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

Whether you’re considering a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe, Latin America, Africa, or Asia 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 before a holiday.

On top of the usual things to tick off 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 an impressive 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. This is the most common mistake that most travellers have been making and it’s resulted in heartbreak and hassles due to cancellations and lost money.

For instance, Covid-19 and particularly the Delta variant recent spiralled out of control and there were new lockdowns in countries in Southeast Asia, such as Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, where life had appeared to have returned to normal for a while. At the time of updating this post, parts of these countries are in lockdown as they try to flatten the curve.

These are our top pandemic travel tips for those of you considering and even 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 our top pandemic travel tips.

Published 8 July 2021; updated 9 October 2021.

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 now one of the most vaccinated countries in the world. 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 to getting jabbed.

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 travellers be vaccinated to be able to enter.

Some countries are reducing and even waiving the standard 14-day quarantine period for vaccinated travellers. Whether reducing the quarantine period from 14 days to 10 days or even 6 days is a good idea or not remains to be seen at this point in time, and all eyes are currently on Thailand’s ‘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 specific type of Covid-19 test before they will allow entry. They are also requiring evidence of those vaccinations and tests, and in many cases, countries have very specific requirements as to the type of vaccination and type of test to get, the need to present original printed vaccination certificates or passports, and in some cases to submit these online or in person to embassies to obtain quarantine exemptions and visas.

So another one of my top pandemic travel tips is do thorough research on what kind of vaccines and tests are required in the destination you’re heading to 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; and check the site of the airline(s) you’re planning 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

These days we wouldn’t go anywhere without travel health insurance – and having done extensive research, we recommend Safey Wing for its comprehensive travel health insurance including Covid-19 cover – however, pre-pandemic we’d often hop on a plane to Bangkok or Saigon or Hanoi without travel insurance.

I also 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 and excellent.

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 even took out insurance. If travellers responded that they hadn’t and hadn’t needed it, others would simply follow suit and travel without insurance. Well, don’t even think about doing that anymore. 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 converted to a quarantine centre.

If you still think you don’t need or don’t 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. 

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.

So 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!

Have you travelled since the world began opening up? What are your top pandemic travel tips?

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