The first half of 2020 saw the Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, with whole nations closing their borders, travel and tourism coming to a halt almost overnight, and people encouraged to stay at home for months on end. Popular holiday and backpacking destinations became ghost towns, with most travelers told to return to their home country before it was too late.
But as we try to navigate the future amidst the ongoing pandemic, countries have begun reopening their borders and people are traveling once again. That said, with the Coronavirus still rife in some places, this is a very different experience right now. For those with an incurable case of wanderlust, the need to get away is stronger than ever. That’s why My Baggage has put together this guide to look at what it’s like to go backpacking during the current pandemic and how to plan the safest trip.
Some countries have been more adversely affected than others when it comes to the virus. The United States, Brazil, Mexico, India, the UK, Italy, France, and Spain are amongst some of those who have seen the highest rates of infections and deaths. So in order to plan and enjoy your backpacking trip, it’s best to visit destinations that are safer, with lower numbers of Coronavirus cases. Some of the safest countries to travel to include:
• New Zealand
By choosing countries that are safer, you’re less likely to catch the virus and the likelihood is that more will be open. For example, more hotels, restaurants, bars, and attractions.
The beauty of backpacking is that you can travel from country to country with nothing but the bag on your back. However, during the pandemic, it is important that you do your research before traveling to any new country. You need to make sure that you check the restrictions in place in each destination and find out if there are any mandatory isolation periods. The rules surrounding the virus differ in every country, so you need to make sure you’re clued up before you cross the border.
American citizens currently have very few options on where they are even permitted to enter. The CDC has a number of resources which you can find here.
This one might seem a little counterintuitive since backpacking opens you up to all sorts of exciting adventures and is meant to take you off the beaten track. But right now it’s important that you don’t wander too far. OK, you might be away from the crowds and therefore less likely to catch the virus but in many places resources and emergency services are stretched trying to stay on top of the pandemic. Because of this, the last thing you want is to find yourself in trouble, miles from civilization and stuck for help. So just be careful when you’re off exploring and always use your common sense.
From airports to restaurants, lots of places are running temperature checks and other tests to track and trace the virus. This also means they won’t accept anyone who is showing symptoms. As such, you must be prepared to be tested, particularly when flying and entering new countries. Often these tests aren’t invasive, but it’s important that you listen to the locals and do what is asked of you. Otherwise, they might just turn you around at the border.
Almost all countries have now introduced strict quarantine periods too! In countries like Australia, this isn’t even restricted to international arrivals. Make sure you factor this into your plans and expect to be isolated for 14 days.
Health insurance might be a little different amidst the pandemic so you need to make sure you’ve got the right cover. Prices will differ as they always do, but it pays to get decent insurance that is going to help and cover you if you do get the virus – or if anything else happens to you for that matter. If you’ve already got travel insurance for your backpacking trip, make sure it covers you for all the countries you’re visiting and that Coronavirus is taken into account. After all, you don’t want to find yourself facing hefty medical bills if you do get sick!
Some nations have banded together in what has become known as travel bubbles or air bridges. This means you can pass through more easily, often without having to do the mandatory quarantine period. For example, lots of European countries have created these air bridges, and Australia and New Zealand have formed a travel bubble, making it easier to fly between the two. This can make your trip that bit easier and means you can avoid more testing and quarantine periods.
When it comes to backpacking, you have to be very selective with what you take and there are always some essentials you need to make sure you’ve packed. But as the virus continues to spread, there are some other essentials you need to carry with you everywhere you go. Face masks are mandatory in some countries, especially if you’re flying. Wipes and sanitizers are also going to be so important when you’re traveling around – be sure to use these frequently and wash your hands whenever you get the chance. It’s best to keep these in a side pocket or small handbag so you have access to them at all times.
Finally, with many places still closed you need to make sure you’ve got somewhere to stay before arriving. Even if this just means ringing around to check which hotels, hostels etc. are still open. Lots of nations still remain on lockdown and many popular backpacking spots are yet to fully reopen, so it’s not going to be as simple as it used to be.
Gone are the days when you could just turn up and sleep for the night. In a bid to stop the virus many places are only accepting guests that have pre-booked and provided them with their details. So don’t just assume that you’ll be able to find somewhere to eat, sleep or shower without checking first. Things are slowly beginning to open, but things are still far from normal in most places.