Many ex-pats living in HCMC wish to travel domestically after being stuck for months in the Covid epicenter, but quarantine and designated hotel-stay requirements curb their enthusiasm.
Mike Williams, a Canadian teacher living in District 3, has been fully vaccinated for over two months and plans to travel outside the city for a few days to enjoy some fresh air after over five months of home-confinement due to strict social distancing measures.
He plans to visit Phu Yen and Binh Dinh, home to long, sandy beaches and high-end resorts along the south-central coast but is struggling to find specific information about quarantine rules in English.
“If provinces impose mandatory quarantine measures then I am not interested to travel there. I agree with testing regulations, but I am not interested in spending seven days at a designated hotel,” he said.
Currently, fully vaccinated tourists from HCMC, deemed a medium-risk area, can travel to Phu Yen and Binh Dinh but are required to book a tour package with a travel agency and monitor their health at home or place of accommodation for seven days upon the arrival.
Williams is still hesitant to make travel plans at this time due to a lack of consistency in travel rules and quarantine regulations between localities.
He is one of many ex-pats ready to visit popular tourist hotspots after social distancing measures were lifted.
An American man living in District 2, who asked to only be identified as Michael, planned to take his family to visit Sa Pa, a popular resort town in northern Lao Cai Province, next week as a break after being confined at home by the pandemic.
However, he gave up his plan after his colleague told him tourists from HCMC would have to monitor themselves for seven days at home or place of accommodation upon arrival in Lao Cai.
“I work for a foreign company and can’t lose over a week for my trip,” he said.
Instead, Michael would take his family to HCMC’s eco-tourist site Can Gio, around 70 kilometers from the city downtown, where the pandemic situation has been put under control and tourism activities resumed.
Nuno F. Ribeiro, a Portuguese lecturer at RMIT University, who has received two doses of a Covid vaccine, prefers to travel to localities that do not require quarantine as he has limited vacation time at his disposal.
“I think we can safely remove mandatory quarantine for everyone who has been doubly vaccinated in the past 14 days and who tests negative before and after arrival in the destination,” said Ribeiro.
Ribeiro plans to visit beach tourist destinations like Da Nang, Cam Ranh, and Phu Quoc during the semester break and Christmas holiday.
Currently, Da Nang requires arrivals from areas with high infection rates like HCMC to monitor their health at home or place of accommodation for 14 days and undergo testing three times.
Phu Quoc and Cam Ranh currently welcome back only intra-provincial tourists.
JP Klovstad, a Norwegian man living in Thu Duc City, plans to enjoy the ox race festival in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang or book a jeep tour to the northern region in late November.
Having been fully vaccinated on Sept. 25, the 60-year-old said if localities impose mandatory quarantine, he would postpone his travel plans and wait until these rules are lifted.
JP Klovstad visits Cu Chi Tunnels in HCMC in 2019. Photo courtesy of JP Klovstad
“I am ready to travel when there is no more quarantine around the country and hopefully no testing regulations.”
He also wants to be able to move freely around instead of staying inside a hotel the whole time.
“Part of the fun to travel in Vietnam is to interact with locals,” said Klovstad, who works as a tour guide for Albatros Travel, a Danish company specializing in bringing Norwegian tourists around Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
“Last year two friends and I did a jeep tour in the Central highlands and gave away some Christmas presents to local kids. I have already been many places up north, but much more to see,” he said.
As Vietnam resumed tourism services in early October, destinations have started to ease social distancing restrictions. But tourists are only able to go on package tours and in some places required to enter home quarantine for seven to 14 days.
Many travel companies complained about inconsistencies in travel rules and quarantine regulations across localities only confused them.
Nguyen Le Huong, deputy general director of leading tour operator Vietravel, said unity and consistency of policies and travel regulations across the whole country is a prerequisite for tourism recovery.
Huong said though safety remains the top priority, testing and quarantine rules are different among localities, and if these differences are not removed, tourism recovery cannot happen.
In the first nine months of this year, the number of domestic tourists plunged by 16 percent year-on-year to 31.5 million and earned tourism revenues of VND137 trillion ($6 billion), down 42 percent year-on-year.