in your passport, as that can be an issue too.

If the country you’re heading to isn’t fully open for tourism but has allowed you to enter for certain reasons such as marriage or a new job, make sure you bring along whatever special pass was issued to you. Some places might require you to book a return ticket even if you plan to move there permanently. This can happen if you’re flying on a tourist visa which will later be converted to something else. To confirm things like these, you can join official travel groups and pages that post frequent updates.

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And finally, besides following Covid-19 rules, you might even have to get other documentation or phone apps that can verify your health/vaccination status. Qatar, for example, has an Ehteraz app (something  like our MySejahtera) which is optional for citizens and residents, but is mandatory for visitors. France, on the other hand, has a Covid Health Pass which you’ll need to present before entering various locations.

All of this may be a lot of information, but as we said, not everything might apply to you. We’d like to remind you again to refer only to official sources for information on travel rules and measures. If you’re travelling any time soon, happy holidaying and stay safe!

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Lawyer-turned-writer, Mikaela demonstrates the sharp legal acumen to analyse topics and draw out the most valuable insights.