How to travel safely on holiday
Once vaccination coverage increases in Finland and around the world this spring and summer, many people will want to start planning future holidays. Before we reach global herd immunity, it’s crucial to remember the principles of safe travel. Read on for a medical expert’s tips for ensuring you have a healthy and safe holiday.
Kimmo Ketola, Medical Director, Finnair
It’s possible to have a safe holiday during the pandemic, but it might require more preparation than usual, as well as some tolerance of uncertainty. You can greatly reduce the risk of infection by modifying your own behaviour.
The following principles related to safe travel are worth keeping in mind when you’re planning a holiday.
Find out about entry requirements
Having a safe holiday during the pandemic takes lots of careful planning and preparation. Before the trip, it’s a good idea to ensure you have comprehensive insurance coverage, in case you fall ill or have to cancel the trip. It’s also worth checking the cancellation and rebooking options for flights and accommodation, in case the situation regarding the pandemic changes in your destination. Any Finnair flights booked between 1 April 2020 and 31 August 2021 are covered by our flexible ticket policy.
When travelling abroad for a holiday, you need to find out what your destination’s current entry requirements are. Many governments require travellers to present a negative covid-test, a certificate of immunity (either from vaccination or previous Covid-19 infection) or, a certificate of comprehensive insurance cover in case of falling ill. Finnair customers travelling from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden or Switzerland can get peace of mind thanks to Finnair Corona Cover. It’s free of charge and covers expenses if you contract coronavirus at your destination.
Some countries might also have regional requirements. At the time of writing, the Canary Islands, for example, requires a negative Covid test from all travellers entering the area. Mainland Spain, however, does not have this requirement. It’s worth checking the different requirements from the official travel sites of the destination or consulting the local embassy. Requirements of EU countries can be found on the Re-open EU website. As the requirements change frequently, it’s a good idea to monitor the situation actively.
Travel safely onboard a flight
Getting a SARS-CoV-2 infection during a flight is possible but highly unlikely. During 2020, there were fewer than 50 SARS-CoV-2 infections caught onboard a plane. At the same time, there were 1.2 billion air travellers globally. So even if the real number of cases was tenfold, the probability of contracting Covid-19 remains extremely small.
Passengers’ behaviour during the flight, cabin air ventilation and strict hygiene measures are all likely to be behind the low number of infections.
Finnair does not accept customers with Covid-19 symptoms on board. Cabin air is filtered with HEPA filters that clear 99.97% of all bacteria and viruses. Finnair has also introduced many changes to its inflight service to reduce close contacts between cabin crew and passengers, as well as unnecessary movement in the cabin. Hygiene levels, which were already of a high standard, have been increased through even more thorough cleaning of the aircraft. Wearing masks on board will also markedly reduce the possibility of being infected. You can read more about the risk of getting an infection while onboard here.
Pay attention to social distancing and hygiene at the airport and in transit
Whether at the security check, the departure gate or baggage claim, there are likely to be situations at the airport where there are other people close by. In these situations, the infection risk can be minimized by your behaviour and following the guideline of a two-meter safety distance. The risk can be lowered even further by wearing a mask. At most airports, it is mandatory to wear one. After handling a plastic container at the security check, it’s a good idea to either wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser.
When transiting to your final destination on public transport or in a taxi, infection risk can be lowered by wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing where possible. If your taxi driver doesn’t wear a mask, switch to another one. Make sure to wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser as soon as possible when you get home.
Follow the same safety precautions as you would at home
It’s advisable to follow the same health and safety measures in your holiday destination as you would at home. That means avoiding close contact, practising good hand hygiene and wearing a mask whenever it isn’t possible to socially distance.
You should avoid mass events and situations where there are a lot of people in a relatively small area, such as bars and nightclubs, where the risk of infection is known to be higher.
Restaurants, hotels and other services at the destination often prefer card payments instead of cash, and some will only accept cards or payments made via your smartphone. Although tables tend to be placed further from each other than usual, and capacity is often cut, eating inside restaurants is not risk-free. The risk is much lower when sitting outside.
The risk of getting an infection when outdoors is low, but many countries require people to use masks outside.In some cases, it’s mandatory to wear a mask at the beach or hotel pool.
Pick a hotel that acts responsibly
Hotel buffets and queues are typical situations where it might be difficult to avoid close contact. A hotel that acts responsibly considers this and organises time slots for meals, marks safety distances on the floor and uses a one-way system.
Hand sanitiser should always be available. Hands should be sanitised every time after touching serving tongs. Some hotels offer disposable gloves that can be put on before entering the buffet and then taken off before touching cutlery.
Many hotels have increased the cleaning, disinfecting and airing out of common areas, paying close attention to the pool area, spa and gym. Items such as magazines may have been removed, while things that get regularly touched by customers, such as doorknobs, light switches and remote controls are disinfected carefully.
Follow the official instructions of the authorities after your trip
Even though safe holiday travel is possible by following these precautions, it’s still essential to follow official guidelines and quarantine when returning from a high-risk destination. Current guidelines mean that you can shorten the quarantine period by providing negative coronavirus tests.
For the latest instructions, visit the Finnish institute of welfare and health's website. If you experience any symptoms of Covid-19, please schedule a covid test.