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How To Travel Safely During The Pandemic

By 28 July 2021 October 3rd, 2021 No Comments

With my whole career revolving around the travel industry, I’ve witnessed first-hand how the travel industry has shaken due to the pandemic. 

Countries that were once popular tourist destinations (e.g. New Zealand, Japan, Korea) have seen a decline in tourism due to the pandemic

What used to be an anomaly (who wears masks in public?!) is now a norm, sometimes even a requirement. Protocols are now set in place.

surfboard shop, puerto escondido, mexico
Puerto Escondido, Mexico

A lot of people are still hesitant about travelling because they’re not sure what will happen if they get sick while abroad or how easy it is to access medical care elsewhere. 

These are all valid concerns, and in no way am I saying it’s completely safe to travel (just because you’re vaccinated or that travel has resumed). The pandemic has definitely changed the way people travel.

However, more and more people accept this risk and are open to travelling. Being vaccinated has also boosted the confidence of many, who are now emboldened to book their next holiday.

For someone who’s been on the road for the past 9 months during the whole pandemic, I’ve not yet once had to take a PCR test, nor fallen ill (except the 2 times I got food poisoning in Mexico) and had to see a doctor. I’ve picked up some safety tricks along the way.

zipolite, oaxaca, mexico
Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico

If you’re thinking of travelling now, keep reading for the safety precautions I highly recommend you to take to keep yourself safe, well and healthy. 

When the pandemic hit in 2020, I was back home in Singapore. As the situation worsened, the only thing I could do was watch the news day by day hoping for a glimmer of hope – a corridor between Singapore and another part of the world to open.

I was feeling burnt out and depressed in Singapore, unmotivated and “stuck”. For someone who used to travel full-time in the 2 years prior, this was a new lifestyle that was unthinkable.

As much as my parents thought it a joke, I did the unthinkable…

In October 2020, during the thick of the pandemic, I bought a one-way ticket and flew to Seattle.

Long story short (you can read the long story here), I’ve been in Costa Rica, Mexico and now Colombia for the last 9 months and never looked back. In fact, I’ve never loved my life more, living as a digital nomad in countries that were never on my radar.

P.S. If you want to catch my day-to-day life, I upload everything on Instagram Stories!

Playa del Amor, zipolite, oaxaca, mexico
Playa del Amor, Zipolite, Mexico

If you’re thinking of travelling while the pandemic is still going on, equip yourself with these tips on how to travel safely during the pandemic so as to better prepare for your upcoming trip.

First, let’s take a look at how travel has changed since the pandemic.

How Has Travel Changed Since The Pandemic

Travelling can now be much more difficult and expensive, with the introduction of new safety measures and various cross border restrictions. 

Travellers are now more cautious and careful when travelling to other countries. Gone are the days do we just book a flight on a whim. In some instances, travellers are now required to be vaccinated before entering certain countries.

Airlines have mandatory declaration of health forms and started screening passengers at airports more thoroughly, including checking their temperature to look for signs of illness.

This also means longer waiting lines. Do take that into account when checking for your flight.

young traveler woman applying applying antibacterial gel while sitting on airplane next to porthole window illuminator before eating a food.coronavirus concept.

On the flipside, it’s safer than ever before for travellers because many countries are adopting stricter regulations concerning health care practices, including hand-washing stations at airports or hospitals, as well as screening procedures that involve taking blood samples and conducting medical examinations on passengers arriving from areas with high rates of infection.

Get used to having your temperature taken and your hands sanitized at checkpoints and entry points in public places including at airports and shopping malls.

Airlines and accommodation hosts now provide hand sanitisers for every passenger. Some even offer contactless check-ins.

What’s great about this is that more and more airlines, accommodation and tour companies are offering flexible cancellation policies. That means you can cancel up to the date of your booked trip without an extra charge. Read the fine print as not ALL companies offer this.

How To Travel Safely During The Pandemic

How would you travel safely during the pandemic? What are some precautions to take while travelling abroad to avoid getting sick or spreading an illness? 

These are all questions that many people have been asking themselves lately. It’s no secret that there’s currently a large outbreak of the Zika virus happening and it seems like it won’t be eliminated completely anytime soon. 

So, before taking your next trip abroad, make sure to read this article for tips on how to stay safe during this time!

Travelling during the pandemic can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. With a few precautions and common sense, you’ll be able to travel safely while avoiding exposure.   

Get up-to-date COVID-19 travel restrictions

borderless safetywing
Up-to-date COVID information on Borderless

Always do the proper research beforehand to see what the travel restrictions are in each country. Different countries impose different travel restrictions. They range from:

  • Borders being completely closed, such as Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia
  • Borders being open on condition that you have to present a negative PCR test, such as USA, Thailand, Bolivia, Italy, France
  • Borders being open on condition that you’re fully vaccinated in order to be let in
  • Borders being open on condition that you present a health declaration form, such as Costa Rica, Colombia
  • Borders completely free entry into a country without any restrictions, such as Mexico and Brazil
peanut on google flights
Peanut extension showing COVID-19 info on Google Flights

There’s a handy Chrome extension that makes all this research easier. Peanut shows you the current COVID-19 travel restrictions and visa requirements in the particular country you’re researching about.

For instance, once installed, it pops up automatically on the side of your screen when you’re on travel research websites such as Google Flights and Expedia.

Try it out free on the Chrome Store here.

The only downside to using Peanut is that it assumes your nationality is from your point of departure, which might be inaccurate.

As I was researching flights from Colombia to Mexico, it assumes I hold a Colombian passport, when in fact I’m an international traveller with a Singapore passport travelling from Colombia to Mexico.

Apart from that, the travel restrictions they display are pretty up-to-date and accurate!

peanut on expedia
Peanut extension on Expedia

Peanut is still rapidly evolving and the last I spoke to the team, they revealed that there are many exciting features coming up with the extension, such as showing how old the hotel is and when it was renovated, destination weather and neighbourhood safety. 

Very soon, it’ll also provide more information on accommodation booking sites like Booking.

Download it now while it’s still free for users!

As travel restriction rules are very fluid and can change very rapidly, I highly recommend always cross-checking this information over different sources such as the destination’s official website.

Also, check it again closer to your date of travel to ensure you get the most up-to-date information. The last thing you want to face is being stranded at the airport because you can’t fly.

I had an awful similar experience. When I was checking in to my flight from Mexico to Colombia, I was told at the check in counter that I didn’t have a return flight from Colombia, which is mandatory for all visitors to Colombia, and hence can’t fly.

In the end, I missed my original flight and had to wait from 2am to 7am for the next flight out. Not a pleasant experience. :/

Here are some other websites to cross-check:

borderless map safetywing
Borderless map showing countries with open borders

Get travel insurance that covers COVID-19

Not only does getting insurance give you a peace of mind while travelling during the pandemic, some countries even require you to have one in order to enter the country.

Post-pandemic travel can be an anxiety-inducing experience, and some travel insurances have opted out of pandemic coverage. Thankfully, there are still affordable travel insurances out there that covers pandemic-related expenses such as medical repatriation.

SafetyWing Digital Nomad Travel Medical Insurance

Safetywing is one such travel insurance provider. At only USD40 for every 4 weeks of coverage, their product line is designed for individuals who are looking at going on post-pandemic trips.

They offer many different coverage plans so that people know exactly what kind of safety net they’ll need as well as how much it would cost outlay per trip beforehand – even if there were no pandemics.

Their insurance policies make travelling during the pandemic so much less stressful. It really protects travellers from the economic burden of a post-pandemic outbreak.

According to their policy:

Testing for COVID-19 will only be covered if deemed medically necessary by a physician. The antibody test is not covered, as it is not medically necessary.

As of 15 April 2021, Nomad Insurance also covers quarantine outside your home country of USD 50/day for up to 10 days (with the limitation of being once within a 364-day period). The coverage requires that:

  1. You’re covered by Nomad Insurance for a minimum of 28 days.
  2. Your quarantine is mandated by a physician or governmental authority, because you have either tested positive for COVID-19 OR you are symptomatic and waiting for your test results.

Their products cover all the necessities for someone to feel safe while abroad: like emergency medical care and transportation back home in case of a death or illness within your family when you’re away from them.

I’ll have to admit that this is not the most comprehensive plan out there. For instance, it does not cover losses incurred due to delayed luggage, cancelled flights or stolen belongings at all – their coverage focus revolves around health and medical expenses.

They also have 24/7 customer service available should anything go haywire with their services while travelling!

For a full review, check out my full post on my review of Safetywing.

Keep your itinerary simple

Instead of planning a big itinerary and moving around a lot, keep it simple.

By sticking to one or a few areas when you travel, you minimise contact with people from all over. You also minimise the likelihood of you having to take public buses, trains or flights around. 

Opt for less populated destinations

road trip

This goes without saying. If you’re going to a location where tourists frequent and where the population is dense, you can’t expect every traveller to be as vigilant as you. You’re also not going to be able to keep social distance.

Instead, opt to visit more local towns, countryside or get out into nature where civilization is sparse. Here are some of the safer destinations to visit if you’re looking for ideas on where to go.

Have disposable masks handy

disposable masks, sanitize, travel safe, post-pandemic

Get a set of disposable masks (or 10 sets) if you’d like.

What’s important is that you’ll want it to be breathable if you’re going to be surviving long hours on the plane.

Don’t worry about running outof them; every destination is bound to sell masks and sanitisers.

Always have a medical kit

Bring a medical kit with items like pain reliever, anti-diarrhoea medication, sunscreen, antibacterial wipes for travel sickness relief (Lemsip), fever reducer (paracetamol), decongestant (pseudoephedrine).

If you can self-medicate, self-medicate. Try to avoid going to clinics and hospitals to reduce the likelihood of contracting anything else.

Keep a list of phone numbers handy in case you need to call 911 for help.

Choose direct flights

air new zealand flight view from plane town

When flying, choose direct flights over flights with multiple layovers.

Increasing your time at airports and stopping over in different airports increases your exposure to contact with passengers from all over.

Also, speaking from personal experience, wearing the mask for long hours can get really, really uncomfortable, so I always try to choose the shortest duration flights if I can.

Choose private accommodation over hostels

Choose to stay in a private residence rather than a shared accommodation (hostels, hotels) where travellers come and go daily.

Sites like VRBO, Booking and Airbnb allow you to book the entire home to yourself so you can enjoy full kitchens, laundry, pools, gardens and more with complete privacy.

Choose private hires over public transport

travel road trip friends

In the same way, rent your own car (if you can) over taking public transportation.

While it’s unavoidable to avoid people when it comes to taking planes, you can at least minimise contact with others if you have your own private car as compared to taking a public bus filled with locals and tourists.

Choose private tours over group tours

If your budget allows and you really want to explore a destination with a local, choose to go with a private tour guide rather than a group tour. That way, you’re not exposed to travellers from other countries. 

Get plenty of rest when travelling

While hopping from bed to bed, it’s important to get enough sleep at night so your body has time to process toxins. Take time to hit pause and have an “off day” from travelling too to avoid fatigue on long flights, red-eye flights and at the airport.

Keep your immune system strong

We all know that getting a yearly flu shot is vital for staying healthy, and so is getting a COVID-19 vaccination. However, that doesn’t fully safeguard you from the common ills.

With the pandemic still going on, it’s more important than ever to stay in the pink of health, not only because you don’t want to increase your risk of contracting COVID-19, but also to minimise any visits to healthcare facilities which increases your risk of complications.

It’s not difficult to keep your immune system strong.

fruit bowl, piyoli, la punta, puerto escondido, mexico
Acai bowl all day, everyday!

As much as possible, eat well-balanced meals and healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains.

The Mediterranean diet is a great reference, which includes foods from all categories of the balanced plate: a protein with every meal, fresh vegetables and fruits daily, whole grains for carbohydrates (instead of refined sugars), good fats such as Omega-3s or olive oil cold pressed into dressings and vinaigrettes high in vitamin A & E content.

Dairy products such as yogurt made with live cultures can help maintain gut integrity and probiotic balance.

While trying local foods is part of every traveller’s experience, I try to stay away from overly greasy and fried food or food that have not been cooked thoroughly, such as raw salmon or seafood ceviches. I’ve learned it the hard way, suffering from food poisoning in Mexico and Vietnam.

Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is paramount. If you’re travelling often, you’d be exposed to the dry air in cabin flights or walking long hours outdoors (sometimes in the scorching sun), making you more dehydrated than you’re normally used to.

Make it a point to carry a water bottle everywhere you go.

Don’t forget exercise

oasia hotel downtown yoga-denise-keller-health-wellness-1

If you can fit in an exercising schedule, try to do it regularly. Spending time outdoors counts too. Not only do you get vitamin D from sun exposure, you also get your steps in and cardiovascular exercise in!

Take time to breathe

meditate, things to do indoors

You can also boost your immunity with restorative breathing exercises that calm the mind and release tension from muscles which improves blood circulation as well!

General sanitation practices

​​Bring a hand sanitiser with you at all times when travelling and use it frequently throughout your trip, especially after touching public surfaces. These ones that hang are travel-sized and extremely portable.

Keep your mask on in public places.

Avoid contact with people who are sick or have been recently exposed to someone who’s ill.

wash hands, sanitize, travel safe, post-pandemic

Wash your hands frequently to avoid contamination. Clean your hands every time before touching anything in the airport like eating utensils or other passengers’ belongings.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth where possible.

Avoid touching public surfaces such as door handles, handrails, or ATM machines.

Don’t share food or drinks with others you haven’t been travelling with.

General health practices

Seek medical attention before travelling abroad just like any other time. 

Consult a doctor at least 4 weeks prior regarding immunizations needed but also consider consulting one within 2 days after returning home from international travels since viruses can be dormant for a few days. 

Better yet, do a self-quarantine for a week at least to ensure you truly are free from COVID-19 before doing any socialising. 

Make sure you’re up-to-date on your vaccinations. This post shows you the types of vaccinations you need for each country.

Stay at home if you’re sick; the virus is most contagious during the first 3 days of illness.

What’s the fun in all this if you’re constantly watching over your back, you may ask. Well, personally after being on the road for 9 months (mostly in Latin America), I’ve gotten used to the lax rules in Latin America. 

With that said, follow and adhere to the local rules and you’ll be fine. It’s up to your own discretion how serious you want to take these precautions because ultimately, your health and safety are in your hands. 

If you’re still concerned about health and safety while travelling even after reaching the end of this article, you’re probably still not ready to travel. And that’s totally fine! Travel is not going anywhere; only travel when you have ease of mind.

acro yoga, puerto escondido, oaxaca, mexico
Having fun in an acro yoga class in Puerto Escondido

Otherwise, I hope this article has given you a better insight on the state of travel post-pandemic and you’re better equipped on your coming trip.

Protect yourself and your loved ones by taking precautions when you travel during the pandemic. The last thing you’d want is to fall ill during this period, especially when travel is so precious and such a privileged opportunity now. 

Not only will you protect yourself, but you’ll also be doing the locals a huge favour by stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on belaroundtheworld.com/about.