Travel has changed since March 2020.
As soon as we found out that our Greek cruise was a go, we started researching what we would need to do in order to a.) go on the cruise itself; b.) travel safely internationally; and c.) assure we submitted all the proper paperwork. Things look a bit different travelling between countries since we last went away. While I would still generally advise my readers to err on the side of caution and stay home (particularly with the spread of variants), there are a few of the things you can expect if you would like to travel internationally.
I would also like to add that we are both fully vaccinated (#TeamModerna), but also took additional precautions.
1.) The rules differ depending on your origin and destination countries.
Each country has its own list of unrecommended locations. Each country has rules about who it lets in. Before booking anything anywhere, it’s best to dig in and read up on travel guidelines in your own country as well as in the country you are going you. If you have connecting flights, you’re also going to want to check on the laws in those countries.
For our trip, we needed to know the guidelines between the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, and Greece.
Although the CDC strongly recommends against international travel and has its own travel guidelines, we still decided to go to Greece. This was a very privileged choice to make and we made sure to do everything we could to keep ourselves and others safe. While the United States is happy to let us leave the country, we did need to obtain negative COVID test before we were able to return home.
At the time of travel, United States citizens were not allowed in Canada for reasons of leisure. We were allowed to stay within our terminal for our layover, but had to keep our masks on and have our vaccination cards ready. The Netherlands was the same.
While Greece does not require full vaccination to enter, if you are not vaccinated, they required a negative COVID test within the last 72 hours. All travelers may be subject to random COVID testing as well. Greece has opened its arms to tourists this summer, but even so, masks are still required in many places and there are some restrictions as to the size of gatherings. Before taking off from Toronto to Athens, we also needed to show proof of our PLF QR code. A PLF – or Passenger Locator Form – must be filed 24 hours before travel to Greece, and you must be prepared to show the QR code mailed to you at or around midnight the day or your arrival.
2.) There are still restrictions on activities and entertainment.
One of the nice things about choosing Greece is that it’s a very welcoming country. The people remain that way, but not everything is up and running the same was as it was before the pandemic. I am a huge history person, so my primary goal in Greece was ruins, art, ruins, ruins, and more ruins. We were relatively unaffected by the restriction because of our travel goals, but if your dream trip involves a lot of shopping and dining, you may want to postpone it in favor of a more beachy, outdoorsy vacation.
3.) Be aware of the individual rules at the establishments you visit.
Certain restaurants and different stores may have stricter rules than other places. Particularly if you are coming from the United States – where most restrictions have been lowered – t’s really important to be respectful of the requests of wait staff, shopkeepers, tour guides, crew, and hotel clerks.
If you’re concerned about a mask ruining your vacation, take a look at destinations that don’t have a mask mandate, like Florida. Some cruise ships are lowering mask mandates as well.
We sailed Norwegian and they were fairly strict in that they required full vaccination, an additional test at the port, and masks whenever not eating or drinking, or in the privacy of your stateroom. Personally, we were glad these rules were made and NCL kept true to them, but there were a lot of people who were very frustrated that they needed to mask up, despite vaccination.
There were concerns about the ableism and ageism in this choice, which I see and can’t argue with. It’s a tricky balance trying to keep everyone safe and not spread variants, and bein inclusive in this case. There are many people who can’t get vaccinated for very legitimate reasons and I am sorry they are being excluded. At this time, the vaccination requirement on NCL ships will last until the end of October, but both Carnival and Royal Caribbean are not requiring vaccinations.
Once again, my first recommendation would be to stay safe and stay home. As much as world leaders would like the pandemic to be over, it simply isn’t over yet. Variants continue to evolve and we are all safest at home.
4.) Check on each country’s rules and regulations often.
As things continue to change and develop at home and abroad, the rules and regulations surrounding both domestic travel and international tourists change, too. For our trip, I checked for changing rules in all four countries we would touch every day in the two weeks leading up to our trip – and I’m glad I did? We would have missed some essential travel paperwork if I had been remiss, and that would have made our trip complicated.
5.) Have your vaccination card handy and be prepared to get multiple COVID tests.
While being vaccinated is still a personal choice, there are many institutions that require proof of vaccination before entry. Every museum we went to in Greece required us to both wear masks and show our vaccination card. In addition, we were required to get multiple COVID tests around our tour. We visited one country but transited through two other sand were required to present a negative COVID test when coming home.
In short, be prepared be denied entry to someplace without a vaccination card or negative test. I know this can be incredibly frustrating for people who want to travel but don’t want to be told they need to have a vaccination, but at the end of the day, it is the right of these countries and institutions to require these things. If this is a concern for you as a traveler or tourist, I recommend waiting a couple years until after coronavirus and it’s variants have been completely managed.
6.) You can still have an amazing experience.
I think this is the most important part.
There are a lot of places in the world whose economies rely on tourism. In most if not all of these places, that is a side effect of colonialism and whitewashing Indigenous cultures in such a way that has made them reliant on tourists. These places need travels spending money locally – at local shops, restaurants, hotels, etc. These places have fought to open to tourists to save their economies.
This is one of the reason we picked Greece, and even though it’s still scary out there and there are a lot of restrictions in place, it was a lot of fun. People are still kind to one another and the world is still a beautiful place.
If you feel comfortable travelling and are fully vaccinated and are very careful… please choose to travel to one of these locations. The Caribbean, Greece, and Alaska are all highly dependent on tourists, and just like small businesses needed our help (and still do)… these countries are relying on folks to travel. If you want to get away and don’t know where to go, please consider one of the spots I just recommended.
Do you think you’re going to hold off on travel? What’s the first international place on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments!