We’ve all had one more pretty massive reason to be cheerful over the past few months. In countries all over the world, including the UK and US, vaccines are finally being rolled out to the elderly, key workers and those with underlying health conditions. That means a return to semi-normality may well be within reach sometime vaguely soon.
Now, as more and more of the global population gets the jab, all those who’ve been stuck indoors for months on end may well be tempted to get out and explore the world again. Although many governments are still advising (or completely banning) their citizens from travelling overseas, an ever-increasing list of tourism-dependent destinations sees in the vaccine rollout an opportunity to reopen borders and ease other travel restrictions over the coming months.
At the most extreme end, several countries have already announced that they will allow proof of vaccination as an alternative to existing testing and quarantine requirements.
The latest destination to announce it will offer an exemption from restrictions for vaccinated travellers is Croatia. The country has said that all fully vaccinated travellers, from any country, will now be able to skip the country’s testing and quarantine arrangements.
The Thai island of Phuket announce a similar measures last week. From July 1, it will allow international visitors to skip the country’s strict 14-day quarantine – as long as they have been fully vaccinated.
The South American country of Ecuador (as well as its famously wild territory the Galápagos Islands) has already introduced such a system. International visitors are now being allowed in without a negative test result – if they can provide proof of vaccination.
Earlier this month, the central American country of Belize also started allowing in those who have had both doses of the vaccine to enter the country without having to provide a negative test result.
It comes shortly after neighbour Guatemala announced that it, too, would allow in travellers who have had both doses of the vaccine at least two weeks before arrival.
Greece, meanwhile, announced last week that it would open up to international visitors from May 14 – so as long they can prove they have had the vaccine, have antibodies, or can provide a negative test result.
From April 1, the neighbouring island of Cyprus started welcoming Israeli visitors who have had both doses of the jab at least a week before travelling. From May 1, this will apply to Brits too – even though the UK’s ban on all international leisure travel will still be in place until at least May 17. Malta has also said that British travellers who can provide proof of vaccination will be able to skip current testing requirements from June 1.
In similar plans, Portugal’s tourism minister has said that British travellers who test negative or have had both doses of the vaccine will be allowed to visit from May 17. The autonomous archipelago of Madeira has already opened a ‘green corridor’ for those who have either been fully vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19 within the previous 90 days or can provide a negative test result from within the past 72 hours.
Poland has also announced that anyone who’s been vaccinated against Covid-19 will now be exempt from a mandatory quarantine on arrival. For the moment, this only applies to countries it is currently allowing limited travel from (this includes all EU nations and around a dozen other countries).
Travellers from anywhere in the world may also now enter the Baltic state of Estonia without having to self-isolate for ten days on arrival. Visitors must either have received one of the jabs, or have recovered from Covid-19, sometime within the past six months.
At opposite ends of Europe, Iceland and Romania are waiving strict testing and quarantine requirements if travellers can show a vaccination certificate. In both cases, travellers who can provide proof that they have had Covid-19 – and have since recovered – may also enter. Slovenia, meanwhile, will waive quarantine only if you can show proof of vaccination.
Last month the Seychelles, an archipelago off the east coast of Africa, announced it would admit anyone, from any country, who can prove they have had the final dose of any vaccine at least two weeks before arrival. (From March 25, however, it will reopen its borders to everyone, regardless of vaccination status.)
Several other countries are considering the move, but have not yet made it official. Thailand’s tourism minister has suggested that the rest of his country’s borders – beyond just Phuket – will also reopen to all tourists who’ve had the jab from July, and Singapore has also said it is considering relaxing travel restrictions for those who’ve had the vaccine. However, it will only do this once the vaccines have been proved to significantly curb the spread of the virus.
In the absence of a widely accepted ‘vaccine passport’, plenty is still unclear – including which of the vaccines are acceptable, and what exactly constitutes proof of vaccination, in most of these countries. So when you do finally get your shot, make sure to hang on to every piece of paper you receive. Later this year, it could be the difference between hitting the beach and not even making it past border control.
Here’s everything you need to know about vaccine passports – and how to book an overseas trip (without losing your money).