How to plan a dive trip in the post-Covid World

As the world finally opens, here’s a round-up of a few of our favourite dive destinations that you can visit right now, and what you need to know before you book that trip. We also look at what countries might be opening soon.

Singapore

The Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group operates Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) arrangements. This means that if you prove you have been vaccinated before you get on your VTL flight to Singapore, you can enter Singapore, and your final destination, using an outbound VTL flight, without any further testing or quarantine. Obviously subject to the destination countries’ entry requirements. It is building out its VTL arrangements: 

  • Scoot (TR), SIA’s low-cost subsidiary, will include Manila to its VTL network, which importantly for us includes Manado.
  • SIA will progressively convert more non-VTL flights to VTL flights for existing VTL destinations. These include Bangkok, London, and Male from April onwards.
  • Please refer to Singapore Airlines‘ and Scoot’s dedicated pages for VTL travel requirements, as well as the start date for the various VTL arrangements. 
  • Note the first link above contains further useful links to Eligibility & Requirements at VTL destination countries.  
  • There is also a SingaporeAir mobile app so that you may enjoy a digital contactless journey. Our app enables you to check in online, generate your mobile boarding pass, receive key travel notifications 

Malaysia

From the 1st of April 2022, Malaysia will welcome back international visitors as the nation enters the endemic phase of the covid pandemic.

Fully-vaccinated travellers can enjoy quarantine-free travel with the following conditions:

  • Present proof of a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test two days before departure.
  • Undergo professionally administered RTK-Ag within 24 hours upon arrival in Malaysia.
  • Download and activate the MySejahtera contact tracing app (from Apple App Store, Google Play Store or Huawei AppGallery)
  • Complete the pre-departure form under the ‘Traveller’ icon without the need to apply for MyTravelPass, which will be abolished.

However, international travellers who are not fully vaccinated must undergo five-day quarantine upon arrival. Meanwhile, children and young people aged 12 to 17 are allowed for quarantine-free entry and only need to undergo professionally administered COVID-19 RTK-Ag within 24 hours upon arrival in Malaysia. Up to date information can be found HERE.

Fiji

Fiji opened its borders to quarantine-free travel around the same time Australia allowed quarantine-free entry to Aussie residents – just in time for a Christmas dive holiday! The rules have changed a bit since borders first opened, with paperwork and testing regimes becoming a little more relaxed.

Check out this very useful FAQ page for more information.

To enter Fiji, you’ll now need:

  • Certificate to show your vaccination status. In Australia these are called International COVID-19 Vax Certificate (ICVC).
  • Travel insurance showing cover in the event of COVID-19 for self-isolation costs.
  • PCR Negative Test result with the specimen collection date no more than 48 hours prior to your flight’s departure or RAT Test within 24 hours.
  • A document showing CFC certified accommodation for at least the first three days.

Top Tip. Book your Fiji dive trip sooner rather than later – especially your flights and avoid school holidays.

Philippines

The Philippines opened rather suddenly late February, and happily the airlines have caught up with demand quickly, with regular, reasonably priced flights to Manila and beyond – from mid-March onwards. Here’s what you need:

  • Acceptable proof of vaccination (National or State level, ie, ICVC is OK)
  • Negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours before the date and time of departure.
  • Valid tickets for your return journey to your port of origin or next destination not later than 30 days from the date of arrival in the Philippines.
  • Passports valid for a period of at least six months at the time of your arrival.
  • Travel insurance for Covid-19 treatment costs, with a minimum coverage of USD 35,000 for the duration of your stay in the Philippines.

Here is the list of countries that can come to the Philippines as of Feb 11th.

Top Tip: It is possible to extend your stay beyond the 30 day limit workaround. Book a flexible flight then after 28 days pay $100 an immigration offer to get an extension.

Maldives

The Maldives reopened its borders back in July 2020, and since December has allowed entry to visitors who present a negative PCR test for COVID-19, taken within 96 hours of arrival.

  • Negative PCR test result and certificate
  • Proof of full vaccination
  • Travel Insurance
  • Download TraceEkee App
  • Traveller Health Declaration Form. Download HERE.
  • Travel Voucher for pre-booked accommodation and/or cruise

Thailand

Thailand is open to fully vaccinated international visitors with their recently relaxed ‘Test & Go’ program.

  • A Thailand Pass. Apply HERE.
  • A medical certificate indicating a negative PCR test
  • Travel insurance with health coverage no less than US$20,000.
  • Proof of prepayment for one night’s accommodation at a Safety and Health Administration Extra Plus (SHA++) hotel, which includes the expenses for a PCR test to be taken on Day 1, and a self-administered RAT test on Day 5.
  • Certificate of vaccination or recovery.
  • Download and install the MorChana application to record the Day 5 RAT test result.

Top Tip: SHA Extra Plus or SHA++ hotels are hotels that meet the SHA standards and provide accommodation in partnership with a certified hospital for testing.

Papua New Guinea

The opening of PNG’s international border caught us all (happily) by surprise last month on 16 Feb. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Acceptable proof of vaccination. 
  • Negative RT-PCR test within 72 hours of departure from port of origin. 
  • International visitors will also be tested on arrival at the airport.
  • A completed e-Health Declaration Form. www.pnghdf.info
  • If you have tested positive for Covid within the last three months, a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner from your country of departure, certifying that you are no longer infectious.

Top Tip: Insurance is not mandatory, but highly recommended. Currently it is necessary to stay overnight in Port Moresby at the start and finish of your trip to PNG as there are no same day domestic flight connections.

Other Useful Information

How do I organise Covid tests overseas?

Most resorts and liveaboards can now organise this for you, but it is important to choose accommodation with a nurse or wellness ambassador on staff, or with easy access to a clinic. Ask your travel agent for recommendations.

What happens if I catch Covid while overseas?

In some countries where vaccination rates are lower, this is still a risk, which is why travel insurance is mandatory in some destinations. The level of coverage needs to be adequate to cover your treatment should you become ill, and the cost of additional accommodation should you need to isolate. 

Ask your travel agent about the ‘escalation plan’ your chosen resort or liveaboard has in place, should one of their guests become ill – and make sure they have one! Some destinations have developed accreditation programs to ensure tourism operators have these plans in place, so visitors feel safer. For example, choose any of Fiji’s Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) accredited hotels, or Thailand’s SHA++ accredited hotels, and you can be assured you’ll be well taken care of.

Getting Back Home to Australia

Australian Border Force has announced the release of the mobile app version of the Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD). You can now download the app via the App Store (Apple) or Google Play (Android).  The app uses the camera on your mobile device to ‘read’ the biodata page of a passport and populate it directly into the personal details of your declaration. It also allows you to scan the QR code on your vaccination certificate to populate details of vaccinations received and take photos as evidence of the COVID test results.

Where to next…?

A few regions in Indonesia, including Bali and North Sulawesi, are inviting international visitors to enter the country and isolate for three days at approved resorts, before they can wander around the resort, region, and country freely. Some resorts are well-geared up for this, allowing guests to dine a-la-carte on their veranda, book private time in the pool, and after five days – time to start diving.

While NOT official yet, it is rumoured the Indonesian government will soon relax the mandatory hotel quarantine from five days to three days for fully vaccinated visitors. If this program is successful, then they may lift the quarantine the following month.

Vanuatu just announced a Three Phase plan to open to fully vaccinated visitors once they reach their own vaccination targets. Phase One will see them welcoming guests to Port Vila, with seven days hotel quarantine, Phase Two will see the Quarantine period reduce to three days, and at Phase Three, they will open the other provinces (including Espiritu Santo) to international visitors.

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