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These 9 Countries Have the Strictest COVID Restrictions for Travelers

Closed borders, restricted movement, and travel bans.

This year, like 2020, has seen a whirlwind of news about COVID restrictions and it’s challenging to keep up. Countries are racing to vaccinate their populations, but the Delta variant is still going strong in many regions. Canada is finally welcoming fully vaccinated Americans and Singapore is contemplating opening its borders in September. There’s a full list of popular destinations that are on the radar of summer travelers, but there are some that have strict guidelines for its citizens as well as travelers. Some nations are either fully closed to travelers or imposing strict restrictions. You can also access this map by IATA that color-codes regulations.

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New Zealand

The Pacific country took early measures, closed their borders, and imposed lockdowns last year. The result? It’s virtually COVID-19 free and there are very few restrictions on its citizens. Whenever a case crops up, they shut the city down until it’s controlled and go back to normal. 

After more than a year, the country remains closed for non-essential travel. Only residents and their immediate family members are allowed to enter and anyone who wants to go to New Zealand for a critical reason needs to get permission. All arrivals are required to quarantine and test negative after 14 days of isolation. More information about restrictions is found here. The bubble with Australia was suspended last month when the Delta variant caused a spike in infections.

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Those with an EU Digital COVID certificate can enter Hungary without any restrictions or quarantine. But the country is closed to those who don’t have it. Hungarian citizens and their family members can still travel to Hungary, and exceptions can be requested, but they will be required to quarantine for 10 days. The advisory considers tourism to be a non-essential purpose of entry and clarifies, “Non Hungarian citizens can enter Hungary only in exceptional cases depending on the purpose of stay.” You can see more details here.

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Many European countries have given a thumbs up to Americans, but Norway isn’t one of them. It still has a strict (and a bit confusing) list of entry and restrictions—Schengen and the UK residents are allowed to visit, but the country is out of bounds for Americans (with a few exceptions). All travelers need a negative test to enter and they may be required to go into quarantine depending on where they’re traveling from and whether or not they’re vaccinated. Non-essential travel is not recommended. Read entry requirements and quarantine information.

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Saudi Arabia

In what came as a surprise to the world, Saudi Arabia has ruled that a citizen who visits a country on its red list will be punished with hefty fines and may even be banned from traveling abroad for three years. The red list includes UAE, India, Libya, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Vietnam, among others.

The Middle-eastern country has also made vaccines mandatory for air travel and other activities. Non-immune travelers need to complete a seven-day institutional quarantine (at traveler’s expense). All travelers also need to download the Tawakkalna app. Non-compliance to any restrictions and social distancing measures can result in fines. More information is found here.

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Another country that didn’t experience the devastation faced by Europe and the U.S. last year was Australia. It managed to successfully control the infection load by closing off its borders and imposing strict lockdowns—the COVID-Zero policy—but the Delta variant has punctured their safety bubble. The country is facing a surge in cases since June and Sydney has been under lockdown for eight weeks.

Currently, no one is allowed to enter the country, unless they fall into the exempted list (Australian citizens and residents, their immediate family members, airline crew, among others). Travelers must have compelling reasons to gain an individual exemption, but for travel purposes, it’s a no-go. More information is here.

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Since March 2020, Vietnam has suspended entry of travelers. The exceptions are Vietnamese nationals, highly skilled workers, and those traveling for diplomatic or official business. In the past two months, the country has reported more cases than it did all of last year, taking the number to 230,000. To control the outbreak, the government has introduced drastic measures—people aren’t even allowed to go out to buy groceries. Flights have been suspended and anyone using public transport must fill a health declaration. Those who are still allowed into the country have to go through quarantine and testing on arrival. More information can be found here.

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Cases are rapidly rising in Malaysia, with familiar scenes seen elsewhere in the world of overwhelmed healthcare professionals and crowded hospitals. Currently, the country isn’t allowing foreign nationals to enter (limited exceptions are noted). Even those who travel need to undergo tests and quarantine, and may have to apply for permission to enter via the My Travel Pass. There are movement restrictions and curfew in place—interstate travel requires additional permissions. Read more here.

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It’s another Asian nation facing the wrath of the Delta variant with more than 30,000 cases being reported every day. Indonesia has suspended all visa-free and visa-on-arrival entry. Americans are not allowed to enter unless they have a residence permit. Those who enter need to have a negative PCR test obtained prior to their departure and they need to undergo PCR tests and a mandatory quarantine at a government facility at their own expense. Intercity and interstate travel is restricted and would need additional tests and screenings. More information here.

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The infection rate soared in May and the country went into lockdown—now it has reached an unfortunate milestone of more than five million cases. The cases are on a decline, but the borders are shut for most non-residents with few exceptions. The CDC advises Americans not to travel to Argentina. Visas are suspended and there are only a handful of commercial flights operating. All travelers need a negative PCR test to enter the country and they are required to quarantine. There are several other requirements that can be found here.