The end (of the pandemic) is nigh, which means it’s time to start thinking about travel. These are the destinations ready to rock in the post-pandemic travel world.
With vaccination rollouts happening throughout the world, more and more countries are bursting their Covid bubbles and opening their borders to tourists. This travel season calls for vengeance on all the cancelled vacations and halted trips of 2020 but also a chance to reflect on where and how we travel in the post-pandemic world.
So, before the hordes of vaccinated travellers start flocking to tourist sites, it’s time to jet off to paradise and we’ve listed the top countries for post-covid travel for your perusal.
Stilted bungalows hovering above the azure Indian ocean and linked like a chain of pearls to private islands pretty much sums up the accommodation offered of most lavish resorts in the Maldives. Despite the pandemic, this Indian Ocean playground came out as a successful tourist hotspot as it contained Covid and then reopened its borders back in June 2020 and a raft of new resort openings have followed.
As if its secluded beaches and mesmerizing waters weren’t enough for visitors to keep coming back, the Maldives launched a three-tiered loyalty program to kick-off 2021. Frequent visitors enrolled in the programme are rewarded with discounts to wellness spas and trendy restaurants. Privileged immigration clearance is also one of the perks for higher-tier members so start racking up those points with post-pandemic travel.
Zip-lining through a lush, millennia-old forest or heli-skiing across snowy mountain ranges – you can’t expect much less from the country where bungee jumping was invented. After a year of sinking into your leather couch, New Zealand is the perfect place to jumpstart normalcy with staggering natural landscapes and adrenaline-pumping activities.
The Land of the Long White Cloud instigated one of the hardest lockdowns and some of the strictest protocols during the pandemic but it has definitely paid off, with the country acclaimed internationally for its resolve and for emerging from the pandemic before almost any other destination. While New Zealand is back to hosting massive concerts and maskless events for its own people, there’s no clear message about when the country reopens to the outside world but when it does, it will be the posterchild of the post-pandemic travel era.
For an immersive wildlife experience, Zimbabwe offers an assortment of intriguing activities, most of which are centred around the country’s national parks – and it doesn’t get much more socially distanced than that. The dry season, through the months of May to October, is the best time to spot the diverse wildlife in the country’s safari lodges, national parks, and reserves.
With relaxed lockdown measures, the country’s tourism sector is fully operational but it still strictly adheres to WHO’s safety guidelines. Zimbabwe’s land border is closed but it accepts international flights – all you need is a negative test result and you’ll no longer need to quarantine.
Want to keep your post-pandemic travel close to home? Rainforests, beaches, diving, and nightlife – these are some of the main draws of Phuket. Thailand’s resort island is also home to interesting architectural sites including temples, colonial houses, and the distinctive 45m-high Phuket Big Buddha. It’s also the gateway to the myriad islands of the Andaman Sea as well as the Unesco-listed Phang Nga Bay.
It may take some time for the capital city of Bangkok to open its borders but Phuket is poised to open mid-year for foreign travel with reduced restrictions – vaccinated tourists will no longer need to quarantine and the destination has a ton of activities and incentives to draw travellers back once again.
While other major cities are sealing themselves off from the rest of the world, Dubai is openly welcoming leisure travellers. You can easily enjoy a little retail therapy and physically add to cart at one of the dozens of mega shopping malls in the city, head out into the desert on excursions and even visit some of the world-class museums.
Strict security measures are in place and it’s pretty easy to follow social distancing in places like The Dubai Mall, which has an area of 12,000,000 sq ft. The city has also opened its popular tourist sites like Ferrari World, Wild Wadi Waterpark, Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, and IMG Worlds of Adventure.
From the party island of Mykonos and the iconic blue-and-white vista of Santorini to the ancient city of Athens, Greece is officially open for tourists in time for the summer. Cruise ships are offering exciting voyages through the Med and island hoppers will have some of the region’s most beautiful destinations virtually to themselves.
Airlines are also set to increase the number of flights heading to the country as tourism boosts. Greece still requires negative Covid test results from its visitors, but best of all several nationalities, including Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and China, are now offered quarantine-free entry, so crack out the sunscreen.
There’s more to Mexico than the stunning beaches of Cancun or Cabo San Lucas or the fiery drinks of tequila and mezcal. Last year, the country became the go-to for secret (and not so secret) celebrity vacations and intimate parties. It helps that its borders have been open since June 2020 and that the nation ‘south of the border’ has loose restrictions for visitors entering via plane.
With fewer visitors flocking to Mexico’s most popular destinations, most of which are usually crowding coastal spots, it’s easier to appreciate Mexico’s jaw-dropping archeological sites and Mayan Ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula, travel on the world’s only tequila train, or explore the beauty of the Baja desert. Just leave the peyote where you found it.
Icy wilderness, remote location, and iceberg-filled passageways, Antarctica screams adventure fit for lads looking to follow in the footsteps of legendary explorers. Tourism in the Antarctic region offers the chance to see penguins, whales, and seals in their natural habitat. There’s also opportunity for once-in-a-lifetime experiences, from camping in the snow to paddleboarding, kayaking and even heliskiing and skydiving over the White Continent.
Perfect for post-pandemic travel, Antarctica is served by fleets of small expedition ships operated by the likes of Lindblad Expeditions, Aurora, Silversea and Scenic’s Scenic Eclipse (above), and while some were caught off guard at the pandemic’s onset, the industry has quickly put in place hygiene standards and travel restrictions to ensure you’re Covid safe in the deep south.
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