Expats are sharply divided on whether or not they are ready to travel as they did pre-pandemic, according to our recent survey. 27.7% of expats surveyed report that they are already traveling as they did pre-pandemic. But 29.4% say they do not see themselves traveling internationally as they did pre-pandemic for at least a year. An equal 29.4% believe they will return to traveling as normal six to twelve months from when they filled out the survey.
Visas and Job Restrictions Are Travel Obstacles
For some expats who are staying put, COVID concerns are less of an international travel issue than visa concerns. Respondents around the globe told us that they were concerned that if they left their adopted country they would not be able to return. “The borders are closed. The mere idea of a survey on a return to ‘pre COVID travel’ is preposterous at this point,” said one expat in China.
Other respondents cited work limitations, noting that their companies currently ban international travel. In some countries, it is not only international travel that is limited. In China it can be especially constraining, with an expat noting, “we can’t even take the train to the next city over to go to a park without permission to travel from my employer.”
Travelers Navigate Ever-Changing Restrictions
For those who are traveling or considering international travel, constantly changing restrictions present a barrier. “Nothing is certain and things are changing rapidly. This makes planning difficult,” said one expat. And even travelers who think they’ve ticked all the boxes can run into last-minute obstacles. Others report they are holding off on making plans until they wait for restrictions to stabilize.
But some resourceful expats have not let that prevent them from traveling. A woman who recently traveled from the United Kingdom to the United States said, “The requirements are fluid so it means you need to check government and airline requirements the day before you leave to make sure you’re not missing any vital step. Keeps the traveler on her toes!” Another globetrotting nomad reports, “I’ve had plenty of hiccups…but it all works out in the end.”
No Vaccine – Or the Wrong Vaccine – is a Travel Barrier
Several unvaccinated people reported that they were facing long quarantines or entry refusal due to their status. Though most of these respondents were unvaccinated by choice, a few reported vaccination challenges. As a Guatemala expat told us, “People wait in long lines only to be told there’s not enough vaccines.”
Even global citizens who are vaccinated reported that, due to the brand, their vaccines were not enough to allow them entry to the countries they wanted to travel to. One said, “We were given Sinovac. No choice. It is recognized/approved by WHO but many countries do not accept it. That is not right. Science is science.” (The U.S. has announced that it will admit travelers vaccinated with Sinovac from November 8. This tool will tell you if your vaccine is accepted in the country you want to go to.)
A vaccinated nomad told us that she’s pressed pause on travel because of other vaccine concerns. “One of the main reasons why I am not traveling is because I don’t want to potentially spread COVID, especially in countries where the population hasn’t been vaccinated yet,” she said.
Those Who Have Traveled See Benefits
Some respondents have found ways to turn lemons into lemonade. “Ironically, COVID has provided me more opportunities and economical options to stay in city centers throughout Central America. If the tourist industries here were operating as normal, I would have to stay further from urban areas, and I definitely would not be able to stay for long periods of time near beaches,” one expat digital nomad wrote.
Sometimes, a side trip to comply with visa restrictions can be enjoyable. As one respondent told us, “When I first left the US, I could not travel to France, so I had to spend some time outside the US but in the EU before coming to France. That meant an enjoyable 2 months (longer than strictly necessary) in Ireland.”
At least one long-term expat had a philosophical view on today’s international travel challenges. “As always with expat life you have to be resourceful and get over problems and not ‘cry in your beer.'” Given the continued changes around the globe, that is advice to take to heart in 2022.