This is now our second summer in lock down - with little to no leisure travel being undertaken.
With the roll out of the vaccine, many more are now thinking of some kind of getaway, even those who have been fairly responsible for the better part of the pandemic. With the vaccine now available for those in their 30s (possibly the ones suffering the hardest with the lack of travel possibilities), there seems to be a real possibility of a rise in travel numbers.
Traveling At Home
The usual local travel hotspots are likely to be wildly sought after - Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan, Kashmir and Swat. PIA has expanded its local network not just in terms of destinations but also in terms of frequency. While PIA is the first airline in the South Asian region to have its entire crew vaccinated, the airports manned by the Civil Aviation Authority are a whole different story. The condition of our airports may or may not inspire travel confidence. Nevertheless, with the vaccine on our side, there is increased impetus to make those bookings.
Off The Beaten Track Destinations
With Pakistan on the ‘ban/red’ list of arrivals in many countries, international travel seems more tedious than ever before. And a ten to fourteen day quarantine is certainly not worth any self-respecting traveler’s time. However, there are a few countries that do not have a quarantine requirement and require only a negative PCR. Yes, even for those of us with the Pakistani passport.
Egypt: Visas are currently being processed for Pakistani nationals via TCS Visatronix. The processing time is six weeks and you can be rest assured that it really will take that long. Currently, Egypt does not require one to quarantine upon arrival. One thing is for certain, there is nothing like Egypt. Any trip to the country is one you will remember for a lifetime.
Uzbekistan: Another destination that does not require a mandatory quarantine, the Uzbek visa requires an invitation letter. This can be arranged by your travel agent. The process then on is fairly straightforward. Just fill out the visa form available and submit that along with the invitation letter. Although, it is better to let your travel agent handle the whole process. With PIA rumored to be starting flights to Uzbekistan, the destination is definitely on my radar.
The Vaccine Passport
Now this is where it gets complicated. Different countries and regions have been rolling out different requirements about entry into their borders. The vaccines available in Pakistan so far are reportedly Sinopharm,CanSino, SinoVac and Astra-Zeneca. Also, there’s no telling which one will be administered to you by the government. Some of us have already received the Sputnik and more is reportedly on the way. But what does this buffet of vaccines mean for travel? Thailand was the first country to list down vaccine specific requirements. The EU so far is not considering any of the Chinese vaccines as legitimate for the vaccine passport. However, most countries so far only require a negative PCR. Personally, the vaccine should be more for personal protection as opposed to a travel-free card, given that one can still contract and pass on the virus.
When someone said the world will never be the same again at the beginning of the pandemic, we should have believed them. Our advice? Probably best to explore our own backyards before taking the international leap.