With warm weather finally here, people are itching to finally break free from quarantine and solo travel away from school and work emails. Although summer temperatures and sunny skies have certainly given back a sense of normalcy and newfound freedom to the public, the reality of the situation is that we aren’t out of the pandemic quite just yet.
As of May 2021, the CDC still has most countries classified as a Level 4 risks, the highest risk category for COVID-19. Despite these warnings, many of these countries have begun to open up their borders (often for vaccinated individuals) and as a result, there are many flight and hotel deals circulating around the web to lure in those with severe cases of cabin fever. If willing to take all the necessary precautions—vaccinating, masking up, checking travel and quarantine restrictions, and taking proper hygiene measures—then international solo travel may be on the near horizon for you. If you’re thinking about taking your first steps into the world since the pandemic began, here are some things to expect between booking your ticket and arriving back home.
Deciding where to go
Obviously, your destination will ultimately depend on how safe it is at the time that you’re planning on visiting. Though many Level 4 countries are welcoming tourists (such as Greece), other Level 4 countries like India and Nepal are off-limits due to the dire COVID circumstances occurring there now. Make sure to do thorough research on what the case count is at your destination.
Once you find a safe destination and book a plane ticket, go to the airline’s website to see their pre-boarding requirements. To avoid quarantine requirements in different countries, they may require negative COVID tests prior to boarding. If you are vaccinated, you may still be subject to a COVID test depending on the airline and the destination. Most importantly, bring your vaccine card—even if the airline doesn’t explicitly mention it—as you never know when or where it may come in handy.
Proof of a negative COVID test is usually necessary in most countries -see if the test is offered upon arrival or if your negative results are needed as soon as you arrive. As usual, it depends on the country when it comes to whether they offer you a free test or not. If you are vaccinated, this may save you from a COVID test as long as you present your vaccine card. Quarantine requirements differ from place to place but are becoming more and more a thing of the past as countries are eager to accommodate tourists, especially vaccinated ones.
The rule of thumb is to wear a mask. Currently, there are no countries that are completely maskless (other than Australia, which is not accepting international tourists anytime in the near future). Even if you are vaccinated, it is better to err on the side of caution while solo traveling to ensure that you don’t pick up any variants that may be floating around. Keep in mind that many countries are behind on vaccinating their citizens, so wearing a mask will help keep both you and the locals safe. Other things to make a note of: city curfews, if restaurants and bars are open, and fun outdoor activities like hiking and swimming that you can enjoy without worrying about COVID.
Coming back to the U.S.
Recently, U.S. airports have been ramping up safety measures for international arrivals. Though the rules are constantly changing, there is currently proof of a negative COVID test required when you get to customs at the U.S. airport. Because of this, you should schedule a time at your destination when you can receive a COVID test and get your results before you depart. COVID test results are only valid within 2 days of arrival in the U.S. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated U.S. citizens are subject to providing proof of negative COVID results.
If you regularly keep up with both the news and solo travel deals, you’re likely to find some fantastic prices since demand isn’t yet where it used to be pre-pandemic. The bottom line is that international solo travel still carries a risk (as of May 2021) no matter where in the world you decide to go, but because there is such a high level of variance between different countries when it comes to COVID severity, it is up to you to weigh the pros and cons, do the research, and find out if you are ready for an adventure again.
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By Sarah John & Chizoba Anyaoha