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Coronavirus Outbreak: Is it Safe to Travel Asia?

February 15, 2020

Coronavirus: Is it safe to Travel Asia?

Is it safe to travel through Asia with these Coronavirus shenanigans going on? I’m not going to lie. Out of the last 2 years traveling through Asia, this one has been the most stressful. In early January, we were in China looking to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The first few days in the country were great! Everybody was traveling, festive music filled the shops, and the streets were fully decorated in Chinese Lanterns. It was the most beautiful time of the year. But by the time it came for us to leave, things had changed drastically. Everyone in the airport was wearing doctors’ masks and panic was in their eyes. We were getting obscure messages in Chinese warning us about an outbreak and people were running to the store to grab protective masks. We left in the nick of time.

Since the outbreak of the Wuhan Coronavirus, more than 60,000 people have been infected and that number increases by thousands daily. Many people at home who had travel plans booked through Asia are now asking themselves, “Is it safe to travel Asia with this Coronavirus outbreak?”. If you’ve binge-watched the Netflix series Pandemic, you understand how serious a flu pandemic can be. It makes sense to be concerned about an outbreak happening in China! But if you’re one of the travelers going to other countries in Asia, let’s chat.

What it’s Like Living in Asia During the Coronavirus? Is it Safe?

When the outbreak started, we were unfortunately in China. At the time, we didn’t know how serious it was going to be and the infection had infected less than 1000 people. Since the coronavirus outbreak, we’ve traveled through South Korea, are now in Thailand, and heading to the Philippines very soon. Despite many people warning us to stop traveling through Asia on social media, I want to give you a “boots on the ground” perspective and explain why we haven’t changed our travel plans.

*Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional, insurance person, or legal professional. If you decide to travel to Asia, or anywhere else in the world, it is at your own risk. This article is entirely based on the opinion of someone who is currently traveling through Asia. You should contact your travel insurance, check travel advisories, and follow the most up to date news.

Couple looking at each other in traditional Korean clothes in Seoul during the Coronavirus outbreak

Is South Korea Safe from the Coronavirus

When we landed in Seoul, everyone was taking precautions to ward off the virus. Upon landing, we had to go through fever detectors before heading into the immigration line and everyone was wearing masks. This all happened early on after China announced the outbreak and people still didn’t know how serious it was going to be. A few days into our South Korea trip, we received a message in Korean asking everyone to wear masks out in public. After that message, Daniel ran out to 7-11 to grab us some masks and they were almost sold out! It was like being in a Walmart in Florida trying to grab water right after they announce a hurricane is coming. That’s when we started to realize how serious coronavirus was.

We still explored!

In spite of the coronavirus worries, we were still able to explore the city of Seoul without any problems! When traveling through public transport, everyone wore masks and used hand sanitizer which made us feel safe. We also made sure to wash our hands frequently so that we wouldn’t spread our own germs. This attentiveness allowed us to feel safe through Asia despite the coronavirus outbreak. In Seoul specifically, there have been very few cases recorded and they’ve been contained. So if you’re worried about traveling to South Korea, I would still go unless things started to escalate.

Is Thailand Safe from the Coronavirus

Of all of the Asian countries we’ve been to since the coronavirus outbreak in Asia, Thailand is the one we’ve been in the longest. Since arriving in Bangkok, you can tell people are aware of the virus and have no interest in catching it. Everyone walking the streets in Bangkok is wearing a mask, and this is especially true when taking public transport. Since being here, we’ve visited two islands on the east side of the country and felt very safe. Many people online have been worried about having layovers through BKK because of the coronavirus. As of right now, I wouldn’t be worried about a layover in Thailand.

Overall, I don’t feel worried about the coronavirus here in Thailand, and it doesn’t seem like the people around us are too worried either. If you are having a holiday in Thailand over the next couple of months, I wouldn’t cancel your trip plans just yet. Stay tuned with the news, take the drama with a grain of salt, and wear a mask if you’re really concerned.

Related: Visiting Thailand? The ULTIMATE No B.S Guide



I’m Worried About Coronavirus: Is It Safe To Travel Asia in 2020?

It frankly depends on where you go. Coronavirus has been found in several countries around Asia, but Asia is also a very big continent. The virus thankfully is concentrated in China, which is where the majority of the evergrowing infections and deaths are occurring. Beyond China not being a good place to travel to right now, you need to make sure that none of your flights have layovers there. Even though the infection in centralized in Wuhan and Hubei, travel restrictions have been imposed on anyone coming from mainland China, including popular layover spots like Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing.

Where things get complicated…

Airplane departing

Flight Cancellations because of Coronavirus

The bigger issues for traveling through Asia at this time have less to do with getting the virus, and more to do with travel inconveniences you’ll experience. For example, many of the cheap flights entering Asia fly through Air China, or Cathay Pacific. As of today, Cathay Pacific has canceled more than 50% of its flights, and cancellations are still rampant. Also, many countries won’t let you in if you’ve had a layover in China. Needless to say, this is annoying and can make your trip difficult.

Related: Tips for Sleeping on a Plane: A NO BS Guide

Travel Insurances not Covering Coronavirus

Another issue you might face, especially if your flights do get canceled, is your travel insurance not covering Pandemics. This means that if your flight gets canceled, or if you do end of getting sick, the insurance can deny the coverage. Before traveling, make sure you call your insurance provider to find out what they cover in regards to the pandemic. It’s better to know if they’ll have your back in the event you get stranded here.

Related: The BEST Travel Insurance for You

The Silver Lining…

If you’re willing to reroute your flights away from China, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of travel restrictions in China. Because the majority of tourists in places like Thailand and South Korea are Chinese, you now have these countries to yourself. In popular tourist spots like Phuket and Koh Samui, tourism numbers are at a record low for high season! So, if you’re willing to take a little risk, you’ll be able to reap the reward!

Related: What to do in Krabi: Koh Phi Phi Island, and Railay Beach Travel Guide

How do you feel about the Coronavirus outbreak? Are you changing your travel plans to avoid Asia? Let us know in the comments below!

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Coronavirus: Is it safe to Travel Asia? Coronavirus: Is it safe to Travel Asia?

  • I actually had to cancel my Thailand trip due to a stop in Beijing because I was flying air china 🙁 we were supposed to leave today. I even had flights booked to Malaysia and Singapore. Super bummed were not able to go but I live through your stories everyday and I love them!

    Reply

    • Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear that! Are you planning on coming back someday? We are currently waiting for our flights through Hong Kong later next month to be canceled. 🙁 Aww! You are so sweet! I’m so happy you enjoy the stories! <3

      Reply

  • We have an upcoming travel to Singapore and Malaysia on April. But now, because of the virus, we’re having second thoughts. We haven’t decided yet if we’re gonna go or just cancel everything. And it’s heartbreaking 😭

    Reply

    • Oh no! I’m sorry that you’re having to make that decision 🙁 I personally would still go to Malyasia and Singapore and not cancel unless things get worse in those areas. We’ve been traveling around the Philippines now and we are still fine! Hope this helps!

      Reply

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