For several months now we’ve been told the safest place to travel to is to your backyard. Since the U. S. Department of State issued a Level 4 travel warning on COVID-19 on March 19th, we’ve been confined to our personal spaces.
As the travel guidelines begin to relax, many of us are starting to evaluate the possibility of taking a trip in the following summer months. While the pandemic is starting to ease up, its impact has affected the the way we would normally approach travel plans.
The repercussions of the virus have introduced a new set of safety concerns that should be taken into account when weighing up a travel destination.
Local versus international travel, rural versus urban destinations and other factors will be critical in making an optimal travel decision.
National vs. International Travel
National travel will be the safest destination for most citizens of the US. It’s an advantage that we already understand what is happening at a governmental level, whereas an international destination will require more background research.
However, each region of the US has handled the virus remediation differently and some investigation will be needed to understand the regional impact of a potential destination.
As a general rule for any summer travel, urban areas should be avoided. Higher density means not only higher possibility of contamination, but also stricter quarantine controls that may still be in effect.
Such factors may limit your vacation possibilities and expose you to unnecessary health risks.
Do your research ahead of time and find out the statistics of a potential destination. Populated cities like New York and Los Angeles should be avoided. However a rural destination with nearby access to medical facilities or a hospital would be a safe choice.
Staycations and local travel will gradually become a more popular choice of vacation. If you are staying in public accommodation make sure to research the Covid-19 prevention measures of the hotel or public space you’re considering.
For example, Marriott have made a public statement announcing the implementation of new protocol and anti-virus technology to counter virus spread.
International Travel Considerations
Are borders open?
When evaluating a possible international destination there is a broader range of variables to consider.
To begin with, you should research whether the borders and international airports are open. Many countries are only just starting to welcome incoming flights, and some have restrictions on certain countries but not others.
Certain countries have a planned date to reopen but frequently push them out as new information becomes available. Stay updated as the border status of your intended destination may change unexpectedly.
Be sure to check the quarantine norms for passengers arriving on international carriers. For example, the UK has a mandatory 14 day self-quarantine for anyone arriving from out of the country. Lastly, before you book your flights, call your airline and inquire about the possibility of flight cancellation for your intended return.
While airlines are starting to resume normal operations, many carriers are still cancelling flights due to low occupancy, and this may extend your vacation beyond your expectation.
Listed below are the main travel considerations to take into account.
What is the cultural temperature?
In addition to national borders, there is the cultural question regarding the country’s openness to welcoming tourism again. There have been reports in Asia of cultural resistance towards seeing foreigners, as they tourists or travelers may be perceived as potential virus carriers.
While it’s unlikely this will put you at any risk of harm, it may impact the quality of your travel experience. Research local news and expatriate websites in English and look up local Facebook pages for information.
What are the Covid-19 case statistics?
While it might feel safe to assume that a low number of cases in a country will make it a safe destination, there are other factors to consider.
Especially in developing countries, governments don’t have the facilities to test all patients showing symptoms. Even in the US, testing variables means there is no way to accurately report how many people have been affected by COVID-19.
Nicaragua is an example of this discrepancy, as infection estimates have suddenly sky-rocketed and new drastic measures put into place. Despite this, case statistics are still the best information to hand to assess potential risk.
Highly travelled destinations were some of the most affected, as international travel was the initial source that dispersed the virus globally. Choose a location that can demonstrate high testing capacity and is preferably not one of the world’s top travelled destinations.
What’s the national level of medical care?
In a worst case scenario, you want to make sure you have quality medical facilities nearby that are equipped with ventilators and staff trained in how to manage the virus.
Travel insurance is highly recommended, in particular “Cancel For Any Reason” coverage has become vital. Make sure that your health insurance will cover you overseas in the event of falling sick. You can hear more about how travel insurance policies cover Coronavirus here.
What are the guidelines on nonessential services?
Research the physical distancing and nonessential services regulations before choosing a potential destination. While you want to be able to access some degree of nonessential services, such as restaurants, you also want to ensure the destination is practicing remedial protection.
Many countries continue to operate a full lockdown. Peru is such an example, having extended quarantine until the end of July.
Best International Travel Destinations
Now that you have a framework for vetting potential international destinations, we can examine country specifics. The public health institute in the United States (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC) is the public health institute in the United States.
The CDC has a risk assessment map on its website that shows which countries travelers should avoid, which you can find here.
The four advisory levels, from low to high regarding safety and security risk, there are no countries listed on the two least severe levels. The CDC shows restrictions on entry in Europe, China, Iran and Sweden. Everywhere else has widespread ongoing transmission, but without restrictions for entry by citizens of the United States.
This means that travel to the majority of countries listed will be at your own discretion. This is an additional reason to do through research before booking any travel plans.
Deep Knowledge Group (DKG) is a Hong Kong venture capital group specializing in analyzing medicine-related data. They ranked all countries on the four variables of quarantine status, government management efficiency, monitoring and detection capabilities and emergency treatment capacity.
According to their most recent report, Israel is currently handling the crisis the best overall thanks to its experience in government management efficiency. DKG group place Germany in second position, making it the second safest country in the world to visit at this time. Of the different evaluation variables established by DKG, Germany received a better evaluation than Israel for emergency treatment readiness and monitoring and detection. You can read more about their report here.
Remember, do your research thoroughly before booking a flight. Utilize the links provided to gain periphery knowledge and aid you in the process of making a decision. Once your flight is booked, keep yourself informed on an ongoing basis regarding quarantine status and border accessibility.
We wish you safe and happy travels this summer!