Visit the Maldives – It’s Open!

If you’re looking for paradise, then it’s probably time to visit the Maldives. The tropical archipelago is open to tourists from any country and doesn’t require in-room quarantine. These are our tops picks, from activities, to accommodation, we’ve got ideas for every budget and traveller.

The Family Friendly Holiday

The Maldives have plenty of family-friendly options for every type of budget

If you’re travelling with your family, particularly small children, you might not want to venture too far away from the main islands. Travel between the atolls isn’t always straightforward, so staying within reachable distance of facilities such as hospitals is a good idea. Touchdown in the Maldivian capital, Male, and start by exploring the vibrant markets and ornate historical mosques. As soon as the urge to laze under swaying palms overcomes, catch one of the short domestic flights, or boat trips to the atoll of your choice.

Spoil yourselves and head to Niyama Private Island Maldives. Here, your luxury beach side villa has everything you might need (down to a humidor with cigars). This is the ultimate getaway for kids and adults. Little ones can create their own memories at the Explorer Kids Club, while the grown-ups enjoy a well-earned massage, and a cocktail on the beach. Plus, just a 40 minute flight from Male, its not a headache to get there!

Alternatively, head for the all-inclusive package holiday with Club Med Maldives at their Kani Resort, just to the north of Male. Here, you’ll guaranteed a stress-free holiday!

Paradise on a Budget

A holiday in paradise doesn’t have to cost you the earth

To visit the Maldives doesn’t have to mean to spend a fortune. There are a number of lovely guesthouses scattered throughout the archipelago. Acqua Blue, for example, is an intimate guesthouse on the island of Rasdhoo, 60km away from Male. The guesthouse simple, modern rooms, which are all air-conditioned. Rasdhoo is the only inhabited island in its small atoll, and is popular for its excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities.

Plus, if you still want to stay in a hotel, there’s always the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma where you’ll still be spoilt with pristine beaches and turquoise sea. And its just a 45 minute speedboat ride from the airport!

Visit the Maldives – Just the two of you

The Maldives is the ultimate place to rekindle that spark

If you’re looking for a romantic getaway to rekindle passion dulled by nearly two years of sweatpants and do-it-yourself haircuts, the Maldives has more romantic resorts than you could shake a palm leaf at.

If you want to stay close to the main islands and the airport, try the Kurumba Maldives Resort. Located on an atoll just a short 10 minute flight from Male, you’ll be relaxing on the beach in no time.

If you prefer to stay in a children-free zone, then head to the Komandoo Resort. Stay in a luxury villa built on stilts in the lagoon, luxuriate in your own Jacuzzi, and enjoy world-class dining under the sea at the 5.8 Undersea Restaurant. Komandoo is in the Lhaviyani Atoll, just 40 minutes flight from Male.

Must Knows

Best Time to Visit: The weather is balmy all year round, however the ‘dry season’ is considered to be between November and April. The ‘wet season’ between May and October doesn’t need to be off-putting though – during this time there are fewer visitors, and prices are often lower.

Currency: Maldivian rufiyaa

Official Language: Dhivehi, but English is widely spoken

Things to Do: The Maldives has something for everyone. The surfing spots in the north are world renown. Scuba diving, and snorkeling opportunities abound, with varying degrees of difficulty. Male is home to colourful markets, including the fish market, which is a must-see. The Maldivian cuisine, with its Islamic influences is an explosion of colour and flavour, and food tours can be arranged.

Important: The Republic of the Maldives is an Islamic nation. Alcohol isn’t freely available, and is generally only served in the resorts. When in public, visitors are encouraged to dress modestly.

Top Tip: Due to the pandemic, many resorts don’t accommodate guests who have already stayed in another accommodation elsewhere in the Maldives – double check in advance.

Please Note: Although a large number of them have re-opened, not all accommodations and tourism facilities have resumed operations yet. Most appear likely to have re-opened by October. You can find out more details here.

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Top Quarantine-Free Beach Holidays

You’ve earned that week soaking up the sun on a golden beach. And we don’t want you to have to quarantine in order to get it. These are our top quarantine-free beach holidays.

For this list, we have chosen destinations who are, or will be, open to leisure travellers, both vaccinated and not.

Sit back, order a gin and tonic, and start planning!

The Bahamas – PCR Test: 5 days prior

The Bahamas’ numerous islands and cays all offer their own character and unique experience to visitors. Visit The Exumas and swim with the famous pigs, stroll along the pink sand beach on Cat Island, or spend your days sailing sedately through the islets and cays, stopping to explore grottos and caves as you go.

Don’t Miss: The lesser known and secluded, Rum Cay, home to historical ruins, shipwrecks and spectacular marine life.

Vaccination Status: There’s currently no quarantine requirement for vaccinated and non-vaccinated travellers who have been approved for the travel visa.

More Information: https://www.bahamas.com/travelupdates

Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) – PCR Test: 72 hours

This archipelago off the coast of Africa, in the Atlantic Ocean, is often over looked and underappreciated. The volcanic nature of the series of islands has created a dynamic topography and diversity, giving visitors a bit of everything. Travellers can visit the island of Fogo with its dark, black, earth and rich green landscapes – its no surprise to see the volcano dominating the views. Or, meander the 55km of white sandy beaches of Morna island. Known for its music, restaurants and beautiful beaches, the island of Saint Vincent is gives culture and relaxation.

Don’t Miss: Explore the tiny island of Brava – said to be the greenest of the archipelago and home to nature trails and jagged mountain peaks.

Status: Beyond a negative PCR test there are no other specific entry requirements. Travellers are advised to enquire locally with regards to inter-island travel.

More Information: https://turismo.cv/pt_PT/

Mauritius – PCR Test: 72 hours (October)

This Indian Ocean island is officially re-opening to all travellers in October. Mauritius is surrounded by a natural reef, so visitors can enjoy snorkeling in the calm waters of the lagoon, kite-surfing, water-skiing and more. If you need a break from the beach, the island has a number of historical, and cultural attractions. Take in the sights at the Chateau de Labourdonnais, L’Aventure du Sucre, and the Chamarel Waterfall. Out of Mauritius’ multiculturalism has emerged a kaleidoscopic cuisine, with fusions of the various heritages of its people entwined in its local dishes. Experience this while strolling through the many markets, or, on the beach, watching the sun slip into the sea.

Don’t Miss: Take a catamaran trip out to the small islands of Coin de Mire and Ilot Gabriel for excellent snorkeling and a barbeque on the beach.

Vaccinated Travellers: No travel restrictions except for a PCR test

Non-Vaccinated Travellers: In-room hotel quarantine for 14 days

More information: https://mauritiusnow.com/

Zanzibar, Tanzania – PCR Test: 72 hours and again on arrival

A melting pot of distinct histories and culture, Zanzibar presents visitors with a little bit of everything. If you tire of sunning yourself on the beach, then spend a day visiting Stone Town. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a fascinating mélange of Persian baths, Anglican cathedrals, an old fort, and colourful bazaars. Zanzibar is a spice-lover’s mecca, and a key source of some of the most valued spices. Book a spice tour to learn how this stop on the trade route influenced the culinary world. After all this, whether you head back to your luxury resort, or your local guest house, you’ll be met with warmth and hospitality (and excellent food).

Don’t Miss: Spotting monkeys, bush pigs, antelope and more on a Jozani Forest Tour.

Vaccination Status: Tanzania has no quarantine requirement in place, regardless of your vaccination status.

More Information: http://www.zanzibartourism.go.tz/index.php

The Seychelles – PCR Test: 72 hours

The Seychelles' beaches hide caves and grottos - perfect for hidden treasure

Let stories of pirates and buried treasure weave through your imagination whilst lying on the beach in the Seychelles. Visitors will have their pick of sandy coves, as the Seychelles is home to miles of unspoiled coast line. Inland, stretch your legs on gentle trails through verdant landscapes, or challenge yourself and conquer one of the steep peaks. The Seychelles is home to some of the world’s most biodiverse landscapes, as well as fascinating markets, museums, and attractions (and, according to rumour, pirate treasure!).

Don’t Miss: Charter a yacht (or, if experienced, sail yourself) and sail between the islands at your own pace.

Vaccination Status: The Seychelles has no quarantine requirement regardless of vaccination status

Status: Open to all countries except South Africa, Brazil, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan

More Information: http://advisory.seychelles.travel/

The Maldives – PCR Test: 72 hours

Jump from atoll to atoll in the Maldives, and laze on the pristine white beaches

Whether you choose to go for a luxury resort, a yacht anchored off one of the atolls, or a budget-friendly guesthouse, the Maldives has accommodation for everyone. The small nation remained popular with visitors throughout 2020, and is now open to travellers from all countries. Think glisteningly white beaches, parasol palm trees, and spectacular marine life – whether you jump from atoll-to-atoll or stay in one place, you’ll have everything you need for a proper escape!

Don’t Miss: Dining at Ithaa, the world’s first underwater restaurant.

Vaccinated Travellers: Do not need to quarantine but must provide a negative PCR test

Non-Vaccinated Travellers: Must be accommodated in a tourism guest house that meets specific requirements. More information here.

More Information: https://visitmaldives.com/en

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To Make or to Wait? Creating Decision-Making Aids for Travel

Do it right? Or do it right now? Creating decision-making aids in the current climate of rapid technical and data evolution presents developers with a conundrum.  Getting a solution into the market quickly allows them to test their value proposition and potentially steal a march on competitors by establishing a brand.  By contrast, waiting another six months means incorporating functionality and data that was not previously available, ensuring greater value to customers.

In this data-driven arms race it is important to remember that an end point probably does not exist.  Ceaseless innovation will inevitably render many solutions redundant before they’ve had an opportunity to embed themselves in customers’ organisations.  This should not discourage developers, though, so long as they consider how to incorporate solutions into customers’ workflow.

A departures board at an airport displays various destination options for travellers - decision-making aids can help with the confusion
Border restrictions and entry rules thwart standardised and automated data collection

Changing rules, changing data

Covid data relating to travel is constantly evolving as countries’ and territories’ rules change.  The volume of data is also expanding, as governments and organisations are collecting more, and more granular data.  Both impact travellers’ decisions.  Ingesting, standardising, and categorising these various streams is a challenge for data scientists, and there is a risk of boiling the ocean to create a solution which synthesises an ever-expanding data set.

Developing a model with this functionality, whilst also future-proofing it, presents a terrific long-term challenge.  This should not detract from adding value right now, though.  The Pareto Principle (commonly termed the 80/20 Rule) suggests that the majority of requirements can often be met by solving a relatively small number of problems.  

Examples include machine learning solutions which are used to interpret medical images in hospitals or luggage scans in airports.  Training the technology to identify frequent, unambiguous instances, frees up human specialists to focus on the rarer complex and cryptic cases, where subtle interpretation is needed.  

One size doesn’t fit all

The same approach can apply to travel data.  For the majority of customers, the parameters of their travel decision will be easy for them to define.  This can be supported by a core data set that is kept current with regular updates from trusted sources.  Providing automated solutions for this cohort can help them incorporate Covid-19 considerations into their flight booking, just as they currently filter by price, duration, and number of stops.  This standardised approach creates significant value whilst remaining relatively simple and easy to maintain.  While there could of course be more data layered into the offering, we must remember that for many customers, good enough is good enough.

For those customers requiring more bespoke arrangements, or whose circumstances are more complex, additional functionality can be developed.  Detailed information about the specifics of local quarantine arrangements for returning travellers with children, for example, may not lend itself to the level of standardisation necessary to incorporate it into a straightforward core solution. Additionally, the introduction of discrete vaccinations and their respective requirements further complicates matters. At this point a broker or agent armed with an accurate and timely qualitative data feed could be best placed to offer a premium service. An off-the-shelf approach is not designed to fit the needs of the most intricate requirements. 

Customers are heterogenous, and so are the data solutions they require to best support their decision making.  Developers must seek to remain valuable to the organisations they serve.  This means they must balance the expediency of “good enough” data against a sensitive awareness of how to create the tailored add-ons necessary for first class services.

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Which Airline Should you Choose?

Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, choosing the right airline in the current climate is trickier than usual. Many carriers have drop routes and tightened schedules. So, which airlines are still running frequently, and which are fighting the good fight with excellent Covid-19 protocols?

These are some of our top picks.

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines is using the tagline ‘Flying to Most Countries’, which bodes well for travellers. The airline currently travels to 245 destinations around the world. While the majority of routes around are Europe and the Middle East, flights also operate to a number of destinations in the United States, as well as Mexico, Panama, Colombia and Venezuela.

Travel from countries in Africa is facilitated by flights operating to South Africa (Cape Town and Johannesburg) with a total of 7 flights a week, as well as a number of other key African markets such as Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Nigeria.

Travellers to and from Asia can benefit from flights operating to the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore, amongst others.

If travellers want to use Turkey as their mid-way point to Europe, then Turkish Airlines can help them finish their journey as it offers services to almost all countries on the continent.

Turkish Airlines follows strict COVID-19 protocols, including thorough onboard sanitization, as well as operating a contact-free boarding process. No meals will be served on board a flight that is less than 2 hours long. For hygiene purposes, the airline no longer offers pillows and only offers blankets for flights longer than 4 hours.

Flexible Booking: Yes

Find out more information here.

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways was recently named as the top airline for 2021 and its not hard to see why. The carrier continued to perform consistently during the quietest days of 2020, and has spearheaded innovative solutions to problems presented by the pandemic.

With 36 destinations in Europe, 28 in Asia, 23 in Africa, 19 in the Middle East, and 13 in the Americas, Qatar’s flagship carrier has held its own as travel restarts.

Offering an attractive connection point in Hamad International Airport (it too an industry award winner), Qatar Airways’ passengers will find fewer hurdles in getting from points A to B.

The airline follows strict sanitization programs in its cabins – employing ultraviolet cleaning technology, and thoroughly sanitizing cabin items such as headphones and blankets and pillows. Onboard magazines and programmes have been added to an app that passengers can easily access from their phones.

Flexible Booking: Yes

Find out more here.

Lufthansa

The German flagship airline is once again operating flights on every continent. The airlines offers around 75 flights to North America, of that, 31 of them go to the east coast of the United States. Flights to African remain lower – currently approximately 26 head routes below the equator. Passengers can benefit from over 190 destinations to mainland Europe, and over 50 throughout Asia and the Pacific.

Lufthansa has also started flights to new destinations including to some Greek Islands, Cyprus, and northern regions of Norway.

Lufthansa follows COVID-19 protocols and has adopted a contact-free boarding method by boarding passengers in groups. All passengers are given disinfectant wipes and must wear masks at all times. For a small added fee, passengers can book the seat next to them for extra peace of mind.

Flexible Booking: Yes

Find out more here.

KLM

KLM operates to over 110 destinations between the Americas, Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa. The airline hasn’t resumed all of its routes as yet, but flies frequently to its current destinations. KLM has resumed a number of its flights to South America, including routes to Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile. For those wanting to visit the Caribbean, the royal Dutch airline is a reliable option as it has frequent flights in operation.

KLM, operating in line with its strict COVID protocols, has reinstated much of its onboard meal service. Pillows are offered to passengers on intercontinental flights, and where possible, seats between passengers are kept empty.

Flexible Booking: Yes

Find out more here.

Kenya Airways


BriYYZ from Toronto, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kenya Airways was another carrier that kept on going through the quiet months of 2020 and is an excellent option for affordable flights.

The airline flies to every region, including 4 destinations in Asia and the Pacific, and 6 in the Americas. The former includes Hong Kong, Mumbai, and Guangzhou, and the latter, New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.

Kenya Airways’ routes throughout the African continent are obviously extensive, and the airline flies to 5 main destinations in Europe, (including Paris and London), as well as Dubai in the Middle East.

Kenya Airways is committed to strict protocols both in the airport and in the air. Meals served on longer flights are single wrapped, and packaging of blankets and pillows is also single use. The cabins are thoroughly disinfected between flights, and social distancing in enforced.

Flexible Booking: Yes

Find out more here.

Stay tuned for more of our airline choices!

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Our Picks in Japan (to visit when you can)

Japan is a country steeped in history, whimsy, and currently, sportsmen and women. While travel restrictions are preventing most people from visiting at the moment, there’s no harm in planning in advance.

These are our top picks for Japan:

Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park

Mount Fuji is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Japan’s highest, and most famous mountain, dominates the landscape around the park. Mount Fuji plays such an integral role in Japan’s culture and history that it has been recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO. For the intrepid traveller, Mount Fuji’s most popular climb begins at the 5th station, about half-way up, has an overnight stop, allowing climbers to summit around sunrise. For the less adventurous, enjoy the views of Mount Fuji from the comfort of your high speed train, or one of the many hot springs in the region.

Kappabashi Kitchen Town

Japan is known for the high quality of its knives and craftsmen

If you’re into food, cooking and kitchen gadgets then you can’t miss Kappabashi Kitchen Town in Tokyo. Chefs and restaurateurs head here to stock up their kitchens – you’ll find every type of knife imaginable. The road is a kilometre long, and has café stops for the weary shopper along the way. You’re unlikely to come away empty-handed, whether you buy for practical use, décor, or fun.

Wild Snow Monkey Park

Snow Monkeys bathe in the pools in Winter

Open since 1964, the Wild Snow Monkey Park, allows visitors to get up and close with wild monkeys in beautiful mountainous settings. In the Winter months, the Snow Monkeys, or Japanese Macaques, tend to bathe in the pools around the park. The park is unfenced and the animals roam freely – while the monkeys are a key attraction, the surroundings are appealing enough to draw visitors. The park is open 7-days a week throughout the year.

Animal Islands Around Japan

Animal islands are popular with visitors to Japan

Another fauna-based attraction that makes our list are the animal islands dotted around Japan. This might not be a trip for the easily allergic – Okuno Island, for example, is home to over 900 rabbits, hence its alternative name of rabbit island. Similarly, there are a number of Cat islands, where the feline population far exceeds the human. One of the islands, Tashiro, has a shrine to the cats that once helped the silk producers rid the island of rats.

Ghibli Museum

The Robot Soldier guards the Ghibli Museum from the rooftop

Studio Ghibli, best known for their animated work, is behind this homage to all that’s weird, and wonderful, in the colourful Ghibli world. As you near the Ghibli Museum entrance, you’ll be greeted by a large Totoro before being ushered into a blast of colour and creativity. Every room is different – there’s a theatre, and a room full of sketches illustrating the nascent days of a film. On the roof you’ll find a garden and a five metre tall Robot Soldier from Castle in the Sky. Stop for lunch at Straw Hat Café, surrounded by rare red pine trees. Please note, visitors must book their tickets to the museum in advance.

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Iceland’s Top Must-Sees – And tips for getting there

As we’ve all been locked inside, hunkering out the pandemic storm on a diet of banana bread and Tik Tok videos, its no surprise that travel experts predict a spike in adventure tourism. Seeking the great outdoors, is a trend that’s expected to hang around. With that in mind, we bring you our top picks for the must-sees in Iceland – the choices were difficult!

Iceland has relaxed its strict travel regulations – most recently allowing fully vaccinated visitors to arrive with barely any restrictions. EU and Schengen zone residents will find travelling to Iceland fairly simple, as will those in a selected number of third countries. Find out more information here. For details on PCR testing requirements for children, please check here.

Third party countries who are currently exempt from travel restrictions are:

  • Albania
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Brunei
  • Canada
  • Hong Kong (SAR)
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Kosovo
  • Lebanon
  • Macao (SAR)
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro
  • New Zealand
  • North Macedonia
  • Qatar
  • Rwanda
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • USA

Travellers to Iceland must pre-register before arriving and it is recommended to download the local Covid-19 app.

Our Top 5 Must-Sees

Whale Watching

Whale-watching in Iceland

Far out in the North Atlantic Ocean, its no surprise that Iceland gets the treasure trove of whale sightings. Whale-watching excursions have become one of the country’s most popular tourist activities. Visitors will get a further bang for their buck, as Iceland’s rich marine is also teaming with dolphins, porpoises and up above, various sea birds. Whale-spotting tours set out daily from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík, as well as a number of smaller towns. Húsavík, which you may recognize as the town in Netflix’ film Eurovision, is whale-watching heaven as it has some of the most densely populated waters in the world.

Whales can be spotted all year round in Iceland, however, the optimal months are between April and September.

Icelandic Horses

Iceland’s horses

Did you know that the Icelandic language has over 100 names for the colours and patterns of their horses? These horses are so loved and intertwined in Icelandic history and folklore, its not surprising that horse riding is a ubiquitous activity in the country. See Iceland from a different vantage point by booking one of many horse riding tours available across the island – choosing to go on four legs instead of four wheels is the best way off of the beaten track! If riding isn’t your thing, no problem, in our opinion, the horses are just as captivating from afar.

Do go Chasing Waterfalls

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

Iceland is home to some incredible waterfalls. Arguably Iceland’s most famous waterfall is Gullfoss (the Golden Waterfall). Located in the south of the country, the falls, drop down either side of a gorge 32 metres deep. If you want to visit the picturesque Seljalandsfoss waterfall, then don’t forget to wear a raincoat as the topography of waterfall allows visitors to walk behind it. Please note, the pathway is closed in winter due to ice. If you visit in the summer months though, you can enjoy the wildflowers that spring out around the waterfall thanks to the spray.

Explore the Wilderness

Explore the wilderness of the WestFjords

We love going off the beaten track – and the WestFjords are certainly that! Jutting out into the sea in the north west of the country, this region has been left somewhat undisturbed – and it shows. Birdlife is abundant here, and you won’t find it difficult to spot an Arctic fox. More stunning waterfalls, and dramatic cliffs will keep your camera busy. From hiking, to kayaking, and discovering the local cuisine, the WestFjords will give you an adventure you won’t easily forget. The region is accessible by air, and is roughly 450km from Reykjavík.

Hike Iceland

Iceland has hiking trails for every level of experience

In a country lauded for its nature, hiking obviously has to make a ‘must-see’ and must-do’ list. Iceland is a walker, runner, and hiker’s playground, with innumerable trails to pick from. Your best bet is to start on a trail in one of the national parks, such as Vatnajökull National Park – which is centered round a glacier. Trail difficulties and routes are well marked. Iceland’s geographical diversity gives explorers a bit of everything – from beaches, to volcanoes and thermal pools, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Icelandair operates regular flights to a number of European and North American destinations – travellers are advised to check with their local travel service provider.

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Re-Open, Re-Charge, Relax – Our picks for your next escape

Hands up if you need a bit of R&R – we’re sitting here with both arms in the air. Sadly, the days of being able to book a cheap Easyjet flight for a few sunny days in Corsica are, for now, somewhat out of reach. Now, with great R&R comes a little bit of admin – PCR tests, and travel rules are a hassle, we agree. But, once over those hurdles, the escapism can begin. Wellness is key, but where can you go to find it? We’re here to help you relax.

We’ve brought together some of our favourite spots for a relaxed getaway with a spot of wellness. From heady rainforests, to cobbles streets dappled by bougainvillea branches, everyone’s decompression holiday comes in different packages. We’ve given you a bit of everything.

Morocco

Decompress in style in Morocco
Relax in style in Morocco

Morocco has recently re-opened to visitors and has implemented strict Covid-19 protocols on accommodation and attractions. Morocco’s tourism portfolio allows you to sprinkle your holiday with a bit of adventure should you choose. Explore the souks, go dune bashing, or, just relax on your sun lounger. Whether your choice is reveling in luxury at the Mandarin Oriental‘s new spa in Marrakech, or a simple beachside escape on golden sands along the Atlantic, Morocco has R&R for every budget.

South Africa

Let nature restore balance along South Africa's Garden Route
Let nature hit the reset button in South Africa

South Africa is open to visitors, although leisure travel to Gauteng is currently not permitted. Driving along South Africa’s scenic coastal routes is an escape in itself, add in a few decadent stops and you’ll feel like a new person. Dine under the stars after an al fresco spa session at Bushman’s Kloof in Clanwilliam, in the Western Cape. When you’re not being massaged, take in the wildlife and rock art in the reserve. Up the eastern coast of the country is the famous Garden Route. Here you will find the luxury game reserve, Godwana, not far from Mossel Bay. Godwana is home to the Big 5, as well as world-class spa facilities, and fine dining.

For the more budget-conscious traveller, South Africa has a wide selection of accommodation, from hotels to AirBnB. For more information, check here.

Costa Rica

Tropical rainforests and gushing waterfalls in Costa Rica can relax any soul
Jungles and waterfalls wait for you in Costa Rica

If you’re looking for a relaxed retreat with a twist, then head to Costa Rica. Wild mountains, verdant rainforests and abundant flora and fauna will draw you in, and the accommodation will make you want to stay. As with all our holiday spots, Costa Rica has charming, and affordable accommodation, such as La Chosa del Manglar Nature Retreat, flanked by mangroves, and surrounded by birdlife, a hammock is the escapist’s ideal spot. If you want to top your Costa Rican adventure off with a bit of pampering, there are a number of luxury resorts to choose from. Kinkara is one of them, offering an all-inclusive experience with activities beyond your usual resort package. Swim in waterfalls, hike through the jungle, and practice yoga with vast views of the landscape – the place is designed to be restorative.

Greece

Relax and sip on cocktails while watching the sun set over the Mediterranean in Greece
Blue seas and blue skies are the perfect escapism in Greece

Greece is everything, to everyone; party islands, cultural trips, and languid yachting – one holiday could be multi-themed. You’ll find a wealth of smaller accommodation options dotted over Greece’s many islands, some off the beaten track (literally), some hugging the lapping waters of the Mediterranean. But, if you’re looking for somewhere truly awe-inspiring to relax, then go no further than Cavo Tagoo. This award-winning hotel is what Greek holiday dreams are made of. The hotel’s infinity pool has endless views over the seas, as do most rooms. Watch the sun disappear behind the horizon with your evening cocktail after a day spent in the spa – it doesn’t get much better than this!

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Reviving Travel Confidence

Whatever your reason to connect – to spend time with loved ones, to conduct business or to experience different parts of the world, Covid-19 has sent travel confidence into a free-fall and travel stress sky high. 

Stepping outside our comfort zones and embracing the unknown was formerly a rallying call to the adventure of travel. Now, it is a quagmire of border closures and colour coded restrictions, passenger caps, travel bubbles and bridges, PCR and antigen testing, mandatory hotel quarantine and home isolation periods, face covering rules and vaccination requirements, all in a seemingly constant state of flux. 

Although many domestic travel markets are well on the way to recovery, international travel is perceived as volatile and fragmented. Each country goes its own way in charting a course through the pandemic from suppression, to elimination, eradication and all points in between. Global attitudes to travel vary widely as a result, and even seasoned travellers are hesitant to dust off their passports given the difficulty of pivoting to a new normal. 

Flight switchboard in airport displaying flight destinations and times
Varying international travel regulations heighten hesitancy in travellers

So What Will It Take to Get International Travel’s Mojo Back? 

The answer will vary depending on what Pandemic Persona you are. After riding the Covid-19 safety, economic and emotional rollercoaster over the course of 2020 and 2021, it is fair to say that our attitudes towards the previously sanguine realm of international travel have shifted markedly. So too have our personas. User-centered design relies on identifying personas (customer groups with a set of similar behaviours, attitudes and values) and then tailoring products and services to respond to their wants and needs.

Pre-pandemic, passengers took travel safety and security largely for granted. Priorities related to travel were increasingly centered around nice to have creature comforts such as, free WiFi, food and beverage offerings, comfortable seating and ritzy washrooms.  But Covid-19 has flipped our prioritization on its head. At front and centre now, are essential hygiene factors, personal space, and clarity around Covid-19 requirements. Together, these contribute to the overall journey feasibility and reassure passengers that their health and safety is a priority.  

The Many Faces of Pandemic Personas

Identifying Pandemic Personas and addressing their respective needs is key to salvaging travel confidence. You may recognize yourself in one of the following evolving personas:

The Cautious Traveller

Wants to travel, but is concerned about the unknown in an environment where nothing seems predictable. They place high value on their own, and their family’s, health and safety, tending to go above and beyond requirements. They tend not to trust others to do the right thing. Cautious Travellers need to understand the regulations and protocols that will be encountered on their journey and be prepared for what lies ahead. 

The Reluctant Traveller

Has to rather than wants to travel and finds the thought of travel emotionally and physically stressful. This traveller is displaced from the familiarity and security of home by necessity – perhaps due changing circumstances, a family emergency, or travelling for work. In everyday life they manage fine and can resolve their own issues, but as a Reluctant Traveller they find the thought of navigating restrictions unwelcome and bewildering and are likely to benefit from journey guidance. 

The Unconvinced Traveller

Unsure about the pandemic and effectiveness of measures taken to defeat it. Not bothered about health risks. Unlikely to put any of their own time into discovering what is required of them and destined to bump against the sides of unwelcome regulatory surprises they encounter. Information needs to be pushed to them, for example by their travel agent or airline, as they will not seek it out themselves.

The Emergent Traveller

Feeling ready to emerge from domestic hibernation, they have conscientiously followed Covid-19 restrictions and wish to continue to do so as they venture forth. Self sufficient, organised and methodical by nature they will research what to expect of any journey and destination, and will remain vigilant to Covid-19 protocols. 

The Comfortable Traveller

Keen to relax and recharge after a tough year and happy to spend more for curated, premium services. This persona wants to be taken care of and is likely to use a travel booking entity; expecting them to do the planning and provide tailor-made information. The Comfortable Traveller desires their journey to be smooth, stress free and personalized. 

Travel Confidence and Confident Travellers

A personal taking a photograph on their smart phone of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris
Whether confident or cautious, every Pandemic Persona requires clear and current travel information

Despite their differences, all of these Pandemic Personas have a common need for reliable travel insight, presented in a readily digestible format, as a key enabler of travel confidence. SafeScore compiles route specific safety and border data from hundreds of  airlines, airports and border authorities and keeps it up-to-date. Which countries are open to you and your family? Which can you transit? PCR testing requirements? Quarantine rules? SafeScore regularly updates vaccination and infection rates as well as a growing repository of other aggregated data.

What knowledge would it take to help convert you, your family, your employees or your clients into Confident Travellers? Let SafeScore know. They’d love to hear from you.

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Australians Support Travel Bubbles, Survey Says

A recent survey conducted by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Western Australia (CCIWA) has found that a large number of Australians want strict Covid-19 restrictions to end. The survey, which included a group of over 3000 people from different demographics and different areas of the country, found that the majority wanted to ‘move past’ Covid. Travel bubbles stand out as the strongest avenue to end the country’s hard closure to international travel.

Fairly isolated from the world since the start of the pandemic, Australia’s strict border closure is, understandably, beginning to chafe. As the vaccine rollout increases, many respondents want to be exempt from restrictions if they’ve been vaccinated. These figures were highest in New South Wales (53.4%) and Victoria (60.3%).

From an economic standpoint, nearly 60% indicated that they felt overseas migration was important as a source for economic growth. This ties in to the 53% of people who feel the need for international migration routes to re-open. Travel bubbles and corridors are terms that have been bandied about throughout the pandemic. There have been many attempts to open corridors in order to facilitate business travel – some more successful than others. Public sentiment, according to the study, supports travel bubbles with countries with a high vaccination rate.

Sydney Harbour

Travel Bubbles Receive Support

Travel bubbles are an important element to a cautious recovery for Australia’s economy. Australia’s hard closure has, in particular, damaged the tourism industry. Ranked in the top 10 of the world’s most affected economies in terms of tourism, travel agreements could assist in mitigating some of the loss. When travel has been allowed, rapidly changing rules have made travellers reconsider their plans. With a standardized re-opening plan, and unchanging regulations, travel bubbles could bring the country’s tourism sector out of the slump. Across the country, 57% of Australians agree, supporting the idea of travel bubbles and are keen to travel again.

An eagerness to restart the economy, twinned with a sensible approach towards vaccine rollout and travel could be the ultimate balance that Australia needs to oil its hinges and re-open its doors.

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Travelling With Children During Covid

Have you heard the one about the family who visited the same place every summer for 10 years because travelling anywhere else with children was just too stressful? We have, and we’re sure that traveling with children during Covid has made it any easier.

This is why we’re here to help. We’ve done the research and can tell you which countries don’t test children for Covid19 and which do. And, while our platform gives travel bookers access to our easy-to-search database – we’ve decided to give you our extra tips for travelling with children during COVID.

Quarantine and Self-Isolation

A child stares out the plane window.

Those without children might not think that 2 weeks of quarantine in a small hotel room is a big deal. We’re sure that parents would beg to differ. If you have a set destination in mind and you need to quarantine with your child, check whether your hotel offers family rooms in order to avoid cabin fever.

If you’re more flexible about your destination, opt for a country without hotel quarantine requirements. Or, at the very least, with relaxed hotel quarantine. Greece, for example, has eased restrictions for a number of countries, and Mauritius will allow in-resort quarantine from mid-July.

PCR Testing

In full PPE, a medical professional completes a PCR test

Had you asked us about PCR testing two years ago, we wouldn’t have had a clue. Flash forward, over a year into the pandemic and it’s all too familiar. The invasive testing process hardly puts you in the holiday spirit and unsurprisingly, its not popular. Even more of a reason then, that travellers want to avoid subjecting their children to the same. Many countries have shown leniency in this regard, some are even only testing over-18’s, so PCR testing doesn’t need to be a holiday hurdle.

At The Airport and On Board

A small child runs through the airport

Little hands can get everywhere, which doesn’t work so well in a touch-free zone. Moving around the airport with your little one in a backpack baby carrier will reduce their chances of touching surfaces (just think of all that sanitizer!). Clip a bottle of hand sanitizer to your baby bag for ease of use when you’ve got your hands full. Once on the plane, use these disposable covers on the tray table to minimize contact throughout the flight. If you can, bring your own pre-packaged snacks on board, and avoid buying them at the airport.

So, there’s no need to make travelling with children during Covid a hurdle to your holidays – whether you’re travelling domestically or internationally, a little bit of extra planning will make the journey all the smoother.

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