Assessing the Risks of International Travel

Data on COVID cases and vaccination rates can help you determine if your international destination is safe.

Woman standing in an empty street in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Planning a trip overseas requires more research than usual as you will need to monitor varying rates of vaccination in different countries and possible COVID-19 outbreaks. Even within the European Union, which will gradually reopen to vaccinated American tourists, the timing and the rules for easing those restrictions will vary by country.

Eric Toner, a senior scientist in environmental health and engineering at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, recommends staying away from destinations where the COVID-19 positivity rates are above 5% of the population and where vaccination programs aren't robust.

The CDC offers a country-by-country COVID-19 risk assessment to help you make travel decisions. Visit cdc.gov, and under "Diseases and Conditions," click on "Coronavirus Disease 2019," choose "Travel," and scroll down to select "International Travel During COVID-19."

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The potential for massive outbreaks of the disease like the one in India this past spring will decline as immunity grows through vaccinations and infections. Still, "it is not impossible since new variants could arise," says Toner, who recommends waiting as long as possible before booking a trip.

Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Alina Tugend is a long-time journalist who has worked in Southern California, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., London and New York. From 2005 to 2015, she wrote the biweekly Shortcuts column for The New York Times business section, which received the Best in Business Award for personal finance by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Times, The Atlantic, O, the Oprah Magazine, Family Circle and Inc. magazine. In 2011, Riverhead published Tugend's first book, Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong.