Travel

Malaysia introduces VTL Lane in Thailand and Cambodia, removing quarantine requirement from March 15, 2022

Malaysia introduces VTL Lane in Thailand and Cambodia, removing quarantine requirement from March 15, 2022

Malaysia is the next country to ease entry requirements as part of the travel bubble agreements, lifting the quarantine restriction for travelers from Cambodia and Thailand as of March 15, 2022.

Malaysia had one of the strictest Covid regimes in the world, essentially sealing the country inside and out to the point where even Malaysians were not allowed to travel.

The country rolled back its restrictions for the past six months and has since lifted the quarantine for arrivals to Singapore on the condition that travelers are PCR tested and fully vaccinated.

Now Reuters is reporting that Malaysia extend the same agreement it has with Singapore to Cambodia and Thailand:

… Malaysia will allow vaccinated arrivals from Cambodia and Thailand to skip quarantine from March 15. Several daily flights fly from Kuala Lumpur to Phnom Penh, Bangkok and the island of Phuket.

Malaysia has so far lifted the quarantine for arrivals from Singapore, while Indonesia has since October allowed entry to Bali to visitors from certain countries and has gradually reduced the quarantine time to three days.

The moves follow neighbors the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, which waived quarantine in exchange for pre-departure and arrival COVID testing. …

This essentially means another form of vaccinated lane or travel bubble established on a bilateral basis, without addressing the issue of opening up the country as a whole.

THE STAR also published an interview with the Prime Minister earlier this month:

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said relevant ministries and agencies in the two countries will hold talks to reopen the border soon through Vaccinated Traffic Lanes (VTL) and Thailand’s Test & Go program.

“To start, we can set up the Air VTL between Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok for fully immunized travellers. We will also consider adding other destinations in the future,” the Prime Minister said. The VTL program s will also extend to land borders via Bukit Kayu Hitam-Sadao and all international border checkpoints in the northern peninsula and southern Thailand and the maritime VTL between Langkawi and Satun.

The Prime Minister, during a visit to Kuching, Sarawak, noted that 5,686 foreign tourists had used the Langkawi International Travel Bubble (LITB) to travel to Malaysia since its introduction last November.

According to STAR online news, the Prime Minister said the bubble generated more than MYR 28 million in revenue for Langkawi’s economy.

The vaccinated traffic lanes are operational and link Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Brunei is in the works and discussions are underway to establish a Malaysia-Thailand VTL. The Brunei VTL will boost tourism in Sarawak, especially in Miri, Limbang and Lawas, all close to Brunei.

I’m not sure less than 6,000 travelers arriving in four months is something to celebrate and brag about. Langkawi was once a hugely popular destination and tourism has been completely destroyed by these zealous entry policies that Malaysia has put in place.

So what does this new regulation mean for travelers from Cambodia and Thailand?

Let’s take a look at the Singapore VTL model that Malaysia has implemented.

Malaysia Airlines describe the current arrangement with Singapore as following:

  • Travelers must be fully vaccinated
  • Provide a negative RT-PCR test performed 2 days before departure, except for travelers under 2 years old (calendar year)
  • Take an RT-PCR test upon arrival in Malaysia
  • As of March 3, 2022, passengers traveling to Malaysia are no longer required to undergo daily COVID-19 tests from day 2 of their arrival in Malaysia.
  • Passengers can view here for detailed information
  • Quarantine is NOT required for passengers traveling on the VTL program
  1. Eligible travelers will be people of all nationalities in Malaysia or Singapore who would like to travel between the two countries for all travel purposes.
  2. The VTL is reserved for individuals who has stayed in Singapore or any other VTL country recognized by the Malaysian government, for the past 14 consecutive days before leaving for Malaysia.
  3. COVID-19 testing should be performed at centers accredited by the respective MOH. For the pre-departure test in Singapore, travelers can book an appointment at any of the clinics in this list https://www.moh.gov.sg/licensing-and-regulation/regulations-guidelines-and-circulars/details/list-of-covid-19-swab-providers. As a general rule, travelers who show up at a clinic less than 48 hours before their trip will not receive their pre-departure test result in time.
  4. Travelers must have completed a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine regimen recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). A full regimen of a COVID-19 vaccine means that the traveler has received the required number of dose(s) to provide full vaccine protection, including the time required after administration of the dose(s) to be protected against COVID-19 . Currently this means 14 days after the second dose of a two (2) dose vaccine or 28 days after a one (1) dose vaccine.

The good thing about these requirements is that they extend to all individuals in the country, not just local nationals and permanent residents. This means that international tourists can use the VTL provided they have been in the country for at least 14 days.

Additionally, Malaysia acknowledges that a variety of vaccines, including one-dose J&J and boosters, are not required at this stage.

I really miss traveling to Malaysia. Before Covid I used to visit at least once a month but haven’t been back since January 2020. I could think of going to Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi under this program even though it has more hurdles than a normal tourist wouldn’t care.

Conclusion

A new agreement on vaccinated travel corridors / travel bubble will come into effect from March 15, allowing travelers from Cambodia and Thailand to travel to Malaysia without quarantine requirements.

Travelers entering Malaysia under this agreement must still be tested multiple times, be fully vaccinated and register with a mobile app.

I don’t see this increasing conventional tourism, but it does open a door for people who want/need to return to Malaysia for a variety of reasons, be it work or personal.