u.s. says “do not travel” – what now?

Update 4/26: Within hours of posting this blog, the European Union announced its intention of welcoming back American travelers this summer. Will the U.S. reciprocate and remove countries from the Do Not Travel list? And is it the right thing to do if Europe continues to lag the U.S. in vaccination progress? Stay tuned!)

In mid-April, the U.S. State Department announced that it would designate 80% of the countries in the world as “Do Not Travel”. The reason was to better align with the recommendations of the CDC in terms of COVID-19 risks in other countries. On April 20, that list became a reality with a massive increase in the number of countries added as “Level 4” on the four-tier travel advisory list. Canada? Do Not Travel. Germany? Do Not Travel. Israel, a world leader in fully vaccinating its population? Do. Not. Travel.

What does this mean for travelers who were hoping to book flights for late spring or early summer? First, it is important to note that in almost every case, “Do Not Travel” is advisory only. If you want to book a ticket for next week to Costa Rica (you guessed it – Do Not Travel), you can fly nonstop to San Jose from at least five U.S. gateways. The bigger question is should you? We address these and related topics in our blog “Fifteen Travel Questions in the Wake of COVID-19”. Remember, at the time of this post around 25% of Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with nearly 40% having received at least one dose. Meanwhile, fewer than 25 countries have surpassed the 10% mark in terms of full vaccinations and most countries report fewer than 5% fully vaccinated. Hope as we might, the pandemic is far from over.

I thought it would be interesting to compare the limited destinations the U.S. has not listed as Level 4 to the list of countries that are allowing vaccinated Americans to come without quarantining on arrival. Before looking at that list, here are just a handful of the more popular destinations that are allowing (or will allow in May) Americans to which the State Department has just applied the “Do Not Travel” designation: Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Greece, Israel, Kenya, Mexico, Poland.

So which countries not on the Do Not Travel roster are allowing vaccinated Americans to visit? The list that doesn’t require quarantine is pretty small, and is subject to change:

• Belize
• Ghana
• Iceland
• Morocco
• Uganda
• Zambia
• Zimbabwe

Recognize that most of the countries above are “Level 3” which means Reconsider Travel. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for any international travel from the U.S. government.

So what are travelers supposed to do when they are itching to get back out into the world? The options are pretty limited. First, you can defer all international travel until the global COVID-19 situation significantly improves, focusing instead on domestic travel while working with your travel professional to plan now, book later for overseas trips. Second, you can choose to travel to one of the handful of countries on the list above, recognizing that the rules both overseas and at home are subject to change without notice. Third, you can work with your travel professional to assess other travel destinations that are allowing U.S. visitors, even if they are listed at Level 4. This is where having a travel professional with extensive risk management experience and a strong global network can be extremely helpful.

(Originally published April 25, 2021)

Rick Rosenfeld

President, Journey Softly

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