My First International Trip in 2 Years

Like most people, I haven’t embarked on an international adventure in quite some time. With the ongoing pandemic taking Ontario and Canada in and out of constant lockdowns and travel restrictions, combined with restrictions in other countries, it made it really challenging to plan a trip knowing that there was a huge chance things could change in an instant.

Now I know there are so many bigger issues and sacrifices people have had to make in the last two years. My inability to travel is for sure a first-world problem. However, for me, travel is such a huge part of my life that I really haven’t felt at all like myself in the last few years. It’s like having a huge hole in you that cannot be filled. So being able to finally embark on an international trip was so long overdue.

How did I decide on where to go?

Deciding on where to go was the first decision I had to make. Like anyone, I have millions of places on my bucket list, but during the pandemic, there are a lot more things I had to think about when choosing a destination. Things like:

  1. Does the place I’m going have good medical care if I was to get sick?
  2. What are the requirements if I do test positive while there?
  3. What sort of safety measures is the country taking? If any
  4. Is the country open to tourists or do they require you to quarantine upon arrival?
  5. Is a PCR or Antigen test required to enter the country?

There are seriously so many things to think about when traveling nowadays. It’s super annoying, but it’s just the reality of traveling responsibly right now. While keeping the above in mind, my sister and I landed on Costa Rica as our destination. There are a few reasons why…

No entry requirements: Costa Rica (at the time of writing this post) does not require a test or quarantine to enter. They do, however, require you to purchase travel insurance if you are not fully vaccinated. Even though I am fully vaccinated, I still purchased travel insurance anyway since my regular health insurance through my work didn’t cover any additional charges I could incur if I had to stay longer in the country if I tested positive.

For most up to date entry requirements, click here

Safety: Costa Rica will be implementing a vaccine passport program in early March. While we were visiting, we were only asked for proof of vaccine in one place (Tabacon Hot Springs in La Fortuna). I had joined a Facebook group full of regular travelers to the area to gain some insight on what else the country was doing which reassured me. In Costa Rica, most places have sinks outside their establishments or hand sanitizer for you to use before entering. Staff have masks on, and of course, most restaurants are open-air or outdoors so you can easily sit outside vs. inside.

Ease of Travel: After two years away from international travel, I was looking for an easy trip to do. I am an adventure seeker, but I wanted a place that wasn’t hard to travel through, was easy to book things in advance, find hotels, etc. Costa Rica hit the bill here as it’s an incredibly easy country to travel through and is set up so well for tourism. It’s also really family-friendly which is usually a clear sign of how easy it is to travel within.

What was traveling like?

After two years off, I was scared I didn’t even remember how to travel anymore. However, just like riding a bike, it comes back to you. One other worry I had was that I would be anxious the whole time about COVID and scared of getting sick, but I really didn’t think about it at all. Wearing masks has already become normal for us, so even though I had my mask on in busy areas, shuttles, taxis, etc. this still felt like a relaxing vacation away from reality.

I felt incredibly safe everywhere I went. As I mentioned, most restaurants were open-air or outside, our hotel’s common areas were the same, and on mostly all tours we went on, we were asked to wear a mask in the shared vehicles/when we weren’t outside. Just like at home, without fail, there will always be people who don’t wear their masks (or don’t wear them properly), which was a little annoying given that we did still need to get a negative PCR test to re-enter Canada at the end of the trip, but you can only really control yourself.

Tips for traveling in a pandemic

Here are some things I learned along the way and recommend that you consider or do if you choose to travel while COVID restrictions are still prevalent around the world:

  1. Buy Insurance: First off, make sure you have proper insurance to not only cover medical expenses if you get sick, but also any additional accommodations or expenses you may incur if you have to stay in that country for longer. Not all insurance covers you if you get COVID so make sure you not only buy insurance, but you understand what it includes.
  2. Have a Quarantine Plan: Okay, I don’t mean book a hotel incase you test positive, but just know what will be required from you if you test positive. Some countries make you go to their specified quarantine hotel (I’ve watched so many scary TikTok’s of people in Thailand), and some just let you choose where you stay as long as you quarantine yourself. Make sure you know what will happen if you test positive in that country so if it does happen, you are prepared and aren’t panicking to figure it out. Also ensure you know if or how you can change your flight.
  3. Set up Testing: Many countries still require you to test before you go back home, make sure that you book these tests in advance as there may not be walk-in options that can quarantine your results in time for your flight. A good place to ask is your hotel in your final destination. My hotel helped us arrange for the clinic to come right to our room and test us, and we had results within 8 hours.
  4. Be Ready to Pivot: Understand that things are constantly changing and you need to be ready to pivot. This may mean entirely canceling your trip, or just changing the type of test you need to get back to your own country. It’s important to ensure your hotels, activities, etc. have a cancellation policy, and that you are ready to change your plans last minute.
  5. Be Respectful: Every country has different rules and different comfort levels. Be respectful of their rules, and if they are different from what you are used to, know that it’s okay to be more strict and cautious then they are. We had taxi drivers that told us we didn’t need to wear our masks, but we still always did and opened all the windows for ventilation. It’s so easy to let your guard down while traveling and that’s okay if locals and others are doing it, but just know the risks and be prepared for them.

Really I just had missed travel so much. Exploring a different country, the language barriers, the adventure, the food, seriously, every part about it. I even missed long travel days sitting in airports or on a bus. If there is one thing this pandemic has taught us, it’s to really cherish the time we have doing the things we love, with the people we love, because you never know when that can be taken away from you. Traveling in a pandemic adds a whole other layer of complication and stress, but if you prepare, and do your research, you can still have a great, COVID-free time.

Now when can I get back on a plane and go somewhere else?

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