The year 2020 has been tough on everyone, with the prolonged lockdown and quarantine restrictions becoming part of our daily lives. Many people who live in congested urban centers and cities like Metro Manila are eager to travel and enjoy the great outdoors once again.
Various destinations have slowly started opened their doors to domestic tourists for “non-essential” leisure travel this last month of the year. The cautious reopening is part of government efforts to kick-start the tourism economy that has been devastated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic since March.
With most people having to cancel their travel plans since summer for the whole year, island and beach destinations are at the top of the list of must-visit destinations for most travel-starved Pinoys this coming Christmas season.
Here are five top island destinations that have reopened (or are reopening soon) for domestic travel including those coming from Metro Manila and tourists of all ages and a breakdown of their “new normal” travel requirements.
The world-renowned island of Boracay opened its doors to all domestic tourists from GCQ and MGCQ areas in the Philippines last October 1, 2020 subject to several guidelines. Tourists of any age are now allowed to visit, as long as they have no comorbidities. Based on latest updates, a travel authority from the PNP and IATF is no longer required to visit Boracay, making this one of the easier island destinations to visit for family trips at this time.
Requirements to visit Boracay island:
- Negative RT-PCR test result, extracted 72 hours prior to travel;
- Hotel confirmation from a DOT-accredited accommodation establishment issued with Certificate of Authority to Operate (CAO);
- Valid ID showing proof of residence in an area under GCQ or MGCQ; and
- Completion of Online Health Declaration Form from https://www.touristboracay.com/ (QR Code).
The town of El Nido in Palawan has been open to local residents of Palawan since October. Under Phase 2 of their reopening, they have started accepting guests coming from Metro Manila and outside the province starting November 30, 2020. Known as one of the best islands in the world, El Nido is now open to guest of all ages without underlying conditions and health risks.
Requirements to visit El Nido:
- Negative result of swab test 72 hours prior to departure (for outside Palawan);
- Reservation voucher from accommodations with CAO; and
- Secured QR-coded tourist ID from guest.elnidotourism.ph with pre-arranged tour with a DOT accredited tour operator (No one is allowed to deviate from the tour).
Another favorite in Palawan, the island of Coron has also reopened its doors to domestic tourists starting December 1, 2020, but the local government unit (LGU) will strictly enforce a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to limit movement of tourists and help contain the spread of the virus.
At present, aside from Palawan residents, Coron will only be initially accepting Filipinos and Philippine resident foreigners residing in the country who are aged 15 to 65 years old. Tourists will be required to arrange a booking with a DOT-certified accommodation establishment prior to their trip.
Requirements to visit Coron:
- Negative RT-PCR test conducted within 48 to 72 hours before their flight;
- Confirmed booking at DOT-accredited accommodation;
- Pre-booked tours and itinerary;
- Pre-registration: Online health declaration form on Coron tourism website: (www.corontourism.ph); and
- Roundtrip plane tickets.
Siargao Island, the world-class surfing capital of the Philippines, officially reopened to local tourists on November 23, but only started accepting Filipino travelers starting December 1 when flights to the island resumed. A curfew is being imposed on the island from 11pm to 4am.
Requirements to visit Siargao include:
- An e-Health pass with valid ID;
- Negative RT-PCR result taken within 48 hours from point of origin (If RT-PCR is taken more than 48 hours, a negative antigen swab test result will be required upon arrival at the cost of the tourist according to DOT);
- A five-day confirmed booking from an accommodation establishment with a Certificate of Authority to Operate (CAO) or Provisional Certificate of Authority to Operate (PCAO) from the DOT; and
- A round-trip ticket or travel details.
Bohol (MICE tourists only)
The island of Bohol has been open to tourists since October, but currently they are only accepting MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) guests, weddings or small events with a minimum of 6 persons in a travel group.
According to DOT, locals may join the MICE activities provided that after said activity, they will agree to be quarantined for five days and be swabbed for RT-PCR testing and that they will only be allowed to go home once negative result of said test is released. Visits to tourism sites may only be done through DOT-accredited travel and tgour operators and only to sites which have the UBE seal by the provincial government.
Tourists must also register through the Bohol Tourist Registration portal via tourism.bohol.gov.ph for their unique personal QR code which will serve as your electronic visitors ID. All registered tourists must properly document their trips.
Initially, Bohol was set to reopen to all domestic tourists on Nov. 15, but the date has been moved “possibly to the second week of December.”
Requirements to visit Bohol:
- All MICE and events must be coordinated with the Bohol Tourism Office;
- Tourists must have a confirmed accommodation booking in Panglao or Dauis which has CAO from the DOT or UBE seal from the provincial government;
- Negative RT-PCR test result from a DOH-accredited RT-PCR laboratory not earlier than 72 hours prior to the date of travel;
- Tourists who have cancelled bookings or last-minute changes in their flight schedules may also opt to be swabbed upon arrival in Bohol at their own expense but they would need to fill out a signed undertaking stating they are willing to undergo a strict hotel quarantine until their negative RT-PCR test result is released; and
- For tourists staying for more than five days, they must undergo a repeat RT-PCR test on the 5th day of their stay.
'Full list of requirements can be viewed here.
Admittedly the added cost and varying regulations make it a very confusing and stressful time for people to travel, with the strict guidelines per destination changing quickly. Hopefully, travelers can look forward to more relaxed rules next year.
For the latest updates, check out DOT’s dedicated travel website.