Do you know how will we travel in 2022? I don't really know. Thanks to the ongoing pandemic, which is getting a new Greek alphabetical name every six months, no one can predict exactly what 2022 has in store for us. Just a few months ago the travel industry would have forecast this year to be the one in which international travel would bounce back and we could all go back to indulging in our passion - Europe for summer. Japan for winter. South East Asia and Dubai at any time. Maybe not back to the way things were, but settling into an enjoyable and predictable new normal. Alas, with the Omicron surge that seems to be a distant Utopia!
"Safe" destinations are no longer so. Lockdowns are returning. Flights are being cancelled and travel restrictions are in a state of flux. In such a situation and with a very suspicious state of mind, international travel seems more like juvenile adventure tourism and not for mature travelers like me who travel to relax and enjoy. There can be no enjoyment if you are incarcerated in a Covid facility on your arrival to an alien country. Ask Novak Djokovic if you do not believe me.
This year it will be safe to travel within India and luckily that means an endless variety. For the adventure seekers there is mountaineering in Uttarakhand , Laddakh, Kashmir and Himanchal, white water rafting in upper reaches Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Ganga and Bramhaputra and endless opportunities of trekking in almost every state! The religious tourists can choose the Ramayana circuit, the Buddhist circuit or the Jain circuit. Temple tourism from Somnath in the west to Kamakhya in the East and Vaishno Devi in the North to Rameshwaram in the South with countless architectural marvels like Khajuraho, Meenakshi, Akshardham spread in between will leave you spoilt for choice. Camel Safaris in Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Paragliding, wildlife tourism in the Sariska Wildlife
Sanctuary, Kaziranga National Park, Ranthambhore wild life reserve and Corbett National Park and bird sanctuaries in Bharatpur, Chilika, Sultanpur, Nal Sarovar, Kumarakom, and Vedanthagal all await your arrival. India easily qualifies as the epicentre of Heritage tourism and Taj Mahal in Agra, Mandawa castle in Rajasthan, Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, Madurai in Tamil Nadu, Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, the Indian capital are all studded with heritage hot spots.For the leisure travelers beaches of Goa, the backwaters
and the Ayurvedic spas of Kerala, the tranquility of Pondicherry and the divinity of the Andaman & Nicobar islands are a lifetime experience for anyone who chooses to indulge in these lifestyle extravaganza!
The distinct advantage that you enjoy is that India's state borders are now open, and are unlikely to close again. The hospitality sector has suffered a near death blow and only the resilient have survived and are now gasping back to life. They are offering bargain prices and it is our moral responsibility to see that now that they have survived the worst, they don’t go down into oblivion. We must patronize them and to me this would be the most obvious token of nationalism.
How we'll be traveling
Road trip! For the next few months at least, a humble car journey is going to be a popular option, as COVID-19 case numbers hit all-time highs here and the thought of packing up and going camping in the middle of nowhere develops all new appeal. Avoid long, busy flights. Stay close to home. In fact, I can see people wanting to stay close to home for much of 2022, if not physically then at least culturally.
Road trips are looking good for now, particularly once the country gets more and more vaccinated. It goes without saying that vaccination and COVID restrictions are non-negotiable. Wear a mask all the time, maintain social distancing and avoid crowded places and public transport, wash your hands frequently and carry hand sanitizer in your pocket.
destinations, rather than those that require transfers, are also likely to be
bigger attractions. Single-stop itineraries, rather than multi-destination extravaganzas, will also be more popular. And private, small-group tours will also have appeal than going gung-ho with a bus full of tourists on a Greyhound hunt.
In case you are traveling abroad
Where do you start? First, there's insurance, and what it will and will not cover. While medical expenses will probably be sorted if you're positive for COVID-19, cancellations due to lockdowns or changes of entry requirements will not. So that's something to factor in when booking a trip in 2022 – what's the cancellation policy? Can you switch your flights and accommodation, or even get a refund? I speak from experience as Indigo recently reimbursed peanuts on my family booking for 5 and promised two more peanuts to be converted into vouchers which I have to use to pay a very small part of only the basic fare of a future Indigo flight within the next six months.
So, get travel insurance, the best policy you can find. Read the fine print carefully and know exactly what you're covered for. Book flights that are at best refundable. If not then at they should be flexible enough to be shifted if you can't travel on your intended dates. Book accommodation, too, that's either refundable or flexible.
Then, of course, there's just the general unpredictability of the world at the moment, with countries opening and closing, plans shifting, flights being cancelled, restrictions changing. It's not to say that you shouldn't travel this year, but it's not going to be as easy as it once was. Gaining entry to a new country can be a time-consuming and expensive process, and will continue to be so throughout this year. Movement in certain countries, where you need a local vaccination pass will be difficult. Be sure to check that the country you are planning to visit accepts the vaccine you have taken – Covishield, Covaxin or Sputnik as a valid vaccine!
Precautions to take
I would be looking to book travel to places I feel safe and comfortable. Maybe that means keeping things within India. Maybe it means going somewhere I have family connections or other friends. Maybe it's traveling to countries that are familiar, and in which I know I will have access to good medical care if it's needed.
What I am trying to emphasize is have plans in place in case it all goes wrong. Know what you're going to do if you or one of your party contracts COVID-19 – who to contact, where to go, how to deal with the forced changes – or if closures or lockdowns force a change of plan. An open return ticket would be ideal under such circumstances.
So yes, we need not stay incarcerated in our homes any more. The worls has to learn to live with COVID and we cannot afford to lose another year of our life abstained from travel and tourism. So do step out and enjoy the world, but while doing so remain extremely careful and stay close to home or near friends.