Planning in advance is very difficult
Travelling through a pandemic is problematic, to say the least. Flights can be cancelled, changes to visas and restrictions on arrivals can happen overnight or, worst still, mid-flight. Planning in advance is near impossible, so it’s essential to be flexible and have a plan B.
Book flights with flexible conditions, where you can change departure dates and destinations. Follow local media, airlines, airports, and the Department of Health in your destination. Make sure you keep informed of the latest developments. follow sources of information on Twitter.
Learn to be flexible
Be ready for change, especially when new virus variants appear on the horizon. Changes can happen at any time, with very little notice, so be prepared to be flexible and make last-minute changes. You can be the most organised person, but governments go into panic mode and act without considering the consequences for travellers.
Testing before and after travel
Most countries need passengers to have a negative PCR test before flying. You need the result to be within 72 hours of the department but, some countries need it in 24/48 hours.
PCR tests can be costly, with a recent one in Poland costing me £90, so you need to factor this into the cost of your trip and make sure you read the entry rules for the destination.
While writing this guide, I am in a hotel quarantine in Seoul, South Korea. I will need to be quarantined for 10 days in a government-run hotel. On the day of arrival and day 9, they will run a PCR test, and if negative, I will be allowed to leave on day 10.
The quarantine is at your own expense, so the cost of travel is expensive.
Countries can change the rules for tourists, as we’ve recently seen in Thailand, where initially you had to quarantine for just 24 hours. With a new variant, this has changed to 7, 10 or 14 days depending on several factors, e.g. if you are fully vaccinated or not.
Travel insurance challenges
Buying travel insurance is more important than ever. If you were unfortunate and contracted the virus while abroad, you could be hospitalised, costing several thousand pounds.
Some countries like South Korea have reciprocal arrangements with the UK, so you do not pay for hospital care, but this is rare.
The challenge is that insurance companies will not cover you if you travel to destinations on any ‘no visit’ lists.
Some companies do not cover you for contracting the virus, even though it is becoming more of an exception. At the start of a pandemic, though, it’s likely many will not cover you. Make sure that any pre-existing conditions are covered by your insurance.
While some companies offer backpacking insurance, most travel insurance companies will only cover annual trip cover, and you have to start each trip in your home country.
Since this is impossible as a digital nomad, Safety Wing allows you to be covered month by month (or annually). Importantly, they cover you for viruses like Covid-19 and its variants.
Every month, an amount of money is taken from your bank and you are covered for that month. It’s worth paying for the peace of mind more than anything. We’ll be writing up a review of Safety Wing in a future guide, so keep a lookout for that soon.
Keep up to date with developments
Keep up to date with developments in the country you live in and future destinations. Your home government will have travel advice, e.g. in the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) publish guides for every country in the world. You can sign up for updates.
Always keep informed, so you can make the right decisions.
Create a Twitter account and follow accounts in your destination, like English speaking news outlets and government accounts. Be mindful that social media is full of inaccurate, fear-based content, so only follow official resources.
Adhering to the laws of the country
Following on from keeping up to date, you must keep informed of changes to restrictions and lockdowns in the country you are living in. You could be stung with fines, deportation, and even jail time if you don’t.
Countries have locked down throughout the last two years of travelling through a pandemic, meaning that you cannot leave your home, even for exercise. Some countries have curfews and restrictions on opening times for restaurants, bars and clubs.
Changes in restrictions can happen while you’re in flight. You might think you are heading to a country with no restrictions on arrival, but they could introduce a lockdown and you are limited to where you can travel.
Expect the unexpected. No, seriously, anything can happen during a pandemic, especially in the early days when panic starts to spread quicker than the virus.
It’s essential to keep a check on your mental health while living abroad, away from family and friends during a pandemic.
If you are struggling, make sure you talk about it with people you trust and are comfortable around. Don’t become paranoid about the pandemic and shut yourself in from the world.
Exercise and fresh air are essential for daily walks in quiet areas where you can socially distance yourself from others. During the week when locals are working, is the perfect time to go to a park or hike.
Spend time doing activities that you love and start new hobbies and interests. Speak with family and friends regularly. Jump on a video call to see and hear loved ones; this will make you feel much more connected.
Keep family informed
It’s a smart move to keep your family informed of your current location. Give them a contact number, and address and copies of your itinerary and insurance documents. If you can, give the name and number of the Airbnb host or hotel provider. It might sound a little drastic, but it will help your family should the worse case happen.
Every day, I send a message on WhatsApp to my parents, so they know I am fine. This helps reduce anxiety from their side and means they can sleep well at night knowing you are doing fine and are keeping safe during the pandemic.
Go with your gut instinct
Always go with your gut instinct when it comes to making decisions on your next destination, or if you are putting yourself in a situation where you’re not socially distanced. In two years of living through this pandemic, I have 100% gone with my gut instinct.
The decision to slow down my travels was made early on in the pandemic. For 14 months, I lived in Malaysia because of the visa waiver programme and knowing that the situation was much better than back home in the UK, where the virus was rife.
Two years after the pandemic, my primary goal is to only visit countries where cases are low, vaccination levels are high, and hospital care is of a good standard.
Do you have any concerns about living as a digital nomad through the pandemic? Send me your questions, and I will help you. Also, please subscribe to the Hive, my free weekly email where you’ll receive more content on becoming a digital nomad.