During the last six-months, the things we usually pondered over when deciding where to take our summer holiday have entirely changed. Now, rather than looking at the exchange rate, we’re more concerned about the infection rate. Until early this year, you merely had to decide whether it was the beach, city, or countryside, lazing or active, after that, the rest was easy.
These days you need to consider social-distancing, self-isolation, quarantine, whether the resort has enough PPE and will there be enough hand gel. What was once a tricky, albeit pleasant decision, has become a nerve-wracking gamble.
How to Decide
With the situation being fluid and changing overnight, nobody knows what to do. For example, July 25th the British government took Spain, including the Canary and Balearic Islands, off the ‘safe travel list.' This immediately handed tens of thousands of holidaymakers the prospect of a two-week quarantine when they got home. Subsequently, the UK government warned no holiday is ‘risk-free’ and that all travellers should be prepared to self-isolate when they return.
Where Not to Go
With Covid-19 cases still rising in the USA and Brazil, the Americas don’t look a good bet, neither do Mexico, Columbia, Chile and Peru. Having said that, when you consider the UK has had the third-highest number of deaths in the world, getting out of Britain may seem the most appealing option anyway. Currently, there is a spike in cases in Belgium and Luxemburg. So, if you didn’t already have a ready excuse, it is probably better to leave them for another day.
Will I Get Back In?
It isn’t as simple as avoiding countries with a high infection rate, and there is still the problem of potentially having to self-isolate when you arrive back. Presently, you must self-isolate for 14 days if you travel from Canada, the US, most of Central or South America, some countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Arrivals from Sweden, Portugal, Russia and any other country not on the ‘safe travel list’ also have to quarantine.
What is the Government Advice?
Then we also must remember the safe travel list isn’t a list of countries that are ‘safe'. These are merely the countries you can travel to, but you aren't required to self-isolate after arriving in the UK. The actual stance of the UK government on travel is that ‘’The Foreign & Commonwealth Office currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel’.” And, as if this situation weren’t already confusing enough, your travel insurance may not be valid if you do decide to go away. Anyone having travel cover as part of their business insurance, home insurance or work package, will need to check its status with their provider before heading off.
Long Haul Options
If you could self-isolate for 14 days, have managed to find a flight, and aren’t unduly worried about the health risks, then, in theory, the world’s your oyster. If not, then where is the best bet at the moment? For anyone happy with flying long-haul, and not worried by the prospect of spending ten-hours breathing recycled air, all the popular Caribbean destinations look an even more attractive opportunity than usual. The Independent described Trinidad and Tobago as having ‘’escaped relatively unscathed’’, and this seems to be the case with most of the other Caribbean islands. Looking eastward, New Zealand has had an extremely low22 deaths up to now, and at the time of writing, Vietnam claimed to have had no fatalities.
Closer to Home
If you feel that you have to get away but don’t want to fly, some European countries have done much better than others. Iceland initiated aggressive testing and quarantine procedures, and as a consequence, according to a report in the New Yorker, its mortality rate has declined since the arrival of the virus. Greece, where cases are still relatively low, was praised by Bloomsberg News on its handling of the pandemic. Since the virus hit, the number of cases in Germany has remained lower than the rest of Europe (there is a slight spike as I write this though). If you are looking for something more unusual, try Tbilisi, capital of Georgia and which the European Best Destinations website declares ‘’one of the least infected places in the world’’. There are still plenty of attractive and perhaps, less obvious options, out there. Now could be the time to think out of the box and go somewhere you may not have previously considered.
Will I Get my Money Back?
While nowhere is risk-free, it is reasonable to assume countries with a lower infection rate will be safer. Therefore, these locations are less likely to invoke sudden quarantine restrictions. However, another thing to consider is the prospect of cancellation. Many airlines have cancelled flights, and many hotels and resorts have closed their doors almost arbitrarily. In most instances, you are entitled to a refund; in some cases, you won’t be. To safeguard your money, the recommended advice is to book a package through an affiliated travel agent. The people offering this advice are generally either travel agents or representatives of ABTA- the association of travel agents. So, I’ll leave you to decide just how helpful it is.
Where Should I Take a Holiday This Summer?
I’m not going to sit on the fence. My answer is a September road-trip, safe in the COVID-free bubble of my car and care of Eurostar, to Alsace and then on into southern Germany. Why? Firstly, a road trip seems somehow right in this almost apocalyptic world. I might perhaps be a Mad Max figure, but one staying at immaculately kept Airbnbs! The second reason is simple: I've never been there before. Finally, I've heard it's lovely. Alsace, according to the Lonely Planet, makes the French go ''misty-eyed with nostalgia''. That's good enough for me!