World Now More Open Than Closed?

October 2022 marks a tipping point for pandemic travel — more countries around the world are now welcoming American travelers without requiring pandemic-related travel restrictions than those requiring some form of testing or refresher for entry.

As the travel industry turns its attention to rising energy prices, the search for fuel and the fact that demand for flights and hotels is outstripping supply, it’s easy to forget that the pandemic is still impacting travel.

However, 109 countries still have travel restrictions (quarantine and/or testing) in place, while 118 are fully open (including news this month that the doors of Canada, Japan and Australia are now wide open to overseas travelers).

Evidence of this reopening is the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has discontinued its country-specific travel health advisories, which have been a mainstay of travel warnings since the pandemic began and borders closed.

However, it is still the case that more countries are open to tourists who are fully vaccinated.

This end to the bureaucracy of Covid-19 will be good news for the millions of people looking to travel in the fall than ever before, all searching in larger than usual crowds and less availability. A recent TripIt survey found that the majority of people surveyed would be traveling by mid-November, many domestically in the US, and all expecting more disruption than usual. As Bloomberg reports: “Inflation and anger may be strong, but wanderlust is stronger.”

Skytra, a ticketing database and subsidiary of Airbus, reported a rebound between Europe and Asia-Pacific. Elise Weber, CEO, said: “Hong Kong is relaxing its quarantine rules on international arrivals and we have seen airlines such as British Airways announce plans to resume flights between London and Tokyo.”

So where to? While countries are much more open and have so many things to worry about — the war in Ukraine, the cost of running our homes, the climate — that it makes sense to travel somewhere with minimal bureaucracy.

A current summary of Bloomberg noted that 30 more countries had recently lifted travel restrictions, including Bhutan (for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic) and Japan from October 11 (unvaccinated travelers from some countries have yet to be tested for the latter).

However, it is important to understand that there is still some bureaucracy to deal with from Covid-19 travel restrictions. For example, Canada requires everyone over the age of 11 to be vaccinated, so British families may find this a challenge when teenage vaccination rates in the UK are around 50-60%. Likewise, strict mask rules still apply in Japan, Chile and South Korea, countries that are now technically open.

It’s also worth noting that the State Department has updated its travel advisories to take out health advisories but inform American travelers about the terrorism risk — and made changes in 98 countries. France, Italy, Spain and the UK are all at Tier 2 – be careful.

So, with winter approaching and a potential spike in cases, it seems reasonable for travelers to keep an eye on global travel restrictions for a while longer – to be absolutely sure there are no upsets on the long haul.

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