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Lots of countries loosening COVID-19 restrictions as May begins

May 01, 2022
6 min read
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This weekend is just four weeks before the Memorial Day holiday kicks off what’s expected to be the busiest travel summer travel season of the pandemic. The new month brings a slew of major COVID-19 restrictions being relaxed at key international destinations.

TPG continues to track the reopening plans of countries globally and places you can visit with no COVID-19 restrictions. With so many rules going away, we want to take a moment to highlight some of changes taking effect this weekend.

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Greece

Sunday marks a major change for this immensely popular European vacation destination. With the start of May, Greece officially suspends all of its COVID-19 entry requirements.

Previously, the country had required visitors age five and older to show proof they were fully vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 test. Now those requirements are over, at least for the busy summer travel months.

Related: 7 things no one tells you about the Greek islands

The country still has an indoor mask-wearing requirement in place, but that is expected to only last until June 1. Greece may prove to be a popular destination for international travelers with its historic sites in major cities like Athens and its spectacular islands

Ancient Erechtheion temple in Athens. (Photo by Domingo Leiva/Getty Images)

New Zealand

After more than two years with its borders closed to virtually all of the world, New Zealand takes its biggest step yet when it comes to international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. New Zealand spent billions of dollars to keep its tourism sector afloat as the industry was shuttered over the last couple years.

Now, weeks after Australian visitors were allowed into the country, New Zealand will welcome international visitors from visa-waiver countries like the U.S. for the first time starting May 1.

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Entry restrictions will be tight for U.S. visitors, with three tests required: a pre-departure test, which can include either a PCR test within 48 hours of departure or a supervised rapid antigen test within 24 hours of departure to the country.

Related: New Zealand’s tourism head hints at levy increase for international visitors

Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Matteo Colombo/Getty Images)

Upon landing in New Zealand, travelers will receive a pack of two rapid COVID-19 tests, which they’ll be expected to take on the first and fifth or sixth days in the country.

Airlines are restoring direct service from the U.S. to New Zealand over the coming weeks and months, as travel to a country that is a bucket list destination for many becomes an option for the first time since early 2020.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is another destination that will kick off the month of May by welcoming its first non-resident, overseas visitors in a long time.

Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) began welcoming flights from overseas earlier this spring, but there was a key caveat: only residents were allowed in.

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Visitors and residents can travel to Hong Kong from other international locations, but they face stiff COVID-19 requirements upon arrival. The government’s “test and hold” program mandates that travelers undergo a PCR test, and then quarantine for seven days at a government-approved hotel.

Related: Here are places that dropped COVID-19 restrictions in March

Hong Kong’s government will also place temporary bans on airline routes if five or more passengers (or 5% of the flight) tests positive for COVID-19.

Thailand

Over the course of the pandemic, TPG has reported on the evolving processes for tourists to get into Thailand, which have included some elaborate schemes, from the country’s “Test and Go” option to its “Sandbox” approach, which allowed participating visitors to roam freely in designated parts of the country for several days before being allowed to travel throughout the kingdom.

Thailand has made a series of changes to its entry protocols in recent months in hopes of encouraging tourism. With the start of May though, things are a lot simpler.

Khao Sok National Park, Thailand. (Photo by Robin Noguier / Unsplash)

Travelers who are vaccinated face no testing requirements. On top of that, unvaccinated visitors have a pretty simple choice, too: get tested before departure or quarantine upon arrival.

Related: Best ways to get to Thailand using points and miles

Turks and Caicos

Visitors to the Caribbean destination of Turks and Caicos will no longer face COVID-19 testing or insurance requirements as the month of May begins.

Switzerland

Switzerland drops all of its COVID-19 entry requirements, effective May 2.

The vineyards on the North coast of Lake Geneva on the edge of the Swiss alps (Photo by cdbrphotography/Getty Images)

CDC Warnings

With the exception of Turks and Caicos, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists each of these countries as Level 3, "high" levels of COVID-19 according to its Travel Health Notices. That Level 3 rating applies to more countries than any other rating level though, and the United States is among those listed at Level 3. Turks and Caicos is listed at Level 2, "moderate" risk.

Bottom line

Many countries are making changes to their entry requirements just as summer is approaching and demand for international travel is spiking. If you’ve got a trip booked overseas, it’s a good idea to keep checking the requirements in the country you’re visiting, because as we’ve seen time and again during the pandemic that the rules can change at any moment.

At the same time, the wave of changes as the month of May gets underway is a good indication that if the protocols change at your destination there’s decent chance they’re changing to restrictions being lifted.

Featured image by Athens, Greece. (Photo by Oleksii Khodkivskiy/Unsplash)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more