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The Safest Places to Travel Once Travel Bans Are Lifted

Top Destinations Recommended by an Ex-NATO Director and Security Expert

Travel During the 2020 Holiday Season 

In previous years, the days around Thanksgiving were the busiest on record in terms of passenger travel, numerous passenger travel records were broken. This year, holiday travel  is expected to be the quietest in decades. Tourlane’s survey found that more than half of Americans will not travel as expected during the 2020 holiday season.

2021: The Year of Revenge Travel

What is “revenge travel?” Revenge travel is a term used to describe people’s urge to travel after a period of restricted movement. Analysts from around the world anticipate that leisure travel will rebound with a vengeance in 2021, as travelers seek to make amends for 2020. The survey results suggest a wave of revenge travel is on the horizon, as more than half of American participants rated travel as a priority 8 or above for next year.

Long Haul is About to Take Off 

In 2020, vacationers turned to domestic travel, as countries closed their borders to international tourists. Once borders start to reopen, the forecast for international travel is bright: a staggering 85% of Americans want to travel outside of North America in 2021. 

The State of Transportation in 2021

As the pandemic unfolded in spring 2020, with borders closing and distancing measures being introduced, the state of the cruise industry and aviation transformed overnight. However, this period of turbulence may be short lived. Only 15% of Americans will avoid cruise ships in future, and only 17% will fly less often. 

How We Produced This Study

Tourlane polled more than 1,000 participants from our travel community during the first two weeks of October 2020, using a 13-part questionnaire that we distributed to our email subscribers, website visitors, and social communities. After extensive analysis by our team of Travel Experts, we produced the following guide.

The Safest Places to Travel When Borders Open

Where are the safest places to travel when borders open up? Travel lovers everywhere are dreaming of their next destinations and hoping that 2021 will be a safe year to travel and explore the world. For travelers looking to venture outside of the United States, safety is a key concern. Which countries are safest to visit? What are the safest ways to travel? 

In collaboration with our Head of Safety, Johann Jones, Tourlane has produced a guide to the safest places to travel once bans are lifted. By looking at key indicators such as COVID-19 cases, health regulations, population density, hours of sunlight, and flight connections to the USA, we produced a guide to help travelers assess risk factors of both countries that are currently open and countries that may open soon.

The table categories contain the original values ​​in the respective unit of measurement. In order to standardize the data, each category was assigned a numerical value from 0-10, which was added up (see column "Total") and forms the basis of the ranking list. The maximum possible number of points is 50. This data is updated on a weekly basis. Last updated: December 1st, 2020. 

Recommendations by Our Travel Experts


Thailand offers something for every traveler. The mountainous north impresses visitors with its immense biodiversity, making it the perfect place for hiking and animal lovers. Further south, Thailand has more than 1,000 islands, which boast beautiful beaches as well as world-class diving. Urban foxes will love Bangkok, a pulsating metropolis teeming with opulent temples and lively markets.


Vietnam is a great country for first-time visitors to Asia. Enjoy everything from secluded islands to vast mountain ranges within one relatively compact country, which has impressive infrastructure, delicious food, and a great range of places to stay. Kayak in the glistening waters of Halong Bay, or spend the weekend strolling the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.


If you're looking for an extraordinary safari experience, visit Kenya. This remarkable East African country is perfect for outdoorsy types with an interest in nature. You'll love off roading around the plains of the Masai Mara, spotting the Big Five as you. Kenya also has a tropical coastline with miles of heavenly beaches, which are the perfect place to unwind during your vacation.


Fiji enchants everyone that sets foot on its shores. If you’re looking for a secluded paradise, then Fiji is a great destination for you. Comprising more than 300 islands, Fiji is famous for its idyllic turquoise waters, velvety white beaches, and impressive coral reefs that are perfect for scuba diving. Fiji’s seclusion is part of its charm—yet there are still direct flights to the west coast of the USA.


Uruguay is a shining star in South America, and has rightfully won international acclaim for its peace, democracy, openness, and healthcare. Located just north of Argentina, this compact country is a great destination for a beach vacation on the Atlantic Ocean, an island getaway on Gorriti, or a city break in the charming capital, Montevideo.


Famous for its legendary temples, colorful cities, and charming coastline, Cambodia is a great destination for travelers searching for something rustic and utterly unspoilt. Cambodia is conveniently sandwiched in between Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos, making it well-suited to travelers looking to do a multi-stop tour of southeast Asia.

As the coronavirus situation changes weekly, this guide is intended for guidance only and is based on data collected for each of the travel destinations as of December 1st, 2020. Please check with your Tourlane Travel Expert for the most up-to-date information for each destination. In addition to the countries listed above, we also continue to monitor popular travel destinations such as South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania. For more information on the status of these countries, please contact us at service@tourlane.com .

More About Johann Jones

After working for the U.S. Department of Defense and NATO in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he advised senior executives on risk factors and scenarios, Johann Jones is now Tourlane's Head of Safety & Sustainability. He has over 15 years of international development experience with a strong focus on governance, socio-economic development, and security in high and extreme risk countries.

Together with Tourlane’s Emergency Response Team, Johann Jones is responsible for the safety of Tourlane travelers at every step of their journey. He constantly monitors and assesses the risk factors at each Tourlane destination to ensure that travelers have up-to-date information on safety prior to their departure and also receive assistance during their trip.

How We Produced This Guide 

The table categories contain the original values ​​in the respective unit of measurement. In order to standardize the data, each category was assigned a value of 0-10, which was added up (see column "Weighted Total") and forms the basis for the ranking list. The maximum possible score is 50. The following equation was used to scale the data from 0 to 10 (with 10 being the best value):

Score (i) = 10 * (x-minimum) / (maximum / minimum).

Covid-19 Analysis by 14-Day Case Notification Rate

The Covid-19 Analysis by 14-Day Case Notification Rate shows the number of cases reported in this country in the last 14 days per 100,000 people. A lower value equates to fewer new infections and therefore a lower likelihood of being infected with the coronavirus. We only included destinations with a rate of less than 30. The data was updated on December 1st, 2020 based on the COVID-19 countries overview of the ECDC .

International Health Regulations Capacity Score

The International Health Regulations Core Capacity Index (IHR) is an annual report produced by the World Health Organization (WHO). Member States provide annual reporting data consisting of 24 indicators for the 13 IHR capacities. These are necessary in order to identify, assess, report and respond to risks to public health and acute events of national and international significance. The average capacity in the EU is 75%. Destinations needed a score of at least 30% in order to be taken into account.

Country Population Density 

Population density is an indicator that determines the average number of inhabitants for a particular area (country, region, district). When creating the ranking, only travel destinations were taken into account that did not exceed a population density of 650 per square kilometer. Countries with a lower population density offer a lower chance of contagion. 

Hours of Sunlight

Sunlight was factored into our calculation, as more sunlight hours equates to more time for outdoor activities and eating in the fresh air, instead of indoors, thus reducing the likelihood of infection.

Flight Connections 

We only included destinations that can be reached from the United States either with a direct flight (corresponding to a score of 10 in the ranking) or a flight with only one stopover (corresponding to a score of 5 in the ranking). By avoiding layovers at airports, queues, and large crowds, the risk of infection is significantly reduced.

Other Requirements for Inclusion: 

In addition to the categories stated above, the countries needed to meet the following specifications in order to be included in the ranking:

The country has implemented minimum standards against the coronavirus

Only countries that have tourism or government agencies that introduced minimum standards in response to the coronavirus were included in the ranking. These include hygiene regulations, distance regulations, capacity reductions, etc.

Limited capacity of sights and attractions

Only countries that have reduced the capacity of leading sights and attractions were included in the ranking, as this reduces crowds, queues, and the risk of infection.

Availability of boutique hotels and B&Bs

Only countries that offer small boutique hotels or bed and breakfasts were included in the ranking. By avoiding large gatherings of people in communal areas, shared pools, and buffets, the risk of infection to travelers is significantly reduced.

Self-drive or private guide options available 

Only countries that offer visitors either a self-drive option or a private guide option were included for the ranking, as these trip types pose a lesser risk of infection. 

Secluded travel options available

Only countries that offer remote more secluded travel options, such as national parks or larger outdoor areas, were selected. By avoiding large gatherings of people in highly frequented regions, the risk of infection is significantly reduced.

Cashless payment options

Cashless or contactless payment options in taxis, supermarkets, restaurants etc. were a prerequisite for the countries to be included in the ranking. Contactless payment is the most hygienic form of payment and therefore safer to travelers. 

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