A little research now can save you a big headache later.
When it comes to international travel right now, the world isn't exactly anyone's oyster -- but it could be your cocktail shrimp. In other words, many countries are still closed to tourists, but plenty of great destinations are finally opening their doors.
Indeed, even the European Union has recently decided to unlock the gates for many tourists, including vaccinated Americans. And, even better, many countries have waived (or will waive shortly) those pesky quarantine requirements. That means you no longer need to build an extra 10 days of travel-less travel into your plans.
At the same time, things aren't exactly back to the way they were in the Before Times. The post-COVID travel world has its fair share of complications, many of which will mean extra planning and expense. Here are a few things to know before you cash in your travel rewards this summer.
1. You're probably going to need to be vaccinated
Sure, not every country that allows U.S. tourists will require that you be vaccinated, but most of Europe definitely will. You'll need to present your proof of vaccination before you're allowed into your destination. Your card from the CDC should suffice in most cases. Without it, you could be turned away before you ever step foot on foreign soil.
Even if you're headed to a country that doesn't require travelers to be vaccinated, unvaccinated travelers will likely have to jump through many more hoops. Some countries will require that unvaccinated travelers quarantine on arrival (and, yes, you'll pay for that yourself). At the very least, you'll probably need to take multiple COVID-19 tests if you don't have proper vaccination documentation.
2. Testing is common -- and at your own expense
Speaking of testing, be prepared to show a negative COVID-19 test result before you travel. In fact, many countries will require a negative test before you arrive, even if you're vaccinated. Most countries require the test to be done no more than 72 hours before your arrival.
In some cases, you won't just need to test before you arrive -- you'll need to test after you've been there a few days, too. Some places require a negative test two to three days after your arrival, and other countries may require a third test after five to ten days. And, much like quarantines, these tests aren't paid for by the locations you visit; the cost comes out of your pocket. So be sure your personal finance budget is prepared.
3. Country hopping may not be possible
If you're looking forward to a multi-country trip, you may need to think again. While some countries will be open to visitors regardless of where they've been, most countries will want to know everywhere you've been in the past 10 to 14 days. And, if they don't like your answer, they may not let you in. This is especially true if you spend any time in a country with high coronavirus case numbers. Be sure to check out entry/exit requirements for every country on your to-visit list.
4. Masks are still required in most countries
Although the U.S. has decided to throw mask mandates to the wind, most other countries are not so relaxed about letting your aerosols fly free. Many countries still have robust mask mandates for public transit and in public buildings. And unlike the U.S., many other countries will impose strict fines if you're caught maskless in public. So, be sure to bring enough clean masks to last your entire trip -- just in case.
5. Be prepared for curfews, closures, and capacity limits
A number of countries are still under various forms of lockdowns, even if they're open to tourists. In some places, this means strict curfews on travel after dark. This could also mean certain businesses are still closed, either entirely or in part. For example, restaurants may be open to takeout, but won't allow you to sit inside and eat.
Another thing to plan on is capacity limits, especially in popular tourist stops. Plan to be flexible about where and when you can drop in on certain attractions.
6. Travel health insurance is required in many countries
It's always a good idea to carry some kind of health insurance when you travel. You never know what could happen while abroad, and most American insurance policies won't cover you outside the country. And, of course, this goes double for traveling in the middle of a global pandemic that has killed millions already. But even if you're fine with risking it without insurance, your destination country may not be. Some countries will require that you have proof of medical coverage adequate to cover coronavirus-related care before you'll be allowed into the country.
7. You'll need a negative test to come back home
Although restrictions in the U.S. have all but evaporated in many areas, we're not so lax at the border. If you leave the country and travel abroad, you'll need to show a negative COVID-19 test before you can return. The test result must be no older than 72 hours. Conveniently, several at-home COVID-19 tests are accepted, so consider packing a few before you head out to ensure you have what you need to return.
Plan, plan, and plan -- then plan some more
Traveling abroad is rarely simple, even when there isn't a global pandemic. But it's significantly more complicated right now, even in countries with few restrictions. Be sure to plan your trip thoroughly, including researching any and all destinations on your agenda. And don't forget about local restrictions. It's good to be familiar with country-wide rules, but local cities or towns may also have additional requirements you'll need to be aware of.
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