It is no secret that travelling has become a stressful endeavour these last months. The risk of catching COVID-19 has rightfully made us hesitant to get on a plane, train, or bus and take a trip. And unfortunately, COVID-19 does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, most likely following us well through the end of 2021.
Now that the strictest of travel restrictions have been lifted people are travelling – for work, to visit family, for a vacation or to study. But every trip comes with the risk of infection, so how can you travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Here is a list of necessary precautions you need to take before you travel, in order to stay safe and protect yourself and the people around you from viral outbreaks.
Calculate the Risks of Travelling
When travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic, consider whether the trip is worth the risk.
Ponn P Mahayosnand, a Research Scholar from the Ronin Institute shares four main reasons which she considers are a good reason to travel: medical necessity, to join your immediate family, to return home, or because you are a caregiver to terminally- or chronically-ill family members.
Although… she admits that travelling to a vacation destination just because it is cheaper, is “less ideal, but not necessarily a bad reason” – which many probably agree with. That is, of course, as long as you are responsible and practice social distancing.
Regardless of your reason for travelling abroad, sit down, do some research, and calculate the risk of taking this trip.
“Check the number of cases the location [you are travelling to] had in the last 7 days,” Torben Lonne, co-founder of DiveIn.com, advises. Then, figure out what percentage of the population the number of reported cases corresponds to. If the rate of infection is high, your risk of infection increases. Lonne also that you should also “consider whether you have high-risk loved ones you can infect upon returning back home.”
People with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart conditions, or who are immunocompromised have a much higher risk of developing a severe or fatal case of COVID-19. If you are close or live with someone who falls under the high-risk category, it may not be worth the risk.
Make Sure You Can Social Distance
Wherever you are going, make sure you will have the opportunity to practice social distancing. Naturally, we all know not to enter crowded restaurants, theatres, or museums, but there are slightly fewer ways to social distance when you are aboard a plane, train or a bus.
However, there are still several things you can do to at least minimize the risk of transmission even in public transportation.
If travelling via bus or train, “buy your ticket online or on your phone before you get to the station preferably, so that you minimize your time at the station,” says Libby Masters, who works for the Stansted Express, a British train service. And, she adds, if booking a hotel room, “select a room farthest from the elevator for reduced traffic.”
Similarly, if you are travelling via plane, “select a window seat for less exposure to travellers walking by during boarding,” remarked Alex Miller, Founder & CEO of UpgradedPoints.com, a travel site.
Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance was always one of the more boring and complicated parts of any trip, necessary as it is. But, with all the uncertainty surrounding the travel industry during the pandemic, it is even more essential to get insurance to protect your trip.
The tricky part is actually finding an insurance company that will cover you for coronavirus-related claims. Many companies are changing their travel insurance insurance policies to exclude trip cancellation due to a pandemic.
Whether they will cover you for any health-related issues as a result of coronavirus depends on whether you are allowed to travel. So, if there are advisories against travelling issued for your destination by either the WHO, CDC, or your government, travel insurance will generally not cover you for COVID-19 claims.
If you are worried about losing your trip investments, one particular type of insurance you should look into is “the more expensive CFAR – Cancel For Any Reason insurance”, recommends Matt from Under30Experiences.com, a travel group for young adults.
Cancel For Any Reason Insurance is exactly as it sounds – you can cancel your trip for whatever purpose, including coronavirus-related reasons, although there are still some restrictions. This is recommended for trips which have higher amounts of pre-paid and non-refundable expenses.
Consider Using a Tour Operator
Tour operators have always played a key role in the tourism industry, providing tourists with an organized, easy, and no-fuss travel experience. Even pre-COVID, booking a tour was often far more convenient and less expensive than travelling solo, but organized tours seem to be even more important now, considering the agency’s background knowledge of the place you are visiting, and in turn, their ability to assist in case something goes wrong.
“Consider using a tour operator, preferably a specialist with local knowledge,” says Thomas from SouthAmerica.travel, a tour agency specializing in tailor-made itineraries to South America. “This way, if something does go wrong, you’ll have someone who can help you out. They will be able to recommend hotels and restaurants that are taking precautions seriously and help you avoid ones that are not.”
Avoid High Concentrated Areas
It probably goes without saying, you should not enter closed (or even open-space) establishments which have a high concentration of people during a pandemic, or you risk becoming infected or transmitting the disease to others.
Torben Lonne, from DiveIn.com, suggests avoiding “large social gatherings like a wedding, funeral, or party” as well as being in crowds, such as “restaurants, bars, airports, train stations, or movie theatres.”
He also advises avoiding travelling on a cruise ship. Considering the fact that as of May 2020, over 40 cruise ships have reported cases of COVID-19 onboard (including fatalities) and that many of them were quarantined for weeks, that is a valid point.
Whenever there is a large number of people gathered on a single location and frequently visiting new environments, there is going to be an increased risk of viral transmission.
Check Quarantine Requirements
Before you travel, check to see if you have to quarantine or self-isolate after arrival. Travel restrictions and quarantine requirements are constantly changing, to keep in line with the epidemiological situation in a certain country.
So, if you live in a heavily affected area, you may need to be quarantined when you arrive at your destination, so consider whether it is worth it. Moreover, if your government has restrictions enforced for your destination, you may find yourself returning from a three-day trip only to quarantine and miss work for another two weeks.
Bring Your Sanitizer(s) With You!
In the pre-COVID era, seeing someone frantically wiping down their armrests and tray at public transport with disinfecting wipes was often comical, and the person was branded a germaphobe. Now, well, it’s the new normal.
Although airlines or bus agencies are required to disinfect the spaces before new travellers board, for your own peace of mind and safety, bring hand sanitizers and sanitizing wipes with you. You will need them for just about anything these days, and they are useful if you suddenly find that you do not have access to running water.