Following COVID-19 being declared a pandemic in 2020, air travel came to an almost complete standstill, with bans and quarantine requirements enacted to slow transmission of the virus. Two years later, though, those restrictions have finally eased as we've gained some control over the virus. As a result, globetrotting is happily back on the agenda for many. But, learning how to safely travel again isn't necessarily quite as straightforward as returning to your pre-COVID ways. Before you jet-set, the most important thing to do, in fact, is figure out which COVID-related requirements are still in place for travel to your destination.
Ascertaining how to do just that and get back on your travel game safely is the topic of the most recent episode of The Well+Good Podcast, during which Italy-based travel guide Andrea Gambino; Costa Rica-based tourism expert Guillermo Aguilar; and travel expert Alexis Bowen, co-founder of Elsewhere (a company that links travelers with local destination experts), share the ways they've personally seen the nature of travel change in the wake of the pandemic.
Listen to the full episode here:
According to Bowen, the most important thing you can do now when traveling, especially internationally, is to stay up-to-date with the COVID-related regulations of your home country and of the location to which you’re trekking. “Things are still changing, and that's without a doubt, so what I would recommend is continuously checking both with the U.S. State Department and with the local government of where you're traveling [to see what their rules are],” says Bowen, adding that folks should do this from the moment they book their flights and up until the day before flying.
“As long as you're checking and are really on top of everything, it's just [about] adapting to these new rules,” Bowen says. But what even are those new rules, you might ask? At the top of the list is vaccination status. You can check the CDC website to determine whether your travel destination requires you to be vaccinated (as some, but not all countries do).
Another important travel consideration, says Bowen, is whether you'll be required to show proof of a negative COVID test result to enter the country you're visiting—but, thankfully, that's a relatively easy hurdle to surpass now that "testing has gotten much faster and more efficient," she adds, given that many destinations now simply require an antigen test and not a PCR. (Some context: A PCR test searches for the genetic material of the virus, while the quicker antigen test—which you might know as a rapid test—is looking for its proteins.) “Getting a PCR used to take multiple days, and you never knew if you could get the result in time for your flight,” says Bowen. The antigen test, though, is done usually within 15 minutes.
“The last thing is just certifying that you have not been in contact with anyone who has COVID and that you do not have any symptoms,” says Bowen. That first bit is part of contact tracing, which is a process that allows epidemiologists to help slow the spread of COVID by identifying folks who may have been in contact with someone who tested positive (and then encouraging them to self-isolate). Essentially, this measure helps ensure that you're not hopping on a plane after recently sharing airspace with someone COVID-positive.
"I can say with confidence that we're past the stage of impromptu cancelations from either hotels or airlines, or borders being closed." —Alexis Bowen, travel expert
Even though we’re not living in a completely post-COVID world—after all, there are still emerging variants—safe travel is more navigable now than it's been for the past couple years. "I can say with confidence that we're past the stage of impromptu cancelations from either hotels or airlines, or borders being closed," says Bowen. So, learning how to travel again just comes down to following the right precautions (*ahem* Bowen’s insights).
And, rest assured, doing so will be well worth your while. “Travel still remains an incredibly powerful thing,” says Bowen. “It is one of the best things that you can do for your mental well-being and for your physical well-being. You can never underestimate the power of a change in scenery to reset, recharge, and restore.”
For more information on how to travel again, as well as expert intel on how the pandemic has changed traveling for the better, listen to the full podcast episode here.
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