Skip to Content

Experiences of Travelling in Asia During Coronavirus

We had flights booked for Bali in January 2020 and a plan to travel around Southeast Asia for a few months. We’d spotted a little bit of fuss about some virus in China in December 2019 and we were keeping an eye on it. A few days before we were due to depart Coronavirus suddenly became big news. Cases had been reported in Thailand, it was Chinese New Year and China was out there travelling. We were due to arrive in Bali during New Year and planned to move on to Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia once the seasonal flight price hike had played out. Those flights were booked and paid for too.

Any post on this site may contain affiliate links. We earn commission on these should you make a purchase. All recommendations are genuine and we are not paid to include products, hotels, and so on.

We were travelling with kids, so we did consider cancelling our trip. No parent would ever knowingly want to put their children at risk. Money wasn’t really an issue, we didn’t mind if we lost the cash, but we didn’t want to panic and cancel unnecessarily over nothing. It was still very early days.

Is it safe to visit Bali during Coronavirus Travel during coronavirus bali hike
Bali during the coronavirus outbreak. We climbed a volcano for dawn and honestly didn’t think about COVID-19 all morning.

Coronavirus and Travel in Asia

Of course, we didn’t cancel our travel plans, we went ahead. Everything we were reading was saying that death rates were low, this new bug, Novel Coronavirus, wasn’t particularly contagious and strong measures were being taken to contain it. We went ahead and that put us in a position to report on conditions and precautions in this coronavirus travel blog.

We got on the plane wearing our masks and with hand sanitiser in our carry on luggage. After years of full-time travel we know that hand sanitiser isn’t often necessary. Honestly, we’ve not bought it in years. But just in case, we bought some. I used to work in hospital pathology so I was no stranger to masks. To me they seem sensible, so we used them until we chilled out a bit.

Wearing mask during coronavirus epidemic
You will see a lot of people, travellers, tourists and locals, wearing masks during the Coronavirus epidemic ( pandemic maybe). We saw masks being given away in some hotels and weren’t aware of any shortages during our travel in Southeast Asia.

Nobody was coughing much on that first flight and on arrival in Bali we were met by a sea of mask-wearing travellers. The airport was still busy, Bali was busy and people were anxious.

Indians, Chinese, Southeast Asians, westerners, everyone, it seemed, was wearing masks. Pharmacies in Bali were busy, often with worried Chinese tourists stocking up on masks, sanitiser, vitamin C, anything that could help.

We avoided busy pharmacies as we figured some of the customers would be sick. I had an injured toe, we were visiting pharmacies for cleaning and dressing products and we turned away more than once from a busy shop. Paranoia or sensible? I don’t know but it seemed right at the time.

Travel in Malaysia During Coronavirus
We visited this beautiful Chinese temple in Malaysia during the coronavirus outbreak. I was checking information on Coronavirus cases in Malaysia daily, at this point there were around 20 reported cases and mostly in the south. This was the end of Chinese New Year and travel restrictions had already kicked in for China. This temple probably should have been far more crowded than it was.

After Chinese New Year crowds started thinning out as China’s travel bans kicked in and more and more people cancelled their holidays. 6 weeks later when we flew out of Bali we were seeing empty planes, empty hotels, low prices and a tourism industry on its knees. By that time airlines were starting to cancel flights and more and more countries had travel restrictions in place. The difference in tourist numbers was huge.

Kuala Lumpur during Coronavirus safety
We were travelling with another family. Good friends living in Malaysia. They would never do anything to put their kids at risk either.

We tend to get sick if we spend a lot of time in crowds, particularly crowds of kids. We all had terrible flu once after visiting Legoland Malaysia near Johor Baru. On this trip we had appointments at two water parks, Sunway Lagoon in KL and The Lost World of Tambun at Ipoh. Both were practically deserted. We also visited an indoor climbing gym in KL, it was empty. This trip was about research for our Kuala Lumpur with Kids post and we visited a lot of attractions.

We were meticulous about hand hygiene and weren’t particularly worried. We chatted to staff, their visitor numbers and cancelled bookings were like nothing they’d ever seen before.

Airport Health Monitoring and Precautions

Airports had hand sanitiser everywhere. Most had bottles on the counters at immigration. Shops and restaurants likewise. All airport staff wore masks, some, not all, flight attendants wore masks. At every airport we flew through in Southeast Asia the thermal imaging equipment was on, and manned. We travel Southeast Asia with kids often, we always see this gear and it seems to be switched off. This time the cameras were very much on.

Every airport asked us if we’d been to China, Hong Kong or Taiwan in the last 14 days. Some gave us health questionnaires, others printed health advice sheets. Nobody out there is ignoring the potential COVID-19 pandemic.

We did set off a temperature scanner, I think it was Kuala Lumpur. An alarm went off and we freaked. It turned out my son’s insulated bottle of warm water had triggered it. I have no idea what they’d do if their scanners did show you had a fever.

Every airport, Bali, KL, Miri, Sarawak, Sabah, Kuching, had precautions in place.

Were There Shortages?

One airport, I think it was in Sabah, had no hand sanitiser to buy. Otherwise we’ve been able to buy everything, everywhere. We haven’t seen evidence of the panic buying that’s happened in Australia and the UK.

Did We Get Sick?

We have all had colds. My son had quite a nasty cough. Have we had it? I have no idea. There seemed to be significantly more people coughing and sneezing that usual. On some planes and buses there have been individuals with seriously bad coughs. We’d pretty much expect to pick up colds or even flu at this time of year in crowded places, so nothing seemed out of the ordinary

coronavirus travel experiences in asia

Precautions We Have Taken

I’m a hand scrubber, always have been. Working in hospitals for 20 years you get used to scrubbing your hands a certain way and I’ve tried to get my husband and kids more enthusiastic about vigorous hand washing. We did, certainly wash our hands more often and that’s easy to do at any airport, restaurant, just about anywhere you go.

I’ve always told the kids not to touch anything unnecessarily, they’re pretty good at that. Planes can be filthy so when flying with kids that’s a golden rule, don’t touch anything if you can avoid it. We stayed out of crowds somewhat. We cancelled a dance performance and climbed a volcano instead. Again, we were researching for a post, Bali with Kids. Fresh air and exercise was probably a good idea.

We tried so hard to eat well but it proved impossible. Malaysia doesn’t seem to eat fresh fruit and veg and our diets have been utterly terrible. It’s got us down and we’ve had a tough time because of it. We resorted to fizzy vitamin C plus zinc tablets and multivitamins.

So was it OK, travelling during the Coronavirus scare? Yes, for us it was fine. We were more cautious than usual and we were lucky that none of our flights were affected. Plenty of flights are now being cancelled. A lot of the effects of this virus have worked in our favour, prices dropped for hotels and flights. Nowhere was busy. Did we enjoy our trip? Somewhat. This trip was mostly work but we try to have fun too. Sabah and much of Malaysia got us down. I’ll tell you about that some other time. Am I worried about my elderly relatives? Yes, very much so. Are you out there travelling right now or wondering if you should travel soon? How do you feel about this? Tell us in the comments. Stay safe out there.

nomadic family life

Alyson is the creator of World Travel Family travel blog and is a full-time traveller, blogger and travel writer. A lifetime of wanderlust and now over 7 years on the road, 50+ countries allowed the creation of this website, for you. She has a BSc and worked in pathology before entering the travel arena and creating this website. World Travel Family Travel Blog has been helping you travel more, better and further since 2012, when Alyson and James first had this life changing idea. On this site you can find endless travel information, tips and guides plus how to travel, how to fund travel and how to start your own travel blog.

kids enjoying train ride Train from Colombo to Galle Sri Lanka
Previous
Getting From Colombo to Galle, Sri Lanka
The best online Educational Websites For Kids
Next
Best Online Education Sites for Kids

Lawrence View Hotel Lahore

Monday 18th of May 2020

Hats off to you guys..Its really hard to survive even in our own country during corona virus. and you guys travel during this.

Alyson for World Travel Family

Tuesday 19th of May 2020

No, we're stuck. Can't go anywhere currently.

Seth Kingston

Thursday 26th of March 2020

Hi Alyson! Long time reader of your blog and liked your Vietnam post so much we are now in Hoi An at Dao's house. Thank you for sharing that recommendation, we are very happy here. Hoi An has closed churches, gyms, massage places and the like but otherwise restaurants and coffee shops are open. The Vietnamese govt has been on top of quarantining infection and testing those at risk (per reports) so we are very careful but feel safer here than getting on a plane back home. Hopefully that doesn't change anytime soon. Hope you all are safe and healthy! Seth

Alyson for World Travel Family

Friday 27th of March 2020

Gosh small world! I have another travelling family in Hoi An right now too, they're sharing daily updates. So you're in "our" house opposite the gym? Or one of her others? She has a few. Wish I was there.

T&S

Friday 20th of March 2020

I like this blog, Our condos are ideal for a couple, a small group of friends, or a family who desire a quiet getaway while remaining close to all local amenities, as we are located in a quiet, residential area but remain within walking distance to the beach.

Natalie Walker

Tuesday 17th of March 2020

We had? Have plans to go travelling with a 4 year old all in place except for the darn virus which has now completely scuppered all chances of getting anywhere. Had been reading your posts Alyson (especially for Malaysia) with baited breath in the hope we could get at least to NZ but not now unless we want to stay in a hotel for 14 days (don’t think this is recommended with a 4 year old - in terms of cabin fever). We are just seeking what we can recover and will have to re plan for another time. Might even have to go back to work...pah! Hope your travels continue to go well and will keep in touch via your blog so thanks for that.

Alyson for World Travel Family

Tuesday 17th of March 2020

I'm sorry Natalie. Not only does this whole situation suck, so many people aren't even able to get refunds. If you can get your money back or reschedule in a few months' time, you're doing well. Stay strong, ride it out. Hopefully it will be quick because we can't last long on almost zero income and businesses are folding all around us.

William Maderas

Wednesday 11th of March 2020

Alyson, thanks for posting all of this and it was great to read the replies as well. Our 20 year old daughter will be returning from Northern Thailand around the first week of April ( we hope ).

Here in Northern California our whole house is getting over some sort of weird cold we all had for a couple of months. Other people have told me there is a long lasting cold all over California from the Bay Area North.

There is one case of Covid-19 that is being reported here in Shasta County. Not sure what to make of all of this and how it will affect our travel plans for heading overseas this fall.

Keep up all this great work you are doing and I hope we all make it through this pandemic of weirdness!

Alyson for World Travel Family

Wednesday 11th of March 2020

Thanks William. These weird bugs are pretty disconcerting. 80% asymptomatic or mild ... of those they've tested. Fingers crossed a lot of people are already immune.

shares