Japan May Still Be Closed For Travel, But Its Delightful Neighbor Is Not!

If you love Japan, much like I do, it’s been a tough couple years. Despite glimmers of hope the country is still pretty much closed to outsiders. There’s no immediate sign of that changing anytime soon.

As friendly of a place as Japan upon arrival, it’s also a place that doesn’t love visitors as much as one would think. In the latest polls, over 65% of locals approved of the border measures in place.

For a while, Japan’s stance toward reopening travel, which was basically a lack thereof, was like the rest of Asia, but in recent months there’s been a seismic shift.

It all started with Thailand, and now, the floodgates are open. From Singapore to Vietnam, Cambodia and even Pacific holdouts like Australia and New Zealand, travel in Asia is reopening. That now includes South Korea.

I’m bummed that Japan hasn’t announced any reopening plans, but its next door neighbor has been long overdue for a big tourism moment. South Korea is a delight and if you love Japan, you’ll almost undoubtedly love visiting.

Seou, South Korea city skyline at twilight.

South Korea Opens Quarantine Free Tourism

South Korea has reopened quarantine free travel for the first time since the global pandemic began. There was hope of a much earlier reopening, but the Omicron wave put the kibosh on that.

South Korea began welcoming fully vaccinated visitors at the beginning of April, with a negative test prior to departure and a couple of tests after arrival. It’s not as seamless as you might hope, but for a chance to visit a unique and wonderful part of the world, it’s better than nothing.

To enter South Korea, fully vaccinated visitors must have received their final Covid-19 vaccination dose at least 14 days prior to arrival, and if the final dose is more than 180 days old, a booster is required to avoid quarantine. With a booster, there’s no clock.

A test is required upon arrival on day 1, and also on day 6 or 7, or before departure, whichever comes first. GSTP has long argued that no meaningful travel recovery will take place while arrival, or exit testing exists.

Visitors need to register their vaccination proof in advance of travel for optimal arrival experience. If you can stomach the Covid-19 testing, that’s pretty much where it ends. All arrivals are now free to take any transportation they wish and there’s no isolation requirement.

65181704 - sunrise at seongsan ilchulbong, jeju island, south korea.

Why South Korea Is Amazing

For many of the same reasons people are utterly attracted to Japan, there’s so much to love in South Korea. The two countries may have their differences, but there’s so much to be amazed by.

Korean food is finally getting its recognition globally. Bibimbap is winning pop culture flavor battles, and the unique Korean approach to barbecue is gaining serious acclaim. Look no further than Cote in New York, which was awarded a Michelin star.

From island retreats to Jeju, once the world’s busiest air route, to city breaks in Seoul, Busan and Daegu there’s so much to explore. And like any great country, wherever you go will bring such a different look from place to place. Shrines and temples are replete with wow factor, as well.

If you’re an electronics nerd, cat cafe fanatic or just love jetting off to fascinating and delicious places this is a great time to go. Of course, it’d be better if the arrival testing was dropped, but for now Japan’s loss is Korea’s gain.


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