What You Need To Know About Domestic Travel In The Midst Of Covid-19
After the series of lockdowns we all experienced this year, it’s only normal to feel the urge to travel somewhere less familiar than our own city or municipality. While the pandemic has made it difficult to move around with strict covid-19 travel guidelines, the recent regulations have now at least made it possible to do so, even outside of your own city.
In case you didn’t know, it was announced in October that local travel is now allowed between cities. There are certain limitations and strict provisions to carry out local travel, but you’ll be glad to know that it is now an option. Where you can travel and how to do so will depend on your local government policies.
What you should know before you travel during this pandemic
Safety first! Before you can hit the road and start satisfying your wanderlust, there are some guidelines that you must observe and follow to minimize the chances of getting infected or spreading the virus. Different cities and municipalities are in different quarantine levels, thus different measures may be in place from where you’re from. Despite that, there are universal measures that apply everywhere in the country, as imposed by the government, and they are as follows:
1. The quarantine levels in your area and destination
Proximity to your destination and your requirements aside, many cities are still closed for tourism and inbound travel. Cities that are open however have certain restrictions in place and the visitors that they may allow are mostly limited to cities that are either MGCQ or GCQ and to their neighboring municipalities.
So, before you even consider traveling to another place or town, do know that you’ll only be limited to certain areas based on your city’s quarantine level. Before you drive to your chosen destination, find the answers to these questions first:
- What is your city’s quarantine level?
- What is your destination city’s quarantine level?
- Does your destination accept visitors from cities with quarantine levels like yours?
To understand the difference between the quarantine levels General Community Quarantine (GCQ), Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), and Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), you can read more about it on the government’s travel advisory page.
2. The minimum public health standard to combat the spread of the virus
It doesn’t matter what quarantine level your city is, everyone is expected to observe and do the following as a health safety protocol:
- Wear a face mask and face shield in public.
- Social distancing of at least 1 meter from other people.
- Hand washing using soap and water or sanitizer when out in public.
3. Who is allowed to travel by land?
People in the GCQ and MGCQ areas are already allowed to travel but only to areas reachable by land from their city of origin. Different cities and municipalities have their own safety measures in place, some may not allow inbound travel of visitors yet, while some may have a limit to the number of visitors they can allow to enter their area in a day.
Depending on your city, you may need to do some preparations before you can travel. Ilocos Norte uses the SafePass QR code and it’s mandatory to all of their local venues; Davao City, too has a QR system in place for easier contact tracing which is mandatory for everyone before they can go out and move around, in and out of the city.
Check the local government pages or travel advisories of your destination and your origin city before you plan a trip to see if you tick all the travel eligibility requirements.
4. The new normal in air travel
Flying is even more tedious and restricting; and for now, you are less likely to be doing this for leisure. This is because only certain people are eligible to travel by plane, and non-essential travellers for holiday isn’t one of them – at least not yet.
At the moment, local flights are only allowed between cities that are under GCQ and MGCQ, and as mentioned, leisure travel is not allowed yet despite the recent announcement that non-essential travel will be opened again. For now, only a few people are allowed to travel by plane:
- Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs)
- Locally stranded individuals (LSIs)
- Foreign nationals or Filipino citizens in a specific locality within the Philippines who have expressed intention to return to their place of residence/home origin.
- LSIs can be further classified as workers, students, tourists, or other individuals stranded in various localities while in transit.
- Health and emergency frontline services personnel.
- Government officials and government frontline personnel.
- Duly authorized humanitarian assistance actors (HIAAs).
- Persons traveling for medical or humanitarian reasons.
- Other persons transported through the efforts of the national government upon concurrence of Local Government Units (LGUs).
- Anyone crossing the zones for permitted work in the zone of destination and going back home.
5. The new normal in land travel
Locals, especially those in MGCQ and GCQ areas are now allowed to travel to close proximity areas (by land) with some strict regulations. In Luzon for example, people from Metro Manila can now travel to Baguio, but there are some guidelines to follow and requirements to accomplish before you can enter.
If you plan to travel by land to the nearest most interesting destination from your location, here are the things that you must remember:
- Does your city allow non-essential travel to neighboring cities?
- Does your destination require a hotel booking? A QR code? A PCR test? Or any other requirements? If yes, make sure you secure them before your travel date.
- What is the point of entry to your destination? Check points are in place to control the entry of visitors to every city. Check this with the local government of your destination prior to your travel date.
- Does your city or place of origin require any documents for you to return?
Destinations and their COVID-19 protocols
Not all destinations have opened, and those that have are certainly observing strict protocols and may be limited to a certain set of people from selected cities or municipalities with a certain level of community quarantine measure.
For the most part, travels especially for leisure will only be limited to cities or areas with a nearby proximity to your city. While air travel is possible, it’s going to be extremely tedious to do so and only if you are eligible.
Here, we have listed down some of the most common destinations across the country based on the regulations listed in the Department of Tourism’s website. Find out which one you can tick of your covid domestic travel to below.
- Baguio – Open to Luzon residents with negative RT-PCR test. Only limited to the first 100 visitors a day.
- Batangas – Open to domestic tourists (Anilao diving sites open to tourists from GCQ (General Community Quarantine) and MGCQ (Modified General Community Quarantine) with a negative swab test result, proof of reservation, valid ID, and medical clearance).
- Clark Freeport Zone – Open to domestic tourists.
- Ilocos Norte (including Laoag) – Open to all residents from Luzon starting Oct 15 subject to a negative RT-PCR test within 72 hours before entry and pre-registration at ilocosnorte.ph with a valid SafePass QR code.
- Ilocos Sur (including Vigan) – Open to Ilocos Sur residents and tourists from Baguio only. Open to Luzon residents starting Nov 15.
- La Union – Open to residents from Region 1 only (Urbiztondo Beach Area, in San Juan open to La Union residents only).
- Pampanga – Open to all tourists with advance booking (Bacolor Church open to all under MGCQ areas only, Sta. Rita Eco Park open to tourists from Region III only).
- Pangasinan – Open to domestic tourists from MGCQ areas only (Hundred Island National Park open to Pangasinan residents only, Our Lady of Manaog open to Region 1 tourists only).
- Subic – Open to domestic tourists from MGCQ areas and with travel documents only.
- Tagaytay – Open to domestic tourists only.
- Tarlac – Open to domestic tourists with complete travel requirements (travel pass, negative RT-PCR test and/or health certificate).
- Palawan (including El Nido, Coron, Puerto Princesa, San Vicente, Port Barton) – Open to residents only (El Nido Resorts is open to residents from GCQ to MGCQ areas via AirSwift.
- Boracay – Open to domestic tourists from GCQ (General Community Quarantine) and MGCQ (Modified General Community Quarantine) locations only.
- Bohol – Open to residents only. Open to domestic tourists with negative RT-PCR test starting November 15.
- Cebu – Open to residents only.
- Iloilo – Open to residents and Western Visayas residents only.
- Davao City – Open to residents from Davao region. QR registration and code to be implemented starting November 25.
- Mati – Open to domestic tourists.
- Surigao del Norte – Open to residents only (Siargao open to residents only except those from municipalities with cases)
Should you travel?
Everyone wants a breath of fresh air once in a while, and it’s something that we weren’t able to do so for the past few months due to the strict enforcement of the quarantine. It’s still highly encouraged to stay at home and make as little physical contact with other people as possible due to its collective benefits of curbing the virus. Since movement is no longer limited to the confines of your home or city, if you must travel make sure you do it responsibly.
Safety protocols are in place for the benefit of the greater good, so let’s do our part to strictly observe those to keep our own self, our family, and everyone else safe. So to answer whether or not you should travel – the answer lies in how you can follow or if you’re willing to obey the strict rules in place to keep the virus at bay.