Posted: 6/18/20 | June 18th, 2020
Over the last six months, Coronavirus has devastated the world. Millions have gotten sick, hundreds of thousands have lost their lives, and entire economies have been shut down. In just a matter of weeks, entire countries completely locked themselves down and closed their borders to visitors.
For the first time since probably World War II, travel — an industry that relies on human movement and employs 10% of the global workforce — completely stopped.
Now, as COVID-19 recedes in some places, many countries are slowly starting to reopen to tourists.
While I personally think it’s still best to wait a little longer before taking an international trip, that doesn’t mean we can’t start looking at the current situation to get a sense of how we can best plan our future trips.
There are a lot of variables and everything is still changing.
And that creates a lot of questions.
How do you know which countries are open? How do we find out new visitation rules? Will travel insurance apply during the pandemic? What is flying going to be like? Are hotels and hostels safe? What attractions are open?
To help you figure out what to do and where to find information, I created this post to get the ball rolling. (Note: This post will be updated as more information becomes available.)
What Destinations are Open?
The list of countries that are opening in the coming weeks and months grows every day. Some are opening for all international visitors, while others are opening only for neighboring countries. Some countries, like the US and Indonesia and Australia, have bans on visitors from certain countries. Tahiti is making people show a negative test result within 72 hours of their flight. Same for Austria (or you can do a test on arrival). On the other hand, Cambodia wants a $3,000 deposit to cover any potential COVID expenses.
In short, there’s a lot of varying rules to sort through.
That means you’ll need to do specific research based on where you want to go if you want to travel this summer or fall. Luckily, there are a few websites that will make that research straightforward.
First, here is a helpful (but not user-friendly) map from the International Air Transport Association showing you which countries are allowing flights.
Additionally, if you’re heading to Europe, this official map from the European Union will let you know which countries are open.
Third, check the official government’s Foreign Office or tourism board as they will have the most up-to-date information.
If you’re not sure how to find those websites, simply Google “(country name) foreign office” or “(country name) official tourism board.” Additionally, “(country name) COVID travel update” will get you a good list of official websites too. They’ll have the best information on potential quarantine rules, test requirements, and other restrictions.
Where Can I Find the Most Current Case Count Information?
If you want to see the current status of a destination’s number of active cases, this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University is kept up-to-date. However, I prefer Worldometers because it’s a bit more user friendly and you can parse down the data a bit more.
What are Airlines Doing?
Flying for the foreseeable future is going to be a lot different. Currently, most airlines are requiring passengers to wear masks, though enforcement is inconsistent. The boarding process has also changed to reduce interactions and support physical distancing.
Some airlines (such as Southwest) are not booking any middle seats to maintain a safer distance between passengers. Not every airline is doing that, though, and while most flights are still under-booked, I’ve seen images of some rather full flights.
As for cleaning, many airlines are majorly disinfecting planes in between every flight. For current policies, here’s a list of the major airlines and their current procedures:
If you are flying or otherwise traveling alongside other people, here’s some important hygiene advise:
- Wash your hands frequently (or consider wearing latex gloves).
- Wear a mask.
- Refrain from touching your face.
- Wipe down your seat or seating area with disinfectant wipes (because people are gross and so are planes).
On the plus side, many airlines have changed their cancelation policies, which means you can often change your flights without penalty now as well (check your specific airline to see if that’s an option before you book). I doubt that will last a long time but, as airlines try to get people in seats, they will make changing your flight easier as a way to do so!
What are Hotels, Hostels, and Airbnb Doing?
Accommodations in many cities have been closed or forced to operate at reduced capacity. Most of the major chains that are open (or reopening) have committed to enhanced cleaning routines. Some of the key changes hotels are embracing are:
- Temperature/health checks of guests on arrival.
- Enhanced disinfection and cleaning of the check-in counter and common areas (pools, fitness centers, etc.).
- Adjustments to common areas to maintain social distancing.
- Extra disinfection for the most-used items in hotel rooms (door handles, remotes, light switches, etc.).
Most hotels have also changed their cancelation policy to make bookings more flexible since the situation is so fluid. Here are statements and policies from the major hotel chains so you can review their changes and commitments for yourself:
And if you’re looking to learn more about Airbnb and how it is responding to the current situation, here is their Coronavirus policy and update page.
As for hostels, there’s so many that it’s hard to say what all the hostels in the world are doing. There’s no hostel association where members have to adhere to certain guidelines like in other industries. But here are a few policies from some of the larger hostel chains to give you a sense of the industry right now:
Be sure to reach out to the hostels directly as they will be best positioned to answer your questions.
What About Tour Companies?
Many tour companies are not even selling tours right now so you’ll need to check ahead to see what companies are still offering tours during your travel dates. Here are some travel updates and policy changes from my favorite tour companies:
Be sure to double-check the company’s cancelation and refund policies in case they start selling tours again but have to quickly shut down in case of another update. You don’t want to be stuck without money.
For everyday activities in a city, simply check the local tourism office. They will have up-to-date information on what attractions are doing as well as information on changes to public transportation.
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 selling insurance right now in light of the situation. Eventually, as travel restarts, that will change. If you want to make sure you’re covered, here’s what I suggest:
- Purchase “cancel for any reason” insurance policies or plans that include comprehensive trip interruption and cancelation coverage.
- Make every purchase on a travel credit card that also has insurance as a backup.
- Visit only destinations that do not have any government warnings.
- Contact the insurance company before you book and speak to someone directly about their COVID exclusions.
What If I Can’t Quarantine for Two Weeks?
Many destinations are requiring visitors to quarantine on arrival. Contact the foreign office for more information to ensure you aren’t going to spend your entire vacation in lockdown (travelers are already finding out about quarantine rules too late).
The situation is changing and, if you end up on a flight with someone who tests positive, the country could force you to quarantine. It’s a real risk. I would say that if you are unable to quarantine for two weeks during or after your trip, don’t go international. Stay local.
It’s nice the world is starting to open up again but, personally, I think it’s best to focus on travel within your own borders right now until the international situation becomes a bit better organized, guidelines are clearer, and we see the clearer effects of reopening on destinations. I’m traveling domestically but internationally? I’m very much in the “wait and see” camp.
But, with guidelines coming out relating to COVID and travel, you can at least start to understand rules and what to expect for when you do start to travel!
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines, because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!