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The latest SOPs for the Langkawi travel bubble starting September 16

Are you ready to travel again? I am and will do so safely. Here’s everything you need to know about the reopening of Langkawi as a travel bubble. 

The pandemic has affected all of us in varying degrees. Have you been bitten by the travel bug? An overdue vacation to the archipelago of 99 islands nestled at the mouth of the Straits of Malacca might just be the antidote you desperately need.  

* Updated September 15:

Although previously thought to be unnecessary, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin declares that in-bound travellers must take a Covid-19 test within 48 hours prior to departure. Reported by The Star, the test can be done at any health facility or private laboratory within 48 hours prior to the departure date. “Test results must be brought along for inspection at the entrance (of the airport or ferry terminal) prior to departure,” says Khairy. 

Alternatively, travellers can also bring along self-test kits and undergo tests at designated screening spots at the airport and ferry terminal. Khairy adds that those aged 7 and above are required to undergo tests, while children aged 6 and below are required to undergo symptomatic screening. 

Fully vaccinated adult travellers will only be permitted to travel onwards to Langkawi if they are Covid negative and not a close contact of positive cases.

* Updated September 12:

Kicking off on Malaysia Day, Langkawi, the crown jewel of Kedah, will once again welcome domestic travellers from all corners of the country. Being an archipelago, you can fly from the nearest airport or take a ferry ride across the Strait of Malacca. Though restrictions have eased, they aren’t completely done away with. To ensure your journey to this vacation island is a smooth one, here are several things to take note of.

The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa pool villa
(Photo: The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa)

Being a pilot travel bubble, Langkawi is open to fully vaccinated domestic travellers. It includes residents in phase 1 of the National Recovery Plan. If you live in areas under the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO), however, you are excluded from this scheme and must wait until EMCO is lifted.

According to Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, visitors have to apply for a police permit before their departure and show the necessary documents such as flight tickets, ferry tickets or hotel reservation receipts as proof. Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted on September 12, clarifying that travellers using flights require no letters from the police. 

If you intend to travel to Langkawi by land prior to boarding the ferry, you must engage the services of a travel agency for the first leg from departure to the jetty. If you choose to fly or start your travel from Kedah and Perlis, you don’t need to engage a travel agent. To adapt to the timing of ferry services, individuals can stay overnight at registered accommodations in Kedah and Perlis. The number of passengers of a vehicle is subject to the vehicle’s capacity. 

Based on a circular issued by Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture dated September 9, the SOPs are:

  • Completed 2 doses of vaccines.
  • Day trips are allowed. Bookings must be made in advance or through licenced travel agencies registered with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.
  • Accommodation facilities open to travellers include the swimming pool, gym and lounge. 
  • The beach will be accessible and so water sports, snorkelling, scuba diving and fishing tours can be carried out. Edutainment centres, recreational parks, adventure parks, farms, aquariums, zoos, museums, galleries and other recreational and cultural premises receive the green light. Naturally golfing, yachting, caving, jungle trekking and the likes can also be done. 
  • There is no age limit imposed on travellers. However, those below 18 years old must be accompanied by fully vaccinated care-givers. 
  • Insurance coverage and Covid-19 screening aren’t required.

* Updated September 3: In a statement published on September 3, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture states activities allowed at hotels and homestays encompass on-site facilities, meetings, exhibitions, as well as tourism and cultural events. Tourist attractions and activities, such as water sports, snorkeling, scuba diving, tourism fishing, golfing, cycling, angling, yachting, edutainment centres, recreational parks, extreme or adventure sports or nature parks, farms, aquarium, zoo and other recreational and social activities, will also be permitted.

Fans of eco-tourism can also look forward to the resumption of camping, hiking, caving, jungle tracking and the likes. Theme parks, galleries and museums will also reopen. 

* Updated September 2: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob confirmed Langkawi will reopen to domestic travellers starting September 16.  

* The content below was published on August 25:

Not unlike Bali and Phuket, the tourism-dependent destination has suffered tremendously from border closures. Your vote of confidence will bring much joy to the islanders whose livelihoods are inexorably tied with tourism dollars.  

As Malaysia approaches the threshold for herd immunity against Covid-19, Langkawi is gearing up for the return of holidaymakers. Cited as one of the pioneers for the resumption of tourism, authorities in Langkawi are working overtime to ensure the island meets the set criteria for reopening, which include the vaccination of the local population. 

According to a credible industry source who was privy to the latest information disseminated by the Langkawi Development Authority (LADA), the island will once again be welcoming domestic travellers when the island achieves the 80% vaccination target.  

As of 18 August 2021, 70.1% of the local population have completed their second doses. It is projected that the threshold of herd immunity will be met in the first week of September, paving the way for Langkawi to embrace travellers. 

In the event sought to engage with various hospitality and tourism players from the Malaysian Association of Hotels, Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners, Malaysia Budget and Business Hotel Association, and Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, LADA CEO presented the MySafe Langkawi campaign as one of the pivotal initiatives to assure and boost the confidence of travellers.  

Hotel and tourism product owners are required to register with LADA by downloading the application form available on LADA’s website. To ensure they understand the guideline established by the authorities, one representative is required to attend the Covid 19 Education and Risk Assessment course conducted by the Malaysian National Security Council (MKN) in order to attain the certificate.  

On top of that, LADA CEO also presented SOPs for domestic travellers and international chartered flights. The source, however, didn’t elaborate the SOPs in detail. The anticipation for the official SOPs for Langkawi as a travel bubble to be issued by MKN is “soon.” 

Dine-in will be allowed. It is contingent on the capacity of the restaurant alongside the adherence to SOPs, including social distancing. Conferences and exhibitions will not be allowed, while entertainment outlets such as night clubs will stay shut during this period.  

To facilitate inbound travellers into Langkawi, ferry trips will be bolstered to 10 trips per day – 4 trips from Kuala Kedah and 6 trips from Kuala Perlis. The total daily capacity is expected to be 3,000 people. 

In a South China Morning Post news report, quoting Tropical Charters CEO Alexander Isaac, Langkawi won’t be replicating the Phuket sandbox programme which has done away with quarantine on arrival. Vaccinated international travellers are expected to undergo a brief period of self-isolation when the island is ready to admit them in December 2021 or January 2022.  

Separately, according to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Labuan will enter the phase 4 of the National Recovery Plan on August 26. This status ensures all economic activities on the Bornean island will return to full capacity. 

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Hero and feature images by Eric Martin

 

Justin Ng
Digital Content Director, Kuala Lumpur
Often think of myself as a journalist and so I delve deeper into a range of topics. Talk to me about current affairs, watches, travel, drinks, new experiences and more importantly, the business, economics and dynamics behind it.