How travel has changed and things to keep in mind for anyone shredding abroad this winter!
Written By Phantom Team Rider and Founder/Director of 40 Tribes, Ryan Koupal
Remember this time last year? Public places were a little bit freaky. Dinner parties weren't a thing. Après beers were had in the parking lot, not at the bar. Humans were generally avoiding their fellow humans. No one wanted to or could board an airplane. Borders were closed. As the owner of a guiding company that operates exclusively internationally, it pangs me to remember. But while the 2020/21 season was a complete bust, we made it through. People, for the most part, did their duty and got vaccinated (thank you). The things that are important - hanging with good friends, being social, and for some of us, traveling the world - are possible again. Just not without some forethought...
STAY HOME OR SCRATCH THAT ITCH?
It's understandable, especially in these times, that you might just want to stay home this winter. In many of the places where we live, there's a lifetime of exploring to do right in our backyards. You don't need to look far for deep powder, technical lines, or even first descents. Maybe it's the year for a road trip to the Tetons, or depending where you live, any number of the world-class mountains that don't require crossing international borders. But for those who are scratching the itch to shred abroad, there are countless reasons to do so. Travel, after all, has the profound ability to change us. It's kind of the case with any trip into the mountains, but it's literally IMPOSSIBLE to come back from a travel experience abroad as an unchanged person. On the trips we offer, it's all about cultural immersion as much as powder submersion. Maybe the thought of basing out of a traditional yurt deep in the mountains of Central Asia (as it goes on our Kyrgyzstan trips) gets you fired up. Maybe it's time to tick off a bucket list item: the fabled deepness that only Japan can offer - paired with great food and onsens, of course. Even less "exotic" places deserve to be on hit lists (think Rogers Pass for all of us unlucky non-Canadians).
INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL IN 2021/22
Obviously, I'm not into shaming people for wanting to travel. I get it, 100%. As I've had my head deep in the nuances of travel in the time of COVID, I thought it might be helpful to share some tips to help your trip be successful. I will say, I'm grateful that our company's COVID policy has essentially been established for us. There are requirements to enter foreign countries. Yes, you need to be vaccinated, or yes, you need to get tested. There's no arguing this. While a little bit complicated, it's made it simple for us.
So let's talk about the things you need to keep in mind before booking your trip and, most importantly, your flights this winter...
First, a little disclaimer: Due to rapidly changing regulations in different countries, there's no guarantee that the following information will be accurate or complete by the time you travel. Also, we know the most about the countries in which we'll be operating this winter: Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, France, Russia, Norway, Greenland. The information provided here should not take place of your own independent research into the regulations specific to where you'll be going.
In general, and as expected, proof of full vaccination is required to enter most countries. And in a lot of cases, that's all you need, which makes it really simple. For our destinations, if fully vaccinated, you're green-lighted for entry to Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, France and Norway. Some of these destinations additionally require you to fill out a form prior to travel. Non-EU visitors to France, for example, must obtain a French Health Pass, which is done entirely online and is basically a means of uploading your proof of vaccination and confirming where you'll be staying. Greenland (and Iceland as a transit location) also require this type of pre-registration form.
It gets a little more complicated with other countries where they are additionally or even alternatively requiring proof of a negative PCR test result received within a specific time frame (e.g. 72 hours or 3 calendar days) prior to travel. For our Greenland trips - at the moment - clients will need a negative result to enter Iceland and then an additional negative result from a test performed in a Scandinavian country (e.g. Iceland) before traveling onward to Greenland. Two separate negative results is the most complicated we've heard, and that's on top of proof of full vaccination! 100% doable, just requires some careful pre-planning and the budgeting of some extra time in Iceland at the start of the trip. Of course, there's also the added cost for the tests, but in Iceland these are available for only 50EUR with expected turnaround in less than 24 hours. For Russia, only a negative test result will be accepted, as the Russian government isn't recognizing non-Russian vaccines. Of course they aren't!
The complicated thing about these testing requirements, other than the logistics of setting up an appointment and getting tested, is that getting results can take time. Fortunately there are rapid PCR options, which you'll need to be prepared to pay for. Otherwise you'll need to consider your timing carefully as standard PCR test results can take anywhere from 1-3 days.
OK, so you got in, experienced the most mind-blowing/life-altering trip you've ever done, and now you face the fact that your home country has re-entry requirements! Let's take the US as an example, as other countries' policies are likely similar: if vaccinated, you must present a negative PCR test result taken no more than 3 calendar days before travel. Yeah, on one hand, here we go again. On the other, budget an extra day or two at the tail end of your trip, get tested, and enjoy some additional vacation time in whatever amazing part of the world you find yourself in. After all, this may be the only time you'll be there, so make the most of it! If you're not into exploring more, testing facilities are increasingly available in international airports, which may be a solution so long as you plan enough time to secure your result before or between flights (appointments are often required and a good idea in general).
To support our clients through this process, we are making it extra clear that additional time may need to be budgeted at the tail end of the trip, and we are working with our partners overseas to obtain and distribute information on available testing options/facilities.
PROOF OF VACCINATION
Remember that tiny little paper card that proves you're fully vaccinated but you haven't had to show anyone yet? Well, that thing is GOLD for travel! Don't forget to bring it with you, take photos of it, staple it into your passport, whatever helps you hang on to that thing as tightly as possible, as your trip depends on it.
GOES WITHOUT SAYING, BUT...
Mask up as required in airports and on airplanes. Do not travel if you're sick, receive a positive test result, or find out that you've been exposed to COVID without enough time to quarantine prior to your trip.
WORTH THE HASSLE?
We're a little bit biased, but YES. We all deserve a "return to normal everyday life," as the Norwegian government recently dubbed it when they scratched testing requirements for vaccinated travelers as well as social distancing guidelines. Get vaccinated, be flexible, make plans to get tested as/if required, and enjoy the hell out of your trip! Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments. Cheers!