How to Stay Safe While Traveling During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Since the Coronavirus pandemic began, different places have enforced different public health rules, including self-quarantine, public safety guidelines, and travel restrictions. While the pandemic may not fully stop your need to travel, either for work or personal matters, the CDC still has travel restrictions in place for those entering the U.S., which should be referred to before you make any international travel plans. If you are traveling to a place that is not on the prohibited entry list, here are some ways that you can practice safer travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Choose Countries With Strict Public Health Protocols in Place
Each country is handling the pandemic in a different way. Before you travel to a new country, do some reading on how your destination has been handling the Coronavirus, and what public health measures you can expect when you arrive. These regulations may require you to wear a mask in public and could affect your ability to dine-out or use public transport, so it’s best to plan ahead. You can use the Google News Coronavirus Map to view approximate data on confirmed cases by country.
2. Consider Low-Volume Transportation Methods
Using low-volume transportation methods can help lower your exposure while traveling. If driving to your destination is an option, that can help you avoid hot spots like airports, as well as give you a mode of private transportation during your stay. And if you must fly, upgrading to first class can help impose distance between you and other passengers. If you are driving, travel restrictions for non-citizens may still apply, and you will still need your passport and a valid travel or work visa if traveling internationally.
3. Wear a Mask
You should always wear a mask in public areas, even if you are not traveling. Cloth face coverings can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in public areas and are required by many cities and countries. The World Health Organization has several detailing when and how you should wear a mask, covering both medical masks and cloth masks.
Likewise, consider planning outdoor activities and adventure tours rather than dwelling in more densely populated urban areas. While wearing a mask is still advisable, by getting outside and experiencing the local wildlife you may be able to reduce the exposure risk associated with spending time in urban areas.
4. Wash Your Hands Frequently
Good handwashing is another way to keep yourself safer during the coronavirus pandemic. The CDC recommends washing your hands at these intervals:
- Before and after preparing food;
- Before eating food;
- After using the toilet;
- Before and after treating any kind of wound;
- After changing a diaper or assisting a child in the bathroom;
- After assisting anyone with diarrhea or vomiting;
- After blowing your nose;
- After touching animals or animal waste;
- After handling pet food;
- After handling garbage;
- Before touching your eyes, mouth, or nose;
- After touching public surfaces, such as shopping carts, crosswalk signs, or touchpads.
To wash your hands, you should wet your hands completely, lather with antibacterial soap, scrub the fronts and backs of your hands, in-between your fingers and thumbs, under your nails and around your wrists. Scrub uninterrupted for at least 20 seconds, then rinse your hands and dry with a clean towel.
5. Bring Hand Sanitizer
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers should be used in public places when soap and water are not available. It is important to note that hand sanitizer is a temporary solution, not a substitution for handwashing, and whenever possible, proper handwashing should be observed. You should make allowances in your luggage for liquid hand sanitizer if you are traveling by plane.
6. Protect Your Personal Space
Whenever possible, maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others. This can mean avoiding largely populated areas, like public events or transport, and making more space between pedestrians when walking in public. If this is not possible, maintain what distance you can and wear your mask. It is ideal during this time to find rental listings with private or outdoor access, to avoid the heavily trafficked hallways of conventional hotels. In addition to close contact with people, poor indoor air circulation increases the risk of spreading COVID-19, making proper ventilation provided by air vents, outdoor airflow, and private access to dwellings all the more important when managing exposure risks during travel.
7. Maintain Your General Health
Before you travel, make sure that you are not experiencing symptoms of any illness, and are caring for your general health. This includes getting the proper nutrients from your diet, staying hydrated, being physically active, maintaining your personal hygiene, and following the advice of health care professionals. These practices not only make for safer travel for the people around you, but can help boost your immune system too.
8. Get Your Vaccinations
Staying up-to-date on your vaccinations is another way to maintain a strong immune system. Furthermore, if you are traveling internationally, you may need certain vaccinations to enter specific countries. It is important to note that some vaccinations may cause side effects. Talk to your doctor about the possible side effects you should be aware of, and schedule your vaccinations in advance so you don’t have to travel with symptoms.
9. Watch the News
The situation regarding COVID-19 changes rapidly. Keep an eye on the news in areas you expect to visit in order to keep track of any public health advisories or new travel restrictions. The U.S. embassy website will also have news on travel restrictions and updates on health policies across different countries, and entry and exit requirements for U.S. citizens.
10. Avoid Extra Stops
As much as possible, avoid excess stops on your trip. Other cities and countries will have their own health procedures that all passengers on flights must follow, which can delay or even derail your travel plans. Try to schedule direct flights, and If you’re driving, only make stops for gas, food, or restroom necessities. Your exposure history consists of your work and environmental history, meaning every place you have been or worked. Keeping this list low is another way to travel safer during this pandemic.
Travel outside of your home environment increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. If you must travel for work or personal emergency, make sure to do your research, and consult the CDC considerations for travel.