Update: the vaccines are working! People are booking trips again – do you want to be part of this? Depending on your individual circumstances, the time may be right for you, before places get overrun again.
Whilst Americans can’t yet travel to as many destinations as in 2019, and you must exercise your judgment, you can still travel – and make a difference – to a respectable number of countries in April (a wonderful month to visit Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, much of the US, and the Galapagos Islands).
However, do keep in mind the recent requirement for Americans to have a negative PCR test taken no less than 72 hours prior to arriving back in the US.
Before you start planning your trip, ask yourself: “should I travel?” This is a personal decision, and some factors to take into account are:
- your age (if you are over 70, consider waiting to travel until you are vaccinated)
- your immunity levels and overall health
- the number of cases of COVID-19 in the areas you are traveling to
- the availability of travel insurance in case you require hospitalization
Before you make travel plans, please read the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory page, which has links to country pages that explain restrictions in each destination. The countries I am suggesting below do not necessarily have low rates of COVID-19, and may even be against U.S State Dept recommendations. The situation for each country can change rapidly, so always check for updates before you travel.
The following countries allow Americans to visit in April without having to quarantine, along with ways you can make your trip meaningful and make a difference whilst there, in sustainable eco-luxury.
But first, big news: Thailand is rumored to soon be re-opening its doors to travelers, which might happen just in time for you to experience Songkran, the Thai New Year, which is a crazy water festival that runs from 13-15 April, whereby the locals delight in dousing each other in water, and you are welcome (and in Chiang Mai, can’t avoid!) to get involved.
If Thailand does start to allow quarantine-free entry, stunning beaches, lively cities, and gorgeous scenery awaits, along with of course delicious cuisine, and eco-luxe properties such as Six Senses Koh Samui, Aleenta Phuket, and Zeavola on Koh Phi Phi.
Moreover, you can make your time in Thailand meaningful by helping conserve elephants: preparing their meals, walking with them, watching them bathe and play, and learning an enormous amount about these gentle giants.
Costa Rica is open to Americans with no PCR test required (but you need one to re-enter the US) however you do need insurance that includes at least $50,000 coverage for medical issues related to the coronavirus, along with an additional $2,000 coverage for expenses due to pandemic illness or trip interruption or cancellation due to illness. A digital Health Pass must be completed before boarding a flight to Costa Rica.
April is just out of peak season in Costa Rica, and so is typically a great time to be there, and this is your opportunity to enjoy your choice of the magnificent eco-luxe accommodation that Costa Rica excels in. My April favorite: Kasiiya Papagayo, which can be booked for your exclusive use.
Costa Rica is perfect for those who are keen to get a taste of Central America and adventure, offering verdant jungle, volcanoes, zip-line, kayak, wildlife, surf, snorkel, Fairtrade coffee and chocolate, and much more.
Travel with purpose to Costa Rica and volunteer at a wildlife rescue center or at a turtle protection site and inspire your kids to be wildlife conservationists.
Or, make a difference at a free medical clinic that cares for Nicaraguan refugees: enter patient data, take patient notes during consultations, dispense medications in the pharmacy, and generally make patients feel welcome and relaxed.
To enter Belize you need to show a negative PCR test. Your travel advisor can assist you to stay in Gold Standard approved hotels, and travel with Gold Standard approved guides and operators.
Compact, English-speaking Belize offers so much, from Mayan ruins ensconsed in the jungle to organic, fair trade farms and you can even make your own chocolate bars, along with beautiful beaches and the 2nd longest Barrier Reef in the world.
You can help your children appreciate how fortunate they are by constructing an eco-friendly stove for a Mayan family, where you get to engage with the local culture.
These stoves are wonderful because:
- They are much safer as they replace open flames and thus reduce burns, which are all too common with young children running around;
- They include a chimney to safely remove the smoke, reducing respiratory issues such as asthma and lung cancer;
- They are more fuel-efficient, so are a win from an environmental perspective as well.
Tourists may be subject to temperature checks and other health screenings at the airport (land borders are closed).
Fly to the Yucatan Peninsula and relax on the beach, or get active and swim in your own private cenote (fabulous freshwater underground limestone reservoirs), snorkel, view the Mayan ruins of Chitzen Itza and Tulum, participate in a cooking class, or explore the spectacular Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve. Make your trip memorable and teach at a school, sort donated clothes and food, renovate classrooms, or entertain the elderly at a Seniors Home.
Americans can now enter Kenya without having to quarantine if you satisfy the following conditions:
1) body temperature below 99.5°F;
2) No persistent cough, difficulty breathing, or other flu-like symptoms;
3) A negative PCR-based COVID-19 test conducted within 96 hours of arrival.
Kenya has some of the world’s finest parks to observe wildlife, such as Masai Mara, Amboseli (with its views of Kilimanjaro), Tsavo East, Samburu, and Selankay. We can even arrange a private helicopter flight to encounter the ‘Super Tuskers’ – incredible elephants whose tusks weigh over 100lbs and hit the ground – in return for a donation to further their conservation and protect them from predators.
Beyond the game parks, a lovely coastline awaits (Diani has the best beaches in my opinion, and the archipelago of Lamu is enchanting) as does lively Nairobi (stay at Giraffe Manor if you’d like to have breakfast with giraffes!).
Head to the Masai Mara and help build a classroom, teach in a school, or install fuel-efficient stoves. You will be fulfilled and head home feeling like you are a Masai.
Americans can enter with a negative PCR test taken within seven days before your flights. Children under 5 do not need a test.
Namibia is perfect for social distancing, as it has one of the lowest population densities on earth, What’s more, it is achingly beautiful, with the world’s highest sand dunes and the second largest canyon in the world, the haunting Skeleton Coast, and you can encounter desert-adapted elephants and rhinos.
You can leave a legacy and help conserve these desert elephants, saving them from being shot by villagers, by digging alternative water sources far from human settlements where elephants can drink without coming into conflict.
A negative COVID-19 test certificate is required to enter Rwanda. The U.S. Embassy recommends that travelers carry a printed copy of their negative test results during all legs of their flights to Rwanda.
Rwanda packs a lot within its fairly small territory: mountains, lakes, forests, and little-known game viewing in Akagera National Park (I suggest that you stay at eco-luxe Magashi Camp).
Of course the Mountain Gorillas are high on many peoples’ bucket list (It was one of the most spell-binding hours of my life and I am itching to go back), and Rwanda is also a good place to see chimpanzees (stay at One & Only Nyungwe House).
Make your trip even more meaningful and help build a home for former street-kids in Kigali, Rwanda’s fascinating capital.
PCR tests are no longer required to enter Tanzania, and extraordinary safari awaits in reserves whose very names inspire the desire to explore: Ruaha, the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Selous. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, can be admired on a clear day from much of northern Tanzania, and Zanzibar Island is an ideal way to round out your trip (I recommend staying at nearby Mnemba Island for social distancing in wonderland).
Tanzania is great for families – take the kids and inspire them to be world changers by building a home for a family needing a decent place to live – this is sure to be one of your highlights, and will inspire your kids to be world changers.
Visitors to Zambia must show results of a negative PCR test taken in the seven days before travel to bypass a 14-day quarantine. Some airlines require the test to be done within 72 hours in order to board the flight.
The Victoria Falls are one of Zambia’s highlights, and they are at their most powerful from February until May. Zambia’s wildlife parks are not as famous as those in say Kenya or Botswana, but that is your advantage, as whilst the game viewing is world-class, the fewer tourists makes them ideal for social distancing.
The Victoria Falls are also your base from where you can get engage with the locals, and build a home for a widow and her children. Luxury options abound, and my personal favorites are Tongabezi Lodge, and the Royal Livingstone for views of the Falls.
USA – doh!
Yes, now is the perfect time to explore your own backyard! The USA has a multitude of incredible sights, so I can only give a few of my favorite highlights:
– New Orleans is perfect in April, warm and sunny, and where you can discover the mysterious bayous and the lively French Quarter, as well as help restore a home damaged by Hurricane;
– Florida is also fantastic in April; Disneyworld and other theme parks are open again, but don’t miss pulsating Miami (home to eco-luxe icon 1 Hotel South Beach) and the Keys (base yourself in charming Key West and experience superb snorkeling in Dry Tortugas National Park)
– Texas is emerging from a chilly winter and can keep you busy for weeks; if you like to blend adventure with luxury, head to Cibolo Creek Ranch, and from there go on to explore Big Bend National Park, then make your way to Dallas and leave a legacy by helping at Riding for the Disabled
– The bears of Yellowstone are coming out of hibernation in April, and as there may still be snow around, you can still encounter herds of bison with steaming hot pools as the backdrop, surrounded by snow;
– Alaska is another State that is approaching high season, so go in April for fewer people, or book now to have any chance of securing a spot for the summer. Some of my favorite lodges are Ultima Thule and Winterlake – for the ultimate luxury wilderness experience.
The Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic no longer requires COVID tests, so you can easily enter. What’s more, the Ministry of Tourism is offering free testing within 72 hours of departure for Americans!
If you can drag yourself away from the blissful beaches, Santo Domingo’s Zona Central is the oldest European city in the Americas and worth discovering. Thrill-seekers can descend the 27 waterfalls of Damajagua, or white-water raft on the Caribbean’s only raftable river.
You can also show your kids how fortunate they are by helping together to create a basketball court to provide enjoyable exercise for the locals, or preparing and serving healthy food to young Dominicans in need of nutritious meals.
As long as you have a negative PCR test result, you can enter the Maldives.
The Maldives are not so well known in the US, and being in the Indian Ocean, can take a while to get to, but it is so worth it.
If you can tear yourselves away from arguably the world’s finest resorts and beaches and exploring the ocean’s delights, you can bond closer as a family, help replant coral and restore a vital ecosystem, or get immersed in the culture and change lives by helping build a classroom in the local village.
To enter Ecuador, you must have proof of a negative PCR test. Those age 14 and older may be subject to random rapid antigen testing at the airport at their own expense, and if positive, the traveler must quarantine for 10 days at a government shelter.
Those visiting the Galápagos Islands should arrive in Ecuador with proof of a negative PCR test taken no more than 96 hours before arrival in the Galápagos. (This can be the same test as the test used to get into Ecuador, assuming it was taken within 96 hours of arrival to the Galápagos.) If the time frame doesn’t fit, the traveler will need to take a second test in Ecuador at their own expense and wait at their lodgings for the results.
A negative COVID-19 test enables you to encounter the extraordinary wildlife on the Galapagos Islands accompanied by far fewer tourists than usual. You can even charter a yacht (my pick is Ecoventura’s Theory) to explore these islands with just your family bubble (and your sanitized staff). Other parts of Ecuador, including the Amazon jungle, Quito, Mindo Cloud Forest, Otavalo Markets, colonial Cuenca, are all waiting to be discovered by you.
Inspire your children to be world-changers and renovate a low-income day-care center, or care for the children at the center.
Visitors aged 10 and over need a negative Covid-19 PCR or an antigen test in the 96 hours before arrival. A Health Pass must also be completed.
Culturally rich Guatemala boasts one of the most beautiful colonial towns in the Americas (Antigua), a sublime lake (Atitlan) with fascinating villages dotted around it, incredible Mayan ruins (Tikal) and active volcanoes (such as Pacaya), and much more (and if you ever wondered what happened to all those old American school buses, well, they’re here!).
You and your family can improve the lives of a family in need by helping build a home in just five days – a fantastic family bonding experience.
NB: this is a fluid situation so the status of the destination you are interested in may have changed by the time you read this.
Stay safe and live with purpose!
Christopher Hill is Founder and CEO at Hands Up Holidays. Hands Up Holidays is an award-winning travel company specialising in tailor-made luxury family trips that combine sightseeing with hands-on service projects.
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