The global Coronavirus pandemic has affected millions of lives directly or indirectly and has changed the whole course of many industries, careers, and companies. Many countries are, however, seeing life come back to normal, if not for every citizen, then certain pockets of states and cities. As life resumes in a different way for thousands of people, we have started to gather our best research and data on what we can do to change travel for the better, adapt and help others adapt.
For those who are traveling or planning to travel soon or in the future (for practical, urgent, business, or leisure purposes), we've put together our best and researched tips on staying safe while traveling, because this threat will be prominent for months and maybe years to come.
1. Research on different ways to travel
We know that when you think travel, the same few avenues pop up in your head - by airplane, by train, by bus, etc. Although these are the main ways and won't ever go out of style, try doing something different. There are many curated lists of different ways to travel in specific countries, like horse-pulled houses in Ireland, floating boathouses in Kerala, India, or even airships in the US. This is the time to explore new places and methods because you'll be pushed out of your comfort zone. Our chosen picks include road trips, rural village exploration, caravan travel, and many more - check out our curated experiences. For some tips on vehicle care and road trips (which can be your best bet for now!), surf this great blog by Where is Tara.
2. Where should you travel?
One essential question, of course, is the destination you should travel to. Your travel location is obviously fixed if you're going for business/practical purposes, but for leisure travel, once you decide the method of traveling, decide a location after doing all your research. There are many government websites and WHO trackers that can tell you the exact cases in each city, outbreaks, location of outbreaks, etc. Accordingly, you can select your destination to a precise location.
3. The importance of Masks
Despite many claims, masks are one of the few proven ways to fight the onset of the virus. However, there are many different kinds of masks, and it can get confusing to choose one. Go for a thicker material, but not so thick that it restricts breathing or otherwise makes you feel very uncomfortable. Every country has it's own mandated, clinical standard mask that you can purchase for extra precaution. Mostly, though, a cloth mask that can filter smaller particles and covers the mouth and nose properly will do the job.
4. The importance of Gloves
Gloves may not be a necessity, but it is a very important precaution. Virus particles can live up to 12 hours on metal surfaces,1 day on cardboard, 3 days on plastic, and up to 4 days on paper money. That's a lot of time for the particles to transfer, and gloves are a great solution if you can't /won't remember to wash your hands/sanitize regularly. There are many kinds of gloves available, but for short term periods, disposable rubber gloves work well. However, gloves can't prevent infection as well as just washing your hands well with soap can, so wear them less and when you're traveling to crowded or otherwise tourist areas with many surfaces, and learn the proper protocol for removing gloves.
5. Let's talk sanitizer
We know this is obvious and an always repeated precaution, but hear us out. Hand sanitizers can protect you against disease-causing microbes, especially in situations when soap and water aren’t available, which is the best-proven method of prevention. They’re also proven to be effective in reducing the number and type of microbes. The best kind is alcohol-based sanitizers, usually containing 60-90% alcohol - they kill more microbes than the non-alcohol ones. Most countries have ways to label/mark sanitizers that are medically approved - ask your local pharmaceutical shop for more information, and do some of your own research on sanitizers.
6. Hotel safety measures
Hotels can be a scary thing to consider during a pandemic like this, but if you can take the necessary precautions there's no reason to be hesitant. First of all, research about the city you're going to and ensure it doesn't have any major outbreaks. Locate a hotel in an area that preferably hasn't seen any cases, or very less at least a month or more ago. When you book the hotel, call them in advance and tell them you want a full room clean when you get there, in your presence, so you can ensure the pillows are changes, bedsheets and blankets fresh, and the whole room properly disinfected. When considering room service, make sure you're confident the kitchens are clean and safety protocols followed, and whatever cutlery you get, wipe and wash it before using.
7. The Five keys to food safety
The five keys to food safety are a set of food safety regulations/rules that households and kitchens should follow, found on the WHO website. The core messages of the Five Keys to SaferFoodare: (1) keep clean; (2) separate raw and cooked; (3) cook thoroughly; (4) keep food at safe temperatures; and (5) use safe water and raw materials. These are important to follow in households of course but should be definitely followed in industrial/restaurant kitchens too. When you go out to eat, which can be inescapable when traveling, ask that they follow the basic food safety guidelines and observe if sanitation practices like a clean kitchen, gloves, masks, caps are worn, etc.
8. Bottled Water is the way to go!
This is an obvious but surprisingly less followed tip by travelers - it was relevant before the pandemic, and still is. We know that it's easier and cheaper to just drink water at a hotel or restaurant that is loosely available, but it can be unsafe. Although virus particles are not proven to travel or transmitted through water, it is a possibility that someone with the virus comes into contact with the water in any way - it's better to be safe than sorry.
9. Air travel measures
We know that traveling by air may sound daunting, but it still is safe and of course, the most convenient way to travel. You can take some basic precautions that can fortify safety measures already in place at airports: wear gloves and masks at both airports and in planes, make sure to carry wet wipes and sanitizer that you can use to disinfect the airline seat handles, and avoid drinking the loose water available in airports. The most obvious tip is to always maintain distance - most airlines are currently blocking off middle seats for social distancing purposes, but it goes without saying you should maintain distance in a waiting line, restroom, etc.
10. Buy a disinfectant
Disinfectants are very easily available in most countries but can be overly expensive in some places. We don't recommend this as a must keep, but it is a benefit to have when you stay at hotels, rooms, etc. although most hotels and restaurants keep this with them wither way. Disinfectants are a good way to make sure there are no microbes or bacteria on surfaces, but they aren't a full-proof way to make sure all small particles are absent. They are useful in both households and hotels/travel in caravans and cars. Check out the US' CDC guidelines for disinfecting surfaces and households, most of which are also applicable for travelers.
11. Keep track of the news - do your research!
This is something people have now gotten into the habit of doing since the pandemic was declared, but it is equally important to keep a track of news when things have cleared out in your country/area, even two months from now. This is because outbreaks are still being declared, and areas are often completely sealed within a certain radius for everyone's safety. Keep track of which areas/cities/states are seeing outbreaks, singular cases, high recovery rates, etc. so that whether you're traveling for leisure or need you're protected and informed. One blog you can check out for when you're traveling for a better, safer trip is the Expert Vagbound's post on his travel tips.
12. Check the WHO website regularly
This is something we talked about in our last blog on travel and COVID-19 and will continue to emphasize - the WHO website is regularly updated with country wise statistics, news and tips on safety, guidelines, different precautions to take, etc. Keep checking this website - we promise you'll learn a lot more and be more aware no matter where you go on the different ways you can protect yourself and others.
13. Money, money, money
Money is important when traveling, and most people prefer cash to cards and other forms of payment when traveling because it's just more convenient. Carrying cash and cards is all well and good, but since virus particles are known to stay on notes and coins easily and for long, this isn't the safest way to transact. Cards also require an exchange of hands and finding ATMs (that could be contaminated) to withdraw is just adding to the risk. Try using online payment as much as you can - we know it can be daunting and difficult to both learn how to use it and get into the habit, they are the best, safest way to pay. We also found this great piece by The Savy Backpacker on spending money on experiences - this is a good time to read it since more and more of us are realizing how short - and unpredictable - life is.
14. Medical history and checkups are important
Before you travel anywhere, get a checkup and test done - this is for your own awareness and may be required at different city checkpoints, airports, stations, etc. because sometimes they outright ask you for these documents. This is especially important when traveling in-between state borders in your country, be it for business/urgent reasons or otherwise. Get a checkup after you return home as well, just to be safe. Most countries have government hospitals that charge less for these states, but a simple search can confirm this.
15. If you're using public transport, pick less busy hours
Public transport can be very daunting - especially if you're in a new country/state or even city - but otherwise as well, because of the pandemic. Public transport means shared air, surfaces touched thousands of times a day, exchange of money, no social distancing, etc. Aside from your basic sanitization steps and staying far from crowds, the most helpful thing you can do is find when the less busy hours are (usually early in the morning or during an afternoon lull) and travel during those times. You can even ask people at these stations or locals more about this while traveling, and of course, follow basic safety procedures when using public transport.
16. Do NOT consider Cruises
Cruises have been feeling the spotlight for the past few months because of the many virus mishaps and situations that have taken place in the early weeks of the virus. It is quite risky to travel by cruises - you're trapped in one vessel in the middle of the ocean with limited resources to treat an outbreak, were it to happen. Adding to this the fact that many cases are asymptomatic/don't show signs till much later, a cruise isn't exactly the best idea. However, do consider boathouses and other smaller water vessels you can travel and unwind in - get a complete guide to Kerala's famous boathouses through this blog by The Soul Drifters.
17. Sorry, but you can't touch pretty carved doors and cool things now
We're all used to being able to touch things when we find them fascinating, feeling carvings and different textures in temples, museums, heritage sites, etc. The time for that has gone - the virus has caused a need for vigilance in everything and every action of ours, an example being touching our faces (which we on average do 23 times an hour) and also not automatically reaching to touch pretty things. When you're traveling, it's important to remember this one because it's easy to get carried away and distracted. Many institutes and tourism spots slowly opening up in many countries have started to implement systems of contactless viewing, thermal screening, and many other procedures.
18. Escalators and staying safe
Escalators in public transit places, showrooms, public places, etc. don't seem like something you need to be worried about, but again, surfaces can hold the virus for long periods of time. On rubber, which is what escalator holding rails are covered with, virus particles can stay for days and it is therefore important to not touch these surfaces as much as possible. When you go to showrooms and shopping centers (which are opening slowly across the world in some locations, like less affected states in India) stand at a distance of 5-6 feet from the glass and roam when they are less crowded. these are all tips that can seem obvious, but we often forget when traveling or even when going to nearby shops.
19. Traveling for/with elderly, children or seriously ill individuals
This is something you should avoid if you intend to go to places in your country which are even a little affected by the virus, but if you do your research and stay safe, you'll be fine. These tips are especially important if you're traveling for urgent purposes - first of all, don't choose methods of transport where any crowd is inescapable - try road trips for a change. Make sure everyone is following proper guidelines for safety, opt for motorhomes/caravans where you can cook your own food, and keep helpline numbers handy, always. As far as you can, find boutique hotels/inns to stay with less crowd and extra attention given to guests. Most families won't consider traveling until much later, especially ones with younger kids, but either way, extra precautions should always be taken for the elderly, children, or seriously ill persons. But for when you do start traveling regularly or even just once a year, read more about why you should travel with your kids at least once, whatever age they are.
20. When should you quarantine yourself?
Many government websites and apps such as the CDC in the US, Arogya Sethu app in India, and the official government of UK website for the UK have the symptoms, guideline numbers, etc. listed, and of course, there is the WHO website too. Use these to cross-check symptoms and call helpline numbers if you feel out of breath, feverish, have a dry cough, or other flu-like symptoms. As soon as you suspect a case of COVID and you aren't at home, isolate yourself, and make sure you get the medical help required. Call your hotel (if you are staying at one) and tell them you are quarantining yourself - they have their own guidelines they enact, such as disinfecting and clearing out the floor, making sure medical help is given, meals are delivered, and other due processes are carried out. Most importantly, don't be afraid, even if you're in a different city or location. The required resources are available freely and even when you can't actually quarantine, medical help is quick and efficient to reach in most countries.
21. Check out our list of places in India least affected by COVID-19
In India, just like in many countries, there are many small pockets of villages and less-crowded communities and destinations very less affected by the coronavirus. If you're planning your next trip or wondering where you'll go, check out our blog on the places least affected by COVID-19 - you can get some inspiration or select a spot right from this list!