2020 will always be remembered as the year when COVID-19 left the world on a stand down. Many countries went into partial localised lockdown, if not a full lockdown; with hopes to slow down the spread and flatten the curve. More than 70% of commercial flights were grounded, with almost all international passenger flights cancelled.
Coming to 3 months since WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, due to varying lockdown efforts, the virus has seen to be suppressed in East Asia, Europe, and North America. In the coming months, travel restrictions are expected to be loosened, at least for these few regions. Some European countries have even announced opening borders, although limited to certain countries.
Malaysia is currently in the last week of the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), 70+ days since the Movement Control Order (MCO) was activated on 18th March. There are no details yet as to what’s going to happen beyond 9th June.
When can we travel again ?
If you are a travel bug like me, you are probably itching to hop on a plane, and make up for all those cancelled travel plans you made for the first half of the year !
So, the million dollar question is, when can we travel again ?
Analysts predict that domestic activities will soon likely resume to 90% pre-COVID levels. Domestic flights should rebound fairly quickly to 80% pre-COVID levels by year end. However, international flights will still be heavily dependent on international border controls, and likely only able to fully recover in end 2021.
The new ways of travelling
We need to start accepting the fact that travel will not be the same as before, at least for another 1 to 2 years. So, what’s going to be the new ways of travelling ?
More domestic travels
Most countries will soon have to lift domestic travel restrictions, otherwise the country economy will just crumble. As such, travelling locally will be an easier affair compared to having to worry for flights cancellations and quarantine requirements etc. The silver lining to this is that, you not only get to explore your own “backyard” which you may have taken for granted, but you also get to support local businesses and boost your own country economy !
Born and raised in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I haven’t climbed Mount Kinabalu yet ! I guess I am kinda taking it for granted, having it just at my “backyard”. I have visited Kundasang a few times though, and it is an easy 2 hours drive from Kota Kinabalu city centre ! The weather is cooling in the valley, you can visit Desa cattle dairy farm, and you get this gorgeous panorama view of the Crocker mountain range !
Travellers demographic will be younger
Younger generations will be more open to travel again, compared to older generations or those travelling with families. So, you should expect to see more younger groups or couples travelling.
Avoid crowded areas if possible
So, with domestic activities expected to be on the rising, it would be wise to avoid crowded areas. You want to skip the theme parks or concert shows. And instead, you want to go for less crowded open air activities, such as islands, national parks, hiking in the rainforest etc.
In Kuala Lumpur, you can consider a retreat in the middle of a rainforest, or explore the many parks accessible from the heart of KL, e.g. Eco Park, Lake gardens etc.
Avoid air travels if possible; More road trips
Avoid crowded area means you may want to avoid air travels if possible. Imagine being confined in a steel cage with other 200+ people for hours in the air, nowhere else to go !
In exchange, you should consider doing more road trips, especially now that petrol price in Malaysia is at all time low of RM 1.30 (0.30 EUR) per liter !
Now again you want to avoid crowded destinations like Ipoh or Penang. So instead, you can consider Cameron Highlands, East coast, or even one of the islands, e.g. Langkawi, Perhentian, Redang etc.
Think twice before travelling out of country
International travel is going to be more complicated, with more stringent checking (and forms to fill) at immigration checkpoints. If you do manage to get to your travel destination, there remains the uncertainty on whether you can get your return flight back home. Flights cancellation will be a norm, as flight operators will want to ensure certain flight capacity to not make loss. And even if you do manage to get on your return flight, you may need to adhere to some form of self quarantine.
So, if you do decide to leave country, be sure to keep yourself updated on both your travel destination and home country latest situations and changes in border policies.
Always buy travel insurance
If you are one who always untick the travel insurance option when booking your travels, you may want to seriously reconsider this. Given the large uncertainties around travel changes and cancellations, you want to always be sure to buy travel insurance.
Tip: I usually don’t buy travel insurance from airlines company, because it only covers inconveniences due to the flights. Instead, I buy travel insurance from larger insurance companies, because it is cheaper and you get better coverage. Two of my favourite travel insurance providers are Etiqa and AXA. If you plan to travel more than 2 international trips per year, you should consider the Annual policy, which is better value for money.
Takeaway or Cook yourself
One of my motivations for travelling is food ! And I enjoy eating out, whether it is picnic by the Seine or in a fine dining restaurant. However, in the short term at least, restaurants will likely limit the number of patrons in their premises. So, instead of dining in, you can opt for takeaway and have you food in the park.
For me, now that I have regained my confidence in cooking (over MCO), I would even consider buying fresh produces from local markets (again, support local businesses), and bring back to my Airbnb to cook !
Pack more face masks and hand sanitisers
Most important of all is to always maintain utmost personal hygiene ! Before your trip, you want to make sure you pack sufficient face masks and hand sanitisers, just in case you can’t get them from where you are heading.
Be prepared for emergencies
If you are travelling out country, be sure to keep your family at home well informed of your plans. You want to save in your handphone contacts to your insurance provider hotline, as well as your home country’s embassy at your travel destination !
Keep a screenshot of your passport. If you are feeling paranoid, what I do is send the screenshot to my family back home, and have it deleted from my phone. And so, if I ever need it, I can have them email me later.
Do you really need to travel ?
Lastly, I want to leave you with a thought, that you seriously rethink and consider the possible consequences of travelling in the short term.
“Plan for the worst, hope for the best” cannot be more relevant now ! If you do decide to travel, you want to plan for some of these worst case scenarios,
- If I am stranded in my travel destination, do I have enough budget to extend my stay ? Will there be any complication to my job security when I get back ?
- If there are no more direct flights home, are there any other alternatives, e.g. multi stops flight, road transport ?
- If I have to be quarantined coming back to my home country, do I need to take unpaid leaves ? Can I agree with my employer to work from home/ quarantine centre?
You want to seriously consider all these before taking any decision to travel again. The probabilities of these occurrences are very different now compared to Pre-COVID times.
Otherwise, if you weighed your risks and decided to travel again, I wish you safe travels, and remember to be socially responsible !