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Updated 3 May 2021

The origin of the travel bubble

The advent of coronavirus has brought forth an unprecedented and multifaceted crisis, as the world witnessed global shares taking a hit, unemployment rate skyrocketing and oil prices come crashing down. As the threat of a global recession looms, it’s no exaggeration to say that the world economy in general is currently in dire straits.



With passengers canceling their holiday and business trips due to airlines being grounded and borders being closed, the travel industry is among the hardest hit by the onslaught and is now facing seemingly insurmountable odds.

Tourism makes for a considerable percentage of any country’s yearly GDP, and to lose such a significant chunk of the pie has proven to be quite damaging. Thus, governments worldwide are struggling to find ingenious ways to somewhat restore the inbound cash flow streams associated with international tourism and travel, which in turn brings us to a little something called ‘travel bubble.’

What’s a travel bubble?

Angla windmills in Leishi Parish, Estonia.

Travel bubbles, also known as travel corridors and corona corridors, are essentially an exclusive partnership between two or more countries that have demonstrated considerable success in containing and combating the COVID-19 pandemic within their respective borders.

These countries then go on to re-establish connections between them by opening up borders and allowing people to travel freely within the zone without having the need to undergo on-arrival quarantine.

What are the existing travel bubbles?

Note: not an exhaustive list. This section will continually be updated as more travel bubbles are confirmed.

When the world became aware of this initiative, many began to follow suit, or at the very least, seriously considering the possibility of forming a bloc with their neighboring countries. Most countries generally view the travel bubble concept as something that would entail business recoveries across multiple sectors.

In addition to the list of existing travel bubbles, we’ve also provided dedicated pages for Covid Test For Travel In 2021 (All Countries) and Quarantine Guidelines For Travel In 2021 (All Countries).

Old Nyhavn port Copenhagen, Denmark.

Europe

EU – Third Countries

The most current EU list of third countries to which their residents may enter the Schengen Area.

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Rwanda
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity

At the same time, the Council also advises the Member States to lift the current entry ban for the residents of the special administrative regions of China Hong Kong and Macao, once the latter reopen their borders for EU citizens.

Germany – Exempted Countries

Germany has issued an official list of exempted countries and has established travel corridors with the following countries and territories. 

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Thailand

In addition, the list is set to be expanded to include 

  • China
  • Hong Kong and Macao SARs of the People’s Republic of China

as soon as the possibility of mutual entry is confirmed.

Additionally, German and EU citizens, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland and the members of their immediate family (spouse, unmarried minor children, parents of minors) are exempted from the travel restrictions. 

Spain – Exempted Countries

Spain has reciprocal travel agreements established with the following countries: Australia, China, South Korea, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore and Thailand.

Travellers can also enter Spain if travelling from the European Union and from a country in the Schengen Area.

In all cases, a negative PCR test carried out within 72 hours prior to arrival in Spain is mandatory if traveling from a high-risk country or area. Additionally, traveling to Spain from the European Union and from a country in the Schengen Area is also allowed.

Certain countries have established restrictions or quarantine periods on people arriving from Spain. We recommend always checking the requirements and recommendations of your destination country. You can also consult this map, provided by Spain’s Ministry of the Exterior (only available in Spanish).

Asia – Pacific

Australia – New Zealand (Trans-Tasman Bubble)

The Australia – New Zealand travel bubble has once again resumed. Two-way quarantine-free travel allows airlines and airports to operate ‘quarantine-free’ also known as ‘Green’ flights between New Zealand and approved safe travel zone destinations without the requirement of quarantine on arrival as set by local governments. 

However, following a report of fresh coronavirus cases in Perth last week, anyone currently in Australia, including New Zealanders, who were at a location of interest and potentially exposed to Covid-19, cannot travel to New Zealand within 14 days of exposure.

Anyone who has arrived in New Zealand who was at a location of interest has been instructed to self-isolate immediately and call Healthline for information on when they should be tested.

Bali – several countries

Bali, the island of the gods will undergo a set of trial runs by allowing foreign tourists from specific countries to visit three designated green areas namely Ubud, Sanur and Nusa Dua.

The designated areas will accommodate tourists arriving from select countries with favorable epidemiological situations the likes of the Netherlands, China, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates as well as other Middle Eastern countries, effectively forming individual travel corridor arrangements.

The trial runs are expected to commence on 17 August 2021. Read more on Bali’s international reopening here.

Cook Islands – New Zealand 

One-way, quarantine-free travel is available from the Cook Islands to Auckland.

To be eligible to book ‘Quarantine-free’ flights – you must:

  • have not been overseas outside of New Zealand and the Cook Islands in the past 14 days
  • have no reasonable grounds, as determined by a suitably qualified health practitioner, to suspect they may have COVID-19. This may include: having had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days, having any COVID-19 symptoms, and waiting for a COVID-19 test result.

Niue – New Zealand

One way, quarantine-free travel is available from Niue to Auckland.

To be eligible to book ‘Quarantine-free’ flights – you must:

  • You have not been overseas outside of Niue and New Zealand in the past 14 days.
  • You have not had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case within the past 14 days.
  • You must maintain 2 metres physical distance (as much as possible) from anyone in the New Zealand airport who did not arrive from Niue.
  • You must wear a face covering while in the airport in New Zealand.
  • There are no reasonable grounds, as determined by a suitably qualified health practitioner, to suspect you may have COVID-19. This may include:
    • having had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days
    • having any COVID-19 symptoms, and
    • waiting for a COVID-19 test result.

Indonesia – Countries With Special Arrangements in Place

Indonesia – United Arab Emirates: After a brief suspension in February, Indonesian travellers can now gain entry once more to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) under the Safe Travel Corridor Arrangement (STCA)

The travel bubble agreement is strictly for essential business travel such as businesspeople and diplomats, and not for tourists. The agreement would exempt them from a two-week quarantine measure upon travelling between the two countries. Travellers would still be ordered to adhere to strict health protocols.

Indonesia – Singapore: Currently suspended. However, travellers already approved for entry under the RGL can continue to use their existing SafeTravel Pass-RGL to enter Singapore.

Indonesia – Malaysia: A Reciprocal Green Lane/Travel Corridor Arrangement (RGL/TCA) travel bubble between both Indonesia and Malaysia may be on the horizon as the green-light has reportedly been given by Indonesia. However, no details have yet to emerge on the dates and other specifics.

Singapore – Countries Under the Green/Fast Lane arrangement and Air Travel Pass

Singapore has established Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and Air Travel Pass (ATP) arrangements with a number of countries, namely:

  • Australia
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • China
  • Germany (suspended)
  • Hong Kong 
  • Indonesia (suspended)
  • Japan (suspended)
  • Malaysia (suspended)
  • New Zealand
  • Taiwan
  • South Korea (suspended)
  • Vietnam (suspended)

Please note that some of the RGLs are currently suspended.

Both the RGL and ATP scheme essentially grant short-term cross-border travels for residents of Singapore and its partner countries. The RGL is geared towards essential business and official purposes, while the ATP provides the means for participants to travel on non-essential trips to and from Singapore.

Taiwan – Singapore

Taiwan is the latest addition to Singapore’s growing list of Reciprocal Green Lane scheme. Travellers from Taiwan are now allowed entry to Singapore. Those looking for a short-term visit to the country may do so under the ATP scheme. Taiwanese travellers must first secure accommodation in Singapore to serve their one to two-day isolation period until the results of their PCR tests have been known.

Taiwan – Palau

Since 1 April, Taiwan and Palau have established a travel bubble allowing tourists to visit both countries for up to eight days. Relaxed entry and quarantine restrictions will be introduced and travelers from either side will be required to have not been infected with the coronavirus in the last three months, not been outside borders in six months, and not been asked to quarantine in the last two months. A negative test result will also be required.

Vanuatu – New Caledonia (Tamtam Bubble)

Vanuatu’s prime minister has announced the creation of a safe travel bubble between Vanuatu and New Caledonia. From April, the so-called “Tamtam Bubble” will allow easier travel between the Covid-free Melanesian neighbors. Travel will be restricted to Vanuatu’s main island of Efate.

However, the bubble is currently on hold as reports of new coronavirus cases emerged in both countries.

The Caribbeans

Aruba – All other countries 

With the exception of Brazil, Peru and Venezuela, the government of Aruba has announced the reopening of its borders to travellers from all countries and regions Furthermore, the classification of US “hot spot” states will no longer be in effect, as such, as part of the required online Embarkation/Disembarkation card process, residents of all 50 states will now have the option to take a PCR test upon arrival at the airport in Aruba as well as the option to provide a certified negative test result prior to travel to Aruba.

Saint Lucia – 7 Caribbean countries

The Government of Saint Lucia has identified and recognized the following 7 countries as designated travel bubbles due to their low-risk transmission of COVID-19. Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Visitors who, immediately before arriving in St. Lucia, were in a Bubble Country for at least 21 days will be exempt from quarantine; however, they must have a negative result from a PCR test taken no more than 7 days before arriving in  Saint Lucia and are subject to mandatory screening on arrival.

The Middle East and North Africa

Bahrain – Israel

An agreement between Bahrain and Israel has been signed allowing quarantine-free travel for vaccinated individuals. The agreement effectively utilizes vaccine passports issued by both countries to facilitate not only entry but also other benefits such as accessing restaurants, gyms, theaters and other public venues.

 

Travel bubbles and the future of travel

Although travel bubbles are far from being the ideal solution, it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. As more and more of these sky bridges pop up, we can be sure that countries worldwide are doing a great job in flattening the curve.

For now, these travel bubbles have proven to be a boon for those looking to get their economies back on track. For us travellers, let us take comfort in the fact that travel bubbles are a telltale sign that we may soon be able to once again explore the world.