Ever since the pandemic broke out, one of the most affected sectors has been air travel. Almost simultaneously, all over the world, flights were canceled, airports were shut down, and people were barred from flying unless they were traveling on important government business or as a medical team.
Over time, many countries were able to control the pandemic within their borders, and slowly air travel was opened again. While flying for leisure is now allowed, it is still a far cry from pre-pandemic times. Today, people are wondering what are the restrictions for air travel and how to travel safely during the pandemic.
This handy guide will teach you what you need to know about air travel during the pandemic and how you can prepare for a safe flight to and from your destination.
Preparing to Travel During the Pandemic
Preparing to travel during the pandemic is essential to ensure that you are safe and healthy during your trip. You not only need to prepare physically, but you also need to prepare mentally and emotionally before your flight. Keep in mind that there are currently many restrictions in place to ensure passenger safety while in transit. Here are five things you need to do to prepare for your trip.
1. Check government travel advisories
The most important thing that you need to do to prepare for your trip is to check for government travel advisories, both in your home country and your target destination country. Each country manages the pandemic differently and may have different travel advisories for tourists flying out or coming in.
However, all countries have a mandatory quarantine period for travelers, and you will be required to spend time in quarantine upon arrival. It is also possible that you would need to stay in quarantine at your own expense, so if you cannot afford the extra cost, it might be best to visit domestic destinations for now.
Also, keep in mind that travel advisories can change on short notice, so be prepared to possibly spend more time in transit or quarantine than you planned!
2. Prioritize countries where Covid-19 rates are low
After the initial worldwide restriction on flying for leisure, there are countries that have managed to control the pandemic within their borders. These places have either managed to flatten the curve or keep cases low from the start through strict health and public safety measures.
Check with global health organizations such as the WHO to know which countries have low Covid-19 rates. You should also check whether these countries have a “travel bubble” – a limited travel arrangement between selected countries.
>> Always bring a portable hand sanitizer spray.
3. Understand the guidelines for your airline
Just as countries have different travel guidelines, so do different airlines. Some airlines are stricter than others when it comes to requirements for air travel. Depending on the airline, you might be asked to present a negative Covid-19 test that was administered within 48 hours before your flight, or you just might be asked to present a health certificate to prove that you are fit to fly.
While you can check air travel forums for information, it’s best if you contact the airlines directly to ask what are the restrictions for air travel, if any.
4. Prepare All Your Essential Travel Documents
Once you know what essential travel documents you will need depending on government travel advisories and airline guidelines, you need to prepare these documents as early as you can. Remember, travel requirements can change quickly, and you might be asked to secure additional documentation before your flight. This way, you will have a buffer period to get these additional travel documents. If you fail to secure them, chances are you will not be allowed to fly at all.
5. Understand the safety guidelines for hotels, restaurants, and other places of interest
When looking for a hotel or any tourist destination to visit, it can be hard to get information on the ground regarding Covid-19 safety protocols. You can use TripAdvisor’s Travel Safe Tools to get updated information for places of interest.
Travel Safe Tools contains essential information about hotels and restaurants in all countries where TripAdvisor operates. This database contains information about Covid-19 safety policies, sanitation procedures, and other guidelines that you need to know. You can use the filters to look for a certain location, business, or tourist attraction to check if it is safe to visit during the pandemic.
USA Travel Restrictions
In the USA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the main authority when it comes to Covid-19 travel guidelines and restrictions. When traveling to or from the USA, make sure to check their website to get the latest advisories.
Covid-19 Travel Safety Protocols in the USA
For domestic flights, fully-vaccinated travelers can travel around the USA without getting tested before or after their flight. They do not need to quarantine. However, it is still recommended to practice safety protocols such as social distancing and wearing a face mask while in transit.
For unvaccinated travelers, it is recommended to get tested 1-3 days before the departure date. Masks are required when aboard any form of public transportation. After the trip, travelers are advised to get tested within 3-5 days after the trip, and to self-quarantine for at least 7 days. If getting tested is not possible, extend self-quarantine to 10 days.
For international travelers, those who are fully-vaccinated with an FDA-approved vaccine should get tested 3-5 days before travel. Masks are also mandatory while aboard any form of public transportation. However, self-quarantine is not required upon arrival to the USA.
For unvaccinated international travelers, the requirements are the same as unvaccinated domestic travelers.
5 Tips to Keep in Mind When Traveling Through the USA
1. Refer to the CDC guidelines before you travel
This guide only contains an abbreviated version of travel restrictions. Check with the CDC guidelines for the complete travel guidelines.
2. Check with state regulations
Each state may have different advisories and guidelines for travelers. Make sure that you understand these guidelines before traveling to your destination state.
3. Comply with the guidelines
It cannot be stressed enough: comply with all the safety guidelines that are mandated both on the state and federal level. Yes, it can be stressful and costly, but your health and safety are the utmost priority.
4. Have a Buffer
Since each state may have different regulations, you could end up spending more money or time than you planned. Be sure that you prepare for these possibilities.
5. Choose your destinations wisely
The great thing about taking a trip to the USA is that no matter where you go, there will be points of interest that pose a low risk of getting Covid-19. Choose destinations and activities that are open-air, such as camping or skiing. You can even opt for staying in an RV park to ensure that your accommodations are safe!
UK Travel Restrictions
Traveling to the UK during the pandemic can be a roll of the dice, as it has one of the highest numbers of Covid-19 cases in the world. If you’re wondering what are the restrictions for air travel in the UK, you may want to double check with authorities. This is largely in part to the new variant that was discovered in the UK, which is said to be more infectious.
Covid-19 Travel Safety Protocols in the UK
Due to the high number of Covid-19 cases, the UK has experienced several lockdowns in 2020. A “red list” was also released, which contained a list of countries barred from entry for travelers unless they are UK nationals or residents.
Moving between the various countries in the UK can also prove difficult since each country may impose travel restrictions at points of entry. Scotland, for example, requires all arrivals to quarantine, regardless of country of origin. Wales, on the other hand, does not allow travelers from countries on the “red list” to fly to the country directly. Instead, they must enter either through England or Scotland, then isolate for 10 days before traveling to Wales via land travel.
5 Tips to Keep in Mind When Traveling Through the UK
1. Complete the necessary steps upon arrival in the UK
All travelers to the UK must have a negative Covid-19 test taken at least 3 days before arrival. They must also complete a Passenger Locator Form at the airport.
2. Quarantine is mandatory
Even if you don’t come from a “red list” country, you will still be required to quarantine for 10 days when you arrive in the UK. Prepare accordingly.
3. Get familiar with the “Quarantine Package”
Since quarantine is mandatory, all travelers must avail of a “quarantine package”, which covers the cost of staying at the hotel, food, and drink during the quarantine period. A quarantine package costs around $2,500 per head. You can only book a quarantine package though this online portal.
4. Stay in one place as much as possible
The travel advisories and Covid-19 guidelines within the four nations that comprise the UK can change quickly and without warning. It can be difficult to keep track of these changes, and you can get stuck in one country if the borders suddenly close.
5. The fines are serious
Anyone caught violating quarantine guidelines, and Covid-19 safety protocols in the UK can be fined anywhere from $7000 to $14,000. They will also be asked to leave the UK.
Asia Travel Restrictions
Traveling in Asia during the pandemic can be difficult particularly because Asian countries have wildly different success rates when it comes to their pandemic response. Countries like Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam have controlled Covid-19 within their borders, while others such as the Philippines and Indonesia are still struggling with increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases.
Covid-19 Travel Safety Protocols in Asia
The travel safety protocols for Covid-19 can differ depending on the Asian country that you want to visit. Check the list of health and safety guidelines for different countries here.
5 Tips to Keep in Mind When Traveling Through Asia
1. Take advantage of “travel bubbles”
Some countries in Asia have created travel bubbles with neighboring countries, assuming that both have flattened the disease curve within their borders. China has a travel bubble with South Korea, while Taiwan has one with Singapore. Traveling within a travel bubble means that many restrictions are relaxed, and it is much easier to get around.
2. Be prepared to shoulder quarantine expenses
There are some countries such as South Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand that might require you to shoulder part or all of your quarantine expenses. You might need to shoulder the hotel stay, as well as your food and drink. Furthermore, you can only stay in hotels or quarantine centers that are approved by the government.
3. Always be updated with advisories
Just like in the UK, travel advisories in Asia can change quickly. Always be updated with the travel guidelines for the country that you are staying in so that you don’t encounter any unpleasant surprises.
4. Look for Covid-19 deal packages
Tourism is the lifeblood of many Asian countries, and if there is one silver lining with the pandemic, it’s that it has become much cheaper to travel in Asia. In Bali, for example, you can get great deals on luxury resorts. Some of these deals give discounts as high as 70%!
5. Opt for hotels and activity packages with refund options.
Since travel advisories can change quickly, you run the risk of having your flight, hotel stay, or booked activities canceled in the middle of your trip. Make sure that you have a refund option if anything goes wrong.
Travel Restrictions in the Middle East
Countries in the Middle East were quick to take action during the pandemic and have been slow to reopen for travelers. As of August 2020, Saudi Arabia and Oman have been declared as “totally restricted” to foreign travelers, while Jordan, the UAE, Lebanon, and Kuwait are “partially restricted.”
If you’re wondering what are the restrictions for air travel for both Saudi Arabia and Oman, commercial flights are not allowed at all. Those with residency can enter their respective countries but must undergo a strict 14-day quarantine.
For the countries that are partially restricted, all arrivals are required to undergo Covid-19 tests.
Covid-19 Travel Safety Protocols in the Middle East
The travel safety protocols for Covid-19 can differ depending on which Middle Eastern country you want to visit. Check the list of health and safety guidelines for different countries here.
5 Tips to Keep in Mind When Traveling Through the Middle East
1. Take health restrictions seriously
No matter where you go in the Middle East, you need to take their health guidelines seriously. Violators will be given heavy fines if caught and will likely be asked to leave the country.
2. Be prepared for delays
Flight delays and cancellations are commonplace in the Middle East because of their strong pandemic response. Make sure that you can afford to lose time in transit or in quarantine.
3. No passing between borders
Foreign travelers are not allowed to move between land borders of Middle Eastern countries. Even countries that have partial restriction status do not allow travelers to change their travel plans on a whim.
4. PPE equipment is available at all airports
Face masks are mandatory while on flights and in airports in the Middle East, so make sure to stock up while waiting for your flight. You can even find vending machines that dispense PPEs if you want an extra layer of protection.
5. Check the list of country restrictions
The countries that are under partial restriction status have a list of “safe countries” where they allow commercial travelers to enter. This list is updated every two weeks or so. That’s why you should check back often if you are not sure about the status of your home country.
To Wrap It Up
Traveling during the Covid-19 pandemic is hard but not impossible. With some preparation, a lot of research, and a little bit of luck, you can have a safe and smooth trip. This guide has given you an overview of what are the restrictions of air travel, but it’s better to check with official government websites before you leave. This way, you will have a comprehensive understanding of all the travel restrictions and guidelines you need to know.