Updated: 2/2/21 | February 2nd, 2021
Since March of 2020, 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 World War II, travel — an industry that relies on human movement and employs 10% of the global workforce — completely stopped.
As the months have rolled on, we’ve seen some countries re-open……and then return to lockdown, while other destinations are doing well and have reopened to (some) tourists.
And that process creates a lot of questions. There are a lot of variables and rules are constantly changing.
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? Should you even travel now?
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 continuously updated as more information becomes available. Its last update was February 2021).
What Destinations are Open?
The list of countries that are open changes every week. Some are opening for all international visitors, while others are opening only for neighboring countries. Some countries, like the US, Iceland, and Bulgaria, have bans on visitors from certain countries while countries like the Bahamas require travelers show a negative test result within 5 days of their flight. Bermuda requires a test before and during your visit.
On the other hand, Cambodia requires a $2,000 deposit to cover any potential COVID expenses while Albania, Domican Republic, Costa Rica, and Mexico have virtually no restrictions and are completely open.
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.
Second, The Points Guy and Travel Off Path have breakdowns on the current travel rules for virtually every country in the world. These are the best places to start if you’re looking to see what countries are open.
If you’re from the US, Skyscanner also has a handy list of state-by-state restrictions as well as restrictions by country and flight cancelation policies/information.
You can also download the travel planning app App in the Air for ongoing travel restriction updates. Their app is pretty awesome as it will let you sort airlines by what their policies, lets you know what airports are doing, and has information on health checks too.
And 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.
Only a few airlines (such as Delta) are not booking any middle seats to maintain a safer distance between passengers. Most airlines are operating as usual, which means you may be on a full flight (with fewer flights available, a lot of the most popular routes are fully booked)
If you are thinking of flying soon, here’s a helpful post about the risk of catching COVID on an airplane.
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:
- American Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- British Airways
- Air Canada
- Air France
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:
- InterContinental Hotel Group
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:
- HI Hostels
- Generator Hostels
- St. Christopher’s Hostels
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:
- Take Walks
- Fat Tire Tours
- Intrepid Travel
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. But, as the crisis has continued, many travel insurance companies have adjusted their policies.
World Nomads, Medjet, and Safety Wing all offer some kind of COVID medical coverage so if you get sick while traveling, your medical expenses will be covered. Check their policies for specifics though.
Additionally, if you want to make sure you’re covered beyond medical expenses, here’s what I suggest you do:
- 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.
How Soon Should I Book My Trip?
As I update this on 2/2/21, the situation is still in flux. Countries have opened and closed, often leaving travelers stranded on short notice.
If you want to travel, I would book everything within one to two weeks before departure. Keep an eye on case counts and, if cases are still low where you want to go, you should be fine. If cases are rising, you run the risk of new restrictions happening at a moment’s notice.
There’s plenty of deals out there since there are so few people traveling right now. Usually, prices rise and booking last minute means you’re paying more but that old adage isn’t true at the moment.
Additionally, I wouldn’t go anywhere if you can’t get a COVID test within 72 hours of your departure. Proof of being COVID negative might be suddenly required of you. Plus, you want to make sure you aren’t sick or an asymptomatic carrier. It’s important to be a good human and to make sure, that if you are going to go anywhere, regardless of the rules, you aren’t bringing COVID with you.
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 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 left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap 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:
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.