Have you been traveling in the pandemic? Travel might be slow now, but the travel and tourism industry are bound to grow in the coming years. I doubt it will go back to what it once was. We will need to adjust to a “new normal” of learning to live with COVID-19. That being said, worldwide the travel bans have begun to lift. And there is an increase in travelers getting on planes to make up for all the restrictions from the past two years.
More countries are getting ready to welcome tourists with open arms and friendly smiles despite the health risks that still exist. In the Cayman Islands we finally moved to level 5 of our reopening process. This final step sees the removal of quarantine from fully vaccinated travelers with unvaccinated children. You can sense the increased urgency in getting the sector revitalized after being closed for so long. I believe we had one of the strictest and longest border closure spanning from March 2020 to November 2021! However, we did not suffer from constant lockdowns like other countries who reopened their borders earlier.
Travel is entirely different with a world of increased health guidelines, social distancing, face masks, covid-19 testing, and mandatory quarantine periods. In other words, traveling is no longer a three-step procedure of booking a flight, packing the bags, and going! Getting to that dream destination will take a little more planning. And due to these complex regulations, we have to rethink our travel plans. As a result there are quite a bit of hidden costs for consideration. Pre and post-flight COVID-19 tests, vaccination certificates, passenger locater forms, travel insurances, flight cancellation policies, and much more.
Covid-19 Testing and Quarantine Costs
There are still some international destinations that require visitors to quarantine despite presenting a negative PCR test. Or even if you are fully vaccinated. This quarantine will be at your own expense meaning that you will be paying for the accommodation, food, etc. These costs can quickly escalate if you keep testing positive. And it can get even more costly you are traveling with family rather than alone.
A PCR test could cost anywhere from $100-240usd. The acceptance of the Rapid Test or Lateral Flow test saw travelers experiencing some savings. However with the shortened test window from 72 to 24 hours, the savings were quickly negated. A long connection, or a missed flight would require multiple testing that would have otherwise not be needed with a 72 hour testing window. The other hidden costs here are shortened vacation time with the long lines to get tested sometimes on the day of travel.
Testing in a foreign country
This is especially hard when you are in a foreign country, and may need to drive for hours then wait to get tested if a testing center is not close to your accommodation. I am happy that most countries are now accepting certified zoom tests. About time, as everything else has gone remote since the pandemic. However the cost of this can be high. So you have to weigh that against the convenience and the extra hours to enjoy your last vacation day.
On my most recent trip I had to check out of my hotel before 8 am to travel to a testing center prior to the airport to catch a 2pm flight. Instead of a few last moments enjoyments my accommodation; relaxing by the pool, having a drink at the bar, it was a few stressful hours before my departure.
Test prices can also vary depending on the country you are traveling to. Cheaper lateral flow tests and rapid antigen tests are accepted by the UK, USA and most Caribbean countries. But in countries like Australia ($150 per person) and Singapore ($125 per person), it is a must to do PCR tests before departure. They are more reliable than other tests but are certainly more expensive.
When traveling in the pandemic, best to know before you go!
Thus, for those who are traveling internationally, COVID-19 testing alone can add up to $500 on your budget (per person), and that is only if three tests are required before departure, after arrival, and upon arriving at the home country. In Cayman if you qualify to be exempt from quarantine you still have to take three certified antigen tests on Days 2, 5 and 10. If you test positive at any point you will then be subjected to a PCR test to confirm and immediate quarantine.
It is getting to the point where you want to be sure you will test negative prior to and during your travels. I remember friends reducing their interaction and became more heightened with their clean protocols up to a week before travel to reduce their risk. Because while all these tests are expensive it is less costly than a missed vacation or family reunion.
Travel Insurance Costs
Not all insurance companies offer COVID-19 treatment as a part of their medical coverage. So it is really important to have it under your travel insurance in case you contract the virus when in a foreign country. Best coverage will include treatment if needed, flight/accommodation cancellations and other medical expenses.
Once again, prices vary depending on the insurance company and country you are traveling to. In some countries it is a must to have travel insurance, for example, in Singapore, international travelers must have travel insurance with COVID-19 treatment with a cover of a minimum of S$30,000. This means that there is no choice but to get travel insurance despite the added expenses.
Depending on where you are traveling, transportation cost can quickly add up. From rental cars to petrol and or taxis. Since the pandemic, however many rental car companies sold off their vehicles in 2020. This has led to fewer rental cars to be offered to tourists, hence the increase in the prices during the pandemic.
What you paid in 2019 for the same route in won’t be the same in 2022, and it can be as much as doubled by now. The rise in oil prices worldwide has also influenced the rise in prices for airline tickets. This coupled with reduced flights and closed routes makes traveling not only longer but more costly.
Another factor influencing cost and prices is the social distancing. Airlines were forced to reduce their number of passengers to half the usual amount initially. Here in Cayman we only had the option of one flight per week to mainland USA. Thankfully some governments have declared that airlines can stick to the usual passenger number.
My final thoughts on traveling in the pandemic
You can never be sure of whether you will be able to get on the flight you booked, hence increasing your cost of travel. You will probably have to cancel the flight or altogether miss your return if you test positive while away. This could also affect your in another destination country during your journey. Bottom line is you never know and so its best to be prepared to incur these additional costs.
But you can try to mitigate your losses by:
- Booking your flight well in advance as possible
- Purchasing tickets that are refundable or offer no fee for changes
- Selecting good travel insurance
- Work on improving your immune system before travel. I spoke about that in this post last year.
- Have a back-up plan should you test positive on any leg of your journey.
However if you are not ready to take on all of this you may seek to satisfy your wanderlust with a good book. Gerry Isabelle of Dominican Abroad recently shared her list of 41 best travel books you are sure to find a favourite from!