A thousand years ago, at the start of 2020, I was happily and obliviously living in the beautiful city of Seville. Life was carefree, the streets were full of people, and there wasn’t a mask in sight. My girlfriend and I spent our days exploring the Andalusian capital and our evenings eating tapas in restaurants and regularly playing games at our accommodation — specifically, many sessions of ‘Pandemic’, a board game themed around a global disease outbreak.

If this were a disaster movie’s opening scene, it would most certainly be accompanied by ominous music, part of some clumsy and obvious attempt at foreshadowing.

Who could have known?

More than a year has passed since the start of the pandemic, and life as we know it changed completely. A bizarre global reality that no one anticipated.

Despite being a difficult time, I’m grateful to have still had the opportunity to travel during this pandemic. Of course, the experience has not exactly been as carefree as before. In selecting my destinations, I’ve focused on places less far away and with the possibility of more isolated activities like hiking, B&B stays, or road trips. (Don’t count me as a fan of the “Covidiots” who, if reports are accurate, have been partying in Cancun like it’s 2019.)

Unsurprisingly, travel is a bit more complicated during this time, involving PCR testing, uncertain procedures and possible quarantine, all adding cost and stress.

It’s understandable that many choose not to travel during a global pandemic, some for health reasons, some to avoid unwittingly spreading the virus, and others purely because it may be harder to enjoy a trip with so many imposed limitations.

But with vaccination efforts underway globally, at last, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

Are we there yet?

All of this begs the obvious question: when can we travel again?

When I say “travel again”, I mean travelling with relative freedom instead of coping with the current limitations.

The answer to this question clearly depends entirely on each destination’s situation. Each is wildly different (hi there, New Zealand), though with every passing month, it does feel like we’re closer to having more possibilities to travel.

With more than two-thirds of my readers being from the UK and the US, things seem a little more favourable for these groups. Considering that about half of these countries’ populations have already had their first vaccine dose and some countries confirming that they’ll start allowing vaccinated tourists, it makes sense to start dusting off some of those travel guides again if you’re from a country with a high vaccination rate.

That’s not suggesting that everywhere will suddenly reopen around the world, as some seem to expect. Travel opportunities will start popping up, but most certainly not everywhere all at once.

For instance, it’s still unclear if Americans can travel to Europe this summer (The New York Times has this article on it). Internal travel within Europe might be much easier in a few months, though that’s still assuming the vaccination rate will accelerate.

Southeast Asia seems intent to stay mostly shut, though some first signs of cautious toe-tipping are evident. A recent proposal is for Thailand to reopen the island of Phuket starting in July. Phuket, roughly the size of New York and connected to the mainland by a single bridge, would basically function as a giant quarantine zone. Visitors flying into Phuket International are free to move around the island and enter the rest of Thailand after one week.

A far cry from ‘travel anywhere and do anything’, but these are some positive signs casting that light at the end of the tunnel. Travel may still require a vaccine passport, testing, or some additional planning, but if you’re clamouring for travel experiences, it will be worth it. 

Booking trips now

Most countries have not yet confirmed when they will open for general tourism, so we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed or make plans opportunistically. But I don’t think it’s crazy to be on the lookout for some great travel deals right now. 

If you decide to book to travel later this year, ensure that you opt for refundable tickets, as these situations can be rapidly changing.

I also recommend taking travel insurance that fully covers covid-19 (here are some suggestions), in part because some destinations (like Costa Rica) require it.

I’m optimistic about the travel prospects later this year, so I feel like now is a good time to get into travel planning again. At the same time, I also hope we don’t get too carried away!

The giddy excitement around reopening is understandable; I, too, am ready for a taste of the New Roaring Twenties. But let’s keep in mind that vaccines, while an extremely potent weapon, don’t solve the problem entirely. Their effectiveness ranges from 50% to 90%; it is still possible to contract covid-19 after being vaccinated or to spread it to others. Some (misguidedly) still refuse the jab. When we resume travel, hopefully everyone is sensible enough to take precautions like wearing a mask for as long as recommended.

I’m grateful for the few hiking and road trips over the past year, which helped scratch my travel itch and sustain my blogging work. Of course, I also dearly miss the social element, group activities, local experiences, and connections that true spontaneous travel offers.

While things will start to open, we do probably still need to be patient. If we stampeded out of the gates en masse, forgetting to be responsible travellers, that could needlessly set things back. But if we take things step by step, I do believe much better days lie ahead.

For the first time since this pandemic began, I’ve started reading about some far-flung destinations again. Fingers and toes crossed.

Where can I travel?

To know the current status of travel regulations in countries worldwide, check out this official resource created by the international travel organization, IATA. For travel within Europe, keep an eye on the reopen.eu site provided by the EU. As you can see, the maps don’t look very promising at this stage in April, but fingers crossed, they’ll look brighter as the year progresses.

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