What will travel look like?
2020 has gone pretty differently to how anyone could have predicted. In particular, COVID-19 has worked its way around the globe, leaving very few places unaffected. It's hard to predict exactly what travel after the pandemic will look like, but we can make some educated assumptions.
Travelling abroad will be an option for many of us again soon. Hopefully being able to have the incredible experience of volunteering abroad is just on the horizon!
But what will ethical and responsible volunteering look like after the changes the pandemic has brought? In truth, we don’t know yet what the full repercussions of the virus are; or exactly what the rules in each country will be. But there are definitely some things we will be doing at Globalteer, and with our partners, to make sure everyone involved is safe. We will also look at information you should consider as a potential volunteer.
Rules and Regulations in your Home Country
As restrictions loosen, each country will have their own rules about the activities and travel permitted. Not only will these rules be different in each country, and maybe even by region, but they could also change very quickly. If you are planning a trip abroad, you should keep up to date on all of the regulations being put in place by your home country and regularly check updates. Its worth bearing in mind that any trip won’t be set in stone, and you’ll have to be prepared for the possibility of having to reschedule.
If you are permitted to travel, there could also be quarantine rules in place. This means that whilst you can go away, upon your return you may have to self-isolate. For some people this isn’t a problem, but you might want to think about this if you are employed or have any other commitments!
Destination country rules
Its quite easy for us to be aware of some of the rules that our own governments are putting into place; even if they aren’t always that clear! However, it is easy to forget to keep informed on what’s going on in other countries. It might not be what is being presented on the news in your country. Therefore, it’s vital that you do a bit of research into the restrictions in other countries. For example, although your country may allow travel again, your destination country may have a quarantine, travel ban or restrictions in place that would cause some issues on your trip.
Also some countries may impose rules that all incoming visitor must be negative for COVID-19. Whether they implement testing on arrival or require travellers to be tested before arriving and bring their result. Countries could impose this after you have already purchased your flight, so it's essential to regularly check your destination country's updates!
Additionally you should consider the virus's affect in that country and make a decision based on your and other’s safety. You should also consider the state of that country's health care system. If you were to get the virus, will you be able to access quality care?
Changes to Attractions and Sites
You should also expect changes at the attractions and sites you may want to visit. Most tours and attractions will likely have to reduce their capacity in line with country regulations. Meaning you may need to buy your tickets in advance of your visit. This not only applies to attractions! Restaurants in many countries worldwide are now required to operate at a reduced capacity to comply with social distancing guidelines. This will add more planning to your trip as you may not be able to simply turn up and be seated at many restaurants. If there is a place you don't want to miss out on while visiting, make sure to book in advance!
Cancellations and Rescheduling Policies
Many of us can rightly be accused of not checking the terms and conditions of many of the things we book. However, these are important things to consider now. When booking anything, always check what their policies are if you need to cancel or reschedule due to circumstances surrounding the pandemic. Many business are waiving their change fees so if you do need to reschedule you won't have an additional fee. While it can be tempting to assume all business will due this, check before you book! You don't want to be caught out!
Travel insurance is also something you don't want to skim over or wait until the day before your flight to buy. Buy this as soon as possible. And don't just rush and look for the cheapest one. In these times it is best to speak with someone so you can be fully aware of what will and won't be covered. Or if you do decide to buy online without speaking with an agent, make sure to read their terms and conditions carefully too.
Deciding to Travel Abroad Again
It's vital you stay as safe as possible and alert whilst travelling or volunteering abroad. If you or anyone in your household shows symptoms of the virus you shouldn’t travel. Although it's a difficult decision, you should reschedule your trip and self-isolate at home. However, if you’re feeling fine and have decided it’s appropriate to go abroad again, there are some things you should consider.
Firstly, it is recommended to wear a face mask to reduce the risk of transmission. This is particularly important when you’re inside. In many places this is now a requirement in public places or on any form of transport. Also, washing your hands regularly and using hand sanitiser can be an effective way to kill germs. Sanitising gels are increasingly available at train stations and airports. However, it would be even better to bring your own with you. Whilst travelling its wise to touch as few objects as you can, and of course maintain social distancing where possible.
Increased Travel Times and Stricter Protocols
You will also need to allow more time for travelling due to increased security measures and new COVID protocols at airports, bus terminals and train stations. Some airports are advising passenger to arrive at the airport as much as 5 hours before their scheduled flight. In addition to increased security and screening, many airports are conducting random testing of passengers. Some may also require you to list all the cities or areas you have been present the last couple weeks. It is also a very real possibility that in the future all passenger must be tested (whether at the airport, or prior to arriving and taking your results with you) prior to being able to travel.
Your Safety is in Your Hands!
Once you have decided to go abroad, you should look into the precautions being taken where you are planning to stay. The safety of our volunteers, staff and people we work with is really important to us. All regulations set out by each country where we offer volunteer projects will be adhered to. As well as putting other safety mechanisms into practice where possible.
Our partners at the Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuaries in Thailand have already increased hand washing stations and hand sanitiser availability. They have also changed their rooms to single occupancy during this time. Undoubtedly more hand-washing and sanitising facilities will be made available across our projects. Additionally social distancing will continue to be encouraged where possible. Although it is likely to be a while yet until volunteering abroad can safely happen again, we are already generating ideas on how to do this in the safest way possible; particularly when volunteering with children.
In general, we can already see many businesses and cities providing more hand washing facilities and hand sanitiser. Social distancing is also being encouraged worldwide. At the end you the day, you need to remember to use these tools provided and follow advice and regulations. By following the recommendations you not only keep yourself safe, you help keep those around you safe.
Why You Should Plan Your Volunteer Abroad Adventure!
When volunteering is safe again, your contribution will be extremely valuable. Almost everyone has suffered in some way from the effects of COVID-19. However, this is a particularly hard time for those whose income has been completely cut off. This includes people working in agriculture, hospitality, tourism and any job where working from home is not possible or relies on tourists. In addition, not all governments have measures in place that help sufficiently with the financial protection of their population.
All our projects and those they support are greatly in need now more than ever. Not only will you be helping them, you will be bringing much needed visitors back to the destination. Many of the countries we work in rely heavily on visitors, so you will also be helping to stimulate the tourism economy of that country again. And while it can be scary to make plans at the moment, it's been said that making plans actually helps you to cope with uncertainty!
As soon as its safe for all involved, you can play an important role in helping others recover from this pandemic. Although we are still unsure when it will be possible, Globalteer will be really excited to welcome back volunteers again!
If you are still not ready to start planning your volunteering trip you can support projects by donating online!