This one is for the travellers! I recently came back from a wonderful work trip to sunny Cancun in Quintana Roo, Mexico. It was my first visit to Mexico and I will absolutely be back. I loved the weather, the people, the food, the culture, and the fact that I got to practice my Spanish (which, clearly, needs help).

Whether you travel often, infrequently, or are planning your first-ever international trip, here are some of my top tips for travelling during the pandemic…even if you’re only planning to travel in a few months.

Tip 1: Choose wisely

While most leisure travel has halted, globally, I understand that there are many who need to travel for work or will soon resume travel for work purposes. In these cases, you may not be able to choose your destination but some of the other tips may be useful.

If you are choosing to take a leisure trip in the near future (like to Europe which is already opening up for travellers), make sure you understand how COVID-19 is being managed in that destination. We are still in a global pandemic and we should do all we can to keep each other safe. Read about your chosen destination to get a sense of how the virus is being managed and what protocols are in place to keep the local population and travellers safe. Do your research on your travel providers as well (accommodation, transport, tour operator etc.).

These are Peruvian alfajores, served at a Peruvian restaurant in Mexico
When in Mexico, eat tacos (well, one taco). YUM!

Tip 2: Check travel restrictions

Because of the pandemic and the various measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 there are many, many restrictions and requirements in place and they change often and quickly. Most importantly, make sure you understand the rules for leaving your country, the rules on arrival in your destination country, the rules for leaving that destination, and the rules for re-entry to your departure country. These details may differ if you are not a citizen of your return country so check all the info carefully.

Tip 3: Carry your own personal protective equipment

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is always important to have when travelling. While most travel providers will offer PPE, my recommendation is that you carry your own stash so that what they offer is a bonus. To Mexico I carried my own masks, wipes, sanitiser, and gloves. Try to take enough for the whole trip to give you a higher level of comfort about your safety.

An unusually quiet beach in Cancun, Mexico

Tip 4: Carry your own masks/face coverings

Make sure you have enough face coverings and/or masks for your whole trip. It seems obvious but mask wearing is still relatively new to many of us so this is a good reminder. You need these in most places and you will probably have to wear a mask throughout the travel journey. If you prefer material or cloth face coverings to decrease your contribution to single-use plastic waste, carry a few face coverings so you can change them every few days. Have a small container or bag to keep the used ones separate so you can wash them before their next use. If you’re using disposable, single-use masks then remember to dispose of them in the appropriate waste bins to contribute to better waste management.

Tip 4: Have your documents handy

We need to show quite a bit of documentation at points of entry and you may even need to fill forms in unexpectedly. Understand what documents you will need to show where and have them at the ready. Some destinations will accept electronic versions so I suggest downloading them all into one folder on your phone so you can switch between them quickly and easily. For South Africa, we need to complete a form when we leave and a different form when we return.  Also, carry a pen in case you need to fill out paperwork by hand.

View of the hotel pool at sunset

Tip 5: Get tested…frequently

This is a requirement in many countries, including in SA, so take a COVID-19 test before you depart and when you get back. For some destinations this means a test on departure from South Africa, and again just before you head home. Read about what the testing requirements are and how far in advance you need to take the test (e.g. 48 hours or 72 hours prior to departure).

Whether you plan to travel for work or for leisure and whether you will travel soon or soon-ish, we hope these tips help you prepare for that international trip.