Is it ok? AND what’s difference?
Is it ok to travel during Corona? What’s the deal now, and how will it be in the future?
Well, I can’t really tell you. While everyone seams to be an expert, but no one actually knows anything, giving advices is a bit of a joke! All I can do is to share my point of view and the experiences I made. Hopefully this can help you to plan your next surf trip and decide when, where or IF to go.
Is it ok to travel during corona/ covid 19?
In my opinion no one knows what’s going on. Luckily for most of us, the decisions we make are mainly affecting us and not a whole country. So I guess it’s the same as it always was… Try to listen to yourself and decide what feel right for YOU!
Listening to all the “experts” tells you only, that everyone has a different idea about how dangerous it is, how easily it spreads and what the future holds. BUT what we know for sure is, that those businesses suffer, who need people to be there physically.
Many places depend on tourism and they want us to come back. (Same goes for the restaurant in your street).
I’m in the lucky situation to know people from many different parts of the world, and I’ve been talking to them about how life is now where they life. Surprisingly, most people told me the same… They said, that things are slow and quiet (especially in tourism and entertainment ), but that other than this, everything is relatively normal. I went to Lucerne in Switzerland, and for the first time in my life, I could see the Löwendenkmal without 9 rows of Asian and Indian tourists standing in front of me! Nice for me, bad for the countless shops that sell souvenirs and depend on them! I’ve heard the same for Venice in Italy, Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka and many other places.
Different countries have different measurements for hygiene and safety, and that’s probably one of the two biggest differences from one place to another. The other would be how good the health system (hospitals etc.) is. If you get really sick and need help in Switzerland, you’re probably in better hands than in some remote corner of Indonesia.
Kanan told me that Arugam Bay had a fantastic season and almost no tourists. The ones who decided to stay have more waves than they can wish for, move around freely, and enjoy a surf season with no crowds. Same in Indonesia with relatively empty breaks in Bali and the Mentawais like they haven’t been in 30 years!
We don’t know what the future holds, but we know that we should make our own decisions and live with the consequences. And I found it reasonable to travel again. You can judge me for this if you like! That is your personal decision. But what I heard from everyone who has been traveling over the last weeks and months is, that the local people were very happy and welcoming towards visitors.
And of course, the selfish reason to surf waves with much less people than usual made me want to go even more!
So I say:
YES, IT IS OK TO TRAVEL!
But as always, you have to decide for your self.
How do you book a surf trip now?
I knew I want to go somewhere with good waves, if possible warm water, and not too many people. Exactly the same as everyone else wants. And to be honest, the game is still the same! Only the rules have changed.
If you want to score uncrowded waves, you have to go at least one step further than everyone else.
This can be to walk to the next sand bank when you’re in France, to the next island in Indonesia, or to some difficult to reach place somewhere all over the world. The easy to reach places with all conveniences plus good waves, are always crowded.
But this time, finding such a place and getting there has changed. I had many possible place in mind, where I could go during corona. Here are a few.
Senegal is said to be open and welcomes tourists.
El Salvador opened their border for tourists on September 19th!
Bali was said to open mid September. It will stay close for tourists with a visa on arrival for a bit longer. BUT there is the possibility for a Social-culture Visa or business Visa. This would cost you somewhere between 600-1000$ for up to 6 months. If you have enough time, this could be your chance!
Sri Lanka was supposed to open for tourists on the first of August, but has “indefinitely postponed” it!
Mexico had its border never really closed, and some states are open for tourism. From what I’ve heard, there are very few tourists at the moment. If you want to see a place, rather than thousands of party people, this could be your year to go! (Yucatan Area). But if you want to surf it’s a bit of a guessing game or even a gamble. Maybe you can go to Oaxaca and surf some of the best point breaks of your life with only a handful of others. Or maybe you get stuck in Mexico City and find yourself locked up in a hotel room for 2 weeks. It’s really hard to know.
As I just said: It’s a bit of a guessing game. Regulations can change any time, and openings of regions, whole countries or airports can change by tomorrow. This makes it incredibly difficult and such a headache to plan a trip. But then again, Since we’ve got the internet (and later smartphones), planing a trip always left so little uncertainty, difficulties and place for surprises … maybe this gives back a bit of the travel excitement from former times?!
What did I do?
I spoke with many different people in different places, spend countless hours checking official homepages and tried to figure out where to go. Always keeping in mind, that most people give up at some point and go surfing with their car. This means less people in more complicated to reach places, and I kept trying. Where could I travel during corona?
But after some time, I gave up on one destination after the other! Portugal as well as the Maldives moved up on the list.
I talked to people who run guesthouses on the Maldives and got different responses every time. It was possible to book online. But talking to them directly, they told me, that they’re not sure when the islands open for tourism again.They thought it would be 15th of August, but this has changed again. It gives a list, with all the resorts and boats that are allowed to have guests at the moment, and if you have a booking confirmation with one of them, you can enter.
By now, only a few days later, it looks like the islands won’t open this year at all! But again, these are only rumours.
The whole time before the trip was stressful and all this made it so difficult to be excited in a positive way. Every email could be another cancellation!
I had to change a couple of flights, rearrange my booking and had other flights and rental cars for later in Portugal canceled as well. And during the trip the same game! Flights cancelled, time on the phone, stress… Trying to call the airlines is nearly impossible. TAP Portugal Let me hang in the line for 45 minutes before I gave up and changed my flight right at the airport.
So booking a trip is definitely more difficult than usual. You always need a plan B up your sleeve. But as a lot of the places are desperat for tourists to come, many offer really fair deals, like a 100% money back guarantee.
In the end, I decided to treat myself nice and spend two weeks on a surfboat. At the moment, there are very few boats in the Maldives who can have guests, what guarantee less people in the water than in other years.
How is to travel during Corona?
It’s a headache! Literally! They canceled my flight less than a week before departure and I couldn’t change it online. As it was weekend, no one in my country would picking up the phone until Monday and I really couldn’t wait that long. So I sat there, in the middle of Friday night, calling the 24/7 office in Qatar, and managed to have my flight moved one day ahead. But this meant to make all the other arrangements too. Work, friends and family, apartment, booking for the boat… After all this was done, I went to the airport even earlier than usual and was surprised at the check in! Almost no one was on the flight, or in the airport. That was not that much of a surprise, but they asked me for a health check up I didn’t know about!
Freaking out is never helpful in these situations. But to be honest… I got a little afraid they send me home again. And as the flight the next day was already cancelled, it would have been at least two more days of waiting… with someone already in my sublet flat! The health check up they wanted was easily done online. After a few minutes, I got the feedback and allowance to fly. My boat was on the list too, and with less than 30 passengers on the plane, check in was quick.
As my boards disappear on the over-size luggage band, I felt relieved in a to me unknown way!
I really haven’t slept too well the nights before and it was more stressful than my first time traveling alone 15 years ago. But everything looked finally good.
They gave us a face shield to wear from departure until arriving at our destination, and of course a facemask to wear at all time too. This is different from destination to destination and difficult to find out what it’s going to be. As much as I like the happy go lucky approach of a trip, if you want to travel during corona, being organised and know before you go is how it should be done.
How will it be in the future? And where to go this winter?
It’s really difficult to say. Some of the countries I thought would open up soon, are postponing it. But on the other hand, Senegal for example is said to be open already (with restrictions),
If you want to go to the Caribbean, you’re chances aren’t bad either. Some countries are already open again and most others have plans to welcome tourist soon. Of course with restrictions.
Most of Europe is open too. Why not a trip to the Wave in Bristol? The only catch is the quarantine some countries have on entering or returning. As I said before, best thing you can do is, to check the official pages and spend a couple of nights in front of your computer as I did.
If you decide to go to a place that is easy to get to, with few restrictions and good waves, you will share them with probably more people than ever before. But if you go the extra step, you’ve got the chance of scoring some of the best waves of your life with less people in the water then during the last few decades… it’s all up to you if you’re travelling during corona, or wait it out?!
With the UK already starting with vaccines, I guess it is only a question of time, before more and more countries let you only enter if you had your shot and can prove it! Sure, it is already the same with some countries and vaccinations they want to see proof to let you enter. (Yellow fever etc…). But if you’re for or against vaccinations is a whole different story!
We will have to wait and see how it plays out. And once again, it will change how we choose where to go.
As it looks, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, probably the most common winter surf escape in South East Asia are not cheap, or not even open!
Morocco looks like it won’t be a safe and easy fix for your wave craving mind this winter either.
You will probably have to go to:
So the Canary Islands will most probably be the easiest escape for Europeans. I love these islands but I guess it will be more crowded in the water than it has already been the last few years?! Play your part, be nice and respectful and you’ll be fine.
Barbados has a 2 days Quarantine on arrival, but other than this looks relatively easy. And so are other countries in the Caribbean. Dominican Republic, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Jamaika or some of the others have waves too.