In 2019, Buffalo Tours and Olympus Tours joined the Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) family and formed Discova. With the backing of one of the world’s largest travel companies and the local knowledge and experience from both Buffalo and Olympus, Discova evolved existing service portfolios to offer best-in-class tailored solutions to partners across the globe.
Today, we operate in 14 countries and supply some of the world’s largest travel companies. Yet, as we expand around the world, we still approach every tour, trip or experience with a home-grown perspective. 95% of our people are locals – blending destination know-how with an intuitive understanding of the travel experience our partners expect for their customers.
19 Nov 21Partner News
Discova Destination UpdatesThis page is regularly updated with the latest information on border status, entry requirements, ...Read moreDiscova Destination Updates - News & announcementsThis page is regularly updated with the latest information on border status, entry requirements, and COVID restrictions across our destinations. For further information, or if you have any destination-specific questions, please reach out to our helpful, knowledgeable teams.
- From November 1, fully vaccinated travellers from a list of 63 countries can enter Thailand.
- While this is advertised as ‘quarantine-free’, the reality is that travellers have to stay at least one night at a pre-booked hotel while they await receipt of a negative Covid test.
- A ban on the consumption of alcohol in bars and restaurants remains in place.
- The government expects nationwide vaccine rollout to be complete by January 2022.
- In-destination, the government asks people to follow guidelines regarding social distancing and mask-wearing. Mask-wearing is mandatory in certain public spaces, such as malls and 7/11 convenience stores.
- Before arrival in Thailand, travellers must apply for a Thailand Pass. Travellers can apply through the Thai embassy website.
- A successful application will generate a QR code to be shown during immigration on entering Thailand.
- To obtain the pass, travellers will need to upload: passport, vaccination certificate, COVID-19 Health insurance certificate, confirmed reservation at an SHA+ approved hotel, their fight booking, and a copy of visa (if required)
- Travellers will need to present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure.
- Travellers will take a PCR test on arrival and will await the results at their SHA+ approved hotel.
- On receiving a negative test, they are free to explore Thailand.
- On arrival, travellers are assisted in downloading MorChana – Thailand’s tracing app.
- More info on the arrival process for travellers can be found here.
- The TAT has reported that in the first 10 days of reopening, Thailand saw 30,538 arrivals and 147,503 applications for the Thailand pass.
- Thailand is open to countries outside the list of 63, too. For these visitors, they have to book their quarantine hotels for a period of at least 7 days.
- Children under 12 are exempt from the vaccination requirement
- Follow all the latest developments on the Tourism Authority Thailand (TAT) news page, a great source for developments.
- Vietnam has banned the entry of foreigners since March 22 2020. Only diplomats, officials, and certain skilled workers are exempt.
- The quarantine period for these visitors was reduced from 21 days to 7 days on June 21.
- Domestic flights are operating as normal
- Face masks should be worn in public places
- In-person dining has resumed in HCMC and Hanoi.
- There has been a lot of rumour surrounding a Vietnam has confirmed it will be opening its borders in late November under a 3-phase plan.
- However, this would be a heavily regimented package tour with a designated agency.
- The opening constitutes a select number of charter flights arriving into Phu Quoc, Danang, Hoi An, and Ha Long Bay. Some of these tourists have already arrived.
- Providing there are no issues related to these limited inbound tourists, Vietnam looks set for a more meaningful opening in January.
- As soon as we know more, including all the steps that inbound travellers will need to take, we’ll update here.
- Bali and Riau Islands reopened borders for fully-vaccinated international tourists from 19 countries on October 14. The UK, the US, and Australia were not on this list.
- These travellers still have to undergo mandatory 3-day quarantine in state-approved hotels and a PCR test upon arrival.
- The Indonesian government set a target of 77% of the population fully vaccinated by April 2022, and this target is said to achieve herd immunity.
- Prevention measures graded by PPKM Levels 1-4 are in place across the country until November 1.
- Jakarta and Bali are under Level 2, with limitations on dine-in and capacity at selected tourist attractions.
- RT-PCR test, being fully vaccinated, required for domestic flights in Java-Bali.
- The US has lowered Indonesia’s risk level to 1. Australia also removed its ‘do not travel’ advisory for Indonesia and is in talks to set up a travel lane.
- While Bali is currently ‘open’ for incoming tourists on direct flights from 19 countries, there aren’t currently any flights scheduled. We are expecting announcements of flights before the end of November.
- We are expecting details of entry steps for travellers soon.
- Japan’s borders remain closed for widespread international travel.
- Foreign arrivals with special permission to enter have to submit a certificate of negative test result conducted within 72 hours prior to departing for Japan. They are subject to a COVID-19 test upon arrival followed by a 10-day quarantine.
- Japan’s state of emergency ended on October 1. However, each district has encouraged people to ‘remain careful’. Essentially, mask-wearing and social distancing are advised, and many business places are working at limited capacity.
- Domestic flights are operating as normal.
- It is expected that Japan will announce details of an initial phased reopening soon, especially since Japan has achieved a high vaccination rate. We will update as soon as we know.
- The government is considering reducing the quarantine time for vaccinated foreign nationals that arrive in Japan for short business trips, study abroad and technical training to three days from the current 10.
- The following countries can travel to Singapore via the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL): Brunei; Germany; Canada; Denmark; France; Italy; Netherlands; Spain; the United Kingdom; the United States. Australia and Switzerland can enter from November 8, and South Korea can enter from November 15.
- On November 15th, Singapore announced the addition of further countries to the VTL agreement. From November 29th, visitors from Sweden, Finland, Indonesia, India, and Malaysia will be allowed entry. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and he UAE will be added to the list from December 6th.
- Fully vaccinated travellers from these countries can enter Singapore.
- Pre-arrival requirements: fully vaccinated, At least 14 days in VTL country prior to departure to Singapore, negative PCR test result within 48 hours of departure, flight to Singapore must be on a designated VTL flight.
- On-arrival requirements: PCR test upon arrival, stay in hotel until test results received within 12 hours, download TraceTogether app.
- In-destination requirements: follow strict local laws – mask-wearing is mandatory.
- Singapore is in its self-titled ‘stabilisation’ phase of lockdown. Dine-in is capped at two people, as are social gatherings more generally. Working from home is the default, and many attractions are open at 50% capacity.
- The recent VTL announcements are the start of a broader process for Singapore reopening. We expect the process to be streamlined as long as there aren’t any significant outbreaks.
- Specifically, we expect an announcement of a reciprocal opening between Malaysia and Singapore to be the next step.
- Langkawi recently opened to domestic travellers, and this is seen as the first step toward a broader opening to international travellers.
- Malaysia is expected to complete its immunisation programme targets by February 2022, covering 80% of its population.
- The National Recovery Plan (a 4-phase exit strategy) was implemented in June and is scheduled to be ‘completed’ in December.
- Essentially, provinces across the nation are in different phases, and there are consequences relating to covid restrictions.
- Since October 11, inter-provincial travel has been allowed for fully vaccinated individuals.
- The Malaysian government has announced plans for a sandbox-style opening of Langkawi from November 15. However, as of November 15th, nothing has been announced or confirmed.
- Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to open up a Vaccinated Travel Lane(VTL) between the two countries, Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur-Bali. The details have yet to be released
- Tourism Minister states Malaysia could reopen fully to international tourists by early December, and no later than January 1st.
- There are rumours about what the entry requirements will be. However, we prefer to wait until confirmation from the relevant authorities. As soon as we know, you’ll know, check back here for regualr updates.
- Cambodia’s Prime Minister has announced that the country’s borders will open for fully-vaccinated tourists from November 15th with no need for quarantine
- Unvaccinated travellers will still have to quarantine for 14 days.
- This announcement overrides previous plans for a phased reopening.
- According to the Financial Times, Cambodia is the third most vaccinated country, behind China and Singapore, having vaccinated almost 90% of its population.
- Note: This announcement is still very fresh and developments are ongoing. We will update regularly as we know more.
- These are the conditions for entry from November 15th: proof of vaccination at least 14 days before entry, negative test results from a PCR test within 72 hours of departure, a negative rapid test upon arrival (travellers must wait around 20 minutes for results)
- Provided these conditions are met, visitors from any country will be allowed entry
- Visitors will be allowed to explore the different regions of Cambodia restriction-free
- On arrival, visitors will need to download ‘tracerapp’
- In-destination, mask-wearing is obligatory, gatherings are banned, and restrictions vary across regions depending on case numbers
- Many places are reporting that a proof of insurance cover is necessary for entry. We can confirm that this is not a mandatory requirement.
- Visa issuances remain suspended
- For those entering under special circumstances, there is a 10-day quarantine, and flights must be purchased at least 6 days before departure
- State of emergency declared until 2023
- Martial law has been declared in some townships
- There is a nightly curfew from 10pm-4am
- Since the military takeover, vaccination drives and travel arrangements have been significantly disrupted. We will update on the situation in Myanmar whenever we know more
- People entering Laos must undergo 14 days at a state-level quarantine centre, then 14 days at a district level quarantine centre.
- There are no plans to allow for widespread foreign tourists into Laos.
- Different areas in Laos are under varying levels of restrictions depending on the amount of covid cases
- With the announcement of the opening in Thailand and rumoured openings in Vietnam and Cambodia, we expect signs of movement in Laos very soon, following the lead of its neighbours.
- Laos is nearly finished building a railway that will link Vientiane with Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang and up to the Chinese border. When travellers return, this will be a significant upgrade to getting around the country.
- There has been no specific date given with regard to opening up the country for foreign tourists.
- News agencies are reporting that the target of 80% vaccination of the population needs to be reached before any relaxation occurs.
- Those allowed to enter under exceptional circumstances will be quarantined in designated facilities for 14 days for medical observation. After 14 days quarantine, 7 days of home isolation is requested.
- China continues its ‘zero covid’ policy with strict restrictions and local lockdowns going into effect at the first sight of cases. There were lockdowns in Xiamen and Putian in September after cases only in the single digits.
- Life is largely back to normal in China. Citizens still need to use their tracing apps to show they have ‘green’ status to use pubic transport, but most things are open. Things can change quickly.
Hong KongKey Points
- We expect the tracing app with the traffic light system to be a feature foreign tourists will have to use once they arrive.
- Hong Kong has faced growing criticism for its ‘zero-covid’ policy, whereby it refuses to allow openings for foreign travellers.
- In the first significant easing of border restrictions, some visitors from mainland China have been allowed entry without quarantine from September 15.
- However, no date is proposed for when widespread travel to Hong Kong may resume.
- Gathering restrictions will remain at four people in public until further notice.
- The government requires mask-wearing when using public transport, including in terminals. Travellers need to wear masks in indoor and outdoor public places.
- Restaurants, along with gyms, hotels, cinemas, and other scheduled venues, are required to display QR codes for the LeaveHomeSafe mobile app. People scan on entering these places to trace movement in case of covid outbreaks.
- Mexico is open to travellers. There is no need to provide a negative PCR test or quarantine on arrival. All resorts will ask guests to fill out health questionnaires.
- The land border between the US and Mexico has been closed. This is set to open on November 8.
- Mexico was recently removed from the UK’s red list for travel.
Costa RicaKey Points
- Travellers to the country must complete a health declaration form and scan the QR code it generates on arrival
- Travellers returning to the US will need to take a covid test. This can be a PCR test or the cheaper antigen test. These tests are available everywhere locally, almost all hotels offer this service on-site.
- Mexico uses a four-tier traffic light system for covid restrictions across different states. Quintana Roo, where popular tourist destinations Cancun and Playa del Carmen are located, was listed as green, meaning there are no restrictions.
- There has been no change in entry requirements: borders are open to tourists from all countries. However, some visitors may need to apply for a visa.
- Visitors must fill out a health form before entering and show proof of insurance cover of at least $50,000.
- As of August 1, fully vaccinated tourists will not need to provide this travel insurance policy. They will need to present proof of vaccination.
- There is no need for quarantine or to provide test results on arrival.
- Beaches are open from 5 am to 6 pm. National parks are allowing 50% capacity. Bars are operating at 25% capacity, and hotels at 75%. Concerts, nightclubs, fairs and other large gatherings are banned. There is a nightly curfew from 11 pm to 5 am.
Dominican RepublicKey Points
- From January 8 2022, bars, shops, restaurants, museums and other public establishments will ask for proof of vaccination for entry. This involves showing a QR code or vaccination certificate. Children under 12 are exempt from this.
- After filling out their health form before entering, tourists entering the country will receive a specific QR code. They will be able to use their designated QR code to enter commercial establishments.
- Unvaccinated tourists will still be able to enter the country. However, as of January 8th, they will not be able to enter these selected commercial establishments.
- There will be no option to take a test to gain entry into these establishments.
- The Dominican Republic is open for tourism without any need for quarantine.
- Some travellers do not even need to show a negative covid test depending on the country of origin.
- For example, those from the US do not need to present a negative test, but those from the UK do.
- At the airport, some passengers are chosen at random to take a covid test.
- All foreign and Dominican passengers entering or leaving the Dominican Republic on commercial flights must complete the free electronic entry and exit form.
- The use of face masks is mandatory in public places. Social distancing is also mandatory where possible.
- As of October 11, the nighttime curfew is no longer in effect.
- Vaccination cards will not be needed to gain access to hotels or resorts. However, travellers will need to show vaccine passes to gain access to some shops, malls, restaurants, gyms, museums, and other public places.
16 Nov 21Partner News
Announcing our new B2B portal – Discova ConnectDiscova has launched an online booking portal to help partners book day tours, transfers, ...Read moreAnnouncing our new B2B portal – Discova Connect - News & announcementsDiscova has launched an online booking portal to help partners book day tours, transfers, and hotels. Discova Connect constitutes an enhancement to our service for our existing partners, allowing consultants to save time in generating quotes, make simple bookings, and view existing bookings. It marks another step for Discova in investing towards a tech-oriented future, providing an additional convenient tool to simplify the booking experience for partners. Yet, with a chat function installed within the portal and live support available, this technology does not come at the cost of our personal touch. Our fantastic, knowledgeable teams are still just a click away, ready to assist in any way they can.
Tell Me More – What Can I Book?Discova Connect will allow partners to generate quotes for day tours, transfers, and hotels across our destinations. Linked to world-leading booking platform Tourplan, this service provides live bookability for agents, with Discova-recommended products and hotels highlighted as standard. There is also an easy-to-use search function to quickly search the destination or experience that you need. It is important to note that this tool is designed to enable partners to make simple bookings. For customised, multi-day itineraries, we encourage partners to contact our experts within the tailor-made travel team for a conversation as usual, utilising their specialist knowledge for a bespoke tour. Scroll through the images below for a few snapshots.
How Can I Access Discova Connect?All our partners will be given login details by their Account Managers. This will allow partners to access our Agent Hub, easily navigable from our website homepage. Once within the Agent Hub, partners will have the option to explore the booking possibilities, compare prices, and view any of their existing bookings. Ever helpful, our teams have put together a handy user guide for partners using Discova Connect for the first time. The training module goes through the basics of using the portal, including how to search for our product, confirming, amending, and cancelling bookings, and how payment and invoicing will work. This user guide will be sent to partners along with their login details.
What are the Plans for the Future?As always, we are all ears and ready to listen to our partners. As with any new tool, we want to ensure that the service provided is streamlined and effective. That’s why, over the coming weeks and months, we invite feedback on how Discova Connect can be optimised and improved, as well as wish-list functions that could make the service even better. Already, a timeline is in place to make all our destinations bookable through Discova Connect. We also envisage developing Discova Connect into a wider-ranging booking engine where complete itineraries can be booked, along with the integration of other booking platforms. As we look into the future, we have a great foundation to build upon. We will continue investing in our services to provide better solutions for our partners so that we can grow together. In this vision, Discova Connect is the first iteration of a broader, more-comprehensive service.“We have listened to partner feedback over the years, and a tool that allows simple bookings at your fingertips has often been mentioned as a desired feature. Our partners, and by extension their travellers, are our priotrity. We therefore want to make booking with us as streamlined and efficient as possible. This productive yet straightforward tool will allow quoting of our competitive rates and services in real-time.”Andrew Turner Discova Global Director of Sales and Marketing For more information on how you can utilise this time-saving resource for yourself and your business, please reach out to your personal Discova connection for more information, or contact [email protected].
09 Nov 21Partner News
Beyond Chichen Itza: 5 Best Ruins in Mexico to ExploreThere are a million reasons to visit Mexico – the world-famous cuisine, fantastic beach resorts, and the ...Read moreBeyond Chichen Itza: 5 Best Ruins in Mexico to Explore - News & announcementsThere are a million reasons to visit Mexico – the world-famous cuisine, fantastic beach resorts, and the warm, fun-loving hospitality so embedded within the fiesta spirit. For historical enthusiasts, there are also plenty of iconic archaeological sites to visit that help to shape the narrative of Mexico’s pre-hispanic past. Visiting the best ruins in Mexico provides insights into the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilisations. Gaining an understanding of these cultures will see travellers develop a meaningful connection with modern Mexico. Many travellers will perhaps be able to name Chichen Itza or will at least have a vague recollection of having heard of the iconic world wonder. Chichen Itza is the best-known Mayan city, filled with architectural marvels and ancient secrets.Of course, we recommend visiting Chichen Itza to admire its intimidating pyramids, particularly for the atmospheric evening light show. However, we also want to inform you and your customers of the other sites available to explore with Discova. There’s a whole ancient world of possibilities!
Best Ruins in Mexico
Tulum + CobaWe offer a fantastic opportunity to see two intriguing Mayan sites in one day. Tulum, a majestic walled city perched on the cliff’s edge, with panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea, is the first stop on this trip. At Tulum, our knowledgeable guide will explain all about this ancient Mayan port and its significance within the Mayan kingdom. As the waves gently lap the beach below, you get a real sense of what it must have been like in its heyday in the 13th and 14th centuries. After Tulum, head to explore the ruins of the temple complex at Coba. There are several pyramids to explore here, including Nohuch Mul, which roughly translates to the ‘big mound’. It’s a lot more impressive than its name suggests, and visitors can actually climb the pyramid for 360 views of the whole complex.The temples arise from a thick, tropical jungle bed, giving the site a mystical Indiana Jones feel. Visitors feel like intrepid explorers as they navigate the ceremonial limestone sacbes, or avenues. Besides Nohuch Mul, there are pyramids home to ancient Mayan frescoes and a number of Juego de pelota, or ball courts. Not finished for the day, we head to a local Mayan village to learn about honey and cocoa production in the village. Here, we endeavour to understand the Mayan legacy for these people. Take a refreshing dip in the village’s sacred cenote – a freshwater-filled sinkhole. Finally, experience a Mayan ritual as the local shaman gives travellers an authentic blessing.
TeotihuacanTeotihuacan, a short drive from Mexico City, was the sprawling capital of the Aztec kingdom. One of the best ruins in Mexico to explore, the complex is vast and spreads out within the glorious valley northwest of Mexico City. Cutting down the middle is the Avenue of the Dead, linking the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun. Here, learn from the guide about the Aztecs’ culture, traditions, and legacy, and visit the on-site museum to see artefacts excavated from the ruins. It’s an extraordinary place to explore the rich world of the Ancient Aztecs. Teotihuacan features on several of our trips from Mexico City and can be included in customised multi-day itineraries exploring the region. However, we want to spotlight an out-of-this-world opportunity to catch a glimpse of the site from above.With Discova, we can organise hot-air balloon rides over the archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan. Float gently in a dreamlike manner over the complex and admire the spectacular views. First-time flyers will be thrilled by the sensation. Those who have experienced a hot-air balloon ride before can remind nervous flyers that the journey is peaceful and serene. Even those who are afraid of heights tend to find the ride relaxing. This is packaged as a whole experience with a range of choices. Choose to include welcome drinks, an exciting look into the history of balloon transport, a champagne toast, or a signed certificate from your pilot. Travellers also have the choice of including their tickets into the Teotihuacan complex. So, they can decide if they want a closer exploration or if they simply want to glide past. What better way to discover one of the best ruins in Mexico.
Ek BalamAnother fascinating site, Ek Balam predates Chichen Itza and is believed to have been founded around 1500 years ago. Recent restoration work at Ek Balam make it relatively new to the list of Mayan attractions and is proving increasingly popular.The site is set within a gloriously picturesque national park, lush and verdantly green with tropical forest. The highlight of the ruins is a stone acropolis, a cornerstone of Mayan architecture, featuring iconic Mayan design in its carvings and glyphs. The guide here will explain that Ek Balam was a city of religious significance to the Mayans. As well as the archaeological ruins, visitors to the park enjoy a sense of adventure with various thrilling experiences. Rappel down a cliff into a crystal, clear cenote, whizz down several ziplines through the canopy, or play like Tarzan with the intertwining swinging vines.Travellers also have the chance to stand before an altar and take part in a shaman’s ritual. This ritual has been passed down throughout the centuries from family to family and is a significant aspect of Mayan heritage. Standing before the altar, capture smoke burning from a cup of copal, a kind of unique tree sap. This symbolises a request for permission from the Maya gods to pass onto the underworld, “Xibalba.” A meaningful process for some, many travellers describe the experience as transformative.
PalenqueFurther afield, we offer a trip to Palenque, not provided as a day trip but able to be included as part of multi-day itineraries. This is due to Palenque’s distance from Cancun in the state of Chiapas. Palenque’s site is smaller than that of Chichen Itza and some of the other sites on this list, yet it presents some of the finest examples of Mayan bas-relief carvings to be found. This, along with the exquisite sculptures on display, makes it a real gem for those interested in Mayan architecture. The Temple of Inscriptions is especially pleasing to the eye, with its sheer, imposing incline of steps. The funerary monument is actually home to the second-longest glyphic text known from the Maya world. Historians have used these inscriptions to work out the intricacies of the ruling dynasties of Palenque.Other notable structures include other monuments to the dead and the ruins of a palace complex. The palace, built in the 4th century AD, was used by the aristocracy for bureaucracy, entertainment, and ritual ceremony. Many features have been conserved to this day. Particularly impressive is the aqueduct system, still visible, that was used to bring fresh water to the palace. Explore the site with a local guide who can capably answer curious questions. Also, admire the surrounding National Park, abundant with mahogany and cedar. The National park encompasses the ancient site and hills to the south, and there is a camping site for families.
Always ExpandingAt Discova, we’re continually expanding our offering for your customers. It’s in our DNA to offer choice and encourage travellers to go beyond. We want to inspire travellers to discover sites less-visited and explore more places to gain a deeper understanding of our destinations. That’s why, for travellers wanting to explore Mayan and Aztec ruins, we want to highlight there’s more than Chichen Itza. Depending on traveller interests and tendency, it may be better to explore Teotihuacan, visit Ek Balam, or go further afield and visit the magnificent Palenque. To learn more about our experiences, and to hear about our multi-day itineraries in Mexico, reach out to our helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable teams.