Since March 2020, the Coronavirus has plundered the world. Millions of people have become ill, hundreds of thousands have lost their lives and whole economies have closed. In just a few weeks, entire countries have completely shut down and closed their borders to visitors.
For the first time since World War II, travel – an industry that relies on human movements and employs 10% of the global workforce – has come to a complete halt.
As the months have gone by, we have seen some countries reopen ……. and then return to the block, while other destinations are doing well and have reopened to (some) tourists.
And this process poses a lot of questions. There are many variables and the rules are constantly changing.
How do you know which countries are open? How do I find out about the new visiting rules? Will travel insurance be applied during the pandemic? What will the flight look like? Are hotels and hostels safe? Which attractions are open? Should you travel now too?
To help you understand what to do and where to find information, I’ve created this post to get the ball rolling.
What are the open destinations?
The list of open countries changes every week. Some open to all international visitors, while others only open to neighboring countries. Some countries, such as the United States, Iceland, and Bulgaria, have bans on visitors from some countries, while countries like the Bahamas require travelers to show a negative test result within 5 days of flight. Bermuda needs a test before and during your visit.
Cambodia, on the other hand, needs a $ 2,000 deposit to cover any potential COVID spending while Albania, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Mexico have virtually no restrictions and are fully open.
In short, there are many different rules to order.
This means you will need to do specific research based on where you want to go if you want to travel this summer or fall. Fortunately, there are some websites that will make searching easy.
First, here’s a handy (but not easy to use) map from the International Air Transport Association showing which countries allow flights.
Second, The Points Guy and Travel Off Path have a detailed analysis of current travel rules for almost every country in the world. These are the best places to start if you’re looking to see which countries are open.
If you are from the United States, Skyscanner also has a handy list of state restrictions, as well as country restrictions and flight cancellation regulations / information.
You can also download the travel planning app in Air for ongoing updates on travel restrictions. Their app is really great because it lets you sort airlines according to their policies, lets you know what airports do, and also has information on health checks.
And if you’re going to Europe, this official map of the European Union will let you know which countries are open.
Third, check with the Foreign Office or official government tourism agency as they will have the most up-to-date information.
If you are unsure how to find these websites, just Google “(country name) foreign office” or “(country name) official tourism agency”.
In addition, “(country name) COVID travel update” will also provide you with a good list of official websites. They will have the best knowledge of possible quarantine rules, testing requirements, and other restrictions.
Where can I find the latest case count information?
If you would like to see the current status of a destination active case account, this interactive map of Johns Hopkins University is being updated.
However, I prefer Worldometers because it’s a little easier to use and you can analyze the data a bit more.
What do the airlines do?
Flying in the near future will be very different. Currently, most airlines require passengers to wear masks, although the application is patchy. The onboarding process has also changed to reduce interaction and support physical distances.
Only a few airlines (like Delta) do not book intermediate seats to maintain safer distances between passengers. Most airlines operate normally, which means you may be in full flight (with fewer flights available, many of the more popular routes are fully booked)
If you’re thinking of flying soon, here’s a handy post on the risk of catching COVID on a plane.
As for cleaning, many airlines mainly disinfect aircraft between flights. For current policies, here is a list of the major airlines and their current procedures:
If you are flying or otherwise traveling with other people, here are some important hygiene tips:
- Wash your hands often (or consider wearing latex gloves).
- Wear a mask.
- Do not touch your face.
- Clean the seat or seating area with disinfectant cloths (because people are disgusting and so are airplanes).
On the plus side, many airlines have changed their cancellation policies, which means you can change your flights without penalty even now (check with your particular airline to see if that is an option before booking). I suspect it will last long but as airlines try to get people to sit down they will make it easier to change your flight to do so!
What do hotels, hostels and Airbnb do?
Houses in many cities have been closed or forced to run at reduced capacity. Most large chains that have opened (or reopened) have promised to improve cleaning practices. Some of the major changes a guest is making are:
- Check temperature / health of guests on arrival.
- Improved disinfection and cleaning of the registration desk and common areas (swimming pools, fitness centers, etc.).
- Adjustments to communal areas to maintain social distances.
- Extra disinfection for most used items in hotel rooms (doorknobs, remote control, light switches, etc.)
Most hotels have also changed their cancellation policy to make bookings more flexible as the situation is so fluid. Here are the statements and policies of major hotel chains so you can review their changes and commitments for yourself:
InterContinental Hotel Group
And if you want to learn more about Airbnb and how it responds to the current situation, here’s their Coronavirus policy and update page.
As far as hostels are concerned, it’s so difficult to tell what all the hostels in the world are doing. There is no hostel association where members have to abide by specific guidelines as in other areas. But here are some policies from some of the biggest hostel chains to give you an idea of the industry right now:
San Cristoforo Hostels
Make sure you contact the hostels directly as they will be best placed to answer your questions.
What about the tour operators?
Many tour companies do not even sell flights at this time, so you will need to look ahead to see which companies are still offering tours during your travel dates. Here are some travel updates and policy changes from my favorite tour companies:
Fat Tire Tours
Make sure you double-check the company’s cancellation and refund policies in case they start selling flights again but need to close quickly in case of another update. You don’t want to be stuck with no money.
For daily activities in a city, check with the local tourist office. They will have up-to-date knowledge of what the attractions do and information about changes to public transport.
Will travel insurance cover me?
Most travel insurance does not apply during a pandemic. This is especially true if your government has issued warnings not to visit specific regions or countries. In fact, some travel insurance companies are not even currently selling insurance in light of the situation. But, as the crisis continues, many travel insurance companies have adapted their policies.
World Nomads, Medjet, and Security Wing all offer some form of COVID medical coverage, so if you fall ill while traveling, your medical bills will be paid. Check their policies for details.
Also, if you want to make sure you get paid beyond your medical bills, here’s what I suggest you do:
- Purchase insurance policies or “cancel for any reason” plans that include full travel interruption and cancellation coverage.
- Make all purchases with a travel credit card that also has insurance cover.
- Only visit destinations that do not have government notices.
How long will it take to book my trip?
As I update this on 2/2/21, the situation is still evolving. Countries have opened and closed, often leaving passengers stranded at short notice.
If you want to travel, I’d book everything within a week or two before leaving. Keep an eye on the case count, and if the cases are still low where you want to go, you should be fine. If cases increase, there is a risk that new restrictions will occur in an instant.
There are a lot of offers out there because so few people are traveling at the moment. Prices usually go up and last-minute ordering makes you pay more, but that old adage is not true at the moment.
Also, we won’t go anywhere if you can’t get a COVID test within 72 hours of leaving. Proof of COVID negative may suddenly be needed. Also, you want to make sure you are not sick or an asymptomatic carrier. It’s important to be a good guy and make sure that if you go somewhere, regardless of the rules, you don’t carry COVID with you.
It’s good that the world is starting to open up again, but I personally think it’s better to focus on traveling within your borders right now until the international situation is a bit better organized, that guidance more clearly and to see the clearest effects of reopening on destinations. Do I travel nationally but internationally? I’m very much in the “wait and see” field.
But, with the external guidelines related to COVID and travel, you can at least begin to understand the rules and what to expect when you start traveling!