Travel is back! ‘Flights’ is one of the most searched for terms on Google, and especially if you have been vaccinated, you may want to start turning those pent-up travel dreams into reality.
The following destinations will let you in without testing if you are fully vaccinated:
In further good news, you can still make a difference while traveling, with enhanced protocols in place to keep you and your family safe whilst helping others.
However, do keep in mind the recent requirement for Americans to have a negative PCR test taken no less than 72 hours prior to arriving back in the US. Most hotels that we work with can arrange this for you, so there is no need for you to visit medical facilities.
Before you start planning your trip, ask yourself: “should I travel?” This is a personal decision, and some factors to take into account are:
- your age (if you are over 70, consider waiting to travel until you are vaccinated)
- your immunity levels and overall health
- the number of cases of COVID-19 in the areas you are traveling to
- the availability of travel insurance in case you require hospitalization
And please read the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory page, which has links to country pages that explain restrictions in each destination. The countries I am suggesting below do not necessarily have low rates of COVID-19, and my suggestions may even be against U.S State Dept recommendations. The situation for each country can change rapidly, so always check for updates before you travel.
The following countries allow Americans to visit in May without having to quarantine, along with ways you can make your trip meaningful and make a difference whilst there, all whilst staying in sustainable eco-luxury.
You may be able to visit Bali as early as next month, just in time for the best weather. Countries eligible to enter under this new travel corridor scheme are yet to be clarified; fingers crossed the USA will be on that list!
If you can make it, you will love the beaches, surf, volcanoes, cooking classes, temples, and culture, as well as the opportunity to transform the life of a paraplegic, imbuing them with a sense of independence and dignity, by helping build a disabled-accessible bathroom for him or her.
Thailand’s Phuket is set to re-open on July 1, and if you are vaccinated, there is no quarantine!
Phuket offers stunning beaches, lively towns, and gorgeous scenery, tasty cuisine, and eco-luxe properties such as Aleenta Phuket.
If this pilot program works, it may well get extended to Koh Samui (stay at Six Senses Koh Samui), and Koh Phi Phi (stay at Zeavola) and Koh Kood (stay at my all-time favorite, Soneva Kiri).
And when the north of Thailand re-opens, you can make your time in Thailand meaningful by helping conserve elephants: preparing their meals, walking with them, watching them bathe and play, and learning an enormous amount about these gentle giants.
Iceland has just started allowing fully vaccinated Americans to enter without needing to be tested. Alternatively, the country will also welcome travelers who can show proof they were infected with COVID-19 and recovered.
Iceland is one destination that I would revisit without hesitation: each day reveals another jaw-dropping wonder, with staggeringly beautiful waterfalls, volcanoes, glaciers, and beaches, as well as exciting 4WD adventures.
Certain travel advisors can also facilitate you witnessing the Arctic Fox in its natural environs, in return for a donation to their conservation – this is sure to be a highlight of what is already an extraordinary trip.
Americans require only a negative PCR test taken within seven days before your flights to enter Namibia. Children under 5 do not need a test.
With one of the lowest population densities on earth, Namibia is ideal for social distancing. What’s more, it is hauntingly beautiful, with epic sand dunes and canyons, the treacherous Skeleton Coast, and desert-adapted elephants and rhinos roaming this sparse landscape.
These desert elephants need your help: you can save them from being shot by villagers protecting their crops, by digging alternative water sources far from human settlements where elephants can drink without coming into conflict.
May marks the end of the rainy season, so can be a fabulous time to visit, as the colors are vivid, and wildlife spotting good.
A negative COVID-19 test certificate is all that is required to enter Rwanda.
Compact Rwanda manages to pack in mountains, lakes, and forests, as well as rapidly improving wildlife spotting in Akagera National Park (I highly recommend that you stay at eco-luxe Magashi Camp).
Without a doubt, the Mountain Gorillas are a highlight of any trip to Rwanda (it was one of the most incredible hours of my life and I can’t wait to return), and Rwanda is also a good place to spot chimpanzees in the wild (stay at One & Only Nyungwe House).
Let your children appreciate how fortunate they are and help build a home for former street kids in Kigali, Rwanda’s fascinating capital. You are ably assisted by expert local builders, who will oversee your efforts, and handle all the tricky parts.
Travelers to Zambia must present a negative PCR test taken less than seven days before travel. Some airlines require the test to be done within 72 hours in order to board the flight.
The Victoria Falls are one of Zambia’s highlights, and they are at their most powerful from February until May, so get in quick!
Zambia’s wildlife parks offer world-class viewing, and the low tourist numbers make them ideal for social distancing. Zambia is the leader in walking safaris, so head here for these.
Base yourself near Victoria Falls to easily reach the village where you can build a weatherproof home for a widow and her children. Luxury options abound in this area, and my top picks are Tongabezi Lodge, and the Royal Livingstone for views of the Falls.
USA – doh!
Yes, May is a fabulous time to explore your own backyard! Some of my favorite parts for May are:
– New Orleans is warm and sunny and is where you can kayak the peaceful bayous and enjoy the lively French Quarter, as well as help make a home liveable that was damaged by Hurricane;
– Florida is magnificent in May; the theme parks are open again, but don’t miss Miami (stay at eco-luxe 1 Hotel South Beach) and the Florida Keys (do go all the way down to charming Key West and check out Dry Tortugas National Park with fascinating Fort Jefferson and excellent snorkeling);
– Texas has enough to keep you occupied for weeks; for adventure blended with luxury, stay at Cibolo Creek Ranch, and explore Big Bend National Park, then fly to Dallas and be the change at Riding for the Disabled to make your time in Texas fulfilling;
– The bears of Yellowstone are out of hibernation in May, and you can also spot wolves, moose, bison and more, as well as canyons, lakes and geysers.
– Alaska is not yet in its high season, so go in May and beat the throngs, or book now for summer before it is too late. Two of my recommended lodges are Ultima Thule and Tutka Bay – for wild luxury.
Americans must be fully vaccinated or present a negative PCR test to enter Ecuador. Those aged 14 and older may be subject to random rapid antigen testing at the airport at their own expense, and if positive, you must quarantine for 10 days at a government shelter.
If you plan on visiting the Galápagos Islands (and I highly recommend that you do), for ease I suggest you go there straight away, to avoid having to take another Covid test.
You can then encounter the extraordinary wildlife with far fewer tourists than usual. You can even charter a yacht (I recommend Ecoventura’s Theory) to explore the islands with just your family bubble (and your sanitized staff). If time permits, mainland Ecuador offers a lot, from the Amazon jungle to colonial Quito, and much in between.
Ecuador also has opportunities for making a difference: you can renovate a low-income day-care center, or care for the children at the center.
The Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic no longer requires Covid tests, so you can easily enter. Even better, the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Tourism is offering free Covid testing for Americans within 72 hours of departure!
In addition to the beautiful beaches, Santo Domingo’s colonial town is well worth exploring, and adventure-lovers can descend the 27 waterfalls of Damajagua, or white-water raft on the only raftable river in the Caribbean.
What’s more, you can inspire your kids to be world changers by helping create a basketball court to provide a healthy exercise venue for the locals or prepare and serve nutritious food to young Dominicans in need of decent meals.
Americans can enter the Maldives upon presenting a negative PCR test.
These idyllic islands are not so well known in the US, and being in the Indian Ocean, can take a while to get to, but you won’t regret it if you make the trip.
With some of the world’s finest resorts, beaches, and snorkeling, it can be hard to do anything else, but if you want to bond closer as a family, you can help replant coral and restore this vital marine ecosystem.
Visitors aged 10 and over need a negative Covid-19 PCR or an antigen test in the 96 hours before arrival in Guatemala. A Health Pass must also be completed.
Guatemala has the highest proportion of indigenous inhabitants in Central America, and their culture is still preserved here, as is colonial architecture in Antigua, and lake Atitlan will blow you away with its beauty. Astonishing Mayan ruins await you in Tikal as do active volcanoes such as Pacaya, and much more (and if you ever wondered what happened to all those old American school buses, well, they’re here!).
You and your family can leave a tangible legacy here and improve the lives of a family in need by helping build a home – in just five days!
Costa Rica is open to Americans, with no PCR test required (but remember to get one in order to re-enter the US), but you do need insurance that includes at least $50,000 coverage for medical issues related to the coronavirus, along with an additional $2,000 coverage for expenses due to pandemic illness or trip interruption or cancellation due to illness. A digital Health Pass must be completed before boarding a flight to Costa Rica.
May is officially the start of the rainy season in Costa Rica, but early-May especially is typically not very wet, and this is your opportunity to enjoy your choice of the magnificent eco-luxe accommodation that Costa Rica excels in. My recommendation for May: the Four Seasons Papagayo.
Costa Rica is ideal if you would like to get a feel for Central America and max-out on adventure; with lush jungle, active volcanoes, a multitude of zip-line routes, white-water rafting, wildlife, surfing, snorkeling, Fairtrade coffee and even make your own chocolate, and much more.
Inspire your kids to be world-changers and volunteer at a turtle protection site or at a wildlife rescue center.
Or help at a free medical clinic that cares for Nicaraguan refugees: enter patient data, take notes during consultations, dispense medications in the pharmacy, and make patients feel comfortable.
To enter Belize you need to be fully vaccinated or show a negative PCR test. Stay in Gold Standard approved hotels, and travel with Gold Standard approved guides and operators (your travel advisor can assist you with this).
Belize may be small yet it offers great variety, from Mayan ruins hidden in the jungle to kayaking observed by Howler monkeys, and you can even make your own chocolate, and snorkel or dive on the 2nd longest Barrier Reef in the world.
You can make a difference by creating an eco-friendly stove for a Mayan family, and by doing so you also engage meaningfully with the local culture.
These stoves are fantastic in that:
- The flames are enclosed, which is much safer by reducing incidents of children getting burned;
- They include a chimney to expel the smoke, minimizing respiratory issues such as asthma and lung cancer;
- They require less wood, so are better for the environment as well.
Like Costa Rica, Belize is entering the rainy season in May, but if you get in early, you should be ok.
Upon arrival (land borders are closed) to Mexico, you may be subject to temperature checks and other health screenings.
Fly into Cancun, and either base yourself there in one of the resorts, or go more boutique in Playa del Carmen or Tulum (such as Playaakun, or Banyan Tree in the fabulous Mayakoba enclave). The Mayan ruins of Chitzen Itza and Tulum are not to be missed, and if you are down Tulum-way, I highly recommend exploring the wonderful Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve. Make your time in Mexico meaningful for your whole family and help teach at a school, sort donated clothes and food, renovate classrooms, or entertain the elderly at a Seniors Home. This can all be arranged for you.
May can be pretty hot in the Yucatan, so keep this in mind.
Kenya is open to Americans without having to quarantine if you satisfy the following requirements:
1) body temperature below 99.5°F;
2) No persistent cough, difficulty breathing, or other flu-like symptoms;
3) A negative PCR-based COVID-19 test conducted within 96 hours of arrival.
Kenya has some of the world’s best parks for spotting wildlife, such as the Masai Mara, Amboseli (complete with spectacular views of Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro in neighboring Tanzania), and lesser known reserves such as Tsavo, Samburu, and Selankay. In Tsavo, you can even experience a private helicopter flight to encounter the ‘Super Tuskers’ – awesome elephants with tusks weighing over 100lbs, so big that they drag on the ground – in exchange for a donation to conserve and protect them from poachers.
But Kenya is not only about the wildlife: a captivating coastline awaits (in my opinion, Diani has the best beaches, and Lamu feels like it is lost in time) as does vibrant Nairobi (sojourn at Giraffe Manor if you like giraffes as breakfast companions!).
Whilst in the Masai Mara you can help build a classroom, teach in a school, or install fuel-efficient stoves. You will feel great at having made a tangible difference and go home feeling like you are a Masai after being so immersed in the culture.
Kenya can be pretty wet in May, especially in the 1st half of the month, but this makes everything lush, so if you like flowers, May is ideal.
NB: entry requirements due to Covid are frequently changing so the status of the destination you are interested in may have changed by the time you read this.
Stay safe and be the change!
Christopher Hill is Founder and CEO at Hands Up Holidays. Hands Up Holidays is an award-winning travel company specialising in tailor-made luxury family trips that combine sightseeing with hands-on service projects.
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