By Prasiddha Gustanto
Editor at ALVEO
The global tourism industry was among the hardest hit when the pandemic broke out in early 2020. Things got so bad that the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) named 2020 as the worst year for tourism in recorded history, with one billion fewer international arrivals compared to 2019. Conditions improved somewhat in 2021, with the UNWTO reporting a four percent upturn compared to 2020, but the number of international tourist arrivals still accounted for 72 percent below pre-pandemic levels.
Fortunately, the global tourism industry has already gotten past the worst of its pandemic-era slumps. The first quarter of 2022 alone already saw three times as many international arrivals compared to the same period in 2021, according to a UNWTO report released last month. In fact, as of June 2, some 45 destination countries (of which 31 are in Europe) have no COVID-19-related travel requirements.
Here are five of the popular countries to visit that have none of the restrictions in place, meaning no testing, quarantines, countries banned from entry, or vaccine requirements.
(At the same time, due to the sudden nature of outbreaks for COVID-19 variants, travel rules can change at a moment’s notice. Be sure to have COVID-19 travel insurance on you if you wish to go abroad.)
The best place to visit after having spent much of the past year or two cooped up indoors is a country with more beautiful natural landscapes than the eye can see. And few places in the world qualify for this more than Norway. Ask the average person to think of Norwegian beauty and they’ll immediately think of its gorgeous fjords, mountains, lakes, forests and ski resorts. The Geirangerfjord, being part of the West Norwegian Fjords that boasts breathtaking scenery, has since 2005 been on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. In terms of human-made attractions, the country is no slouch either, with places like the historical seaside Bryggen area in Bergen or the arctic city of Tromsø with its gardens and view of the northern lights. The country has had no COVID-19-related travel restrictions since February 2022.
The United Kingdom
Modern civilization cannot escape from the influence of the United Kingdom. Fewer countries have had more of an impact on the way the world currently is than the UK, particularly England, of which the UK is composed, alongside Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Historic sites are everywhere and date back to prehistoric monuments like Stonehenge and ancient 2,000-year-old Roman Baths, as well as iconic buildings such as the Tower of London, Windsor Castle and Canterbury Cathedral. Scotland has places like Edinburgh Castle, the famous Loch Ness lake and the Skye inner isle. Heading to Wales, you will find Snowdonia National Park and Caernarfon Castle are worth visiting. Northern Ireland has the UNESCO World Heritage site called the Giant’s Causeway and other sites like The Titanic Belfast. The UK has been free of COVID-19-related travel restrictions since March 2022.
If there is one country that trumps the UK in terms of global influence, it’s Greece. It has influenced almost every aspect of the modern world, from government, architecture, and language, to arts and even the Olympic Games which originated in ancient Greece. To see the birthplace of modern civilization, you can visit historic sites like the Acropolis in Athens which dates back to the 5th century BC or the Delphi ruins where pilgrims came to worship Apollo. Other famous places include the Santorini, with its cliff-top towns of Fira and Oia and their whitewashed cubic buildings. Those in search of glamour can visit Mykonos, known for its boutique hotels and classy food and entertainment options. Natural destinations like the islands of Crete and Zákynthos. Greece has removed all COVID-19-related travel restrictions since May 2022.
A variety of historic sites, seaside resorts and culture, spa destinations and over 600 national parks exist in Turkey for those tired of staying locked up indoors. Its capital, Istanbul, is home to historic places such as the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Hagia Sophia, and the 30,000 square-meter Grand Bazaar. The Cappadocia is a valley region with unique geologic features, having been formed by centuries of erosion. Another natural highlight is the pure white travertine terraces of Pamukkale and the magnificent Mediterranean coastline overall. Other tourism hubs worth visiting, among others are Antalya or Safranbolu, and the stunning Ölüdeniz which is popular for paragliding. Turkey lifted all COVID-19 travel restrictions in early June 2022.
Since the 1980s, Costa Rica has been a popular tourism destination, and for a good reason. Its national parks and protected areas make up almost a fourth of the country’s land area, which is the largest in the world as a percentage of a country’s territory. It may only have 0.03 percent of the world’s landmass, but it has five percent of its biodiversity. Alongside volcanoes and beaches, nature lovers have plenty to see, with places like Manuel Antonio National Park for wildlife viewing and the Cloud Forests near Monteverde for ecotourism. There are other destinations as sights for sore eyes like Dominical, which is a backpacker’s heaven, and places such as Mal Pais and Jaco for surfing and beaches. Costa Rica removed all COVID-19-related travel restrictions in April 2022.