Our top pandemic travel tips are aimed at travellers considering international travel this year or travellers already planning a summer vacation abroad. While many countries have opened up or are opening up, travel won’t be easy. There is a new travel normal for which you need to be prepared. Here’s a checklist.                                      

Whether you’re considering heading to Europe this summer or maybe even packing a bucket and spade to test out Thailand’s ‘Phuket Sandbox’, your pandemic travel checklist is going to include some things that pre-pandemic you probably could never have imagined having to do.

On top of the usual things to do pre-trip, such as checking your passport expiry date, arranging for your mail to be held by the post office, and finding a pet-sitter or someone to water your plants, expect to get vaccinated, check visa and border situations, budget for pre- and post-trip Covid tests, buy travel insurance, and pack masks.

Just because you’re travelling from a country with a vaccination programme and open borders, where everyday life has pretty much returned to normal, don’t expect that is the case in the rest of the world. For instance, the coronavirus is spiralling out of control in countries in Southeast Asia, where life had appeared to have returned to normal.

These are my top pandemic travel tips for those of you planning an international trip, but first we have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-funded. If you’ve found this post and others helpful, please consider supporting Grantourismo so that we can keep creating informative and inspirational travel content.

You could click through to this post for ideas as to how to support Grantourismo, such as using links on the site to book accommodation, hire a car or rent a motorhome or campervan, buy travel insurance, or book a tour on Klook or Get Your Guide; shopping our Grantourismo online store, where we have cool reusable face masks and travel accessories designed with Terence’s images; buying us a coffee, although we’ll use our coffee money to buy cooking ingredients for recipe testing instead; or buying something on Amazon, such as these cookbooks for culinary travellers or travel books to inspire wanderlust. Now let me share my top pandemic travel tips.

Pandemic Travel Tips for Travellers Planning International Travel This Year

Our top pandemic travel tips for those of you considering an international trip or planning a summer holiday this year include everything from getting vaccinated – which should be your top priority – to buying travel insurance, which should no longer be a “will I or won’t I?”, just do it.

Pandemic Travel Tips for Travellers Planning International Travel This Year

Get Vaccinated As Soon As Possible

My top pandemic travel tip is to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated should be a no-brainer if you are able to get a vaccine – keeping in mind that not every country has access to vaccines or a ‘vaccines for everyone’ policy, as Cambodia does for instance (the country is one third of its way through its vaccination programme). Yet I’ve witnessed travellers asking other members of online travel forums whether they need to get vaccinated to visit a particular country, as if that was the only incentive. If you are able, getting vaccinated is essential to protect yourself as well as the people you come into contact with, whether it’s your family, friends and colleagues, or complete strangers – particularly with the highly contagious and dangerous Delta strain rapidly spreading around the planet. That aside, many countries are requiring that travellers be vaccinated to be able to enter and some countries are waiving their 14-day quarantine period for vaccinated travellers. Whether that’s a good idea or not, remains to be seen, and all eyes are currently on the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ experiment.

Research the Vaccines, Covid-19 Tests and Documents Required

Not only are some countries requiring travellers be vaccinated, they are requiring travellers to get a particular type of vaccine, along with a type of Covid-19 test before they will allow entry. They are also requiring proof of vaccination and tests, and in many cases, countries have very specific requirements, such as the type of vaccination and test to get, the need to present original vaccination certificates or passports, and in some cases to submit these online or in person to embassies to obtain quarantine exemptions and approvals. Another one of my top pandemic travel tips is do your research on what kind of vaccines and tests are required and what documentation is needed well before you travel. Contact the embassy of the country you’re hoping to travel to, check their foreign affairs, department of health, and tourism board websites, as well as the airline(s) you plan to travel with, to make sure you have everything you need. Spending the time doing this is far better than risking getting turned away at your airport – or worse, making it to your destination and then not being allowed to enter or sent to a two-week quarantine, for which you’ll likely have to pay thousands of dollars, because you don’t meet their requirements.    

Buy Travel Insurance and Travel Health Insurance – Don’t Even Think About It

I remember vividly a time when travellers debated whether or not they even needed travel insurance for their vacations. And if they did take out insurance they didn’t always get health cover, especially if they were heading to a country, such as Thailand or Vietnam, where medical care was affordable. I know travellers who thought it was far more important to get insurance that covered theft or road accidents than health cover. They’d be online asking fellow travellers whether they’d been to such and such a place and whether they took out insurance. If travellers responded that they hadn’t and hadn’t needed it, others would simply follow suit. Well, don’t even think about it. Times have well and truly changed. Another one of my top pandemic travel tips is to take out travel insurance and make sure it includes coverage if your flight or tour is cancelled, as well as the best pandemic medical cover you can afford. Believe me, if you or your spouse or partner or someone in your family or group gets Covid-19 in a foreign country, you’d rather end up in a state-of-the-art private hospital with medivac cover than allocated a camp bed for two weeks isolation amongst hundreds of other patients on camp beds in a school hall that’s been converted to a quarantine centre. If you still think you don’t need or want travel insurance, then check the requirements of the country you’re heading to again, as they’re highly likely to require proof that you have insurance and you probably won’t be allowed to get on the plane unless you can show a travel insurance policy. Having done extensive research, we highly recommend Safey Wing, with whom we’re about to take out travel health insurance.

Start Research Early, Be Thorough, and Go Beyond the Obvious

Much of the destination content on travel websites and travel blogs is out of date. To test out this theory, I Googled a specific information relating to a few places I know intimately (Siem Reap, Bangkok and Sydney) to see if editors and publishers had updated that content since the pandemic. I checked a dozen of the top search results and most sites had not changed their information, even sites that indicated their content had been updated since the pandemic began. Another one of my top pandemic travel tips: don’t rely on travel sites, even those of respected travel magazines, nor the online versions of newspaper travel sections, and don’t rely on travel blogs unless the publisher is a resident of the country you’re heading to. Instead, go beyond the obvious when it comes to research. Firstly, consult local newspapers and official sites, such as those for embassies, tourism boards, foreign affairs or international relations departments, and health departments. Next – and I hate to make this recommendation – head to Facebook and search for pages for those government departments and tourist boards, as well as, those that belong to tour companies, as well as expat groups. Also search for local experts on Twitter and Instagram. All of these sources will have more up to date information than travel magazine sites, travel guidebooks, and travel blogs published by bloggers who don’t live in that country, unless they use local experts.

Closely Monitor Visa and Border Situations 

From observing conversations in online travel forums, many people don’t seem to realise that there are a lot of countries in the world with closed borders or borders that are only open to certain countries (travel bubbles) or certain types of travellers, such as diplomats, business travellers, experts, students, etc. Some countries might have land borders closed but you can enter via airports or a specific airport. Another one of my top pandemic travel tips is to find out what the visa and border situation is for the country you’re hoping to head to and then monitor that situation very closely right up until the time you travel. If there’s one thing that we’ve learnt from this pandemic and that is that things can change very quickly. Visa holders who may have been issued with visas a few weeks before their travel could find that all tourist visas are suddenly cancelled due to a surge in a virus variant within their country or a surge in your own country. For instance, here in Cambodia land borders have been closed to all but traders and returning migrants since March 2020 and Siem Reap International Airport remains closed, with only the capital Phnom Penh’s international airport open. Another example is New Zealand and Australia, which established a travel bubble so citizens could holiday in eachother’s countries, however, New Zealand has adjusted eligibility as Covid cases have increased in some Australian states, which have subsequently gone into lockdown.

Be Flexible and Build Flexibility Into Your Trip

One of my top pandemic travel tips is to be flexible and if you can, build in that flexibility when you’re planning your trip itinerary and booking dates. Whereas pre-pandemic you might have bought the cheapest air tickets as you could see no reason why you might need to change dates. You should assume that there’s a strong likelihood that dates will be changed if there’s a coronavirus outbreak at home or in the destination you’re heading to and borders are suddenly shut, visas and flights cancelled, or you arrive in a place and discover you’re now required to quarantine after all. Build flexibility into your trip by taking more holiday leave than you think you’ll need. Many of you have worked remotely from home or elsewhere during the pandemic, so perhaps try to negotiate with your employer to continue to work on your vacation, even if it’s only part-time, so that you can take longer than you need just in case something goes wrong. Because if there’s anything we’ve learnt from this pandemic is that the chances of that happening are infinitely higher than before the coronavirus and that need for flexibility is just part of the new travel normal. Bon voyage!

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