At this time travel restrictions and border closures may be introduced suddenly and without warning
The global spread of coronavirus is presenting many challenges for those abroad or about to travel. The below advice provides assistance to travellers and guidance on where to find official information during this very difficult time for those travelling for work or pleasure.
1. Travel Advice
2. Accommodation & Quarantine
3. Health & Wellbeing
4. Safety & Security
1. Travel Advice
The global outbreak of Coronavirus has led many countries to introduce border closures and travel restrictions. Travellers should be prepared these could change suddenly and without warning.
A list of international border closures and travel restrictions can be found at the links below:
World Travel Restrictions (from UN WFP): http://unwfp.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/db5b5df309ac4f10bfd36145a6f8880e
Observatory of Border Crossings (from UN ECE): https://wiki.unece.org/display/CTRBSBC/Observatory+on+Border+Crossings+Status+due+to+COVID-19+Home
Health travel advice for all countries can be also be found at : https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries
Travellers currently abroad wishing to return home should do so as soon as possible whilst some commercial air routes are still available. Despite air services being reduced in many locations, flights through major city airports (e.g. Atlanta, Toronto, London, Amsterdam, Doha, Sydney, Tokyo etc) are still available. To arrange your travel you should:
- Contact your airline, travel company or tour operator to arrange return travel
- Contact your insurance company if travel disruption occurs
If no direct flights are available from your location you should:
- Consider if it possible to travel to another airport for your return travel (larger airports in major cities are more likely to have operating flights)
- Consider if it is possible to connect to your final destination through another country (this may require bookings with more than one airline)
If no commercial flights are available from your location you should:
- Contact your Embassy in the country you are in to register for repatriation support (some Governments are arranging special rescue flights for their nationals)
- Regularly follow your Embassy on social media where they may post details of repatriation flights and how to book places on them
- Consider if it is better to travel to another country (via a land border crossing) for onward return travel. Prior to undertaking this activity you should check if you require a visa for that country and explore the onward travel options and restrictions active in that country
You can check if you require a visa for a destination via the IATA Travel Centre (https://www.iatatravelcentre.com).
If your visa is running out you should review your Governments travel advice for your location and contact your Embassy. Some countries have set up new procedures to help travellers to easily extend their visas during this pandemic.
Specialist Repatriation Services
In some locations specialist repatriation services may be available. If no other travel options are available to return home, travellers may wish to consider if they are appropriate for their return travel. Options available include:
- Dedicated flight repatriation companies
- Emergency medical evacuation companies
- Chartered private jets
Companies offering these services can be found online.
If you must travel at this time (outbound and return), you should be prepared for potential disruption to your journey. This could include being caught behind border closures if further travel restrictions are suddenly introduced.
If you are older, or if you have a pre-existing medical condition, you are more likely to become severely ill if you catch coronavirus and may require hospital treatment. You are strongly advised not to travel at this time if this applies to you.
If you are fit to travel you should:
- Consider the Government travel advice for your destination and for any countries visited on route
- Sign up for Government travel advisory email/text alerts for your destination (if available)
- Contact your airline, travel company or tour operator to ensure your trip is still going ahead as planned
- Contact your accommodation provider to ensure it is still open and available
- Ensure you have appropriate travel insurance and contact your insurer if you are uncertain. You may need to consider a specialist policy at this time.
- Ensure you have access to enough money to cover unexpected delays in your journey
- Ensure you have enough medication in case you are abroad longer than anticipated
- Arrange extra support for family members, dependants or pets who may need extra care if you are abroad for longer than planned
Travellers should be aware that many countries have introduced enhanced health measures for all arrivals, including mandatory quarantine or self-isolation procedures (generally for up to 14 days). It is very important that you follow the local public health advice of your destination on arrival.
2. Accommodation & Quarantine
Travellers caught behind border closures or those required to go into quarantine when they arrive at a destination may be required to stay in local accommodation.
However travellers should be aware some accommodation providers (including hotels, hostels, B&B’s, campsites, caravan parks and short term lets) may have temporarily closed due to Government requirements or introduced reduced services for guests (such as reduced amenities or restaurants).
“Shelter in Place” Accommodation
If you cannot return home due to travel and border restrictions you may be required to “shelter in place” and stay in your current location.
If you unable to leave your location at this time you should:
- Attempt to secure accommodation that best suits your needs
- Ensure you have enough food and drink for an extended stay
- Send regular messages to friends and family to let them know you are safe and well
- Stay in contact with your airline or tour operator for return travel options as soon as they are available
- Register your details with your Embassy and follow their social media account for any updates on potential commercial or charter flights from your location
If you are unable to secure any accommodation you should:
- Urgently contact your Embassy to explain your situation and seek their support
- Urgently contact the local authorities of the country you are in to explain your situation and seek their support
- Urgently contact your travel insurer if you need their support (including the status of your emergency medical cover if required)
- Monitor local TV, radio and other sources of information for updates on the restrictions and situation in your location – matters can change quickly at this time.
Accommodation may also be used for voluntarily self-isolation or quarantine whilst travelling.
Voluntary Self Isolation
If you have arrived at a destination from a country with a high risk of COVID19 or believe you may have been in close contact with someone with coronavirus, you should monitor your health and may wish to voluntarily self-isolate.
If you need to self-isolate at a hotel you should inform the hotel management (preferably by phone or email before you arrive) or verbally on arrival by staying at least 2m away from the check in desk and any other hotel guests.
If you have arrived at a destination from a country designated by the local authorities, you may be required to go into mandatory quarantine (likely for a minimum of 14 days).
On arrival you will follow a special procedure, where you will likely be directed from the aircraft through health screening and taken directly to a nominated hotel. You will not be allowed into the public areas of the airport and families and friends should therefore not attempt to meet you. The designated quarantine accommodation should be free of charge for travellers.
How do I self-isolate in a hotel (voluntarily or in mandatory quarantine)?
During your stay you should not receive visitors and or use any hotel facilities, such as restaurants, cafes, pools, gyms or business centres.
For your meals you should use room service to order food direct to you room and have the food dropped off outside your room for collection.
How will my room be cleaned?
The hotel will advise on the room cleaning procedure, but you should always maintain a safe distance (at least 2m) from any housekeeping staff. Cleaning staff may wish to wear a face mask whilst cleaning your room and if a mask is provided to you by the hotel, they may also request that you wear your mask if in the same room as the cleaner.
What to do if I get sick?
When in isolation you should monitor yourself for symptoms of coronavirus including a fever, cough, tiredness, body aches or shortness of breath.
If you develop mild symptoms you should:
- Follow local public health advice
- Inform the hotel management. They may ask you for details of your travel and close contact history.
- Consider a separate room from any travelling companions
- Practice good hand hygiene (by washing your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds)
- Practice good cough and sneeze hygiene (by using your elbow and tissues to catch it and dispose of the tissues carefully and promptly)
If you develop more severe symptoms (especially shortness of breath) you should:
- Call a doctor to request assistance. You should inform them of your recent travel and close contact history. Ask hotel reception for a phone number if required
Exceptions from quarantine
Local laws may allow certain travellers to be except from quarantine if they meet set criteria and adhere to other health measures on arrival, such as social distancing, cough etiquette and hand hygiene. Exemptions will be defined by local laws, but may include as examples:
- Aircraft flight crew
- Maritime crew (potentially excluding cruise ships)
- Unaccompanied children
- Transit passengers
If you believe that you meet the exemption requirements for your destination country, you should contact the local authorities prior to travel. However, everyone should travel responsibility and implement good health practices to minimise the spread of coronavirus.
Special exemptions may also be provided in some cases for travellers to reach transport hubs (such as airports or train stations) or to travel to the border. These will be defined by local laws. You should contact your Embassy to explore if these exemptions apply to travellers in your location and always carry proof of any exemptions applied to you.
Accommodations commitment to health and hygiene
Accommodation providers take hygiene and cleanliness very seriously and are committed to providing travellers with safe and clean environments.
Example steps taken by many accommodation providers include:
- Staff Training: Coronavirus awareness training for all housekeeping staff
- Hand Sanitisers: Increased deployment of hand sanitors throughout the property for use by guests
- Enhanced Cleaning of Guest Rooms: Use of disinfecting products and procedures to ensure rooms are clean of infection, with particular attention given to frequently touched items in the room
- Enhanced Cleaning of Front of House : Increased frequency of cleaning, with disinfecting products and particular attention given to the check in desks, elevators and buttons, door handles, bathrooms and room keys
- Enhanced Cleaning of Back of House: Increased frequency of cleaning in all back of house areas, including staff offices, laundry facilities and staff locker rooms
3. Health & Wellbeing
It is important to look after your health and wellbeing whilst travelling and to follow local public health advice.
Steps you should take are:
- Practice social distancing. Avoid large groups of people and try to keep a minimum of 2m from others, especially in transport hubs
- Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly and especially before eating and after coming into contact with commonly used items such as trays at airport security checkpoints. Always keep your hands away from your face
- Cover your mouth with your elbow when coughing or sneezing and dispose of used tissues carefully and promptly
What should I do if I become ill abroad?
If you develop symptoms of a new continuous cough, fever or high temperature whilst travelling, you should immediately:
- Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people – if travelling with friends or family you should maintain a safe distance where practical, and do not share bathroom towels.
- Contact your accommodation provider to discuss your situation (see accommodation advice section of this website)
- Contact your travel insurance company to discuss your situation
- Follow local public health guidance
If you become unwell at an airport, bus or train station you should not continue your journey.
Looking after your wellbeing
It is important to look after your wellbeing whilst travelling, especially if separated from friends and family or isolating in a hotel room. You should take care of your mind and body by:
- Staying in touch with friends and family by phone and social media
- Exercise where you can – this may involve exercise in your room. This guide from the UK National Health Service provides ideas for indoor exercise (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/gym-free-workouts/)
- Think about things you can do during any time in isolation to keep your mind stimulated – this could include researching or planning your next holiday
If you become ill as a solo traveller
You should isolate for a minimum of 7 days. If after 7 days, if you do not have a high temperature or other symptoms, you can continue with your journey. If you just have a cough, you can also continue to travel as a cough can last several weeks after the infection has gone. However you should continue to maintain good cough etiquette.
If you become ill and are travelling with friends or family
You should all isolate for a minimum of 14 days. If after 14 days all of your travelling party do not have a high temperature or other symptoms, you can continue with your journey. It is important that you isolate for longer as a group (14 days instead of 7 days) as the infection may only be experienced by others in your group a few days after the first case. This is illustrated in this explanatory diagram. If after 14 days you just have a cough, you can also continue to travel as a cough can last several weeks after the infection has gone. However, you should continue to maintain good cough etiquette.
4. Safety & Security
During this Coronavirus pandemic the security situation in countries can change rapidly and without warning, from significant fines for travellers breaching curfews, to hostility experienced towards foreigners.
It is important you learn about the country you are visiting, including any on going security risks, travel advisories and local laws which may affect you whilst you are travelling.
- Visit your Governments website for the travel advice on the country you are visiting
- Visit the Government coronavirus website of the country you are travelling to, for up to date information on their coronavirus rules and laws (this may also include advice or requirements for travellers visiting the country)
Additional general information on all countries is available from the CIA World Factbook: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/
To enhance your safety and security abroad, it is recommended that you save the following phone numbers in your mobile phone whilst travelling:
- The phone number of your countries Embassy
- The phone number for the emergency services in the country you are travelling to
This reference list provides the contact details for police, fire and ambulance emergency services abroad : https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/students-abroad/pdfs/911_ABROAD.pdf
There have been reports of anti-foreigner sentiment in some countries due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Incidents have included travellers experiencing online harassment, as well as physical and verbal assaults, including stones being thrown at individuals and banging on vehicles occupied by travellers.
Actions to take
If you are involved in a serious incident you should:
- Contact the Police of the country you are in. Operators in your native language may not always be available, so if safe to do so, you should use local assistance.
- Contact your Embassy to inform them of the incident and to seek their advice and support
- Contact your family and friends to let them know you are safe and well
Actions to enhance your safety and security risk whilst abroad
- Do not escalate any encounter. Leave the area as quickly and safely as possible
- Maintain situational awareness whilst travelling. For example avoid wearing headphones, or constantly looking down at electrical devices
- Avoid travelling alone, especially at night
- If travelling in a vehicle, ensure the doors are locked and assess if the windows should be closed
Cyber & Digital Attacks
Sadly criminals worldwide are attempting to exploit the Coronavirus pandemic through a variety of online scams and digital criminal activities. Reports of Coronavirus criminal behaviours include:
- Attempts via social media to fraudulently seek donations or traveller details
- Online shopping scams through sales of counterfeit or fake goods, including testing kits, immunity pills and protective equipment (such as face masks and hand sanitisers)
- Unsolicited emails, telephone calls and text messages attempting to sell items including travel packages or fake offers of financial support
Criminals are experts at impersonating people and organisations, including using Government and travel company branding, so travellers should be extra vigilant at this time.
What should I do to protect myself?
Travellers should “Stop, Challenge and Act”:
- STOP: Take a moment to stop and think before exchanging any money or personal information at this time, especially if the deal appears too good to be true or came from an unverified source
- CHALLENGE: Consider if the activity could be fake or counterfeit. It is OK to question, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush and panic you
- ACT: If you believe you have been victim of criminal activity you should contact the police and seek help from your Embassy. You should also contact your Bank or credit cards immediately if you believe you have been the victim of financial fraud
Remember: Your bank and the police will NEVER ask you to transfer money or provide your full password over the phone or by email.
World Health Organisation and Centre for Disease Control & Prevention Information
Make sure you look at your Government and Healthcare websites to find the latest information.
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
European Commission Office
Abu Dhabi Department of Health updates on COVID-19
Dubai Health Authority updates on COVID-19
UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention
UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
United States Department of States
The Chinese Central Government
New Zealand Safe Travel
Hong Kong Government
Singapore Tourism Board
Republic of South Africa
Other Association Recommendations
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
International Maritime Organization (IMO)
International Air Transport Association (IATA)
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)
Airports Council International (ACI)
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)
European Travel Commission (ETC)
Association for European Transport (AET)
World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
World Economic Forum
US Travel Association
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC)
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