Some Travel Restrictions Are Being Lifted. But Should You Travel?

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Restrictions on travel are slowly being eased, allowing tourism to start back up in a growing number of countries. But is it safe to do so and should you travel at all?


After months of staying home, many Americans are yearning for a vacation. And although there is still a rapid growth in coronavirus cases in the United States (there have been over 15 million cases and over 289,000 deaths), some countries around the world are slowly beginning to reopen to American tourists.

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Mayan temple of El Tazumal, El Salvador



As the number of countries opening their borders to the United States grows gradually each week, the number is still small, and many countries are not opening up to American tourists at all or are just staying shut completely. The UNWTO has reported that about "53% [of all destinations worldwide] have started easing travel restrictions introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," but only 56 countries (26% of all destinations) have reopened to Americans without a required quarantine.


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Ile aux Nattes, Madagascar


Once one of the most powerful documents in the world, the coronavirus pandemic has drained much of the U.S. Passport's strength. With recent spikes in cases, some countries that were cautiously accepting American travelers are changing their minds. Some governments are reinstating travel bans they lifted just a few weeks ago, while others are adding further restrictions and requirements.

Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación (1st cathedral in the New World). Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic


Most of the countries that are open to American citizens are accepting them with proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test (taken within a varying number of days), health form, and sometimes travel insurance. While a small handful of countries don't require anything. The Dominican Republic is even offering COVID-19 insurance to all tourist that are staying in local hotels. While a growing number of other countries, like the UK, are allowing American tourists as long as they quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. (Here is a full list of countries that Americans are allowed, without a quarantine,
and their requirements.)


Yankee Boy Basin, Colorado
Yankee Boy Basin, Colorado



On August 6, the U.S. lifted its global coronavirus travel advisory, which had been in place since March and recommended U.S. citizens avoid all international travel due to the global coronavirus pandemic. In a press release about the decision, the U.S. State Department said that it would be “returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice (with levels from 1-4 depending on country-specific conditions), in order to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions.” That being said, the CDC still holds their travel advisory for the majority of the world at its highest level; Level 3 (COVID-19 Risk Is High). 

 

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Cave paintings at Phu Phra Bat, Thailand 


All of that being said, the answer to whether it is safe to travel or not is a mixed bag. There is a lot to consider when deciding if traveling is a good idea or not. On the one hand, most countries are taking the necessary steps to make sure their citizens, and in conjunction the tourists, are safe and healthy in light of the coronavirus. Face masks are now the rule, not the exception, and in some countries you will not only be turned away from service, but could also get a hefty fine. Face masks in planes and airports are a rule across the board and most public places and business are requiring them as well. All airports also have some sort of screening process for incoming passengers. 


Alley of Baobabs, Madagascar
Alley of Baobabs, Madagascar


Many countries are requiring hand washing stations outside of all businesses and many business are also checking temperatures of all clients before they enter. Coupled with this, most countries have social distancing and business capacity rules and are banning large groups. 


Koh Ker, Camobodia
Pyramid temple of Koh Ker, Camobodia


All told, most countries are doing what they can to thwart the virus, but also keeping their economies afloat. But is this making it safe to travel? In the countries that reopen, they are seeing that the coronavirus is still finding ways to cause spikes. This is caused by a number of reasons. Namely, the movement of people from high-risk countries to and from other countries. People traveling from high-risk countries have a higher probability of contracting the virus before they leave and, in so doing so, transmit it to others in the plane or destination. There is also the problem with some people contracting the virus, but not showing symptoms. These people then unknowingly transmit it to others.


Durango Train, Colorado
Train from Durango to Silverton, Colorado


This is all compounded by the fact that the movement of people inevitably leads to close contact with others; usually in confined spaces. This leads to a chance of greater transmission rate and a larger spike. But it is not only yourself or those in your tourist location that you should be worried about. When you travel you will at some point return and you will then be putting your friends and loved ones as risk as well.


Valletta, Malta
The walled city of Valletta, Malta

 
Is it safe to travel and should you at all? That is a question you will have to answer for yourself. If you do decide to travel, be sure to evaluate the risks for everyone involved and understand the safest ways to travel. Due to the pandemic, travel guidelines are constantly changing, so you will want to check your destination's official tourism website or the State Departments website frequently to see if there have been any changes. You should also consider purchasing travel insurance, so you don't lose money if your destination closes its borders at the last minute.


La Paz Gardens, Costa Rica
Multi-leveled waterfall in the cloud rainforest of La Paz Gardens, Costa Rica

 
Keep in mind that you don't have to travel internationally to go on a vacation. Road trips and camping have grown in popularity since the beginning of the pandemic, as many Americans are discovering that the U.S. has its share of stunning natural landscapes as well. While choosing to take a domestic vacation has its perks, like not needing a passport, you should also keep in mind that the same risks of traveling abroad apply to domestic travel as well.


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