How to Travel During a Pandemic

No, you’re not a rebel for planning a trip during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contrary to popular belief, lots of people are traveling these days. You just have to do it responsibly. Traveling is a good mental health break for those who have spent months working from home and rarely stepping out of their homes.

I travel to take care of my mental health – and I encourage others to do the same.

While we might be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in this pandemic, there is no telling when international travel will go back to “normal.” That doesn’t mean that traveling is impossible right now. It just looks slightly different these days, so you should prepare to be flexible.

That said, I’ve put together a go-to guide on how to travel during a pandemic:

1. Go rural.

COVID-19 restrictions are still quite heavy in the majority of countries, especially in the urban areas. These heavy restrictions have caused an increase in crime throughout most cities. With more restrictions come less opportunity to work, increasing the amount of poverty in the cities. Consequently, crime rates have increased drastically. To avoid any sticky situations, it’s best to avoid these urban areas.

There is also a greater chance of getting sick in an urban area rather than rural.

My advice: go rural.

2. Have a contingency plan.

Travel is always unpredictable, even before this pandemic. But it’s definitely worse during the pandemic. One minute your flight is booked and ready to go, and the next it is cancelled from another government lockdown. I’m assuming that this unpredictability will not go away any time soon. I’m generally a risky budget traveler, catching the cheap flights and rarely seeking flight insurance. But during the pandemic, I always purchase flight insurance. You never know what could happen, so you want to be flexible if things change. There’s not much you can control in the situation other than having a contingency plan. Be ready to pivot if the country of your choice changes its policies on tourists. Everything is fluid, so just go with the flow.

3. No, we are not back to “normal.”

Your experiences abroad are going to look very different from before. One thing in particular is that the locals might be more hesitant to talk with you. Obviously this depends on where you’re going, but I have seen for the most part slightly more fear from the locals when interacting with foreigners. The pandemic still isn’t over, so things are still unpredictable. Keep this in mind and don’t expect to have the same opportunities to socialize with locals. This isn’t to discourage you from traveling, but to prepare for less opportunities to meet locals.

4. Dive into the nature.

While you may have less opportunities to meet the locals, you can use this time to explore nature. I’m a very social traveler and would prefer to meet people than visit scenic places. Traveling during the pandemic really changed my travel habits and I had to force myself to get out into nature by myself instead of try to meet more locals. I didn’t realize how badly I needed time in nature until I finally had it.

The perks of finding the rural areas?

  • You don’t have to talk to people. An introvert’s dream! What I thought was an extrovert’s nightmare actually ended up being some much-needed time to reset my mind and put things into perspective. 
  • The chances of getting COVID are extremely slim! It’s just you and nature. Nothing else.
  • A lot of time for self-reflection. We’ve been stuck in our homes for what seems like eternity, so we’ve obviously had an overload of self-reflecting time. But being in nature is different. Your mindset changes. That’s what we all need – some time to get a fresh perspective.

5. Check the curfews!

It was a rookie move of mine to assume that even though curfews are in place, that they wouldn’t actually be enforced. I really thought that there would be less enforcement on the curfew, but I was definitely wrong. Take the curfews seriously. It took me a few nights of skipping lunch and dinner to hit this realization. But shortly after, I ended up living off of canned sardines and garbanzo beans in the Dominican Republic. Be sure to run to the grocery store before the curfew and plan your next few meals ahead of time. Don’t make the same rookie move that I made!