jetty over the indian ocean

Congratulations, you’ve worked hard, earned some vacation time and have at least a handful of places still accepting visitors. We sentence you to 2 nose swabs, 14 days in isolation and an additional tax to cover any covid-19 related fees. By the way, the nose swabs are on you too.

Travel was all too easy in recent years, with record numbers of flights to new and exciting destinations, with inspiration just an Instagram post away. The phenomenon created a boom of tourism so powerful, it shifted the way countries live, accounting for more than 10% of global GDP.

But now, there’s hardly anyone traveling, and those that are typically aren’t going far. Health fears, constant changes to border restrictions and covid-19 quarantine protocol makes travel a minefield too complicated for many at the moment, and it’s not unfair to say some trips sounds like a very expensive prison sentence.

Just weeks ago, Iceland sounded like a dream. Jaw dropping scenery was just a short flight and a mandatory test upon arrival away. But then in response to rising cases, the country added new protocols, which mean at least 4-5 days of complete isolation for all visitors, with two covid-19 tests, instead of one.

Before you can go chasing waterfalls, you’ll need to devote 4-5 days of your precious vacation time to Netflix, alone in a room. It’s absolutely fair and correct, but 4-5 days of house arrest hardly sound inspiring, and it’s not even among the least attractive travel options right now. Some travellers could no doubt manage 4-5 days of isolation for 7 blissful days thereafter, but not all.

Thailand has its own set of plans to reboot tourism, and all indications suggest any wide opening will only happen on Thai Islands, rather than in cities like Bangkok, and that 14 days of isolation is the current goal.

Early plans from Thai authorities suggest the idea of 14 days of mandatory quarantine for all incoming visitors, with perhaps a dedicated 1km stretch of beach, so those in isolation can at least dip their toes in the sand, while they are confined to their resort. Basically, locals would be isolated from all the visitors, creating a sterile experience.

Cambodia has fun plans for potential visitors too, which include a quarantine period, and a $3,000USD deposit, just in case you get sick. If anyone on the plane tests positive for covid-19, it’s more time in isolation too.

In most destinations, including Australia and Singapore, the 14 days of quarantine is at the travellers own expense. So you’re effectively paying a substantial sum to subject yourself to 14 days inside four walls.

And why leave out St. Lucia, where on arrival, with a negative covid-19 test, of course, you must take pre-approved car service directly to your hotel. Once at the hotel, you’re not allowed to leave, many facilities are closed, and if you do want to eat, you’ll need a temperature check. If anyone at the resort tests positive, it’s 14 days of lockdown for all.

Even for destinations without quarantine requirements, further research is needed to find out whether restaurants, bars, or shops are open. With each day the answer is more yes than no, fortunately. Food and travel are intwined and many destinations just aren’t worth the hassle without being able to sit down for a meal.

It’s not all bad news though.

Many countries in Europe currently allow quarantine free, and even test free travel, provided you fill out a passenger locator form, and agree to the potential for random testing. The Maldives is welcoming visitors from all over, including Americans, and early arrivals are loving the quiet, naturally socially distanced experience.

I arrived into Greece yesterday without issue, and am blissfully isolated atop Santorini. And yes, restaurants are open, with many covid-19 related precautions – and theatre- including masks worn by staff.

It’s much the same tune throughout Europe, unless of course you want to party. The party scene in Europe has largely been shut down in recent weeks, with Greece, Italy and Spain closing nightclubs indefinitely. The clubs, irrespective of travel, were causing widespread covid-19 outbreaks, which threatened a safe finish to a largely successful reboot to European travel.

Airlines, and a growing list of countries tend to agree that testing is the way forward. People want to feel safe that the person sitting next to them isn’t likely to be carrying covid-19, and if destinations can weed out a large percentage potential cases before they arrive, a further relaxing of measures could eventually be possible.

In other words, travel night not still sound like a very expensive form of prison, with better views and hopefully better catering in the near future. For now, in some places it is, in some places it’s not, and it’s up to each traveller to decide on a plan.

Villa style holidays allow people to “quarantine” without compromising on experience, and even short staycations, in places that don’t require crossing a border can do good for the body, and soul.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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1 Comment

  1. A great way to see what travel is like is to do a short car trip to a resort close by. For me that was Big Sur. We got to experience what it is like to travel by car with limited bathrooms available on the road ( a very big deal). How the customer service changes at a hotel as you really don’t want to interact with anyone. And then mask every time you walk across the property to dinner. And then the multiple times remarking as the wait staff visits your table. The only underlying positive of all this is that you go home and get serious about planning your next big post vaccine trip to France! But until the vaccine arrives there is no joy in Mudville as I look through the thick smoke of California fires!

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