I will never forget when Hungary suddenly closed their borders with a 72-hour warning last August. I was planning to move to Hungary in mid-September (it was one of the only EU countries open to Americans), and I had to cancel all my plans and figure out how I could enter the country before the border closed! I was successful in manoeuvring customs and landed in Hungary. Since then, I have been on several international trips since the pandemic started.
Below you will find my insights and experience on how to plan travel during COVID times. There are more steps than usual when planning travel, so I have laid out clear steps so you can find what countries are open and what it takes to travel there.
I have also made this video that details all of these steps while also providing what it’s like to deliver grabs during COVID. If you don’t know what a grab is, then check out this blog post and read my review on this travel app that lets you make money while traveling.
INSIGHT 1: DO YOUR RESEARCH
First thing first, planning travel right now is a pain – as it should be. Border restrictions are constantly changing so it’s imperative to research.
Step 1: Go to www.travel.state.gov
Step 2: Type in the country of interest and look for the COVID page. Below is an example of Hungary’s COVID page:
Step 3: Once you find the COVID embassy page, look for the list of entry requirements and the current restrictions in the country.
This page is the mecca of COVID travel information.
It lets you know:
- Entry and exit requirements
- How expensive COVID tests are in that country, and how easily accessible it is to take a COVID Test.
- Explains any lockdown restrictions, like if there’s a curfew or stores closed
- Explains quarantine restrictions
Note: It’s important to keep checking the requirements because I have bought a flight on more than once occasion and then had entry requirements change .
Speaking of booking flights, you need to be flexible since this is a changing environment. I highly recommend booking directly through an airline vs an OTA (online travel agent). You can read more about my experience getting refunds for cancelled flights here.
INSIGHT 2: PCR Test 4-1-1
I have taken 10+ PCR tests in various countries, and I have always gotten my results in less than 48 hours. Call the clinic beforehand to see when results will be available.
PCR tests also vary; I’ve had some that made me tear up since the swab felt like it touched my brain and others that didn’t even go into my nose and tickled my throat. PCR tests aren’t that bad, and remember to relax.
Most countries are requiring a negative PCR test 72 hours before departure. But DO NOT FORGET to lookup entry requirements for any layover cities. For example, I had a flight with a layover in Amsterdam, and the Netherlands requires an additional 4-hour negative rapid test. Take into account the extra costs for covid tests, ranging from free to $350 per test.
INSIGHT 3: What Are Airports Like During Covid?
I have been in and out of airports and have never tested positive for COVID. United released a study that found that flying is a low risk of contracting COVID, so the most prominent risk lies in being at the airport. I bring a sanitizer spray when I’m in the airport and spray it on things before I sit down.
Here’s a list of measurements that I’ve seen most airports take to help combat COVID:
- Lots of social distancing – There are stickers on the floor to designate where people can stand, whether they are checking in or going through security.
- Lots of hand sanitizers are scattered throughout airports
- Blocked off seats – there’s are signs and barriers between each seat, so people don’t sit next to one another
- Every airline I have flown has handed out wet wipes when boarding
This blog post is short and sweet. If you have any other questions, let me know and I can update the post!