Where can you travel right now? What countries are open for travel? What COVID-19 travel safety precautions should you take? What about the safety of local people where you visit? Even if you are allowed to travel somewhere, should you?
There are so many factors to take into consideration when thinking about whether to travel right now or planning travel during the COVID-19 pandemic — beyond whether a country or state has open borders and will let you in. With the freedom to travel also comes a personal responsibility, including the health and well-being of others.
This COVID-19 Travel Resource Page provides questions travelers should ask about traveling safely, including whether now is the right time to travel. It also includes resources and data to guide educated and responsible travel decisions – to keep you and others safe.
Update July 2021: This COVID-19 Travel Resource page was originally written in August 2020, but it was updated in July 2021 with additional details and resources related to COVID-19 vaccinations and other factors that influence travel mobility and restrictions.
Travel Safety: Whose Safety?
Before we look at border openings and travel restrictions, let’s think about whose safety we’re talking about with travel safety and take a more holistic look.
There’s a lot written on travel hygiene and travel safety measures these days, especially from governments and travel companies hoping we all begin traveling again. These include mask wearing requirements, new cleaning regiments, social distancing compliance, and much more. Understandably, a lot of this is focused only on the safety and health of travelers to make them feel safe and comfortable. Very important, but that’s not the whole story during a pandemic.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. It spreads in the air, by droplets and aerosols, through contact and movement – among travelers, in the places you visit, then back home if you return with it.
Yes, we have vaccines now that offer an incredible level of protection against severe cases and hospitalization. This is an amazing feat of science. However, there is also a great vaccine inequality in the world. So many countries are still almost entirely unvaccinated, which brings up its own health and ethical issues as to whether to travel to those countries even if you are fully vaccinated.
Who are we trying to protect with travel safety measures?
And the way this virus thing works, the more you protect others, the more you protect yourself. We all need to participate for travel to work now.
Keep in mind that while traveling, you are a guest in someone else’s home. So be sure to follow the regulations and restrictions there. If you don’t want to comply with those –- wearing a mask properly (read this if you’re still wondering why wearing a mask is so important), quarantining, taking a COVID-19 test, etc. –- then save your visit for another time.
Remember: travel is a privilege, not a right.
Where can you travel right now? The 4 Big Factors
Lockdowns, quarantines and other COVID-19 restrictions got your feet itching and wanting to travel again?
Outside of your own safety, where you can travel depends on a few key factors. Each country considers these in some way to determine if you can enter as a tourist. Keep in mind, the situation is fluid with COVID-19 data and government decisions in light of that data.
- Your passport or country of citizenship.
- Where you are living or traveling from. Some countries or states are considered high risk. Restrictions targeted there can apply to you, no matter what citizenship or visa you hold.
- Which visa, permanent residency or registration you hold. In most cases, long-term visa holders or permanent residents have rights similar to citizens when it comes to border crossing. Note: It’s a good idea to carry as much proof with you as possible: visas, residence cards and proof/registration of your legal address in a country.
- Your vaccination status: Some countries are only allowing fully vaccinated (that means the fully round — either one shot or two shots, depending upon the vaccine type — plus 14 days) travelers. Other countries are allowing exemption from testing and quarantine requirements when the traveler is fully vaccinated. Be sure that your vaccine is one of the approved ones for the country where you want to visit.
We know firsthand how navigating all of these factors can become confusing. Our situation is also complicated since we’re United States citizens living in Berlin, Germany with long-term residency permits. Each time we consider travel to a destination, we must take into account all three factors.
Which countries are open for travel? (And resources to find them.)
Although destinations and countries increasingly open for travel as the COVID-19 situation unfolds, the situation is fluid. Here are a couple of useful (and sometimes fascinating) resources to aid your country-specific travel research during COVID-19.
These sites provide information on border openings, which countries are open for tourism and what sorts of restrictions or requirements are in place, including upon and after arrival. Note, these sites offer a decent overview. Should you seriously consider visiting a destination, it’s best to go directly to each country’s official government or health ministry’s website for the most updated and accurate information.
Resources and trusted websites for researching COVID-19 travel restrictions by country:
Other important COVID-19 travel questions to ask:
Health indicators to consider when deciding to travel somewhere:
There isn’t one piece of data or single indicator that can tell you definitively whether a country is safe to visit in terms of COVID-19 spread, health care facilities and capacity. However, if you consider the following data, you'll have a handle on the local situation in terms of virus containment and capacity to provide health care.
Seek Out Travel and Health Insurance that Covers COVID
Carrying good travel and health insurance has become more important than ever. While more insurers are beginning to cover COVID-19 related treatment and expenses in their standard policies, it’s important for you to confirm this with your insurer before you depart. One thing to check is whether the country you want to visit is on an official COVID-19 travel advisory from your home country. If so, this may void your coverage there.
Considerations not only include medical treatment in case you are to fall ill, but also trip interruption coverage in case you need to cancel or cut short a trip if you or a travel companion becomes infected. Policies can sometimes even cover quarantine expenses or emergency medical evacuation as well.
Finally, some countries may require you to show or provide proof that your medical insurance covers COVID-19 treatment as a condition for entry or arrival.
The Future of Travel Safety, COVID-19 and Post-Pandemic
As always with travel, awareness and preparation will serve you well. In the short-term, expect fluid circumstances and be prepared to make changes to your travel plans on the fly. During this time, the safety and health of everyone should be top priority.
Over an uncertain mid-term, presumably the situation will gradually improve as our scientific knowledge grows and we learn how to better operate amidst the virus. In the long-term, the lessons we learn from this COVID-19 touched chapter of travel will remain.