Americans who are set to travel in the coming months but don't have a renewed passport yet may be out of luck. Globe Aware volunteers should check their passport expiration date before booking their travel dates.
"I am freaking out": Passport backlog frustrates travelers
BY MEG OLIVER
Scammers forced the State Department to temporarily shut down its online bookings for urgent appointments for passports, adding to the frustration of many travelers who are already experiencing long wait times amid a huge backlog in passport applications.
Third-party actors used bots to book all available online appointments, the State Department said. Scammers then sold the appointments for as high as $3,000 to applicants with urgent travel needs.
Americans who are set to travel in the coming months but don't have a renewed passport yet may be out of luck.
"I am freaking out," said Kelsey Renken. "I call every day to try and get an answer to get the same runaround that, 'Oh, we can only push a week before you travel.' A week before you travel is kind of cutting it very close!"
Renken and her husband Heston applied for passports in May but only one has arrived. Their nonrefundable flight to Mexico leaves in two weeks. In the last two years, the couple suffered the heartbreaking loss of a stillborn and two miscarriages.
"We just need to take to get a break, get a mental reset, celebrate our anniversary," Renken said.
Renken said $3,000 will have gone down the drain if the passport doesn't arrive before their trip.
The State Department acknowledges it has a staffing issue and it is scrambling to complete an extraordinary backlog of passport applications. The current wait time for a passport is up to 18 weeks.
"During the pandemic, they sent their people home and right now we're over 1.6 million passports in backlog that they can't process," CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg said.
As the world reopens, not all countries are recognizing a mix of vaccines from different makers as fully vaccinated. Globe Aware volunteers can check to see which countries they need to watch out for when it comes to regulations.
Thinking of travelling? Here’s where mixed COVID-19 vaccines aren’t accepted
By Eric Stober
Canada’s health authority has given the green light to mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccines, but as the world reopens, not all are recognizing a mix of vaccines from different makers as fully vaccinated, despite millions of Canadians doing so.
Here’s who has announced so far they do not accept mixed vaccines.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S.’s main health body, does not currently recognize a mix of a vector vaccine, such as AstraZeneca, with an mRNA vaccine, such as Pfizer or Moderna, as fully vaccinated.
It does, however, recognize a mix of two mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna, as fully vaccinated.
As such, many cruise lines are following the CDC’s guidance in their own protocols for who can come aboard.
Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America have said they will not recognize those who have mixed an AstraZeneca vaccine with an mRNA vaccine as fully vaccinated, citing CDC’s guidance.
“Following CDC guidelines, Celebrity will consider a guest ‘fully vaccinated’ with proof of vaccination that can include mixed doses of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines only. No other mixed vaccine doses will qualify a guest as ‘fully vaccinated,’” Celebrity Cruises’ website reads.
Carnival’s policy applies for cruises leaving from U.S. ports.
Norwegian Cruise Line is going further and not accepting any mix of vaccines, including two mRNA vaccines, when departing from U.S. ports, but will accept a mix of “only AstraZeneca-SK Bio, Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna combinations” from non-U.S. ports.
Royal Caribbean will not accept mixed doses when departing from a U.S. port, but will from non-U.S. ports, depending on the specific country’s policy.
Already Canadians have been caught off-guard by some of these policies.
Travel bloggers Karen and Brian Hosier of Port Coquitlam, B.C., have six cruises booked over the next year, but both were first vaccinated with AstraZeneca and and then Pfizer.
“It’s a little bit frustrating. We don’t know at this point whether to cancel [our] trip,” said Karen.
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has approved mixing vaccines, including AstraZeneca with an mRNA vaccine.
Zahid Butt, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Waterloo, said there is no evidence to show that mixing-and-matching vaccines is harmful and said studies show that mixing AstraZeneca with a second dose of Pfizer is better in creating antibody response to the virus.
“There is no scientific evidence to say people who have a second dose, which is of a different vaccine, would have lesser immunity than the ones who have the same vaccine,” he said.
“There has to be scientific evidence to justify why you are not allowing people to join cruises.”
In addition to cruises, some countries have their own policies toward mixed vaccines, as well as the COVISHIELD vaccine — the Indian-made version of AstraZeneca.
Trinidad and Tobago currently do not accept travellers with a mix of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines but does allow an AstraZeneca and Pfizer or Moderna mix.
“For 2-dose series COVID-19 vaccines, passengers must have received 2 doses of the same vaccine OR the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine followed by the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine,” the country’s travel requirements read.
“Passengers with any other combination of vaccines would NOT be considered fully vaccinated, at this time.”
Barbados reversed its policy on July 15 to allow mixed vaccines after initially not accepting it.
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, Jamaica will accept anyone with two doses of a World Health Organization-approved (WHO) vaccine, mixed or not, and Cuba and the Dominican Republic have no vaccine requirements.
While the U.S. doesn’t currently require vaccinations for travellers, the CDC’s guidance could pose trouble for some Canadians if the country were to use its guidance in its travel requirements. The U.S. also has not approved the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Already a Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett concert will require full vaccination under New York state’s guidelines, which currently follow the CDC’s lead — meaning no mix-and-match of AstraZeneca with an mRNA vaccine.
The WHO currently has not issued guidance on mixing vaccines but said that there is currently limited data on doing so and warned of a “dangerous trend” of vaccine shopping for extra doses.
According to Health Canada, at least 1.3 million Canadians mixed doses in June.
NACI recommends mixing AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, Tam says
Over in Europe, several countries, such as Italy, Portugal and Poland, do not recognize COVISHIELD, which has been approved in Canada and has been administered to over 80,000 Canadians.
This means that visitors with that vaccine must quarantine and provide a COVID-19 test.
A growing number of European countries, though, do accept the vaccine, including Spain, Greece, Iceland and France.
Both Germany and France only accept a combination of AstraZeneca and Pfizer or Moderna as fully vaccinated and not two mRNA vaccines of different makes, meaning travellers must present a negative COVID-19 test to enter.
In response to some of these policies, Quebec will now allow its residents to get a third shot of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine to avoid policies against mixing vaccines and the COVISHIELD vaccine.
The province warns, though, to seek advice and weigh the risks before getting an extra shot.
“This measure is exceptional and the person should be properly counselled to be informed of the potential risks associated with this additional dose, compared to the benefits of the planned trip,” Quebec’s health department said in a statement.
– With files from Julia Wong and Alessia Simona Maratta
Globe Aware has been rapidly adapting to cope with the demands of the new Covid era. We're sharing this Covid Travel Checklist with our volunteers, so they can be prepared for travel too.
The Covid travel checklist: What to know before you go
(CNN) — While our suitcases have been gathering dust over the past 16 months, the travel industry has been rapidly adapting to cope with the demands of the new Covid era.
This means that if you're making your first flight for a while, things may be very different from what you've previously been used to.
It's no longer just about packing your power adapter and making sure your shampoo is in little bottles. We've put together this Covid Travel Checklist with everything you now need to think about before you set off.
Planning where to go
1. More travel doors are open worldwide to those who can prove they're fully vaccinated, with the typical requirement being that 14 days must have elapsed since your second jab.
Not all vaccines are equal, so you will need to check that the brand you've received -- and sometimes even the batch number -- are accepted by the destination you hope to visit.
2. Thoroughly check the entry restrictions for all the destinations you wish to visit, or transit through, and keep checking them -- right up to when you travel, and while on the trip itself. And if you're planning to travel around inside a country, remember that different regions might have different rules. CNN Travel's Unlocking the World guides are a good place to start.
3. Remember that while you might be allowed into a country, life may still be far from normal there. Do your homework beforehand to find out what tourism attractions and hospitality services are open, and where and when mask-wearing is mandatory.
4. Book flexible, refundable flights and accommodation wherever possible, or reconsider the trip. And don't neglect to get up-to-date travel insurance -- some destinations require it before entry (be sure to check the Covid-19 small print).
CNN Business breaks down the price hikes customers are seeing at the grocery store, the gas tank, the car lot, and more.
1. Remember cheap vacations and budget flights? Well, those won't be coming back for a while. Expect or prepare for price hikes when it comes to the cost of flights, car hire, accommodation, food, drink and just about everything.
2. Check how many Covid-19 tests you might be required to take and how much each of them will cost. If there is the possibility that travel rules could change mid-trip and you'll be required to self-isolate at home or undergo a mandatory stay at a designated hotel, this is something you'll need to factor in too.
Samantha Brown has been crossing the globe as a TV travel host for 20 years. She often just takes a carry on bag, and offers her best tips for packing up your luggage. First tip: go with a hardside suitcase
1. Confirm well in advance what documentation will need to be presented at different legs of your journey and print out anything for which hard copies are required (or simply as back-up).
Depending where you are in the world and where you're going, check travel requirements and download any apps that are required or recommended and load them up with the relevant information.
2. On top of your regular packing checklist, two new additions we'd recommend are disposable face masks and a small bottle of hand sanitizer you can take in your carry-on.
3. Pack your (empty) refillable water bottle in your hand luggage as usual, but bear in mind that due to Covid-19 precautions water fountains may or may not be back in operation at the airports you visit.
4. It's likely that not all of your favorite airport restaurants and stores will be open as usual, so it might not be possible to pick up last-minute items such as toiletries or particular meals and snacks. If it's an item you 100% need for your journey, purchase it before you travel.
Heading to the airport
If you were a frequent pre-Covid flier, chances are you had a tried-and-tested route to the airport, knowing just how much time you needed to leave before setting out. You might need to rethink that.
1. If your journey to the airport involves public transport, services may be less frequent than pre-Covid. There are also driver shortages in many cities when it comes to taxis and ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft, meaning longer wait times and high fares.
2. Once you're at the airport, there may be delays to your journey due to Covid-19 testing wait times and the implementation of social distancing measures.
3. An airline you previously used frequently may have changed their travel rules since you last flew with them. For example, some airlines -- such as Ireland's Aer Lingus -- are cutting back on free cabin baggage, so you will need to choose whether to put your 10 kilogram bag in the hold for free or pay extra to take it on board.
If you put it in the hold, you'll need to allow for extra time at check-in and at the end of your flight.
At the airport
Under the Phuket Sandbox program, visitors arriving on the Thai island must undergo Covid-19 checks on arrival and are required to stay on the island for 14 days before being allowed to visit the rest of the country.
While you might see other passengers disregarding them, social distancing measures will certainly be in place at the airports you travel through.
1. Please allow space for other passengers, and give people plenty of space in line at security and other travel checkpoints. If you see other passengers not doing the same, do your best to relax -- you're on vacation, after all.
1. You'll be expected to wear face masks while on board, so make sure to choose masks you feel comfortable in that meet the airline requirements. Disposable masks are the simplest choice so that you can change to a fresh one periodically.
2. Not all airlines are taking the step of blocking middle seats to prevent Covid-19 transmission, so if that's a priority for you, do your research beforehand and prepare to pay a bit extra with a premium carrier.
3. Practically all airlines, however, will have reduced their inflight service, so check beforehand to see what will be available and if you need to book meals in advance or notify the airline of dietary requirements.
4. Bear in mind that many airlines won't accept anything other than contactless payments, so have your bank card or phone ready for in-cabin purchases.
5. The cabin crew will also be keen to reduce passenger movement in flight, so you may not be able to get up and stretch as often as you'll have been used to. Use lavatory facilities on the ground before you board and bring any travel pillows or other requirements to make sure you can settle in comfortably when you're on board.
Globe Aware offers flexibility when it comes to protecting yourself and others. In case your volunteer vacation destination is impacted by the Delta variant, Globe Aware will work with you and your family to reschedule your dates and even location.
Is It Safe to Plan International Fall Travel Right Now?
We speak to experts about how the Delta variant could impact upcoming travel plans.
BY SHANNON MCMAHON
July 26, 2021
This year, as much of the United States became vaccinated against the coronavirus and other nations mounted their own vaccine rollouts, experts estimated that international travel would rebound by autumn—if enough of the world became inoculated. But with lagging vaccinations and cases rising again globally thanks to the highly contagious Delta variant, what does that mean for fall travel?
While breakthrough cases among vaccinated people were always expected, and primarily present mild symptoms, the Delta variant, which is now widespread in the U.S., is changing the course of infections in under-vaccinated areas. And it's leading to some returning restrictions: After a case spike in Las Vegas, for example, employees in the city are once again required to mask indoors, and officials in some places are warning against travel to the area.
“We're at quite a junction now with the Delta variant, because what's become apparent in the past few weeks is even vaccinated people, at a low frequency, are starting to get infected,” says Dr. David Freedman, an emeritus infectious-disease specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham whose COVID-19 research has focused on travel. “People don't want to go away and get sick, especially somewhere they can't get good medical care.”
If you’re planning on traveling this autumn, here’s what to consider about sticking with or postponing your plans.
Should I book fall travel right now?
According to experts, it depends on your health status and the epidemiological situation where you’re going. Those with underlying conditions should reconsider traveling abroad even if they are vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which now offers country-specific travel guidance that ranges from a Level 4 (COVID-19 Very High) alert to Level 1 (COVID-19 Low). In general, unvaccinated people should avoid international travel, according to the CDC, and those who are vaccinated should avoid nonessential travel to Level 4 destinations.
As for how travel will be impacted over the coming months, the trajectory of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. remains unclear, Freedman says, mainly because that trend will depend heavily on the amount of people who decide to get vaccinated. According to the CDC, which collects national data sets predicting the future spread of the disease in the U.S., “Newly reported COVID-19 cases will remain stable or have an uncertain trend, with 92,000 to 803,000 new cases likely reported in the week ending August 14, 2021,” with the vast majority of those cases occurring among unvaccinated people. (About 332,000 cases were reported in the last week, for comparison.) It is worth noting, however, that COVID-19 cases have historically risen in fall, when colder weather drives people back indoors.
For that reason, travel could be risky for immunocompromised people, even if they are vaccinated. “People need to be honest with themselves, and if they have underlying health problems those are really the people who should not travel,” Freedman says. The bottom line, he notes, is that vaccinated people are much less likely to get severely sick.
Will destinations remain open?
Some destinations that recently thrust open their doors to summer tourists are already reimposing restrictions due to the Delta variant. While many countries in Europe are allowing Americans again, some recently brought back curfews and indoor-dining restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. Greece, for example, has banned music in bars and set curfews in nightlife spots like Mykonos. France, which is only allowing vaccinated visitors, will also begin requiring proof of inoculation to dine indoors. In the Caribbean, Turks and Caicos has narrowed its time frame for visitors to acquire a negative coronavirus test, shortening the window from five days before arrival to three. Europe travel could also shut down at any moment thanks to terms built into the European Union’s tourism reopening: Member states can halt travel at any time via an “emergency brake” established by E.U. leaders. The region’s tourism plan relies on a digital health pass that is available to Americans for use.
“The rules are still ever-changing,” says Michaela Moore, a travel advisor for Creative Vacations who has clients traveling to both the Caribbean and Europe this summer. “It’s been a challenge to stay on top of.” Moore says that it’s become her job to give travelers the most up-to-date rules so they can make decisions about what type of travel they’re most comfortable with. The easiest, and therefore more popular, places for Americans to travel right now are Mexico and the Caribbean, she says, followed by Europe, which is proving slightly more difficult to navigate; Africa and Asia trips have largely been put on hold.
How can I safeguard my trip?
If you choose to travel internationally this fall, Moore advises you invest in the right travel insurance and only book changeable flights and accommodations, in case a spike in cases at your destination means you’ll have to postpone your trip. ‘Cancel for any reason’ insurance is most helpful in those scenarios, and is typically separate from standard trip insurance that kicks in during travel for things like emergency flights home or alternative accommodations if you have to quarantine. It’s crucial that travelers make sure they have medical insurance that will cover them abroad, Moore says, as most U.S. health-insurance providers can’t provide coverage internationally. Travelers can also choose to visit countries with better healthcare systems that are less likely to be overwhelmed by a sudden rise in cases, and nations with high vaccination rates that make a sudden outbreak far less likely.
“A lot of people are over COVID even though COVID is not necessarily over us,” says Moore. “I give them the rules and provide them with all the information they need, and then they need to make the decision they're most comfortable with about traveling.”
Freedman says we can also keep an eye out for signals that travel restrictions might return post-summer and complicate the fall travel season, including steadily rising cases in the U.S. through August, which could compel other countries to again close to Americans.
“There's going to be increasing bureaucratic hurdles if Delta doesn't get under control in the next month or so,” Freedman says. “If that doesn't happen, once people stop spending so much time outdoors, countries are likely going to put even more inconvenient restrictions in place.”
With that in mind, it's as important to keep up with your own local epidemiological situation as your destination's—and to have planned your travel as flexibly as possible in case either area's case rate impacts your plans.
Vietnam Airlines is resuming more international routes as the airline starts preparing for the reopening of the country. Globe Aware is optimistic our volunteers will be ably to visit the country safely in 2022.
Vietnam Airlines Brings Back More International Routes In Preparation For Reopening
July 13, 2021
Vietnam Airlines is resuming more international routes as the airline starts preparing for the reopening of the country. While the airline has been operating some international flying over the last year, the carrier is now bringing back more regular flights to points in Australia, Europe, and Asia starting this month.
Vietnam Airlines starts to bring back international routes
To serve the needs of essential workers, international students, and any other official travelers who need to come to Vietnam, the carrier will be resuming several international routes.
To Australia, Vietnam Airlines will be flying between Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) and Sydney International Airport (SYD) with two flights per week from July 15th through October 30th. A second flight to Australia will run once per week from SGN to Melbourne Airport (MEL) from July 20th through October 30th.
Meanwhile, Europe will see Vietnam Airlines service with some relatively specific dates in mind. Frankfurt Airport (FRA) will see flights from Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) on July 25th, 38th, and August 21st. Return flights to Vietnam will run on July 26th, 29th, and August 22nd.
London Heathrow Airport (LHR) will see nonstop service from HAN on August 14th and September 2nd. Return flights from London to Hanoi will run on August 14th and September 3rd.
Closer to home, Vietnam Airlines will be flying between Hanoi and Tokyo Narita International Airport (NRT) with two flights per week from July 17th to October 30th. Narita to Ho Chi Minch City will also resume. Next up will be flying between Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) and Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) from August 1st to October 30th.
Vietnam Airlines will be flying widebodies on international flights. This will include both Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 aircraft. Both jets feature lie-flat products in business class.
Preparing for the return of international travel
Vietnam Airlines is expanding its international flight network in preparation for handling two-way flight operations.
Vietnam was well-renowned during the crisis for strict entry restrictions, including mandated quarantines for international travelers. While many of those restrictions remain in place, there are signs that Vietnam is looking to reopen.
Vietnam Express reports that the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism is looking to reopen Phu Quoc for foreign tourists. This pilot program would allow fully vaccinated travelers from Europe, the US, and some Asian countries to visit the island.
A tourist destination located off the coast of Vietnam, the island could work well for international tourism. Thanks to its isolation from the mainland, it is possible to more easily isolate the virus if the reopening does not go as planned. Plus, with a small population, it is easier to vaccinate all residents there.
When will Vietnam reopen?
Vietnam has taken a very strict approach to the pandemic. With case spikes – even comparatively small ones – the country has not hesitated to lock down the most impacted areas. However, the recent spike has proven to be more difficult to control.
However, locking down and shutting down entirely is not sustainable. Vietnam is hoping for vaccinations to help reopen the country. However, the country has gotten doses out to less than 4% of its population, with less than 1% fully vaccinated, according to data from the New York Times at the time of writing. Recently, the country received two million doses from the United States government.
It will likely be a few months before Vietnam reopens more fully. Phu Quoc could be the only option for travelers looking to vacation in the country in 2021 – assuming it does open up and meet vaccination targets. More of Vietnam will likely follow in 2022, as the country gets to higher vaccination numbers.
When Vietnam is ready to reopen its borders, Vietnam Airlines is expected to resume more international flying. While the carrier did operate routes to the United States during the pandemic for repatriation purposes, it has spent time considering nonstop routes to the United States, though nothing has materialized just yet.
The country has decided to resume international flights while allowing domestic services to operate at full throttle, following a drop in Covid-19 cases in the country. Globe Aware volunteers interested in Nepal, can visit our site to learn more about our brand new volunteer vacation in Chitwan.
Nepal cautiously reopens international flights
The Cabinet has also permitted regular domestic flights by following health safety protocols.
July 8, 2021
Nepal cautiously reopens international flights while allowing domestic services to operate at full throttle, following a drop in Covid-19 cases in the country.
Tourism Joint Secretary Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane told the Post that a Cabinet meeting on Monday had authorised the ministry to resume passenger flights on international sectors based on the country’s needs and travel demand.
The Cabinet has also permitted regular domestic flights by following health safety protocols. Lamichhane said that domestic flights would be allowed to operate at full capacity from Sunday.
“With regard to international sectors, we will meet on Thursday to decide how to proceed. There will be some limitations on some sectors as the Covid-19 risk still prevails in some countries.”
“The Cabinet decision has come as a relief to people travelling in and out of Nepal as there will be adequate flights from next week,” said Lamichhane. “There are concerns over flight tickets becoming expensive due to the limited number of flights.”
The government had restricted domestic flights from midnight of May 3 and international flights from midnight of May 6 as the second wave of Covid-19 gripped the country.
On June 21, the government allowed a limited number of scheduled international flights after virus caseloads started to drop. Flight frequencies on domestic sectors were capped at 50 percent of pre-Covid levels.
Airlines have been urging the government to fully unshackle domestic flights after heavy monsoon rains damaged several national highways connecting Kathmandu with the rest of the country, severely curtailing overland travel.
“There has been massive demand for air seats due to the damage caused by floods and landslides to national highways across the country,” said Birendra Basnet, managing director of Buddha Air. “As per our assessment, there could be demand for nearly 15,000 air seats in the domestic sector daily if flights are operated as per normal schedules.”
The Narayanghat-Mugling and Narayanghat-Butwal highways including other key routes have been blocked from last week due to landslides. According to airline officials, the onset of the wedding season has also increased demand for air seats.
“Flight tickets are expensive as airlines are allowed to conduct only 50 percent of their services. As soon as flight frequencies return to normal levels, ticket prices will come down due to an oversupply of seats,” said Basnet.
Passengers have been complaining about expensive air tickets in the international sector since the government allowed a limited number of flights to some key destinations.
Abdullah Tuncer Kececi, general manager of Turkish Airlines for Kathmandu, told the Post that they plan to raise their frequency to three weekly flights from the current two weekly flights. Turkish Airlines, the only carrier connecting Nepal and Europe, flies on Thursdays and Saturdays.
Kececi said that passengers would be relieved if regular passenger flights are not stopped again. “Allowing regular flights will allow airlines to plan and also people to plan their travels. This will help the market to work in a healthy way.”
Despite the resumption of regular services, there are many countries, including China, that have not allowed flight connectivity with Nepal.
Dhiraj Shrestha, deputy sales manager at the China Southern Airlines office in Nepal, said that China Southern had no immediate plans to resume its Nepal flights. “The company has no immediate plans to resume flights based on the Covid-19 cases assessment in Nepal.”
From a high of 9,317 cases on May 11, the number of new cases on Wednesday has been reported at 2,077, taking the nationwide infection tally to 650,162.
The countrywide death toll has now reached 9,291 with 28 Covid-related deaths on Wednesday. The number of active cases stands at 26,544.
As per the existing travel protocols, fully vaccinated arrivals need to isolate themselves at home for 10 days, and those who have not been vaccinated have to spend seven days in quarantine in hotels recommended by the government.
The government issued prohibitory orders in most parts of the country at the end of April to help check the spread of the virus as the second wave of the pandemic hit Nepal.
Recently Globe Aware took an online survey, and the most requested travel destination was Kenya! Here are just 10 of the many reasons why we agree, and visit our website to learn more about the impact we make in this beautiful country!
Longing for a once in a lifetime getaway? 10 reasons why Kenya should be at the top of your post-pandemic travel bucket list!
It's the fantasy that's been keeping us all going through a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions; the dream holiday!
So what's your ideal escape?
For some it's a white powder beach and crystal clear waters, for others it's awe-inspiring landscapes. Or how about the chance to see nature's most incredible creatures up close and personal or the adrenaline-filled fun of sporting adventures?
Whatever your dream holiday, you can do it all in Kenya!
From mountains to beaches and vast plains to vibrant cities, this wonderful country has got it all. Whether you're a couple seeking out romance or a family looking to create memories, this is the destination where once in a lifetime experiences are around every corner.
Read on for just 10 reasons why Kenya should be at the top of YOUR post-pandemic travel bucket list...
1. The locals
Wherever you travel, it's always good to get to know the locals.
But in Kenya that means so much more, thanks to the incredibly diverse wildlife that inhabits the country.
In fact, with 25,000 different animal species and a huge variety of up-close experiences on offer, you'll truly be immersed in the wonder of our natural world.
Stay in remote camps and lodges that take you away from the crowds, but which put you right in the centre of the animal kingdom.
Here you can spot the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo) as they go about their daily lives, or set off on a guided exploration of the many reservations and parks where you can enjoy day and night drives, as well as private bush walks.
And for another bucket-list sight, why not visit the lakes in Kenya's Great Rift Valley, where you can see one of the most colourful spectacles on earth - a flamboyance of flamingos feeding in the shallow waters!
2. A whole year of amazing experiences
Kenya's climate is warm and temperate all year round, making it the perfect destination whether you're looking for winter sun or a getaway that fits into the school holidays.
Plus, no matter when you choose to visit, you're guaranteed a whole host of incredible experiences with the country's animal inhabitants.
If you want to see young wildebeest and zebra tagging along after their mothers then aim to be on safari between January and March. This birthing season also sees predators like lions come out in force, so you'll have the chance to see them on the hunt.
See the Masaai Mara looking its absolute best during the green season between April and June, or see that spectacular Great Migration in the months of July, August and September.
And with cultural festivals, eco-tourism opportunities, balloon safaris, walking tours, homestays, deep sea fishing, windsurfing, coffee tours and countless other once in a lifetime experiences taking place throughout the year, whenever you go to magical Kenya, it'll be a trip you remember forever.
3. A safari with a difference
Kenya's landscapes are as varied as its wildlife.
And in its northern region you can discover the wide open spaces of the Chalbi Desert. Explore this fascinating area, home to Lake Turkana, the world's largest desert lake and UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as a stunning area of oases where you'll find groves of tropical palm trees!
Known as the Cradle of Mankind, Northern Kenya is also the site of some of the world's most important prehistoric discoveries which tell almost the entire story of human evolution, like the 1.6 million year old complete skeleton of the Turkana Boy.
Combined with the rich cultural heritage of the region's 14 tribes, a visit to the north of Kenya will open your eyes to a whole new world.
4. The coastline
When you think of Kenya, safaris and sparse plains come to mind. But did you know its coastline is also one of the most beautiful in the world?
With white sandy beaches and warm clear waters, there are plenty of coastal resorts where you can kick back and soak up the sun in peace.
From the tranquility of Tiwi, a true hidden gem loved by locals, to the water sports and club scene of Malindi, there's one to suit all travellers. You can even indulge in an after-dark swim at Kilifi, when the natural bioluminescence in the tidal creek creates a truly magical experience you'll never forget.
Spend your whole getaway enjoying the gentle sea breeze and laid back atmosphere, or why not take a couple of days at the beach as a break from the action and early mornings of your safari?
But don't worry, there's still wildlife to discover. The warm Indian Ocean provides the perfect habitat for diverse species like dolphins, starfish and whale sharks, not to mention the coral gardens, reefs and mangroves, all waiting to be explored in the country's marine parks.
5. An island paradise awaits
Talking of beaches...
No visit to Kenya is complete without a stay on the Lamu Archipelago.
Comprised of four main islands - Lamu, Manda, Pate and Kiwayu - it's a place like no other, combining idyllic beaches and sparkling reefs with Arabic architecture and historic sites.
Add in bohemian boutiques, its reputation as a refuge for artists, fashionable restaurants and beach bars and the privacy afforded by its remoteness, and it's no surprise that Lamu is now the destination of choice for A-list stars looking to get away from prying eyes.
Board a traditional dhow boat for a sunset cruise, drink in hand, explore Lamu Old Town, the oldest and best preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa and picnic on the pristine sands of its hidden beaches, and you'll feel like you've truly escaped to a paradise on earth.
6. Endless adventures
For something a bit more high octane, you'll find water sports like kite-surfing, rafting, diving and jet-skiing on offer, or set out on an adventure back on dry land with a trip to Mount Kenya.
With its sheer cliff faces and snowcapped peaks, it's home to a diverse range of terrains, making it the ideal place for climbers, hikers and trekkers to reach new heights.
Experienced climbers can tackle Mount Kenya's main summits, Batian and Nelion, but those who want the breathtaking views without such an intense ascent, can scale Lenana, the mountain's third highest peak.
Or why not book a walking safari? These guided tours are a brilliant way to experience Kenya's flora and fauna and to learn about the wildlife of its national parks, with the spectacular scenery and unspoilt landscapes providing the backdrop.
And if, after all that, you're still feeling energetic you can rent a bike and cycle the quiet paths of the Rift Valley, Maasai Maara and the Kenyan coast.
What a fantastic way to experience the magic of Kenya up close and at your own pace.
7. Conservation in action
Kenya has one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, so it's no surprise the culture of conservation has been embraced across the country, with initiatives to protect the land and the animals that inhabit it.
From government programmes, to local community enterprises, visitors to Kenya are able to witness conservation in action, as well as help contribute to its continued success.
Not only is there a national ban on hunting in Kenya, but there are many orphanages across the country, dedicated to caring for orphaned and endangered animals, where travellers can watch the rehabilitation process up close.
The memories you'll take away will last a lifetime, as will the knowledge that by visiting these incredible organisations, you did your bit to help protect Kenya's wonderful wildlife.
8. A warm welcome
If you want to truly immerse yourself in an authentic Kenyan experience, spending time with the Maasai Mara tribe is a must.
Not only can you stay in Maasai-owned lodges, but you can go on bush walks and game drives led by Maasai guides, enabling you to learn about the people of this incredible place, as well as the animals.
In the evenings there's the opportunity to enjoy music and dance while discovering more about the tribe's traditions and history. Or get really hands-on with a warrior training session where you'll be taught how to throw spears, fight with sticks and use Maasai bows and arrows.
By choosing Maasai-owned accommodation and activities, not only will you get a genuine understanding of a unique way of life, you'll also help it to continue as tourism is a vital source of income for the tribe.
9. Vibrant cities
After a few days exploring the far reaches of Kenya's vast plains, deserts and mountains, get a hit of urban life in one of the country's vibrant cities.
The capital, Nairobi, is a thriving and modern metropolis where you can shop 'til you drop, sip coffee at bustling cafes, enjoy an indulgent dinner at one of the city's outstanding restaurants and STILL see incredible wildlife at the Nairobi National Park!
The park is home to large herds of zebras, wildebeests, buffalos, giraffes, rhinos, leopards and lions, all living wild within 20 minutes of the central business district!
Or head to Mombasa to experience a diverse city that combines world class hotels and restaurants, with historic forts and hipster street food markets, with beaches right on your doorstep!
10. A very special event
While animal experiences are abundant in Kenya, there's one in particular that's truly unique.
A visit to the Maasai Mara National Reserve will bring you close to over 100 mammal species including zebra, gazelle, antelope, giraffe, ostrich and cheetah, as well as over 450 species of birds.
But to witness one of nature's most incredible events, plan your trip around the time of the Great Migration.
Watch as herds of wildebeest make their way from Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, across the crocodile-infested Mara River, in search of fresh water and grass.
Seeing this battle for survival will be sure to stay with you long after you've flown home.
Visit magicalkenya.com to discover more and to book your dream holiday now...
This is the summer of the vaccinated travel has in the US, and it's wreaking havoc on some of the nation's airlines and airports. Here are some ways for our Globe Aware volunteers to avoid stress that comes with
I volunteer at a major airport and deal with hundreds of unprepared travelers. Here are 12 ways to avoid lines and have a stress-free summer travel experience
Jul 1, 2021
- Americans have been taking to the skies this summer more than any season since the start of the pandemic.
- Airlines and airports are still adjusting to increased passenger levels, causing long lines and delays.
- These travel tips will help flyers avoid lines and move through the airport easier.
The summer of vaccinated travel has arrived in the US, and it's wreaking havoc on some of the nation's airlines and airports.
AAA estimates that 47.7 million Americans will travel over Fourth of July weekend and air travel will likely see a large share of that number. Every day since June 22 has seen more than 1.8 million travelers depart from US airports and four days in that period have seen more than two million.
Long lines will be the norm as travelers descend upon airports and airlines are still struggling to adjust to increased passenger volume following months of slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The onus, this summer, will be on travelers to help themselves instead of relying on the airlines to get them to where they need to be.
I volunteer at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and see the most common ways travelers make the airport experience harder than it has to be.
Here's how to have a smoother travel experience this summer.
Check-in online for a flight 24 hours in advance
Online check-in takes no more than a few minutes but can save travelers hours of waiting in line. Flyers can review flight details, change seats, pay for baggage allowance, print boarding passes, and even have boarding passes sent to a phone.
Flyers that get a boarding pass by checking in online can head straight to the security checkpoint when arriving at the airport if they don't have a bag to check.
The check-in rule will also help Southwest Airlines flyers get a better seat as boarding groups are assigned based on check-in time.
Airlines will also use check-in time when determining which flyers to take off a flight in the event that it's oversold.
Those checking a bag should pay the baggage fee online to save time at the airport. Some carriers like JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines have bag drop systems where flyers use a kiosk to print their bag tag and then drop it on a conveyor belt.
Download and update all airline mobile applications
Nearly every major US airline has a mobile app that, much like online check-in, can often be used to avoid long check-in lines altogether. Travelers that only plan to bring carry-on bags can go straight to the security screening checkpoint with only a mobile boarding pass.
Airline apps will also have phone numbers and contact options in the event of a delay or cancellation. Flyers can change or cancel their flights on most airline apps, as well.
Arrive extra early for domestic flights and super early for international flights
Even the most experienced travelers can be trapped in a long line and miss their flight. Airlines are short-staffed after reducing headcounts during the pandemic and holiday travel weekends will only compound pressure on staff.
Travelers checking bags should arrive extra early to hedge against long lines. Most airlines advise arriving at least two hours in advance for domestic flights and three hours for international flights but flyers should be more cautious and allow extra time.
And even carry-on passengers should arrive early in case of long lines at the security screening checkpoint or if something goes wrong.
International flights often require additional protocols at check-in where an airline employee will have to verify travel documents and COVID-19 tests. Lines are often longer for international departures since flyers often bring checked baggage and now the added burden of verifying COVID-19 documents means flyers should allow for extra time.
Use apps like Verifly for international flights
Some airlines are using third parties to verify COVID-19 documentation and are letting customers that use the free services cut the line at airports.
American Airlines partners with Verifly, a company that offers mobile health passport services, to speed along the check-in process for international flyers. Travelers upload a profile to the Verifly app, as well as their COVID-19 test results, and have their documentation digitally reviewed long before they arrive at the airport.
American has dedicated check-in lines for Verifly users that have shorter wait times than normal lines. The process can take a few days, however, so flyers should upload the info as early as possible.
Be aware of COVID-19 requirements and print out tests
Many international destinations require negative COVID-19 tests as a prerequisite to entry, and each destination has its own rules on the recency and type of tests required.
Airlines will direct travelers to check-in desks so an employee can review COVID-19 tests. In that case, passengers should arrive extra early in case lines are long.
Having COVID-19 tests printed out can also speed along the process at check-in and arrival in a foreign country.
Travelers without proper tests will often be denied boarding. Some airports do have testing sites but privately-owned sites can charge upwards of $100 for a test.
Some countries also require applying for visas or approvals to enter the country that wasn't once mandated, and flyers should check the entry requirements of their destination country with their airline and the US embassy in that country.
Use TSA PreCheck and Clear at security checkpoints
Flyers may spend a long period of time at check-in only to face another line at the security checkpoint. First class flyers and elite status holders can often use dedicated priority lanes but another method to skip the line is by enrolling in the Transportation Security Administration's PreCheck program.
PreCheck lines are often shorter and travelers in the program save time by leaving their shoes on, laptops in bags, and jackets on, among other perks. Travelers that don't currently have TSA PreCheck can get a five-year membership for $85.
Another method of skipping the line is enrolling in a membership with Clear, a private company that brings members to the front of security lines. Clear isn't available in every terminal but can save time where available.
Travelers can have both a TSA PreCheck membership and Clear membership for double effectiveness, with the latter costing $179 per year. Free trials for Clear are often available and some airlines give their frequent flyers discounts on memberships.
Make the most of airport lounges
Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum and Centurion cardholders have complimentary access to Priority Pass lounges around the world. Lounges typically feature plush seating along with free WiFi and complimentary food and beverages.
American Express Platinum and Centurion cardholders also have access to exclusive Centurion Lounges, known for exquisite food and drinks, as well as Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta Air Lines. Delta Air Lines American Express Reserve cardholders can also access Centurion Lounges and Sky Clubs when flying Delta.
Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders enrolled in Priority Pass can also dine at some airport restaurants for nearly free, as Insider found on a recent layover in Washington, DC.
Be prepared for a delay or cancellation
Busy travel times are when delays and cancellations are likely to happen, especially as airlines adjust to flying more people. Travelers need to be proactive and have a plan of action ready.
As soon as a delay or cancellation strikes, travelers should be searching for backup options and have a plan to execute them. An hour-long flight delay might very well turn into four hours or even a cancellation, as Insider found on a recent trip to South America.
Long hold times are common but flyers should at least call and get themselves on the callback queue, if an airline has one, in case they need to talk to a reservation agent down the line. Messaging an airline through their apps or using Twitter to direct message an airline as soon as a delay strikes can also help, just so a dialogue is opened as soon as possible.
Flyers should also know where the nearest customer service center is in as agents there can also help flyers.
Use credit card perks like travel insurance
Travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum have built-in travel insurance that can be used if delays strike, if the travel was paid for by that card. Each card has different requirements and spending allowances but it can help mitigate the inconvenience of a delay or cancellation.
"If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 6 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for Unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket," Chase's website reads.
If bad weather or sickness strikes, some trip insurance will also cover any prepaid costs like airfare or pre-arranged tours. Baggage delay insurance will also cover expenses if a checked bag is lost by the airline.
Know your rights as a passenger
In the event of an airline-initiated delay or cancellation for an issue other than weather, passengers are often entitled to amenities that help make the delay easier to bear.
Meal vouchers are often distributed in the event of a lengthy delay and airlines will give hotel vouchers if an overnight stay is required away from the traveler's home city.
If a flight is delayed or canceled and another is available at a nearby airport, airlines will often provide transportation to the alternate airport. After the trip is complete, flyers can request delay compensation from an airline to make up for the lost time.
Use your elite status or first class perks
Airlines often have dedicated check-in lines for their most frequent flyers with elite status or first class flyers. If checking in with an airline employee is a must, elite status holders or premium cabin flyers can take advantage of the shorter wait times on those lines.
Bring extra masks
Wearing a face mask while in an airport or on an airplane is still required by federal law in the US, and mandatory by most airlines around the world.
Airlines will also have masks to offer passengers in case they forget a mask, need a replacement mask, or simply need an extra one.
If a Globe Aware volunteer tests positive for COVID-19 or learn that they were exposed to the virus while traveling, it’s important to be responsible, doing everything possible to avoid spreading it. Follow these tips to help spare other people the same fate and limit your added expenses!
What to Do If You Get COVID-19 While Traveling: 8 Tips to Get Back on Track
Getting sick while traveling doesn’t have to be a disaster.
Alicia A. Wallace
It’s been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic forced major changes to most of our lives. Countries all over the world continue to have a hard time responding to the spread of the virus and the resulting crises.
Since the vaccine became available, more countries have opened their borders. People who have been itching to travel can finally hit the road.
There’s still some risk in traveling during the pandemic, but it feels a bit safer.
Some people want to escape the homes they’ve been cooped up in. Others desperately want to see their family members.
And others need to take a mental health break, go to a place with different weather, move for a new job, or get access to a service that’s not available in their home countries.
Whatever the reason, people are traveling, and the tourism industry is making room.
What to expect if you test positive
Vaccinated people have a sense of security because of the protection provided by antibodies. But it’s still possible to contract COVID-19, even after you’ve had your full dose.
It’s especially risky if people don’t wear masks or don’t properly wash their hands, sanitize, and practice physical distancing.
Taking these measures isn’t just about preventing illness. It isn’t even just about preventing the spread. It may also be the difference between getting back home — or not.
Most countries now require a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or rapid antigen test for (re)entry of residents and visitors alike. Even if you’re asymptomatic, you likely won’t be able to return to your home country as planned if you test positive for COVID-19.
That could result in a cancellation or change fees on your flight, additional hotel days, an increase in spending on food and other supplies, and possible loss of workdays.
It costs less money to take the precautions and continue to follow COVID-19 safety protocol.
How to handle COVID-19 on the go
If you test positive for COVID-19 or learn that you were exposed to the virus while traveling, it’s important to be responsible, doing everything possible to avoid spreading it.
This kind of news can be disorienting, but you’ll need to act quickly to spare other people the same fate and limit your added expenses.
The tips below can help you get back on track with your travel plans sooner rather than later.
Do the math
If you test positive, you may be able to figure out when you contracted the virus based on the timing of any previous tests and your recent activities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, asymptomatic people can discontinue isolation 10 days after testing positive.
Still, it’s possible to test positive beyond that period, even if you’re no longer able to pass on the virus.
If that’s the case, you may need to prepare to stay where you are for a longer period of time, depending on the restrictions of the country you’re in.
Reschedule your flight
You can reschedule your return flight based on your best estimate of when you contracted the virus and when you are likely to test negative.
It’s usually best to do this by phone, so an agent can help you with fare differences and change fees. Have something handy to take notes, because the options will likely be more than you can remember.
Sorting this out early can save you money and will definitely spare you some guessing games.
Book appropriate accommodations
Find a place to stay for your entire isolation period. You need an accommodation where you won’t have to leave for meals, ice, restroom use, or anything else.
- a kitchenette
- 24-hour staff
- a restaurant
- an onsite or nearby convenience store
- a sympathetic bellhop or concierge
Go for a room with a kitchenette, so you have the ability to refrigerate food items and cook. Contactless delivery might not be an option in every country, and it can get expensive.
Be sure to let the staff know you don’t need your room serviced and use the “do not disturb” indicator if one is available, so housekeeping doesn’t come in.
If you communicate with them, the staff may even be able to help you get necessary personal items, like toiletries, and leave them outside your door. They’ll likely be grateful that you’re taking precautions and respecting their safety.
Book your next COVID-19 test
Now that you have a flight booked and place to stay, you need to schedule another COVID-19 test.
Make sure this test is both:
- ten or more days after your first positive test
- within the window required by your home country, which is typically 72 hours
If possible, use a concierge service where someone will come to you to administer the test. This way, you won’t expose anyone else to the virus. There will likely be a convenience fee.
If this option isn’t available to you, and you’re driving, you can opt for a drive-thru test. Many airports are now offering COVID-19 tests to travelers.
Make notes, and check them often
There will be a lot to keep track of during this period. Don’t leave anything to chance.
Take note of:
- dates and times of your test
- how long your test results are valid in your home country
- check-out times for your accommodations
- check-in times for your flight
- any other necessary details, like train or bus timetables
Once you’re settled into your room, meal plan. If your budget is tight, try to plan meals that make use of the same ingredients. For example, if you like eggs for breakfast and you have to buy a dozen, you may consider making quiche for your lunches.
You don’t want to order too many grocery items that you’ll end up throwing away or stuffing into your luggage.
Order groceries and necessary supplies
Once you’ve made a grocery list, place the order for delivery or ask accommodation staff if they can help you get what you need. If you go for the second option, be prepared to tip generously.
Do not, under any circumstances, venture out to do the shopping.
Don’t forget to include:
- vitamins and supplements, like vitamin C
- any necessary medications
- a thermometer
- sources of hydration
You may feel completely fine, but there’s no telling how that positive test result will affect your mental health.
Being able to check your temperature and take supplements daily can help a lot.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, make sure to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Pedialyte, or even sports drinks in a pinch, can restore lost electrolytes due to vomiting or diarrhea. This is especially important in hot climates.
If you test positive for COVID-19, chances are you are stressed, feel sick, are far from home, and have logistical details to work out.
You might not want to announce on your social media that you’ve tested positive or been exposed to COVID-19, but you should definitely let a trusted loved one know what’s going on.
Be clear with them about how you’re feeling and the kind of support you think you’ll need. Maybe you’d like quick daily check-ins via text message, or maybe you need them to run interference with other people you’re not ready to deal with yet.
Ask for help.
It might be a good time to schedule some extra telehealth sessions with your therapist, too.
Do something nice for yourself
Being stuck in a room that isn’t even in your own house under stressful circumstances is likely not be the vacation you had in mind. You can still make it a better experience for yourself with some effort.
Order fresh flowers or a plant, a nice mug to have your morning beverage in, some essential oils and a small diffuser, or even a fancy body wash.
If you can, go for room service and order some pay-per-view. If you brought your own computer, what better time for a favorite TV show binge-watch?
These small things can help brighten your days and give you a greater sense of control.
Testing positive for COVID-19 is an unwelcome surprise under any circumstance. It comes with added stress if you’re traveling.
Before you leave home, be sure to budget for unexpected events. Be prepared to pay for a few extra nights and an additional COVID-19 test.
If you test positive, make the necessary plans to ensure that the following days go as smoothly as possible. It doesn’t have to be a disaster.
Keep your cool, take your to-do list one step at a time, and give yourself permission to ask for support and treat yourself to something nice.