a view of a city and a body of water
The view of Santorini (Thira) from Imerovigli.

Travel destinations go through special moments where an Instagram photo, a movie or a current of events brings places to the forefront of peoples minds.

In recent years, it was the marvel of winter in Iceland or Finland, the underrated scenes in secondary cities like Naples or Nashville; and the dreamy isolation of places like Zanzibar, the Seychelles and others now on the come up.

But in the weird times we’re living through (yes, they’re really weird) there’s an oddly niche trend emerging, and one that doesn’t care at all about nature, neat cities breaks or volcanic magic. It’s all about hedging against the worst.

As people take leaps of faith and book international trips, people are prioritizing places that allow you to self isolate in the event of a positive covid-19 case, rather than forcing you into a prison managed quarantine facility.

a view of a town and the ocean from a cliff
The view of Santorini (Thira) from Imerovigli.

Self Isolation VS Managed Quarantine

In certain regions, travel is back to near pre-pandemic levels, but only domestically.

Pre-flight testing has people spooked about crossing a border and potentially getting stuck abroad, and international travel just can’t rebound, for better or worse, until fully vaccinated people are exempted from testing.

Still, some confident travelers are weighing the risks and the great opportunities to visit places without the usual crowds and making the journey anyway. The only catch is that they’re asking travel agents about “what if’s” which never really existed before.

Every travel agent I’ve spoken with identifies the same trend with all their international trips for clients: people want to know what happens if things go south, or rather, if they go positive.

Will I have to self isolate in my hotel or Airbnb, or will I have to go into a prison like quarantine compound?

a passport and a card

Stories, like those coming out of Hong Kong speak of horrifying quarantine conditions and in many countries it’s much the same – while in others it’s just about being cooped up in your currently booked place, or any other suitable place of isolation.

The rise of omicron, which first indications suggest is largely milder than previous variants — but easier to catch, has people on high alert. It’s not so much fear of death for fully vaccinated people, but fear of horrible isolation conditions.

How Can You Know?

Regardless of where you’re reading from, or what passport you have, the UK Foreign Travel Office actually has a really handy short-hand guide to isolation in the event of a positive case abroad.

You just select a country, and then are presented with the most currently available updates on what that country expects of you, if you are to test positive while abroad.

Here’s an example for Greece, where the rules are basically that you can self isolate if you’ll have access to a place where it won’t risk others, and if that’s not possible, you will need to enter a facility at your own expense.

This is also a primary reason Airbnb and VRBO are out performing the hotel industry right now, since it’s much easier for a government to declare a place suitable for any isolation needs, when there aren’t other guests around.

a screenshot of a test result

In practice, I know people who have tested positive in Greece and been allowed to stay where they were. Still, having some rather clear guidance of what’s expected is really helpful in the planning phase. As noted, advice for Hong Kong isn’t nearly as friendly.

a screenshot of a message

What A Time To Be Alive

In 2019, if someone said that one of the biggest drivers of destination choice would center around what happens if you test positive for a virus that only seemed real in movies before, anyone would have simply laughed.

Now, with every travel agent, reader and fellow traveler I speak to, it’s a primary consideration for anyone venturing out of their country of residence. The margaritas, sunsets and other features are a close second.

Travel across borders can certainly have its perks right now, thanks to better availability, deals and reduced crowds, but if you don’t know what will happen in the event of a worst case positive case, it’s hard to enjoy travel right now.

Now, at least you know how to figure it out for yourself.

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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