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There I’ve said it.
Especially if you’re in the travelling game, closed borders, changing rules and extra PCR tests make travelling during Covid times extra difficult.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel relatively frequently during 2021 but it has been nothing like how I have travelled before. Even travelling 3, 6 and 12 months ago are all totally different to each other with different rules each time. There are a lot of extra steps to consider, things that would have been unimaginable a couple of years ago.
But whats it really like to travel during a global pandemic? Whats changed in travel and can it still be done?
Planning Where To Go
Planning where you wanted to travel to used to be so simple. Look at a map, do some research, book a flight.
It’s a whole different ball game.
It boils down to what type of travelling you are doing.
- A short holiday in one destination
- Picking a region to travel around long term
If you are planning to go to one destination for a limited amount of time you need to make sure that the destination you choose will let you in. Some borders are still closed in some parts of the world. What are the rules and restrictions on getting into that destination. Do you need proof of vaccination? A PCR test? Quarantine on arrival? Can you leave from that destination back into your home country easily and what rules will you need to follow on your return.
Long term travel to multiple destinations
All of the above rules apply to your first destination. But then it gets more complicated.
Some countries need to know all of the places you have been in the preceding 14 days. Is your first country on a “red” or banned list of the place you want to go next?
How you cross the borders may also dictate the rules you need to follow. At one point, Bulgaria required a quarantine if you flew into the country, but it didn’t apply if you crossed a land border. Its also important to stay on top of these rules whilst you’re on the road. Sign up to email alerts from your government or tourism ministeries for the places you are going. And check and re-check in the days leading up to crossing a border.
Make sure that you follow the rules for any destination you’re transiting through as well. Whilst some countries won’t let you into the country unless you are a citizen, some let you transit but only on certain conditions. Singapore is one such country.
I’ve recently heard of travellers not being allowed entry to Singapore because their flights were on two different airlines which in normal times wouldn’t matter. However because they would have to recheck in their luggage again they would have to go through immigration, which they weren’t allowed to do. £1000 and 24 hours later they booked to the same destination with a transit on the same airline.
Make Sure You Have Travel Insurance That Covers Covid
As always, you should have travel insurance. It would be better that you should forget to take your underpants than forget travel insurance. But now it is even more important and may be needed to even enter the country.
Even after nearly two years into the pandemic, some companies aren’t covering for Covid cancellations or problems. Some countries won’t allow you past the border unless you have insurance that would cover you if you got sick from Covid and Ukraine has its own insurance policy that you must buy on their government website.
I use Safety Wing insurance as I am travelling for a long time. I haven’t had to make a claim with them yet but their customer service so far has been excellent. I would love to hear from anybody that has made a claim of having Covid with any insurance company.
Learn Local Rules And Customs (Mask Wearing, Vaccine Pass etc)
Not only do you have to learn local customs like you always would, there are now ever changing rules that need to be followed as well. Each country has a different rule on masks from being compulsory in all indoor and outdoor spaces to barely being used at all. Lithuania now needs a medical face mask of three layers of non-woven material, whilst a recent trip to Egypt saw the mask stay almost entirely in my pocket. I have even encountered different customs between cities in the same country; Tbilisi was very blase towards masks but everyone wore them even in public in Kutaisi.
Across most of Europe now, you will need a vaccine pass to get into many public areas such as bars, restaurants and gyms. Make sure that your pass is valid for where you want to go. And with some curfews coming back, ensure you are aware of what time venues can stay open to. Don’t go out for dinner at 8pm if the curfew started at 7!
Be Flexible In Your Planning
I’m very fortunate that I can be flexible with my work, budget and lifestyle. I don’t have a set plan of where I want to go and this has paid dividends in changing plans quickly. With rules for countries changing sometimes weekly, I wouldn’t book anything too far in advance.
I recently gave someone advice on where to go on holiday: book your two weeks off work then plan three different trips to different places. The week before, book one of those which is easiest to get to with the fewest restrictions.
Book Flights Last Minute
Normally I would always try to book flights and accommodation a long way in advance to save money. But right now I feel it isn’t worth the hassle if the flights get cancelled, rules change or you can’t make your flight. Recently I have been booking flights less than a week in advance and sometimes just a day or two. This means that I know the rules right up to when I book them and they aren’t likely to change.
Always Have A Back Up Plan
You should always have a back up plan on your travels but it is even more important now. Plan everything from what you would do if you were denied boarding or tested positive.
You may also want to consider what if the country changes rules whilst you’re there. What would you do if that country went into lockdown? Do you have a local contact that could help you in a sticky situation.
And what if it’s difficult for you to return to your home country as travellers to South Africa may have recently realised.
I would also recommend having an emergency fund as a back up in case you need it. Do you have spare money in your budget incase you need more PCR tests or to change your flights? This would be different to every situation but is definitely something to think about.
Check Local Covid Trends
The Netherlands went back into a lockdown in December 2021. The reason was the Omicron variant and a rise in cases.
If you are looking at a destination, keep an eye out on the daily positive COVID cases to see if there is a rising or falling trend. If you want to get super technical, you may also want to see at what stage they have locked down previously. Australia and New Zealand are known for locking down with only a handful of cases, whereas the US can have hundreds of thousands without a lock down.
If the graph is going up towards record highs, you may want to hold off on booking that flight just yet…
Top Tips For Travel in 2022
- Check entry requirements, do you need a visa or is the country even open
- Check health measures whether just a vaccine pass, PCR test or quarantine
- Check for any additional health forms
- Are there any other apps you may need for travel
- Confirm flight details and entry requirements before you leave for the airport (they can change that quickly!)
- Keep and eye on any changing requirements to returning or transiting to your home country
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.