Global travel is rushing back to the pre-pandemic normal – with a few exceptions

·6 min read
travel restrictions lifting holidays abroad overseas travel where to go on holiday - Getty
travel restrictions lifting holidays abroad overseas travel where to go on holiday - Getty

Over the course of the Covid crisis, few countries have been as synonymous with border closures and strict travel restrictions as Australia. Foreign visitors were banned for two years, even long-term residents faced a battle to get home, and footage from its draconian quarantine hotels regularly did the rounds on social media. So the news that Australia – as of today – has scrapped its final travel curbs – the requirement to provide proof of vaccination and complete a passenger locator form – feels significant. When it comes to global travel returning to the pre-pandemic normal, we’re entering the home straight.

Tight measures still linger in some countries. One need only look across the Tasman Sea, where New Zealand’s borders are open only to vaccinated travellers from visa-waiver countries, who must also take two rapid tests upon arrival. However, even these requirements will be relaxed at the end of July, and arduous regulations are generally now the exception, rather than the rule. Indeed, Telegraph Travel now counts 64 countries that have scrapped all Covid border rules.

Here we outline the state of play in all the world’s major travel destinations.

Europe leads the way

For the vast majority of short-haul travellers, holidays will feel very normal this summer. Not a single European country is persisting with testing for vaccinated arrivals, just two – the Netherlands and Slovakia, so hardly sun-and-sea favourites – continue to ban unvaccinated or unboosted Britons, and only a few – France, Spain, Malta, Luxembourg – require those whose jabs aren’t up to date to present evidence of a negative swab.

The rest – including Cyprus, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Austria, Albania, Belgium and Croatia – have scrapped all entry requirements.

Mask rules have also been largely ditched, with just a handful of countries still requiring them on public transport.

The Caribbean isn’t far behind

This tourism-reliant region is, unsurprisingly, also moving quickly towards the pre-pandemic normal. All travel restrictions have been lifted in a clutch of islands, including Aruba, Cuba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.

No major islands require vaccinated arrivals to take a test. However, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, The Bahamas, Dominica and St Lucia require unvaccinated visitors to show evidence of a negative test.

Only Puerto Rico – as a US territory – bans unvaccinated arrivals entirely.

Come winter, one can assume that even more of these hurdles will have been rolled back.

The American anomaly

While most of the Western world has been marching back towards normality, the USA, much to the annoyance of the travel industry, took an age to scrap its strict, within-24-hours-of-arrival testing requirements – applicable to all visitors, introduced in December 2021 after the emergence of the omicron variant, and only ditched on June 12. It is still banning unvaccinated arrivals entirely, with the exception of children – although there is currently no requirement to have had a booster. Even tighter rules apply in Canada, where all unjabbed adults are banned, and unvaccinated 12-17-year-olds can only visit if they are accompanying a vaccinated adult, take two tests on arrival, and self-isolate for up to 14 days.

Mask rules have largely been jettisoned in both countries. Yet you’re still likely to see plenty of people wearing them – they’ve become something of an unlikely weapon in the bitter culture wars.

canada travel holidays unvaccinated restrictions - Getty
canada travel holidays unvaccinated restrictions - Getty

A mixed bag in Latin America

The USA’s policy is a far cry from that of its neighbour to the south, Mexico, which has never enforced Covid travel restrictions of any kind. Elsewhere in Central and South America, the rules vary.

Argentina, Costa Rica and El Salvador have scrapped all travel restrictions, regardless of vaccination status.

Chile has no restrictions on entry, but visitors must be vaccinated to receive a “mobility pass” and gain entry to indoor public venues such as hotels and restaurants. Vaccine passes are also used in Ecuador and Peru.

Testing has been scrapped for vaccinated arrivals in all countries except Venezuela; a negative result is required in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Paraguay for those who have not been fully vaccinated.

Brazil and Uruguay are the only major countries in Latin America still banning unvaccinated travellers, though vaccinated arrivals can visit both without a test.

Mask rules vary. In Ecuador, for example, they are no longer mandatory; Colombia only requires their use on public transport; in Peru, there is a requirement to wear two masks (one cloth, one surgical) or a high-grade KN95/FFP2 mask in all public indoor spaces.

Asia is emerging, slowly

The country from which Covid emerged – China – remains one of the few places still completely closed to all foreign tourists (the others include Taiwan and a handful of Pacific island nations, such as Samoa, Marshall Islands and Micronesia). Given its unyielding Zero Covid policy, this looks likely to remain the case for some time.

Japan has finally ended its lengthy border closure, but remains extremely cautious – there’s a daily cap of 20,000 on overseas arrivals, and only vaccinated people who sign up to a highly regulated tour can currently visit. Needless to say, most would-be tourists are heading elsewhere.

South Korea is also being tentative, with all arrivals – including the vaccinated – still required to test.

Others, such as the UAE, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Laos, only require unvaccinated arrivals to take a test.

Some – including Cambodia, the Philippines, Singapore and Myanmar – are still banning unjabbed visitors entirely.

But a growing number of countries – Vietnam, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Jordan, Kuwait, Kazakhstan and Armenia among them – have now scrapped all travel rules, following Europe’s lead.

Masks, however, remain de rigueur in Asia – particularly the Far East and south-east Asia – more so than any other region.

malaysia travel - Getty
malaysia travel - Getty

Testing times in Africa

South Africa and Egypt recently became the first major African nations to scrap all entry requirements. It is surely no coincidence that they are also the continent’s most visited destinations.

The tourism-reliant Indian Ocean countries of Mauritius and the Maldives have also ditched all their rules (the Seychelles still requires unjabbed visitors to take a PCR test).

While most countries around the world have scrapped testing for vaccinated arrivals, several in Africa have not. This is the case in Madagascar and Rwanda, among others.

The vast majority, however, including the travel favourites of Morocco, Tunisia, Namibia and Tanzania, only require unjabbed visitors to take a test.

Very few countries – Kenya is one – ban unvaccinated arrival entirely.

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