I encourage everyone to give solo travel a try; I’ve had some thrilling adventures globe-trotting on my own. I’ve backpacked through Vietnam during Vietnamese New Year (an unintended and happy coincidence of timing); I climbed the Great Wall of China alone on a January day so cold I couldn’t feel my legs. I trekked through the Australian Outback in 100-degree-Fahrenheit heat; I swam in the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Cairns. I sipped instant coffee at a hostel in Warsaw and made friends with some Germans. (You will notice this, especially as a solo globe-trotter: German travelers are everywhere.) During the pandemic, I traveled solo to Scotland, where I hiked in the Highlands and then visited Alexander McQueen’s grave—among other things—on the epic-views-serving Isle of Skye.
The challenge and excitement of solo travel is—to quote travel guru Rick Steves—one of the last great sources of legal adventure. Here are some need-to-knows for when you’re chasing the solo-travel-high during the pandemic.
Do Your Research and Make a Plan
Some travel companies have a one-stop-shop resource for travel during the pandemic, including hubs for checking your destinations’ advisories. Also, you must know the answer to this question before you even buy your flight: Are you able to enter the country with your current vaccination status? Some countries do not allow unvaccinated travelers to enter.
Know the rules and regulations for your exit country and your entry country. Most countries have specific rules for both. Say, for instance, you’re planning to fly from the US to Spain. You’ll want to consult both the US and the Spanish governments’ rules for border entry online. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a useful travel tool on its website, where you can select the country you’re going to to see country-specific travel information and health-related details, like Covid-19 vaccination requirements. There’s also the CDC’s International Travel page. It’s a good idea to cross-reference this information with the official recommendations from the country to which you’re traveling. And if you’re entering or returning to the US, review the US Department of State’s “Requirements for Air Travelers to the US.”
Travel during a pandemic requires even more preplanning for the solo traveler who will be the CEO of their trip and oversee its execution. No matter where you’re going right now, if you plan to travel internationally, you will likely need to provide a negative Covid test, show proof of vaccination, and wear a mask. Most countries have a specific type of test they want you to take; know which kind of test you need in order to board the aircraft to your destination country. And speaking of boarding—check out the best airlines to fly during Covid-19, ranked based on their flexibility, health and safety measures, and operational reliability.
Know the Required Mask Type
Know the destination country’s policy for masks before you enter—and the type of mask you need to wear. If you don’t, you may end up like someone I know who was almost stuck in Chile because they had a cloth mask instead of a blue surgical mask.
Keep in mind, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires all travelers in the US to wear masks.
Spend Time Outside
Michelle Aquino, a Philippines native raised in Queens, NY, has traveled to 38 US states and 35 countries. Aquino and her partner were on a year-long adventure around the world when the pandemic hit, and they had to make some quick decisions. “We had been in the Philippines, then went to Vietnam in March 2020,” she says. “We landed in Hanoi, and people were in hazmat suits. Vietnam really took it seriously,” she says.
When the couple returned to the US, they continued to travel domestically, taking all precautions. Aquino’s tips for travel during the pandemic include taking advantage of outdoor spaces. For their travels around Asia, that meant going to waterfalls and outdoor markets. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they recently went, they loved shopping at the outdoor farmer’s market. “We did go to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum,” she says. They went early in the morning so they could avoid larger crowds later in the day. “Get up early, and try to be mindful of your timing,” Aquino says.
Finding Accommodations During Covid-19
Most hotels and hostels have pandemic cleaning protocols in place. Look for accommodations that implement Covid safety practices. Hostels are great for solo travelers who aren’t splitting the cost of their stay with a friend or partner. Whether you’re traveling solo or with others, hostels are also a great way to make an otherwise prohibitively expensive endeavor—international travel—less so.
They’re an ideal place to connect with other travelers, too. During Covid, many tourist attractions are less crowded, and hostels are often less booked. This means you can likely have more space than you might otherwise. If you’re a woman traveling alone, connecting with other women traveling solo is a great way to boost safety. You can find a companion to do things with and someone to tell your whereabouts to if you’re venturing off alone. While studying abroad in Italy, Aquino relied on her friendships with other female solo travelers to enhance her safety by having a companion for activities.