I encourage everyone to try solo travel; I’ve had thrilling adventures around the world all by myself. I backpacked around Vietnam during the Vietnamese New Year (an unexpected and happy coincidence of the moment); I climbed the Great Wall of China alone on a January day so cold that I couldn’t feel my legs. I drove through the Australian Outback in 100 degree Fahrenheit heat; I swam in the Great Barrier Reef off Cairns. I sipped instant coffee at a hostel in Warsaw and made friends with some Germans. (You’ll notice this, especially as a solo globetrotter: German travelers are everywhere.) During the pandemic, I traveled solo to Scotland, where I hiked through the Highlands, then visited the grave of ‘Alexander McQueen – among others – on the epic -views-serving the Isle of Skye.
The challenge and excitement of solo travel is – to quote travel guru Rick Steves – one of the last great sources of legal adventure. Here are some things to know when researching solo travel during the pandemic.
Do your research and make a plan
Some travel agencies have a one-stop-shop for travel during the pandemic, including hubs to check reviews of your destinations. Plus, you need to know the answer to this question before you even buy your flight: are you able to enter the country with your current vaccination status? Some countries do not allow entry of unvaccinated travellers.
Know the rules and regulations of your country of exit and your country of entry. Most countries have specific rules for both. Say, for example, you plan to fly from the United States to Spain. You’ll want to check the U.S. and Spanish government’s border entry rules online. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a useful travel tool on his website, where you can select the country you’re going to to see country-specific travel information and health-related details, like Covid-19 vaccination requirements. There is also the CDC International Travel Page. It’s a good idea to cross-reference this information with the official recommendations of the country you are traveling to. And if you are entering or returning to the United States, check the “Requirements for air travelers to the United States.”
Traveling during a pandemic requires even more advance planning for the solo traveler who will be the CEO of their trip and oversee its execution. No matter where you’re going right now, if you’re planning to travel internationally, you’ll likely need to provide a negative Covid test, show proof of vaccination, and wear a mask. Most countries have a specific type of test they want you to take; find out what type of test you need to board the plane to your destination country. And speaking of boarding – check out the best airlines to fly during Covid-19classified according to their flexibility, health and safety measures and operational reliability.
Know the type of mask required
Know the destination country’s mask policy before entering – and the type of mask you must wear. If you don’t, you might end up like someone I know who almost got stuck in Chile because they had a cloth mask on instead of a blue surgical mask.
Remember that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires all travelers in the United States to wear masks.
spending time outdoors
Michelle Aquino, originally from the Philippines and raised in Queens, NY, has traveled to 38 US states and 35 countries. Aquino and his partner were on a year-long adventure around the world when the pandemic hit, and they had to make some quick decisions. “We had been to the Philippines, then we went to Vietnam in March 2020,” she says. “We landed in Hanoi and people were wearing hazmat suits. Vietnam really took this seriously,” she says.
When the couple returned to the United States, they continued to travel within the country, taking every precaution. Aquino’s advice for traveling during the pandemic includes taking advantage of outdoor spaces. For their travels through Asia, that meant going to waterfalls and outdoor markets. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they recently visited, they loved shopping at the outdoor farmer’s market. “We went to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum,” she says. They went early in the morning to avoid the larger crowds later in the day. “Get up early and try to be careful with your timing,” Aquino says.
Find accommodation during Covid-19
Most hotels and hostels have pandemic cleaning protocols in place. Look for accommodations that implement Covid safety practices. Hostels are great for solo travelers who aren’t splitting the cost of their stay with a friend or partner. Whether you are traveling alone or with others, hostels are also a great way to reduce the cost of an otherwise prohibitive business – international travel.
It’s also a great place to connect with other travelers. During Covid many tourist attractions are less crowded and hostels are often less booked. This means you can probably have more space than you otherwise would. If you’re a woman traveling alone, connecting with other women traveling alone is a great way to boost safety. You can find a companion to do things with and someone to tell where you are if you venture out alone. While studying abroad in Italy, Aquino relied on her friendships with other women traveling alone to enhance her safety by having a companion for activities.