Paradoxes of travelling in the covid era: How and if at all we’ll be able to get to more distant destinations
Travelling in the time of covid is different than in the days before the pandemic, and will remain so. But in any case, the meteorological summer is here and the holiday season begins. That in itself is good news. The conditions of travel to individual destinations, however, are constantly changing, with June being the month when they underwent major changes. Let's take a look at a couple of more distant destinations and point out a number of covid paradoxes. Hopefully, you won’t lose all motivation to go abroad after reading this article!
Not only have the rules of free testing changed, but people who are going on holiday abroad can get a negative test certificate online, as well as a certificate of past illness or completed vaccination. All this information is provided by the Institute of Health Information and Statistics, and after downloading it, you can save the certificate on your mobile phone or print it out before your journey. In addition to the online option, you can also get a copy at your local vaccination centre - or ask a general practitioner for a certificate of past illness. Of course, the certificate isn’t valid everywhere and there are some "buts": you can use it to travel mainly to closer countries such as Croatia, Hungary, Germany, Austria, Poland, Slovakia or Slovenia, but the rule that the entry conditions are defined individually by each country still applies.
From June 1, it is also possible to get two PCR tests and four antigen tests per month free of charge, the costs are covered by health insurance companies. However, one usually needs an English certificate (sometimes a Russian one) to travel to more distant destinations, and you’ll have to pay extra for those.
Which countries will let us in without a test?
The good news is that Czechs can already visit seven countries without a test, which can now be replaced by completed vaccination. These include Hungary, Germany, Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia, and in some of them (Croatia, Hungary and Austria), having the first dose (22 days after application) is enough. In addition, vaccination also facilitates the return from some medium- and high-risk countries, such as Finland, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Greece, Spain and Italy. No quarantine or testing will be required for returning tourists who have received the first dose of the vaccine!
The conditions are reciprocal
What’s more, the conditions are reciprocal. Tourists from the aforementioned countries are welcome in the Czech Republic under the same conditions. At the same time, they will be allowed to enter restaurants as well as use other services. From June 1, vaccinated tourists from Israel, Australia, Thailand, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea can also enter the country. This is all relatively good news. So could it be said that tourism is slowly returning to normal?
The word of the expert
"This year's tourist season won’t be completely normal, but it will definitely be better than the last one. According to estimates, this year should be at least twice as good as last year."
Jan Papež, the vice-chairman of the travel agency association, told the Epicentrum program for the daily Blesk. He added that about half of the tours will be occupied by people with vouchers from last year. Currently, there are vouchers worth one and a half billion crowns in the possession of travel agency clients.
Covid or politics?
It should also be mentioned that in many countries, travel is currently affected by the political reaction to the pandemic rather than the pandemic itself.
"There are very safe countries which people still aren’t allowed to enter, either by decision of the country in question or by decision of our Ministry of Health,"
states Jan Papež.
"There are countries that will accept you without a test, but you have to get there somehow. That means acceding to the conditions of the airlines that require tests. And then you also have to return home, which means accepting the conditions of the Ministry of Health,"
the expert continues. But let's be specific.
Countries outside the EU
The situation in countries outside the European Union varies. The Dominican Republic, for example, is open to tourists with a negative test. On the other hand, according to the Foreign Office website, visitors to the United Kingdom can’t avoid a 10-day quarantine at home. Visitors to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates will have to undergo a whole series of tests. These countries, just like Tunisia and Turkey, do not recognize even completed vaccinations.
How about the Maldives?
In the winter months, the Maldives was a popular tourist destination. Until the local epidemiological situation worsened to the point where the country had to declare a state of emergency. However, they decided not to close the borders. Again, a negative coronavirus test is required to enter the country.
Closed and open countries
Morocco and Israel remain closed until further notice. Czech tourists are prohibited from entering South Africa, Brazil, Kenya and several other African countries. On the contrary, Albania, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Mexico and Northern Macedonia are open to tourists without any special requirements. The return from these countries is problematic, though. Test and quarantine usually cannot be avoided.
The faraway world
Australia and New Zealand have some of the strictest rules. At this point, both countries still haven’t opened their borders to tourists at all. Only citizens, residents and their families have been allowed to enter New Zealand for 14 months, under very strict conditions at that. Every incoming person has to spend two weeks in a state-run hotel-type quarantine facility upon arrival. To add insult to injury, the facility charges an amount ranging from NZD 3,100 to 5,000 (multiply by fifteen to find out how much it is in crowns) in some cases.
The author of this article, who has a family in New Zealand, underwent the quarantine herself in January this year. You really do get locked up in a hotel room for two weeks. Food is brought to your door three times a day, and you are entitled to one 60-minute walk a day, during which you’ll be watched by an escort until your first negative test result. You have to be tested three times - after arrival, on the fifth day and on the twelfth day of your stay. In case of a negative result, you are released on the 14th day at the same hour as that of your arrival. It’s long, but not too terrible - especially if you find a way to entertain yourself.
Strict but effective
Conditions for entering New Zealand are strict, but they have great results. To date, the country has recorded only 2,317 cases of covid. It currently has as little as 17 active cases (all of which have been caught in these quarantine facilities).
Paid quarantine also awaits people travelling to some Asian countries, including Thailand. The price ranges between 30 thousand and 220 thousand Baht (1 Baht can be bought for 0.6 CZK) depending on the hotel category. That means you’ll pay approximately 132 thousand crowns for a luxury quarantine. In the case of a positive test, the traveller has to go into isolation in another facility, again at their own expense.
The paradox is that some countries outside the EU are marked as dark red, even though their epidemiological situation is much better than that in most EU countries. For example, the Cook Islands haven’t recorded a single case of coronavirus from January 3 to May 29. Despite that, the country shows dark red on the travel map. In Europe, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania are similar case.
"It’s because the Ministry of Health automatically and often meaninglessly marks most countries outside the EU with a dark red colour, regardless of their epidemiological situation. In addition, each EU country works with a different travel map. The strictness of rules varies and is largely depends on the relationship with the other country,"
points out Jan Papež.
Conditions of travel to individual EU countries
We have already brought you the first available information about entering most nearby countries. But since everything keeps changing and covid passports are nowhere in sight, let's have a look at the current situation.
According to the daily Mladá front Dnes, the most popular holiday destination accepts tourists who can prove themselves either with a negative test or a certificate about receiving the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine (22 days after application). It is recommended to fill in an entry form before departure. Similar conditions have been set by Hungary and Austria.
Greece requires that tourists have a completed vaccination program as well as a filled-in registration form. Vaccinated tourists can also visit Cyprus, where a negative PCR test would otherwise be required. France has similar rules, but you’ll also have to fill in an affidavit on infectivity at the border.
Tourists with a completed vaccination program will not be allowed to enter the country starting on 8 June. Until then, they will have to travel with a negative PCR test or a doctor's certificate of past illness. The document needs to be in English or Spanish.
Italy is waiting for a European covid passport, or rather an agreement on it. The country doesn’t recognize vaccinations yet. Travel is possible with a negative test and a filled-in entry form.
Without a test, you can stay in the country for less than 24 hours. A longer stay in Germany requires a completed vaccination program, a negative test, or a certificate of past illness. Mandatory quarantine no longer applies to Czechs.
The only completely open country. No vaccination or tests are needed to enter Switzerland - but only if you arrive by train, car or bus. When travelling by plane, you can't do without a negative test.
While the island of Madeira accepts a completed vaccination program, mainland Portugal does not. The only way to enter the country is with a negative test.
Travellers often feel like shaking their head in disbelief these days. As you can see, travelling is slowly turning into an adrenaline experience. But it probably isn’t the type of adrenaline tourists hope to experience on their travels. And so, if you’re about to go for a vacation, we wish you strong nerves and a lot of amazing experiences.
Leoš Mareš and his wife Monika have recently been to Spain. Týnuš Třešničková went to the Red Sea, Nikol Švartnerová to Marbella, Nela Slováková to Mexicoa and Dara Rolins to the Emirates. Which of these countries are you planning to visit this year?
Since the entry conditions for individual countries differ, it’s definitely advisable to visit the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and read them thoroughly.