High travel costs may discourage Malaysians going abroad

Total expenses for Covid-19 PCR tests alone are estimated to cost between RM1,000 and RM2,500 per individual

by S BIRRUNTHA / pic by TMR FILE 

MANDATORY Covid-19 testing and a seven-day quarantine period are expected to add a hefty amount of money to the expense of Malaysians looking to travel overseas.

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) deputy president Mohd Akil Mohd Yusof said this is going to discourage people from going on an overseas vacation or even performing umrah as the costs are on the higher side.

He added that the total expenses for Covid-19 PCR test alone will cost between RM1,000 and RM2,500 per individual.

However, those who are allowed to self-quarantine at home will be able to save some cash compared to those in hotels.

“PCR costs RM250 per test. So, let’s say a person has to take four PCR tests, then it will cost RM1,000 per individual. But of course, it depends on how many PCR tests you are required to take.

“I mentioned four because you need to do one before you go to another country, and one when you arrive there. Later on, you have to do the test before coming back to Malaysia and another one on the fifth day of your quarantine.

“Also, PCR tests cost differently in some countries due to their currency value. So, it is pretty difficult to say how much but I am putting it at RM250 per person. Bear in mind that it could cost more,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Mohd Akil further explained that if travellers choose to quarantine at a five-star hotel, then they will have to pay more depending on the rate.

He stressed that these additional expenses will most likely discourage people from going on an overseas vacation or even to perform umrah.

“I believe this is going to let down many people, especially if they are a family of six. You have to pay a minimum of RM1,000 to RM2,500 for the Covid-19 PCR test alone, excluding the quarantine and travelling expenses.

“This will definitely discourage families, people who are going for backpacking and those who are health conscious.

“This is also a hassle for those who are planning to go for umrah because it will take 10 to 12 days usually, and then they have to quarantine for seven days. People are forced to take a long period of leave. So, this is not going to be appealing for them,” he added.

Nevertheless, Mohd Akil said Matta has requested the government to abolish the mandatory quarantine rules, to alleviate the costs for people planning to travel internationally.

He also noted that other countries receiving tourists from abroad, allow fully vaccinated people without quarantine, while some countries are particular about the type of vaccines.

He added that some countries also need PCR tests 72 hours before departure and do not impose any quarantine rules on the visitors.

Mohd Akil opined that the government could also substitute the PCR test with the RTK test to further reduce the costs as it is much cheaper and convenient.

“We want the government to abandon these unnecessary protocols to those who have been fully vaccinated. We must consider all these things, because people are thinking twice before travelling abroad as it is a huge amount of money.

“People want to spend that money on accommodation, shopping, food, visiting the attractions there, and so on. We are discouraging outbound tourism if we were to do all these kinds of restrictions.

“Look at our neighbouring countries; their policies for international travel are totally different from us and they are our direct competitors. We will lose out if we continue to be like this,” he said.

As the nation’s vaccination rate hit 90%, the government finally announced the lifting of international travel restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals from Oct 11 onwards.

Under the freshly announced international travel standard operating procedures, fully vaccinated Malaysians can travel abroad without needing to apply for a MyTravelPass permit.

Travellers must, however, undergo two swab tests to return to Malaysia — one before flying back and one upon arrival.

Additionally, travellers have to quarantine for seven days upon arrival back in Malaysia. Self-quarantine at home is allowed, but they must apply for this several days before their return.

While Malaysians are now allowed to travel overseas, different countries have different travel restrictions, with many requiring travellers to conduct Covid-19 swab tests upon arrival and prior to departure.