Where to escape the COVID blues | DW | 11.02.2021

In Germany, the current advice is to avoid traveling as much as possible. In view of the development of the pandemic, the German government asks people to avoid “all non-essential professional and private travel, especially tourist travel, including travel abroad,” and strongly advises against taking any cruises. It is a recommendation but not a ban.

During a pandemic, the desire to travel suddenly takes on a moral aspect. Dreams of sun, sand and all-inclusive fun have lost their innocence in the age of COVID.  Most Germans are abiding by the coronavirus rules and staying at home, avoiding any health risks.Bookings for the summer have seen a sluggish start, with Germany and Europe so far the favorites for the 2021 summer season, and long-haul travel still rarely booked. Unlike pre-pandemic days, there are now very practical hurdles to overcome when planning a trip, and they want to be factored in: PCR tests, entry regulations, quarantine regulations, and other COVID mitigation restrictions upon arrival, the regulations for the return trip to Germany including mandatory testing and quarantine.

COVID-free does not mean safe

For those seeking a vacation abroad, safety during the trip and at the holiday destination have become central aspects in the choice of destination. Countries with low infection rates suggest safety and are therefore highly sought after.

Among them are countries that appear confusingly carefree: Travelers to Zanzibar, for instance, have the impression they are back in a pre-COVID world: no face masks, no curfews, no keeping distance or complicated entry restrictions. Photos of happy people enjoying pools and beaches have been shared widely, contrasting sharply how most people are living in the pandemic era. Other countries, such as Thailand and the Seychelles, are trying to ensure as safe a stay as possible with targeted entry rules, mandatory testing and quarantine, hygiene measures and distancing rules on site.

After long lockdowns and isolation, even daydreaming about travel is a welcome respite

But even if you have found a safe country, the risk remains. A destination that is considered safe today may no longer be so tomorrow. The situation on the ground can change abruptly, making the return trip difficult or even impossible. Vacationers are well advised to inform themselves before starting their trip and to protect themselves as much as possible. For example, if you deliberately book a trip to a high-risk area, you cannot assume that you will be able to cancel the trip free of charge at a later date. There are also different cancellation policies for package tours and individual travelers.

Travel abroad in 2021 will cost more time and money

Those who have resolved all these questions for themselves must also be prepared to invest a lot of time and pay the price. After all, traveling abroad involves quarantining both in the vacation country and often after returning home.
Entry rules vary, but most countries subject visitors to quarantine for five to 10 days. This can be quite expensive, depending on local regulations. In Thailand, for example, travelers would need to shell out around €1,000 ($1,200) for ten days of hotel quarantine; in a luxury resort this could easily run around €4,500.

For travelers originating in Germany, several days of quarantine will also be required upon their return. The decisive factor for the return is whether the traveler has been to a risk area, a high-incidence area, or an area with a COVID virus variant. This is coupled with differing entry regulations, testing requirements and quarantine conditions.

Only those entering from a risk or high-incidence area can be cleared on the fifth day after entry at the earliest. The option to shorten quarantine does not apply to those entering from a virus variant area. The travel industry is pushing to make it easier for people with a vaccination card to travel. In Europe, Denmark and Greece are pushing for such a regulation. However, an international rule is still a long way off at the moment.

Travel in 2021 may therefore become more burdensome, more time-consuming, and, therefore, more expensive — but not impossible. The desire of Germans to go on vacation remains unbroken. According to a recent tourism survey conducted by the Hamburg-based Foundation for Future Studies (FFS), one in two Germans would like to go on vacation this year. One in five even wants to pack their suitcases more than once. A third is still undecided and continues to wait for developments. Some are already bold enough to venture off and take a break from the COVID blues, not shying away from the time, expense and risk involved.

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Credit: Deutsche Welle

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