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Travel 2021-How to Get Started Again (Updated as of March 28, 2021): March 11, 2021 marked the one-year anniversary since the World Health Organization declared Coronavirus was a pandemic. For one-year much of the world’s commerce and travel has come to a halt. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still does not favor nonessential travel. However, as COVID-19 vaccinations within the United States and abroad, the chance to have a 2021 leisure trip is closer at hand.
Deciphering 2021 travel restrictions feels like finding your way out of a jungle! For a detailed update, see MSN’s United States COVID-19 State-By-State Travel Restrictions.
Kayak provided the following overview as of Mar 28, 2021:
- 122 countries are partially open.
- 50 countries are totally closed to non-citizens.
- 90 countries have at least partial entry restrictions.
Reopening soon: 5 countries
No restrictions on entry by air: 43 countries
The biggest news is that the European Union appears to be moving ahead with launching vaccine passports. EU Vaccine Passports: European Parliament Speeds Up Approval Procedures – SchengenVisaInfo.com
In the recent past, the Zika and Ebola viruses were the subject of limited travel advisories. With up to a ninety percent death rate, Ebola was a worse-case scenario. Even with the growth of easy cross-border and international travel, there have been few ways to avoid the prospect of a worldwide pandemic. The WHO’s “Yellow Card” was the only tool to certify a traveler was vaccinated against a short list of diseases.
In 2009, the “Swine Flu Epidemic” spread actively in China. Ironically, I was there for a solo adventure vacation combining a land package with a Yangtze River cruise. With the Swine Flu’s relatively low death rate, my big concern was being quarantined on arrival and sent to an unknown facility. At that time, China quarantined arriving travelers who had sat within three rows of a passenger with a set temperature. I was glad to make it successfully through Immigration and begin my tour. However, by the time I arrived in Shanghai, the Swine Flu had caught up with me. I sat in my room in a top hotel shivering. My chills were so bad that I went to bed wearing a full-length shearling coat! When I flew home to the US, there was no quarantine or special safeguard to address the risk that incoming passengers could spread Swine Flu within the United States.
Travel 2021-How to Get Started Again-Overview:
While the COVID-19 battle continues, new vaccines are starting to show real promise. Following a year of lockdowns and pent-up demand, a travel surge is predicted at home and abroad. As of early March, ten plus percent of the US has been vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control has not yet advised that vaccinated persons should once again engage in non-essential travel. However, with the increase of vaccinations around the world, both consumers and foreign tourist boards are looking for ways to travel once again.
Restarting travel in 2021 largely depends upon that global COVID-19 vaccination delivery. In any case, masks and frequent hand-washing are still important.
By May 31, 2021, the goal is to deliver enough vaccines for all US adults to be vaccinated. While there have been delays both in getting vaccines and in deploying them, delivery is improving.
Borders between the United States and Canada have been largely closed for the past year to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Canada has set a Sept. 30, 2021 goal to vaccinate all adults.
Travel 2021-How to Get Started Again: Current COVID-19 Global Travel Restrictions:
Until vaccinations and/or “herd immunity” reach a comfortable level, such as seventy percent, little relief is in sight. Both domestic United States travel and worldwide cross-border tourism are subject to a range of sometimes conflicting regulations, including:
-Quarantines of up to fourteen days either in a hotel, or as in Thailand, in a state-authorized facility. (In Thailand, a proposal for a lesser quarantine has been offered recently.) Certain countries have an exemption for strict quarantines for arriving travelers who have previously quarantined in a destination deemed a “safe corridor country”.
-A negative COVID-19 test up to 72 hours before arrival. This is unlikely to be covered by a general insurance policy. Costs can easily double if you must pay at your vacation’s destination and before being readmitted at home.
Country Sample of COVID-19 Approaches:
We have found a wide difference in countries’ response to COVID-19 as seen in this sampling below. Be aware that restrictions may vary by the traveler’s country of origin or current residence.(Updates are highlighted in red.)
- Iceland now accepts vaccinated travelers. As are: Belize, Ecuador and Guatemala. In the Baltic Region, Central and Eastern Europe, the following are newly open: Estonia, Georgia and Slovenia.
- Greece reopens May 14.
- Thailand and Australia appear to be considering opening up.
- Spain and likely the EU are looking to require vaccine passports.
- Testing: This is required for entry to the United States for both US citizens and foreign visitors from aged two and up. US embassies have reported in some locales that there has not been access to a lab for timely testing. Before you leave home, check to find out what is available and the hours of operation.
- Border Closings: Countries, such as Brazil, have closed land and sea entry points for tourists. However, travelers arriving by air travel are admitted subject to certain restrictions.
- Health Coverage: Cambodia, one of my favorite countries, has some of the toughest restrictions: (i) a $2,000 deposit for testing and potential treatment, (ii) a negative test, (iii) 14-day quarantine at an approved hotel and a (iv) local health insurance policy.
- Closed: Laos and Vietnam.
- Testing and Health Coverage: Chile has reopened to US citizens with (i) negative test results and (iii) proof of $30,000 health insurance coverage.
- Health Coverage: Costa Rica has fewer requirements. A test is not required, but proof of medical insurance is.
- Testing: Maldives-These exotic islands likely benefit from the remote location. Testing is required but no quarantine!
- Testing: Turkey requires a test but no quarantine.
- European Union (“EU”) Visitors Only: France is only allowing EU visitors. This currently includes such top vacation spots as St. Bart’s. For other French territories, be sure to check whether they are exempted from border closing.
- UK travel may be possible but has been discouraged because of the current variant.
Announced Cruises for 2021:
Caribbean: St. Maarten, Aruba, Curaçao, Barbados, Tortola, and St. Lucia
Nassau, Bermuda, Grand Bahama Island and Cozumel
Greek Islands, Cyprus and Israel
New Approaches to COVID-19 Travel:
-Exceptions have been carved out. Travel “bubbles” provide a way for countries to admit travelers from select countries under less stringent circumstances. For example, Greece and Cyprus are offering such unrestricted entry to Israeli travelers who have been vaccinated.
-The broadest approach now in 2021 has focused on “vaccine passports”, especially within the EU. However, Australia’s national airline, Qantas, has also argued in favor of vaccine certificates for some time. Digital certifications have raised privacy concerns.
For a global view, see Kayak’s Update of Country-by-Country Restrictions. For other specific updates by destination, take a look at the Tourism Market Research Blog | Destination Analysts.
Travel 2021-How to Get Started Again-Travel 2022: Looking Ahead:
Both citizens of the United States and many other countries do not need a visa for the EU. However, a change is coming in 2022. To receive such a “visa waiver” as to twenty-two EU and four non-EU countries, U.S. citizens will be among those that need to apply for ETIAS.
Practical Considerations for 2021 Travel:
-Do you have adequate travel insurance to cover COVID-19 trip disruptions?
-In case you become sick abroad, do you have access to an emergency cash fund if needed?
-What testing requirements are ongoing? What is the cost?
-Are quarantines in place? Will you be required to pay for extra lodging and flight changes?
-Is safe, public transportation available?
-What main sights and events will not be open during your trip?