Traveling abroad is a real adventure for most people, especially considering the events of the last six months. It is not easy to predict when a country will suddenly close an area or close its borders to international travelers, and it is difficult to keep up with the changing restrictions, as well as the many disruptions to direct flights and connections. To help travelers make well-informed decisions, Eliška Dočkalová, director of customer experience at leading online travel agency Kiwi.com, offers her advice on navigating the new reality of travel in today's complex circumstances.
How to organize a vacation with little risk?
Choose the destination well – Wherever the traveler chooses to go, he should know in advance that his experience in any destination will be different from normal. You will need to check local infection rates in different countries – higher rates mean greater chances of coming into contact with coronavirus, so avoiding hotspots is a good idea. It is also advisable to consult government recommendations regarding travel, such as the categorization of countries. Visiting a neighboring country is generally a “safer” option – just check the quarantine requirements for your destination and for your country of origin. Some countries may require additional documentation for entry, such as a health statement, negative COVID-19 test results, or a Passenger Location Form. In other countries there may be a mandatory quarantine on arrival or it may not be possible to enter at all.
Always check the current situation and the requirements of the chosen destination – For the latest information, travelers should contact local embassies or check the official government websites of all countries on their tour before traveling. If your itinerary includes an “autotransfer” during a stopover, you may have to leave the transit area of the airport, which means that the same rules may apply as if you entered the country as a final destination. If they are unsure whether it is safe to travel, they should consult the travel recommendations by country on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Choose the means of transport wisely – Planes, trains, buses and cars have their advantages and disadvantages in the current context. Some studies show that germs are not easily spread on flights due to the way air circulates and leaks on planes, but on the other hand social distancing is difficult in a crowded plane or in airport terminals. airports and security queues. So if the traveler decides to go by plane, they must maintain a safe distance in the queues and avoid touching common surfaces, such as the handrails of the escalators. It is advised that they have the boarding pass ready on their smartphones to avoid touching paper.
Some air routes do not currently operate or have very limited schedules, so combining air and ground transportation is a smart option – Kiwi.com offers its clients this service through its unique algorithm, which is capable of finding and combining not only flights but also land transport routes within the same itinerary. For example, you can fly from Bilbao to Faro (Portugal) and return by bus, ensuring a fast and efficient journey back home. There are multiple combinations to make the itinerary cheaper.
Confirm flight availability – As a result of changing travel restrictions, many companies cancel trips at the last minute. Although operators and OTAs notify their passengers as soon as they can, communications can sometimes be delayed. It is advisable to check that the trip is still scheduled. Passengers can look up their flight number on airline and airport websites, websites like Flightradar24.com and Flightaware.com, or Google.
Check travel insurance – It is essential to have travel insurance during a pandemic, although many travel insurance companies do not cover the problems caused by pandemics. The safest thing is to check if you have insurance before you travel. The traveler should remember that even if there is no outbreak when booking their flights, if it is not covered and an outbreak develops, they could lose a lot of money. You are advised not to just check with your travel insurance provider; It is also a good idea to check with health insurance providers.
Review the terms and conditions of the company you are traveling with in relation to refund policies – "Please note that if you decide not to travel due to government recommendations, personal concerns or your own COVID-19 symptoms, it will be considered a no-show and therefore you will not be entitled to a refund from the airline" says Eliška Dočkalová. Additionally, you can check Kiwi.com for regularly updated information on current coronavirus restrictions and measures in place around the world.
Read the hand luggage conditions – Some airlines have temporarily adjusted their carry-on baggage policy and reduced the amount of luggage allowed on board. Cabin baggage that does not fit under the seat may need to be checked.
Stay safe – It remains extremely important that all people join hands to help prevent the spread of the virus and wear a face mask at the airport and on board. Carrying several masks for long-haul flights and considering the use of other personal protective equipment such as gloves, shields or hand sanitizers is also recommended, as well as respecting social distancing guidelines and, when possible, maintaining a distance of two meters compared to other travelers.