Should you travel during the coronavirus pandemic?

travel during coronavirus pandemic

I can’t tell you the number of search engine visits I’ve been getting per day from people asking “is it safe to go to Iceland with coronavirus,” “can you still travel in the Czech Republic during the coronavirus?” If you’re looking for guidance about whether or not you should travel during the coronavirus pandemic, the short answer is no.

Listen I’m a travel blogger. There’s nothing I love more than encouraging people to travel. But if you weren’t seizing the day six months ago and backpacking in Southeast Asia, now is not the time to start. I don’t mean to be blunt, but this is a matter of public safety that affects all of us. So I’m going to treat this as honestly as I do the best and worst travel experiences in the world. Traveling during a pandemic is ill-advised for your own sake, for the sake of others, and for financial reasons.

Travel restrictions can change at any minute

Imagine getting ready to go to Israel right before they decided that all people entering the country (foreigners and citizens) will be required to quarantine for a period of 14 days upon arrival. (And I promise you, the Israeli authorities are not ones you want to ignore.) That’s probably not the exciting two-week vacation in Israel you were hoping for or expected.

This doesn’t even account for restrictions your own country might place on travelers while you’re away that might affect you. From the time you leave to the time you return, there might be mandatory quarantine requirements back home, too. Things change so drastically, in fact, that from the time I started writing this yesterday to now, the US instituted a travel ban for 30 days for all foreigners coming from the European Union. Because in case you didn’t notice, coronavirus cases are multiplying exponentially on a daily basis in multiple countries around the world.

Things are closed (for good reason)

As a precaution (or a reaction in some cases), many countries are shutting down some of the things you’re probably interested in visiting abroad. Forget castles and museums or enjoying the nightlife – some countries are cracking down on tourist hotspots to avoid large crowds where a virus can easily spread. Events are getting cancelled left and right, and in some in some instances, so are entertainment hubs. Italy’s situation is so bad that everything aside from grocery stores and pharmacies have been forced to close. And the thing about a pandemic is that governments may take these measures at any moment and make them effective immediately. So even if a place seems safe to travel to now, by the time your flight departs in a couple of weeks, the situation could be quite different. Do you really want to be somewhere if you can’t so much as go out to eat?

You could get quarantined in another country

Even if your chances of getting or dying from the virus are low, if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, you could still get quarantined. There are Uber drivers all over the world that have tested positive, there are random hotels that have been forced to take quarantine measures because one guest is showing symptoms. There are people stuck on cruise ships because they were stupid enough to go on a fucking cruise to begin with. (Where do you think the germs are going in a floating petri dish?!) And if you happen to have a high fever in a place where temperatures are randomly checked, you’re probably going to get isolated and tested, regardless of whether your fever is related to coronavirus or not.

As a result, you may incur medical costs abroad that you weren’t expecting, which could be for testing, a hospital stay, or transportation. You can’t go into travel during the coronavirus pandemic assuming that someone else will pay for everything if you get sick or quarantined. If you are forced into medical quarantine, you’ll lose at least two weeks of your life in addition to whatever you spent on the trip. And depending on where you are, those could be an expensive two weeks.

You’re liable to lose a lot of money

Those deeply discounted fares might look appealing, but if something changes drastically and forces you to cancel, you may be out that money in addition to anything else you prebooked for your travels. Because traveling during the coronavirus pandemic is inherently risky, travel insurance typically doesn’t cover related cancellations. So unless you’d feel totally comfortable losing the $200 you thought you’d spend on a flight to London, I suggest you save that money and go when it’s safe to do so, even if it’s a little more expensive.

But perhaps more to the point, the economy is tanking everywhere because of this virus. A cheap trip might sound appealing under the assumption that your paycheck will keep coming next month. But if your company decides to shutter its doors temporarily in a couple of weeks, you’ll probably want to have some money saved instead.

Now is not the time to be a selfish asshole

I’m not trying to incite panic when I tell you this. It’s not about looting grocery stores and buying gas masks. There’s a really simple way to stop the rapid spread of coronavirus and it’s by staying the fuck home. This is an unprecedented event that is affecting the whole world at the same time, some places and individuals to a much higher degree. Even if you’re healthy and low risk, by traveling right now, you could be passing the virus to other people who are at higher risk – people who are old, people who have compromised immune systems – people like Tom Hanks, everyone’s 63-year old father figure who now has coronavirus. Before cases start spreading locally from one person to another, inevitably, they were brought by someone who had been traveling elsewhere. That’s how this went from affecting only Wuhan in China to affecting 125 countries. Don’t keep contributing to that.

Yeah, tourist sites are empty, but so are schools and businesses. Cities have had to make incredible sacrifices to prevent the coronavirus from spreading and overwhelming their hospitals and medical capabilities. It’s not so you can gallivant in Saint Mark’s Square because there’s no other tourists. So get your head out of your ass and take a look around. There are emergency measures being enacted everywhere. Even huge companies are cancelling business travel, so unless you have a dire need to go somewhere, now is not the time to travel for fun.

If you already booked travel and you’re looking for guidance on what to do about cancelled flights or accommodations, you can find relevant advice here.

If you’re thinking about the possibility of booking travel during the coronavirus pandemic, the answer is simple: don’t.

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