With travel routes opening up again as the Covid-19 pandemic grinds on in various forms, many countries are reopening borders that have been closed for nearly two years. Popular holiday destinations on tropical beaches from Bali to Boracay to Phuket and Langkawi are reopening to travellers. But there are some roadblocks along the way. Post-Covid travel costs have added to the cost of having that long awaited family reunion or holiday break and need to be factored in, before you even make your booking. It’s also important to note that the situation is very fluid and depending on your route, vaccination status and other factors, can change even with the same day. Malaysia has since added this to their requirement for international visitors as borders reopen on 1st April 2022.
Post-Covid travel costs: 4 things to consider
This writer’s last pre-covid international journey was beset by check-in problems, bad weather, airline strikes and missed connections. But I got where I needed to be when needed and back within the time allocated. But that was nothing compared to what you might have to deal with now. Here are four of the areas that seem to have the greatest chance of hidden costs you need to know about before you start.The examples used are from different locations and may change quite quickly. You will need to check depending on your own circumstances.
Cost of fares and ticket availability
You are probably the ‘luckiest’ if you’re holding a ticket for a route you weren’t able to travel because the airline cancelled the flight and allowed you to ‘defer travel without fees’. If the route and timing is what you’re waiting for, then go for it, that’s about the best deal you can get. This depends very much on the airline’s policy as stated when you bought the ticket and modified when Covid-19 stopped flights.
If you have travel credits, they may be based on a monetary value, or the specified route, but either way, you will probably have to top-up the fare. If your original booking was through an agent who is holding a credit for you, you’ll have to do your bookings with them.
If this is a completely new booking, you have the flexibility to look for the best fares available for the route you want. If that route is available.
Some parts of Thailand and Philippines are now open to International visitors, and Malaysia’s Langkawi opens to international tourists on 15th November. Bali is also open, but international visitors currently have to go via Jakarta and observe quarantine conditions before they hit the beach.
Many countries, including Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines, now require you to show travel insurance with Covid related cover of at least USD50,000. This is definitely ‘worth the cost‘, if you can buy it. Post-pandemic travel insurance still needs you to read the fine print AND all the exclusions. We found that Forbes.com has a useful guide for travellers out of the US, looking for travel insurance with Covid cover. Interestingly they show that AXA Assistance USA offers such a policy, though its Malaysian counterpart does not.
In fact most Malaysian providers specifically exclude covid related issues on top of their contagious diseases clause. For AXA’s Smarttraveller insurance, it’s a Flat NO – See Exclusions at the bottom of the page.
“4. Any form of outbreak or a series of a contagious disease including, but not limited to, any form of Coronavirus“
They are not alone, most Malaysian providers are also not offering Covid cover, Amex seems to have joined the ‘covid cover’ in the past few days, but otherwise, the only one we could find is AirAsia’s Tune Protect, which does have cover available. However the benefits are listed in Malaysian Ringgit and may not meet the requirements for entry in countries requiring a higher level of cover. Note: These have been updated to reflect entry requirements for various destinations.
If you’re a backpacker (or for anyone looking for the best pricing) you might also like to check out World Nomads, who do have a policy offering limited cover for covid-related disruptions.
If you are travelling out of Australia, be aware that Travel insurance doesn’t cover Australians in places where the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has recommended “do not travel”. This information can be found on the government’s Smartraveller website and are definitely recommended reading.
Two other things to note:
- Travel insurance covering COVID is not currently available on multi-night cruises.
- If you have managed to get Covid cover, you may still be out of pocket if your plans are cancelled or postponed due to state or international border closures. These can change quickly and with little warning.
So, read the fine print and get clarification (preferably in writing) before you set off.
Cost of Covid-19 testing
This is one area that can add cost to your budget very quickly. Despite many airlines insisting on all passengers being fully vaccinated with a recognised vaccine, you may still need to provide a negative Covid-19 test taken within the last 48/72 hours. The time frame depends on your destination and also the country you are departing from. Most countries require this test to be a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which is more expensive and takes longer to get the results, rather than the quicker and, they say, less accurate RTK-antigen (Antigen rapid) test.
Leaving Australia you will need to pay around AU$150 for your test from a private lab, not the free government testing stations. The test results should be uploaded to your travel documents, e.g. an IATA Travel Pass.
In Singapore their Ministry of Health has advised that Antigen rapid tests administered by “trained professionals” are now recognised as a valid pre-departure Covid-19 test since 11th November 2021, for travellers entering Singapore from Category II and III countries. Please check the latest requirement for your country of departure as the Omicron variant has caused many countries to tweak the requirements. An arrival PCR test in Singapore costs US$90.
These countries include Australia, Brunei, Canada, the Philippines and the United States. Malaysia is set to be added as flights resume at the end on November.
Malaysia requires a PCR test upon arrival. This will cost you between US$60 and US$90 for Malaysians and US$88 to US$112 for foreigners and may be pre-booked.
Thailand has recently opened up to international travellers and removed some of the cumbersome entry requirements. However, subsequent anecdotal reports have surfaced, indicating a number of potential roadblocks for international visitors. These reports suggest that travellers who has been sitting near a fellow passenger whose arrival Covid test is positive, will be subject to 14-days quarantine at their own expense.
We are unable to confirm these reports, but local media is reporting claims of between Baht 50,000 and Baht 350,000 for quarantine or hospital stays.
Travellers must also be aware that the government has proposed a Baht 500 entry charge into Thailand in 2022. This will be collected from a booth upon arrival. It’s also important to note that Covid tests at the airport are relatively high at US$42 to US$48 and dual pricing for many services means foreigners will pay more than local tourists.
The costs of PCR tests varies widely from country to country. Indonesia is currently charging US$19 to US$21, Dubai US$13 and India US$4.
This remains an expensive issue in many destinations, although the rules can change almost overnight. Witness the sudden announcement by the New South Wales Premier that international arrivals into Sydney can pick up their bags and as soon as they clear Customs, they’re free to go. Unless, of course, they want to fly on to another state that requires them to quarantine upon arrival from Sydney. This may mean two weeks hotel quarantine costing up to AUD3,000 per person, or home quarantine in approved premises for the fully vaccinated.
Much of Europe is likewise free of quarantine requirements, but travellers should check for any changes, right up to the time you depart your current location.
In Singapore, a number of quarantine free places are allocated for fully vaccinated travellers, who can enter through Vaccinated Traveller Lanes (VTL). However, you have to be on a specially designated VTL flight, into Singapore, unless you are directly connecting through to another flight. That means you can’t leave the security area with your luggage to check in. You must be checked right through to your destination. There are currently 18 airlines in the list and Qantas and Malaysia Airlines are expected to be added to the list soon.
In Malaysia, seven days home quarantine is available to fully vaccinated returning residents, citizens and Permanent residents. This is subject to approval by the Ministry of Health and depends upon the suitability of the home and the number of people already living there. You must also produce a negative COVID-19 test result. Other categories of travellers may be required to do either 10 or 14 days in an approved quarantine location, which may be pre-booked. Payment may be made through a number of secure portals including https://safetravel.myeg.com.my/MySafeTravel, which has a useful FAQ document, which explains steps and charges. Please note that non-Malaysians (including MyPR holders must pay an extra MYR2600 for Operation costs if home quarantine is not approved. See p3 pf the FAQ)
Foreigners who don’t fall into any of the above categories wishing to enter Malaysia may apply using My Travel Pass. This is likely to change when the expected ‘travel bubbles’ with various countries is announced by the end of November 2021.
A useful Facebook page has been set up to help travellers into Malaysia. Malaysia Quarantine Support Group. They keep the site updated regularly and include useful info like these Quarantine Rules (Page 1 Page 2 Page 3).