COVID-19 Travel Resource Page

Travel Safety + Where Can You Travel Right Now?

Where can you travel right now? Which countries are open to travelers and what are the Covid entry requirements? How can you travel safely during Covid? What safety precautions and decision should you take to manage risk? 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 and how to travel safely 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?

  • The traveler, to protect him/her from contracting the virus while traveling
  • Local people and communities in places we visit, to protect them from getting sick from travelers
  • Local people and communities at home, to protect them from getting sick from travelers when they return from their trip

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.

READ MORE: Lessons in Planning, Traveling (and Giving a Sh*t) During COVID-19

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.

  1. Your passport or country of citizenship.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  • Sherpa Travel Restrictions Page: This simple interface allows you to enter not only where you are traveling from/to, but also important details like your passport/nationality, vaccination status and connections. All of these factors impact your eligibility to enter a country and whether testing and/or quarantine are required. It also indicates restrictions and requirements for select countries and what is needed before and after arrival. Information is updated regularly and sourced directly from governments, so we've found this website to be quite accurate.
  • Borderless: A good visual indicating which countries in the world have open borders, closed borders, partially closed, or open borders with restrictions. As you mouse over a country it will also provide latest COVID-19 data (e.g., number or cases, deaths, recovered). Click on a country to get more details on its current travel restrictions.
  • Reopen Europa: The European Union (EU) official site for information on border openings, travel restrictions and related EU regulations. Choose the country you’re interested in from the dropdown and get a comprehensive list of travel-related information, including direct links to that country’s government and health pages.
  • Where Americans are allowed to travelThis is an ever-changing list, but this New York Times article is regularly updated with new information on border openings and restrictions. Similarly, this article and this Coronavirus Travel Guide provide information on travel restrictions and quarantine requirements between states for domestic travel within the United States.

Other important COVID-19 travel questions to ask:

  • Which countries require quarantine upon arrival?
  • Which countries require proof of a COVID-19 test before entering?
  • Which countries require or administer COVID-19 testing at the airport upon arrival?
  • Is the country I wish to visit considered “high risk”? Is there a COVID-19 travel advisory from my home country which applies to that destination?
  • Will I be required to quarantine at home after I return from my trip?

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.

  • Active COVID-19 cases and rates in a country: One important factor is whether new COVID-19 are increasing or decreasing in the destination you hope to visit. The Johns Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard features a global map illustrating total cumulative cases, current cases, incidence rates and more. WHO’s COVID-19 Dashboard and global map provides similar information, including net change in the last 7 days, number of cases in last 24 hours and transmission classification.
  • Percentage of the local population that is vaccinated: Your vaccination status matters in terms of protecting yourself and others from contracting and transmitting COVID-19. Just as, or more, important is the vaccination status of the local population where you are visiting. The local vaccination rate shows how protected — via vaccines — the local population is from serious COVID-19 infections. This is really important as when tourism opens up more people are working in restaurants, hotels, tours, and other service businesses, often indoors and without a lot of precautions. If they are not vaccinated there is more of a chance of community spread and people falling sick.
  • Reproduction Number or R Value: This number captures the rate of spread in a particular location. Roughly, if the R Value (or Ro) = 1, that implies each infected person is infecting one other person. These rates fluctuate constantly based on human behavior and testing. There’s no single resource we’ve found to provide Ro values from around the world. However, you might research this for the country you plan to visit.
  • Hospital beds per 1,000 persons:  This indicator is used to assess health care capacity and ability to take care people who fall ill, from COVID-19 or otherwise. OECD’s Hospital Beds per 1,000 people table is a good resource to check this. Why think about this? If a destination doesn’t have the capacity to care for its own local people, will it be able to do so effectively for visitors?
  • Available local medical facilities: This is especially important if you wish to travel to a more remote location or to a small community. Do your research online or ask ahead at the hotel or tour company about what local medical facilities are available and where the closest big hospital is for more comprehensive care. This has always been an issue with travel, but given COVID-19 concerns, its importance has risen further.
  • Airline or transport options: Consider the frequency and type of transportation options into and out of a destination. The idea: think ahead in case borders happen to close quickly, or if return quarantine restrictions are announced back home and you wish to return early. Destinations well-served by a large number of flights, trains or buses will obviously provide you with more options. Same goes for destinations that you can get to/from by land (e.g., neighboring countries or states) vs. needing to fly over large bodies of water.

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.