We are hoping to travel again. I guess that goes without saying. We are finding that international travel during the Covid-19 lockdown is both more complex and easier.
Why International Travel During The Covid-19 Lockdown Is easier
It’s easier because
- The once-mighty U.S. passport is all but worthless. We have fewer choices to make.
- We should not be traveling. The choice is made for us.
Prior to Covid-19, only 15 countries had passports more powerful than the U.S. passport. By powerful I mean the number of countries that allow a traveler to enter a country visa-free or visa-on-arrival. Before Covid-19 the passport environment looked like this:
- Japan (191 destinations)
- Singapore (190)
- South Korea, Germany (189)
- Italy, Finland, Spain, Luxembourg (188)
- Denmark, Austria (187)
- Sweden, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Ireland (186)
- Switzerland, United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium (185)
As holders of a U.S. passport, Kim and I could walk up to immigration in 185 countries and with no prior notice say, “Here we are. Let us in” and they would. As of two days ago, only 16 countries accept American passports visa-free or visa on arrival.
To put that in perspective here is a list of the most restrictive passports before Covid-19
- North Korea (39 destinations)
- Libya, Nepal, Palestinian Territory (38)
- Somalia, Yemen (33)
- Pakistan (32)
- Syria (29)
- Iraq (28)
- Afghanistan (26)
Why International Travel During The Covid-19 Lockdown Is Harder
Travel in the current Covid19 environment is more complex because
- We don’t want to travel to a destination that is unsafe because of Covid-19.
- We have to take a lot of extra precautions.
But you should not be traveling at all, you say. That statement is both right and wrong. It’s all relative. It’s a matter of safety.
In the preCovid-19 world, I would research the safety of each country to which we intended to travel. We certainly didn’t want to travel anywhere dangerous. But think about it for a moment, what is ‘dangerous’?
Danger Is In The Eye Of The Beholder
Ok, yes, Syria is embroiled in a civil war with outside governments bombing it. Syria is obviously dangerous. Iceland and China have almost no crime and are at war with no one, they are unambiguously safe.
Excluding these and other outliers, safety is really dependent on where you are from. Syrians want to come to America, in part, because it is safe. Many of my Chinese students would not study in America because it’s so dangerous. It’s all relative.
So, when I do research on a country’s safety it has to be compared to something. The something I use is Phoenix, Arizona, USA. I use this site to compare different types of crime and overall crime information between countries. I use Phoenix as a comparison because we have many family and friends who live there so we often go to Phoenix when back in the United States.
Two of the great advantages of being from the U.S. is that most of the rest of the world is less expensive and safer.
International Travel During The Covid-19 Lockdown Is A Safety Issue
Back to Covid19 and international travel. Covid-19 is a safety issue. Covid-19 is a relative safety issue. Which of the 16 countries Americans can travel too are safer than the U.S.? All of them. That’s easy.
During this Covid-19 time, we want to be close to our family and friends in the U.S. But we also want to be safe. Luckily, some Mexican states are accepting U.S. passports.
Mexico is close to our family and friends and safer than the U.S. But how much safer? Is it worth the air travel risk? Yes, it is.
There is a good deal of purposeful confusion about Covid-19 in the U.S, but not in other countries. In other countries, the information is clear, scientific, and consistent. I did some research. It’s scary.
We are currently in the U.S. state of Arizona. The Mexican state of Jalisco is open for U.S. travelers and fairly close. I compared these two states.
Covid-19 By The Numbers
Below are the number of Covid-19 cases per million people in different areas:
Place Number of people infected per million
- Arizona 20,000
- USA 10,500
- Mexico 2,500
- Jalisco. 1,100
Wow! When’s the next flight to Jalisco?
In order to make these numbers more mentally manageable, I dropped three zeros (1,000,
000) to compare the number of people carrying the disease out of every 1,000 people you encounter.
Place Number of people infected per thousand
- Arizona 20
- USA 10
- Mexico 2
- Jalisco. 1
This is how those numbers relate to real life,
When I go to the grocery store I’ll encounter maybe 50 people between the parking lot, walking the aisles, checking out, and back through the parking lot.
- In Arizona, USA two of them will be infected.
- In Jalisco, Mexico I will have to go to the store 10 times before I encounter one infected person.
You might guess where our next international travel destination will be.
Jalisco is also in the Tropics and partially on the Pacific Ocean. Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan are in Jalisco. We might not come back.
Flying Internationally Travel During The Covid-19 Lockdown
But this still leaves the troubling issue of air travel. Given our situation, there is no way around flying. All the other countries still open to Americans require air travel. Mexico has closed its land borders to the U.S. If we want to get to safety we have to run the gauntlet.
So we will reduce our risk as much as possible.
Of course we:
- Stay away from people, especially the non-masked spreaders
- Wear masks
- Have (with much difficulty) trained ourselves not to touch our faces.
- Wash our hands a lot
Specific to air travel we:
- Fly American Airlines because American Airlines require all passengers to wear a mask.
- Travel first class because there are only two seats in each row – no strangers within centimeters.
- Bring steel straws so our masks are only slightly moved and we don’t have to touch the container with our lips when we drink.
It’s not perfect. But it’s safer than staying in the United States and a lot safer than being in Arizona.
More Reasons To Travel Internationally During The Covid-19 Lockdown
Here’s some more information I came across that is driving our decision.
The Governor of Jalisco will lock down the state if
- the hospital system reaches 50% capacity
- the infection rate reaches 400 people per million.
Jalisco hospital’s capacity is currently at 26%. Arizona has no plan and the current hospital capacity is 86%.
Puerto Vallarta has been certified by the World Travel and Tourism Council as a “Safe Travels destination”. The U.S. is the most dangerous travel destination.
Obviously, we all wish things were different, better, but they are what they are. We “follow the facts” and make proactive decisions best for us and our family, that’s the best anyone can do.
We all have access to scientific and medical information. Use it. Make good decisions. Stay safe.