With the pandemic going (literally) viral, a lot of people are questioning whether it’s wise to travel during the Coronavirus outbreak. Whether travel during the Coronavirus outbreak is right for you might depend on quite a few things. The actual necessity of your travel, the risks you encounter (and pose to others)—but most importantly, your own personal comfort level. Let’s break down the pros and cons, things to know, and best practices for travel during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Just a quick note that I am not a medical professional. And the opinions expressed in this post are simply opinions and/or thought-starters. Traveling during the outbreak is a completely personal decision. There is absolutely no shame in cancelling a trip, rethinking upcoming flights, or rerouting yourself to places in the world where you feel more comfortable.
There’s also a moral component to keep in mind. There’s a lot we don’t know about this virus, but one thing that’s becoming clear is that it is possible for seemingly healthy people to carry the disease and then infect others. If you do decide (or if you need) to travel during this period, please follow the instructions for self-monitoring/self-isolating closely.
Traveling during the outbreak is a completely personal decision. There is absolutely no shame in cancelling a trip, rethinking upcoming flights, or rerouting yourself to places in the world where you feel more comfortable.
That said, if you’re in good health and are comfortable assuming the (relative) risk of travel during the Coronavirus outbreak, there are some pros.
Many people are wary of traveling right now, which, for some things, is quite positive.
- Flights are cheap—sometimes ludicrously cheap. Skyscanner, Kayak, and Google Flights are a great way to keep an eye on the changing landscape of flight prices and sign up for alerts.
- Same goes for hotels. Hotels are offering competitive prices to attract you to stay with them—even out pricing the Airbnbs in some of my recent searches.
- Large tours are cancelled. A lot of the big organized tours aren’t running right now. That means you’re likely to get lucky with your sightseeing. We visited the Colosseum and were shocked by how few people there were.
- Your money counts more. Places that depend on tourism are hit hard right now. Being a guest or a patron (especially at smaller businesses) can inject some cash flow (and hope) into local economies who need it.
All that said…
As far as the World Health Organization currently knows, the disease is passed via respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets are particles of fluid or saliva expelled through coughing, which then contaminate local surfaces. People can catch the virus by touching those surfaces and then touching themselves. Because travel involves touching a lot of things touched by a lot of other people from all over the world, there is a potentially higher risk of catching the virus—even if you’re not traveling to a region with an active outbreak.
Additional risks are quarantines and lockdowns. With everything changing quite quickly, it is possible that regions (including your home region!) might close while you are on your trip. If you’re traveling, be sure to identify a credible news source you trust to follow as things develop. Do not rely on social media—it’s quick, but you might not get all the important details.
The smallest (but still inconvenient) risk are local closures. Some museums and sights—notably the Louvre—are currently closed. Other festivals, parades, sports matches and events are being cancelled. So if you do decide to travel, it might be a great time for a beach break, hiking/trekking trip, or natural getaway.
If you do decide (or if you need) to travel during this period, please follow the instructions for self-monitoring/self-isolating closely.
According to the WHO, “Studies to date suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets rather than through the air.” So, as far as we currently know, wearing a face mask will not generally prevent you catching Coronavirus, though if it makes you feel safer, by all means, go for it.
The WHO’s recommendations include:
- Regular hand washing, for 20-second increments
- Covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
- Avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing
- Thoroughly cooking meat and eggs
Regarding travel-specific tips for travel during the Coronavirus outbreak, we can add:
- Bringing anti-viral wipes to wipe down local surfaces (think: your plane armrests, tray tables, latches, etc).
- Carrying hand wipes / sanitizer (or even gloves) to keep your hands clean as much as possible.
- A little Vitamin C never hurt no’body. Load up your travel first-aid kit with immune boosters.
- Consider getting a flu shot. With Coronavirus exhibiting a lot of the same “flu-like” symptoms, a flu shot will clear up if you have the flu or something you should pay more attention to.
- This isn’t a great time to go in groups. When you can, avoid large tours, groups, etc. And for god’s sake, cancel your cruise.
- If you feel sick, you’d best just stay put and seek medical attention, no matter where you are.
- Try to arrange working from home or self-quarantining / self-monitoring upon your return. It has been proven that you can carry the virus without suffering deep effects yourself.
- If you can’t completely self-quarantine for the recommended 14 days, avoid contact with the elderly and those with known pre-existing conditions, as they are the ones most susceptible.