Crippled. Devastated. Crushed. These are just a few of the many words that could apply to the travel sector after 2 long years of COVID-19. Indeed, although most industries felt the effects of government-enforced lockdowns and social distancing, very few have been impacted as severely as tourism.
Consider the latest statistics from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). While international tourist arrivals rose by 4% in 2021, they remained down by a staggering 72% on pre-pandemic levels.
Thankfully, things are finally beginning to look up.
With vaccination rates rising, restrictions easing, and countries learning to live with the virus, borders near and far are now re-opening- much to the delight of travel-starved people around the world! Suddenly, after months of being rooted to one spot, the opportunity to indulge those itchy feet is available once again.
But where exactly is open? What countries are welcoming tourists? And, most important of all, which ones should be at the top of your bucket list?
Keep reading for answers to these questions and discover 7 top travel destinations you’ve been missing out on during the pandemic.
Having been closed to foreigners since early 2020, Australia finally re-opened its borders to fully-vaccinated travelers on February 21st of this year.
It certainly isn’t the most accessible destination on this list, but the stunning weather, gorgeous beaches, unique landscapes, and fun-loving locals all more than justify the effort to get there. From the striking red magnificence of Mount Uluru to the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, expect to be enchanted and entertained at every turn on any adventure to the Land Down Under.
Sandwiched between Panama and Nicaragua, Costa Rica offers travelers on a budget a little pocket of paradise in Central America. Upon completion of a Health Pass*, you’ll have access to a land of immense biodiversity, spectacular national parks, beautiful sunny weather, and world-class wining and dining opportunities.
If that wasn’t enough, Costa Rica also has a reputation for being one of the happiest places on earth, providing visitors a taste of “Pura Vida” (its famous motto, which means “pure life”). After two years of COVID-19 confinement, that’s sure to be a tantalizing prospect.
*This will be discontinued from April 1st, thus lifting all remaining restrictions.
Proud, ancient, and postcard-perfect, it’s no surprise that Greece draws flocks of tourists to its shores each year. Among its myriad attractions, there are fascinating millennia-old monuments, endless sun-kissed islands to explore, and some of the best white-sand beaches in the entire world.
Although rates of COVID remain high, entry is permitted for US citizens who can show proof of vaccination, a negative PCR test taken within 72 of departure (or a negative antigen test within 24 hours), or proof of recovery.
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, anyone with a rising sense of wanderlust will be pleased to know France is now re-open to both vaccinated and unvaccinated visitors.
Cases are high and restrictions remain (especially for the unvaccinated). Yet, for any Francophiles out there, the rewards of visiting this cultural powerhouse may outweigh the costs. Get ready to enjoy fine food and even finer wine in a diverse, picturesque landscape that’s blessed with unique historical and natural attractions.
The Philippines are a group of idyllic islands in the western Pacific Ocean. A veritable paradise on earth, travelers can expect rich biodiversity, remarkable natural landscapes, crystal clear turquoise waters, and a colorful culture to accompany the tropical fauna and flora on offer.
One look at the untouched beaches, complete with palm fronds and white sands, is enough to convince most people to put the Philippines on their bucket list. Better still, recent legislative changes mean anyone who can show proof of vaccination can go.
Iceland is a country of natural wonders. The Northern Lights paint the night sky a ghostly green, waterfalls rage in torrents down towering cliffs, dramatic canyons cut through the landscape, and natural hot springs provide a sumptuous escape from the icy air. Raw, wild, and untouched, this would be an ideal escape for outdoor enthusiasts hoping to spread their wings and visit foreign shores.
As of February 25th, Iceland lifted all remaining travel restrictions too. It’s now as accessible as anywhere around the globe- requiring no pre-registration, no PCR tests, no quarantine upon arrival, and no need to be vaccinated.
This tiny archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean is yet another dazzling European travel destination. In large part because of its fascinating (if turbulent) history, Malta has a special atmosphere, an abundance of unique tourist attractions, and a distinctive cultural blend that’s unlike anywhere else on the planet.
Among its many lures, there are giant, age-old fortresses, otherworldly landscapes, and 300 days of sunshine each year! For people who love history, sunshine, pristine beaches, and Game of Thrones (many scenes of which were filmed here), Malta’s hard to beat.
Restrictions on travel are easing, yet standard COVID rules do apply. These include showing proof of vaccination and completing a Public Health Declaration Form. Unvaccinated individuals must undergo hotel quarantine for 10 days upon arrival.
Visit These Top Travel Destinations in 2022
After 2 years of being pummeled by pandemic restrictions, the tourist industry finally seems set to get a break. At long last, international borders are opening back up, just in time to satisfy a wealth of pent-up demand for travel!
With any luck, the destinations in this article will have whetted the appetite of anyone determined to get away in the near future. With the lack of options over the last few years, those saved up frequent flyer miles and discounts on booking travel through cash back apps will go a long way to making any destination on the list more affordable.
A cautious note to close on though:
The outlook appears positive, yet history teaches us that the situation can change at the drop of a hat. While the countries on this list are open at the time of writing, there’s no guarantee they’ll remain that way. To avoid disappointment, be sure to check the latest CDC recommendations before booking tickets.
Featured Image Credit: Pexels.
Danny Newman is a digital nomad, blogger, and content writer from the UK. A passionate traveller with a perpetual itch in his feet, he's always on the hunt for the next big adventure.