Lots of countries loosening COVID-19 restrictions as May begins

May 1, 2022

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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.

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.

Switzerland vinyards around Lake Geneva
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 photo by Oleksii Khodkivskiy/Unsplash.

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