Where in the world can we go right now?

cabo san lucas seen from a flight window

Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen

Eight months into this ‘Rona wreck, and our former travel lifestyle doesn’t look any easier to reattain.

It is definitely possible – but cumbersome and expensive, depending on where we go. Few countries will let us in with zero hassle or extra expense. As budget travelers, this will take extra planning.

I remember when we first ‘got stuck’ in the Philippines, the U.S. State Department warned Americans abroad to be ready to stay overseas for an indefinite period of time, if you weren’t going to return ‘home’ on sweeper flights.

How funny.

So here we are, in the Philippines more than one year, in Malay, Aklan, for more than eight months, and I feel … stuck.

Who doesn’t dream of running away? Visiting exotic locations?

That used to be our lifestyle.

We used to visit several countries or regions in a year. I want my travel life back. What a freakin’ bummer.

When I get in these funks, I like to check on where things stand — to see where in the world we could go right now… if we wanted to leave.

‘New normal’ travel options

Few countries offer open borders to travelers without health declarations, negative COVID-19 tests or antibody proof, quarantines, and in some cases health insurance.

To research the ‘new normal’ options, I have a system.

First I check an interactive website that visualizes where you can go from your country of origin. It has basic information on the map, including the latest news about that country and the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and what lockdowns or restrictions exist in that country.

Next, I check the State Department website, which has links to country specific information.

Then I might take a look at a country’s visa requirements for American tourists if the country catches my fancy.

Visit our COVID-19 section for help to start your travel planning.

Last, I fool around with websites and apps to check airfare.

We have no imminent plan to leave.

That said, here’s where we could go right now.

Southeast Europe

Albania is one of the “open” countries.

We enjoyed Tirana a few years ago, and we extended our brief stay. The coast down to Saranda is beautiful and worth exploring, as is the country’s interior with immense forests.

Tedly takes a photo on the main city square in Tirana, the capital of Albania, in 2018.

Albanian tourist visas for us are 90 days out of 180 days (so no quick border runs).

Other possibilities in that part of the world: Kosovo, North Macedonia, Serbia. As of now, these countries do not require negative COVID-19 tests or quarantines for travelers with no symptoms. Serbia is a place we’d love to see one day — in the summer.

Latin America

For warmer locales, Mexico is always an option. As long as we fly in, which we would, there are no tests or quarantines.

Visas are generous – six months, no limit, so border runs are possible (by air only at the moment). Also, visas are free. Here in the Philippines, we pay about a dollar a day. Each. That’s roughly $60 a month we have to pay just to be here.

However, as much as I love Mexico, I hold out hope we can see other countries before we return. We already spent the better part of two years in Mexico.

mazatlan, mexico, malecon
Tedly rides his bike on the malecon in Mazatlan, Mexico, late 2017.

Where else can we go on that side of Earth? Brazil, Colombia.

Costa Rica is open to us without hassle as well, so that is an option. We spent a little time there on vacation before early retirement, but we’ve never slow traveled that country.

Also, the Caribbean nation Dominican Republic will let travelers in free and clear if you don’t show symptoms.

Other easy options

Transcontinental Turkey is a big possibility. We nearly went there when we were in Greece. Instead, we left Southeast Europe and skipped Western Asia to come to Southeast Asia. We both still want to go there.

Visas for us cost $20 if processed online, and they are good for 90 days in a 180 period. So no easy border bounces.

Tanzania is open to us without hassle, but the African continent is not on our immediate list at the moment.

And that’s it for easy options.

Where else in the world can we go right now?

There are roughly 50 other countries on Earth open to us with prerequisite COVID-19 tests, mandatory quarantines, and sometimes hefty health insurance coverage. Sometimes, proof of onward travel is required.

Some countries now offer, or will offer, extended visas for tourists to get them to stay longer. If you’ve got a 30-day visa, you don’t want to spend 14 in quarantine, and then have to leave in another two weeks.

Thailand is an example. Its 90-day-to-9-month visa extension option would be attractive for us. We would also need negative test results and be under quarantine to start. There are some parts of Thailand we loved.

Thailand elephant debate
Tedly with Tutdao and Ot in Pai, Thailand, 2019.

But: I crave new. We’ve seen Thailand.

Another possibility on this side of the world is Taiwan. Theo’s friend recommends it, and I have a friend currently there. He did the 14-day quarantine thing. Ironically, on Wednesday Taiwan announced tightened entry restrictions.

It feels like the longer we wait to go somewhere, fewer ‘easy’ routes are available.

The other 135 or so countries on the planet are closed to us right now.

So… where to next?

Earlier this year, we were supposed to be in Malaysia and I was looking forward to an extended stay with my sister in the U.S. Right now, we were supposed to be in India. What a bummer.

The ‘Rona wreck is tough for people like us — travel was our lifestyle. Few people truly understand that.

Since 2015, we’ve led lives based on travel. Literally.

I had a double mastectomy in a foreign country to keep our travel dreams alive with minimal interruption because I didn’t want to go back to the U.S. — I wanted to keep traveling.

Sometimes, the Universe laughs at my plans. But that’s another story.

Ellen walks down from a viewpoint on the Komodo Islands in Indonesia, November 2019.

I feel stuck. I long to be free.

Right now, we aren’t going anywhere outside of Aklan Province, and we have no definite plans to leave Panay Island anytime soon.

I’ll dream about running away, and I’ll keep checking airfare — which also is another story.

Thanks for reading, “Where in the world can we go right now?”

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2 thoughts on “Where in the world can we go right now?”

  1. Hello Ellen
    My husband and myself are planning a similar lifestyle, we are Aussies in our late 40s. We would probably do some pet sits to bring down the accom expense but we too have lived frugally and worked out the passive income aspect so we can do the LTST life. I hear you on being stuck, it must be very hard after years of living on the move And going where you want to go. Luckily we weren’t planning on going until next year but this new normal uncertainty doesn’t help.
    Hopefully things get back to a better level with this vaccine rollout and you can get moving again. Is Australia on your travel list? It is a more expensive country for sure but very beautiful as well.

    1. Hello, Linda! Thanks for reading!
      Yes! Australia is on our list … eventually. Because it is more expensive, we are saving it for later in retirement. As early retirees, we are trying our best to make it under 2k a month for the foreseeable future. Other more expensive countries such as places in northern Europe also are on our list. Basically, everywhere is on our list.
      You are lucky you’re able to take off soon (in the ‘new normal’) while you are still young enough to travel easily (minus ‘Rona mandates). As a friend of mine recently said – health is wealth these days.
      Stay healthy – stay focused on the goal – and I hope we can meet one day out here!
      All the best,
      Ellen (& Theo)

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