Hong Kong, Taiwan & Japan: Which one should you visit first?

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Last week saw Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan all announce plans to reopen. But which is the best candidate for a year-end vacation?

You know how they say there are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen?

Last week was a prime example of that, as long-time COVID holdouts Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan all announced plans to scrap mandatory quarantine and reopen their borders.

 Reopening
🇭🇰 Hong Kong26 Sep 22*
🇹🇼 Taiwan13 Oct 22
🇯🇵 Japan11 Oct 22
*For reasons outlined in this post, it’s decidedly generous to call what Hong Kong is doing a reopening, but at least mandatory hotel quarantine will end

All three were highly popular destinations for Singaporeans pre-COVID, and you might be forgiven for feeling like Christmas has come early.

Speaking of which, if you’re planning year-end travel, just how do you deal with this sudden windfall? What are the relevant visa, vaccination, testing and COVID restrictions, and how do those have the potential to affect your vacation?

Let’s find out. 

Summary

Here’s a summary of the procedures for each destination, which take effect from the respective reopening dates

Hong Kong

🇭🇰 Summary: Travel to Hong Kong
From 26 Sept 22
  • Fully vaccinated with a recognised vaccine
    • Not required for Hong Kong residents
    • Children aged below 12 exempt
  • Download Leave Home Safe app (Android | iOS)
  • Take pre-departure ART within 24 hours of departure (can be self-administered)
  • Complete Health & Quarantine Information Declaration
  • Take PCR test upon arrival at Hong Kong Airport
    • Can leave airport by any means of transport as soon as sample is taken
    • No isolation necessary
  • Take self-administered ART on Day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (day of arrival is Day 0)
  • Take PCR test on Day 2, 4 and 6
  • Travellers will be issued Amber code for first 3 days which prevents them from visiting restaurants and entertainment venues
  • Travellers will be issued Blue code if Day 2 test is negative, which lifts visiting restrictions from 9 a.m on Day 3
Source

Taiwan

🇹🇼 Summary: Travel to Taiwan
From 13 Oct 22
  • No pre-departure test required
  • Vaccination not required
  • Take self-administered ART on Day 0, 2, 4, 6
Source

Japan

🇯🇵 Summary: Travel to Japan
From 11 Oct 22

  • Download MySOS app (Android | iOS) and complete registration 
    • Submission is allowed within two weeks of entry date, up to six hours before landing
  • No pre-departure test required unless unvaccinated
    • Unvaccinated travellers must take PCR test within 72 hours of departure
  • No on-arrival test required unless unvaccinated
    • Unvaccinated travellers must take on-arrival PCR test if 14-day travel history features Yellow or Red countries (Singapore is classified as Blue)
    • Unvaccinated travellers must quarantine for 3 days if 14-day travel history features Yellow or Red countries (Singapore is classified as Blue)
Source

Visa requirements

 Visa Waiver for Singaporeans?
🇭🇰 Hong KongYes
🇹🇼 TaiwanYes
🇯🇵 JapanYes

Hong Kong

Hong Kong has already restored its visa-exemption scheme for all previously-eligible countries, including Singapore. 

The visa exemption period for Singaporeans is 90 days. 

Taiwan

Taiwan has already partially restored its visa-exemption scheme for some previously-eligible countries. Singapore’s exemption will be restored from 29 September 2022. 

The visa exemption period for Singaporeans is 30 days.

Japan

Japan will restore its visa-exemption scheme for all previously-eligible countries, including Singapore, from 11 October 2022. 

The visa exemption period for Singaporeans is 90 days.

“Fully vaccinated” definition

 Vax Required For Entry?Exemption
🇭🇰 Hong KongYes*Children under 12
🇹🇼 TaiwanNoN/A
🇯🇵 JapanNoN/A
*HK residents are exempt from the vaccination requirement

Hong Kong

Hong Kong requires all travellers to be fully vaccinated, unless they are Hong Kong residents. The following vaccinations are recognised.

VaccineDoses Required
AstraZeneca2
Bharat Biotech Covaxin2
CanSinoBIO1
Covishield2
Covovax2
Gamaleya Sputnik V2
IMBCAMS2
Janssen1
KCONVAC2
Moderna2
Novavax2
Pfizer-BioNTech2
Sinopharm2
Sinovac2
Zifivax3

Children under the age of 12 are currently exempt from the vaccination requirement.

However, do note that Hong Kong intends to tighten the fully vaccinated definition from 30 September 2022 onwards:

  • From 30 September 2022
    • Persons aged 12 and above must have received a 2nd dose no more than five months ago, or a 3rd dose if more than 5 months have passed since the 2nd dose
    • Persons aged 5-11 must have received a 1st dose no more than 3 months ago, or a 2nd dose if more than 3 months have passed since the 1st dose
  • From 30 November 2022
    • Persons aged 12 and above must have received a 3rd dose
    • Persons aged 5-11 must have received a 2nd dose

Taiwan

Taiwan accepts both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers. There is no distinction in the measures for either. 

Japan

Japan accepts both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers, although there are differences in the measures for the two groups. 

Japan defines “fully vaccinated” as individuals who have received at least three doses of the following vaccines:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Covaxin
  • Covishield
  • COVOVAX
  • Janssen (only two doses required)
  • Moderna
  • Novavax
  • Pfizer-BioNTech

Any combination of the above is acceptable as well.

From 11 October, CanSino, Sinovac and Sinopharm will be added to the list of recognised vaccinations.

Unvaccinated children under the age of 18 who travel with fully vaccinated parents/guardians will be treated as fully vaccinated (refer to the bottom of page 17 for the source).

Pre-departure testing

 VaxxedUnvaxxed
🇭🇰 Hong KongART (24h)
🇹🇼 TaiwanN/A
🇯🇵 JapanN/APCR (72h)

Hong Kong

Hong Kong requires all travellers to take a pre-departure ART within 24 hours of departure. This can be self-administered, so it won’t cost more than a few dollars.

A declaration of your negative result must be made on the Health & Quarantine Information Declaration system. 

Taiwan

No pre-departure testing is required for Taiwan, regardless of vaccination status.

Japan

If you meet the definition of fully vaccinated, no pre-departure testing is required for Japan. 

If you do not meet the definition of fully vaccinated, Japan requires a pre-departure PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. The cost starts from S$50 in Singapore.

On-arrival testing

 VaxxedUnvaxxed
🇭🇰 Hong KongPCR
🇹🇼 TaiwanART
🇯🇵 JapanN/A*N/A^
*PCR test required if 14-day travel history features Red category countries. The Red category is currently empty
^PCR test required if 14-day travel history features Red/Yellow category countries. The Red category is currently empty

Hong Kong

All arrivals in Hong Kong must take a PCR test at the airport. After providing the sample, they can proceed to claim their luggage and leave the airport by any mode of transport (i.e. it’s not necessary to wait for a negative result). 

Taiwan

All arrivals in Taiwan aged two and above will be issued four ART kits on arrival at the airport.  They will need to do a self-administered ART on the day of arrival or the day after. 

Japan

CategoryVax?Test?*Quarantine^
BlueYesPDT: N/A
OAT: N/A
N/A
NoPDT: PCR
OAT: N/A
N/A
YellowYesPDT: N/A
OAT: N/A
N/A
NoPDT: PCR
OAT: PCR
3 days (home)
RedYesPDT: N/A
OAT:
PCR
3 days (home)
NoPDT: PCR
OAT: PCR
3 days (facility)
*PDT= Pre-departure test, OAT= On-arrival test
^Negative PCR test required to end quarantine

For Japan, the arrival measures depend on your vaccination status and 14-day travel history. Japan divides all countries into three categories: Blue, Yellow and Red. Singapore is a Blue country; there are no countries currently on the Red list.

If you meet the definition of fully vaccinated:

  • No on-arrival testing is required if your travel history includes Blue or Yellow countries only
  • On-arrival testing is required if your travel history includes a Red country

If you do not meet the definition of fully vaccinated:

  • No on-arrival testing is required if your travel history includes Blue countries only
  • On-arrival testing is required if your travel history includes a Red or Yellow country
  • A 3-day quarantine is required if your travel history includes a Red or Yellow country

Yellow countries include India, Maldives, Turkey, Fiji and Vietnam, so take note if you’re unvaccinated and planning two trips in quick succession. 

Post-arrival testing

 VaxxedUnvaxxed
🇭🇰 Hong KongART on Days 1-7, PCR on Days 2, 4, 6
(Day of arrival is Day 0)
🇹🇼 TaiwanART every two days from Days 1-7
(Day of arrival is Day 0)
🇯🇵 JapanN/A

Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s post-arrival testing regime is rigorous, to say the least.

All arrivals must take daily self-administered ARTs from Day 1-7 (the day of arrival is considered Day 0).

In addition to the ARTs, they must take a PCR test on Days 2, 4 and 6. This can be done free-of-charge at community testing centres or mobile specimen collection stations. No isolation is required after taking the PCR tests. 

Taiwan

During the seven-day health monitoring period, travellers should take a self-administered ART every two days. They can use the leftover kits (3) they received on arrival at the airport for this. 

Japan

No post-arrival testing is required, regardless of vaccination status.

Masks

 AirplaneIndoorOutdoor
🇭🇰 Hong KongYesYesYes
🇹🇼 TaiwanNoYesYes
🇯🇵 JapanNoNoNo

Hong Kong

Masks are still required everywhere in Hong Kong, including on flights. 

Limited exceptions exist for outdoor exercise and eating/drinking. Smokers beware- there is no exception for removing a mask to smoke.

Taiwan

Masks are not required on Singapore Airlines flights to or from Taiwan. However, other Taiwanese carriers like EVA Air and China Airlines still require masking. 

Taiwan still requires indoor and outdoor masking, with the following exceptions:

  • When exercising outdoors or indoors;
  • When taking individual/group photos indoors or outdoors;
  • When driving a vehicle or riding a scooter or bicycle by oneself or with live-in family members;
  • When livestreaming, filming, moderating an event, reporting, delivering remarks, giving a speech, lecturing, or during activities or events involving conversations with others;
  • When outdoor workers working in open spaces;
  • When people are in forests/mountains (including forest recreation areas) and on the beach;
  • When people are in hot/cold springs, dry sauna rooms, spas, steam rooms, saunas, during water activities, or in venues where masks can get wet easily.
  • Masks may be removed when consuming food/beverages outside.
  • Masks may be temporarily removed in venues or during activities (e.g. art performers performing a show, film crews/TV news anchors when filming, and athletes and referees participating in sports competitions) that comply with the CECC’s or competent authority’s epidemic prevention and control rules.

The full list of masking requirements can be found here. 

Japan

Japan is an interesting case. There is no official mask mandate; the health ministry’s stance is that masks are not required outdoors or indoors assuming you can keep a minimum distance of 2-metres from others.

However, an argument could be made that masks are de facto compulsory, since the vast majority of locals wear them everywhere.

Masks are not required on Singapore Airlines flights to or from Japan, although ANA and Japan Airlines continue to enforce the rule. 

Other restrictions

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Disneyland will have to wait till Day 3

Here’s the major deal breaker for would-be tourists to Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong uses a vaccine passport system known as the Leave Home Safe app (Android | iOS). On arrival, they will be issued with an Amber code that prevents them from visiting the following venues for the first three days.

❌ No-Go List for Amber Code
  • Catering premises (including bars or pubs)
  • Amusement game centres
  • Bathhouses
  • Fitness centre
  • Places of amusement
  • Places of public entertainment
  • Party rooms
  • Beauty parlours
  • Club houses
  • Clubs or nightclubs
  • Karaoke establishments
  • Mahjong-tin kau premises
  • Massage establishments
  • Sports premises
  • Swimming pools
  • Cruise ships
  • Event premises
  • Barber shops or hair salons
  • Religious premises
Amber Code Restrictions

It basically means you can’t visit the pool or gym at your hotel, eat out at a restaurant, visit Hong Kong Disneyland or board a cruise during your first 3 days. 

If the Day 2 PCR test result is negative, Amber code restrictions will end at 9 a.m on Day 3,. Travellers will receive a Blue code which allows them to visit any venue. 

Taiwan 

There are no restrictions on the movement of tourists, nor the places they can visit.

Japan

There are no restrictions on the movement of tourists, nor the places they can visit.

What if you test positive?

Hong Kong

According to Bloomberg, travellers who test positive will not be sent to government-run isolation facilities like Penny’s Bay. Positive travellers can continue to stay in their hotel, at their own expense.

If they test negative on day 6 and day 7 after their infection, they may exit isolation.

Taiwan

If your on-arrival test is positive, you will be required to quarantine at home or in a designated hotel.

I’m not able to find any specific information on the mandatory isolation period. 

Japan

Since Japan does not have  on-arrival or post-arrival testing for fully vaccinated individuals, the only way you’ll get a positive result is if you do a voluntary test. 

In any case, if you do test positive while in Japan the isolation procedure depends on whether you are symptomatic or asymptomatic:

  • Asymptomatic: Isolate until 7 days after the positive test result
  • Symptomatic: Isolate until 10 days after the onset of symptoms and 72 hours after symptoms end or 2 consecutive negative results on COVID-19 tests taken at least 24 hours apart, whichever comes later

Isolation can take place in a hotel.

Where would I visit?

Japan’s regulations are the most tourist-friendly by far

If you asked me to rank the three in order of how “tourist-friendly” their regulations are, I’d go with:

  1. Japan
  2. Taiwan
  3. Hong Kong

Japan’s rules are clearly the most favourable, given the absence of on-arrival testing for fully vaccinated individuals. With visa waivers reinstated and no more need for a package tour, I’d say that travel conditions are basically back to pre-COVID days- assuming you’ve got your jabs. 

Taiwan is a close second, although its on-arrival testing has the potential to mess up your plans should a positive result be received. 

Hong Kong is a place I’d definitely avoid for now, given the battery of PCR tests and the restrictions on where you can visit for the first three days. Most Singaporeans take short trips to Hong Kong, so there’s really no point if the vast majority of your trip is testing and pseudo isolation (let’s face it, that’s what it really is). 

As it stands, I’m already planning a Japan trip in late October, with Taiwan to follow as soon as the on-arrival test is removed.

Conclusion

At long last, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan have finally announced their plans to reopen. That said, not all plans are equally tourist friendly. While I’d be completely fine with visiting Japan and Taiwan, Hong Kong is off the list until the testing regime and visiting restrictions are removed. 

Which of the three are you planning to visit?

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Christian See

When you go to Taiwan, maybe you could try Starlux? Seems like quite an interesting airlines. They also have some pretty decent pricing ($2700 rtp Biz).

Nic

How to prove that u are fully vaccinated? Thru singpass app?

JW19

Download your healthhub vaccination cert or obtain it through notarise.gov.sg for a better version with QR code. No country will recognise the singpass version.

Sean

Japan.
End of thread.

Phister

Hong Kong shouldn’t even be in the discussion with their ridiculous 0+3 nonsense. Pok gai lah!

And as long as Taiwan still has stupid Covid regulations in place it’s Japan all the way.

George

Ya lo, why is there a need to choose between the 3. It’s obvious that the only option is japan. The other 2 may still have a possibility to land you in quarantine.

JW19

I concur, why is HK even in the discussion when they have clearly no interest in following science.

Josephine

Doesn’t seem accurate to say that for Taiwan there are no restrictions on where tourists can go. this should still be subject to the 7 day self-monitoring period restrictions that haven’t been announced yet?

Christopher

Is there any further clarity on the “one person per room” rule? Surely if we are a couple travelling together we should be able to share a hotel room during our 7 day period? Now that you dont have to fill out a health declaration, I guess no one is going to check anyway?

Kim

Question: technically transit at ho chi minh or hanoi (remain at airside only) means the yellow list doesnt applies right?

John

Only Japan & maybe Taiwan some time in future. But Never to HK.

Spoon

Hong Kong is forever off my list. Given that they are now wagged by CCP, you never know when John will be forced to make a sudden whiplash change in the policies at the whim of the comrades up north. Fancy getting stranded in HK or worse, forced into one of their quarantine centres and separated from your kids in the middle of your holiday.

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