COVID-19 (Coronavirus) may impact your travel plans. Wherever you're going, you'll find the latest advice here.

Travel news Travel bubbles and corridors: What they mean and the plans for the Trans-Tasman bubble, Singapore-China bubble, and EU corridors

All articles

Travel bubbles and corridors: What they mean and the plans for the Trans-Tasman bubble, Singapore-China bubble, and EU corridors

You’ve probably heard the phrase “travel bubble” and wondered what people are talking about? Travel bubbles are simply alliances between countries that have dealt with the Covid-19 virus domestically. The agreement is that tourists are free to travel between countries in their bubble without restriction. While it’s not guaranteed that travel bubbles will be the solution, they are making international travel possible while limiting the risks for travellers and the country being visited.

Essential travel bubble information

Up to now, travel has been for essential reasons only. Countries that share a travel bubble will allow travellers to holiday abroad without the need to quarantine. The hope is that travellers can enjoy more freedom in a safe and sustainable way. If the bubbles prove successful, they will gradually expand to include more countries. 

What does “travel bubble” mean?

A “travel bubble” refers to two or more countries that have agreed to open their borders to each other. This includes entry over land, sea, and air. The first bubbles to emerge are between countries that have successfully dealt with the pandemic domestically and share a border, or neighbour each other. However, their borders will remain closed to visitors from countries outside their bubble. Think of travel bubbles as social bubbles but on a national scale. 

Travel bubbles will make holidays with friends possible again.

What does the term “travel corridor” mean and how is it different from a bubble?

You’ll see “travel corridors”, ‘travel bubbles”, and “air bridges” used interchangeably. However, the term “travel corridor” also refers to travel between multiple destinations on a single trip. If bubbles work then it’s likely we’ll see these networks start to expand within a single region between countries that have dealt with Covid-19 domestically.

Why are travel bubbles and corridors being explored?

The Covid-19 pandemic was still at its peak when the idea of travel bubbles first started to emerge. Countries were looking ahead to when their rate of infection would reach zero and checking which neighbours were on a similar trajectory to their own. Now we’re reaching that point, the hope is that tourism can resume in a safe and sustainable way.

How do bubbles and corridors work?

In order for a travel bubble to exist two or more countries have to agree to lift their travel ban with each other. However, anyone with symptoms while travelling still won’t be allowed to enter. The same applies to anyone who has travelled to a country outside the bubble within the last fourteen days. On the bright side, those able to travel won’t have to self-isolate. Their holiday can start pretty much as soon as they land.

Countries are in discussions to help boost much needed summer tourism.

There’s nothing to say that bubbles and corridors are illegal. During these unprecedented times, governments are making decisions based on new information and doing what is best for their citizens. When it comes to domestic travel, U.S. states may be blocked from forming bubbles with other states. Those in the know are saying this would contravene the U.S. Constitutional principles of equal treatment. So, it’s likely that Americans will be able to travel across the entire country, rather than some states before others.

The current state of travel bubbles

There are positive signs that travel bubbles could work across the world. Several bubbles are already working in parts of Asia and Europe and discussions remain ongoing about several others.

What bubbles and corridors currently exist? 

Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia were the first EU countries to form a travel bubble with each other. The Baltic states had very few cases of Covid-19 between them so they decided to reopen their borders to each other. Other examples of bubbles include China and Korea, and China, and Singapore. 

After several long months of closed borders, travel is starting to pick up again.

What is happening with the Trans-Tasman bubble? 

The Trans-Tasman travel bubble refers to the proposed alliance between Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania and the Pacific Islands. It’s been one of the most talked-about bubbles since the pandemic started. Many expected New Zealand and Australia to announce an agreement after New Zealand declared itself Covid-19 free. Despite both countries being dependent on each for international tourism both governments are choosing to wait.

Skyscanner data shows that since the announcement of a Trans-Tasman travel bubble four of the top five destinations growing in popularity amongst Australian travellers are in New Zealand. If successful the Trans-Tasman bubble could expand to include other countries effectively containing the virus, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea.

What is happening with the EU travel corridor plans?

The European Commission has released guidelines for how its Member States can begin easing coronavirus travel restrictions. France, Denmark, Bulgaria, Greece, and Switzerland have already opened their borders to tourists from other EU nations. However, it’s also up to each country to decide when it’s safe to reopen its borders.

Spain, one of the EU’s worst-affected countries, announced it will reopen borders to EU states and Schengen countries from June 21. Most EU members have committed to opening their borders to visitors from fellow EU countries by the end of June.

Travel bubbles will allow tourists to enjoy all the things they love about seeing a new destination.

What bubbles and corridors are expected to emerge in the future?

For a bubble to be formed the arrangement has to be reciprocal. UK travellers can travel to EU and Schengen countries without quarantine. But, travellers returning to the UK still need to self-isolate for two weeks. The UK government is considering lifting the quarantine for people returning from EU countries from July onwards. This would allow the UK to join the EU and Schengen “travel corridor”. 

Domestic travel is already well underway in many Asia-Pacific countries. According to the Centre for Aviation (CAPA) attention is now shifting to reopening international links within the region. Singapore and China have already opened a “fast lane” arrangement to facilitate essential travel.

Since the “fast lane” was announced, Shanghai and Guangzhou have entered the top 10 destinations by search volume amongst Singapore travellers. Beijing is also considering expanding its bubble to include Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau as well as South Korea. 

Unfortunately for North American travellers, while the number of new cases in the United States, Canada, and Mexico continues to fall, it’s unlikely that travel bubbles will open at this point in time. That could change in the near future. 

Want to read more? We’ve been busy finding ways to inspire travellers for when the time comes to travel again.

Future of air travel: Flying after COVID-19 lockdown

The ultimate guide to buying travel insurance for flights – and during coronavirus

13 dream destinations: the places our travellers can’t wait to visit next

Coronavirus travel questions: Your COVID-19 queries answered

We update our coronavirus travel advice daily with changes to travel restrictions.

Skyscanner is the world’s travel search engine, helping your money go further on flightshotels and car hire.