2020 has proven to be quite the year so far, especially for travel agencies like YPT but also for our Pioneers around the world we know are itching to getaway.
Is travel possible now?
At present, the current situation regarding COVID-19 is that we still need to take things slowly, but for the first time in a long time, we are starting to get optimistic that we will be able to run some tours before long.
Our prediction is that regional travel will open up first, and is indeed doing so already, and after some time inter-continental travel will follow suit, depending on the situation in the various regions around the world.
The general advice remains the same, we are assessing each tour as it comes on the horizon and do not book any international flights until we confirm the tour will go ahead.
Will your tours be the same as before?
Yes and no. They will certainly be run with the same ethos, but we will also be capping group tours at 10 people for the foreseeable future. You will have to wear a facemask on international flights and bring a supply yourself, but we will also give one free YPT facemask to everyone joining our tours. As much as possible we will be avoiding crowds and busy areas.
YPT runs bespoke independent tours to all of our destinations, and as the pandemic eases small group independent tours may be more feasible in some places than group tours, so contact us for more details on private travel to any country.
How do I book up?
Until we can confirm tours we are simply taking €50 deposits, and it’s also a good time to become a Young Pioneer by joining our membership program to get yourself good discounts and properly join the club.
Here’s our lowdown on the state of travel in the regions of the world.
Firstly, as you will know the DPRK has been closed to all tourism since late January and at present there is no sign that this will change any time soon. It is likely that the pandemic will have to be hugely under control around the world, including in China of course which is still closed to all foreign tourists, before the DPRK opens again.
There is a slight chance they will be open for tourism ready for the 75th anniversary of Party Foundation Day this October, but the longer it goes on the more likely it seems we will be waiting until 2021 until our next DPRK tours.
The good news is, all our 2021 tours are already published with the usual variety to choose from and some exciting tours for first-timers or those of you who need your regular DPRK hit. You can see our full list of 2020 and 2021 tours here.
At present, it is looking likely that the first tours we will be able to run will be in Europe, which is now starting to open up. We have specifically added tours to Divided Cyprus, one vastly underappreciated unrecognised country in Northern Cyprus, and also Communist Bulgaria and Dark Romania for people itching to get away and with the added safety net that they are within the EU.
We are also watching closely and hopeful that Transnistria will open for National Day in late August and that Chernobyl tours for small groups at least will become possible, we can now take bookings for Chernobyl day trips.
We have however cancelled all our Russia and South Ossetia tours for 2020 where the situation for travel does not look promising.
Our first proper Chernobyl and Transnistria group tour will hopefully be our Winter tour in November.
Although cruise ships and pandemics do not seem to be a good mix, we are also optimistic that our Svalbard Soviet Frontier Arctic Cruise will still take place in October given the geographic location and the fact it is a small vessel. Although this tour filled up long ago, some cancellations mean there are places still available.
The big question is when will Turkmenistan open up, and there is no definite answer to this one yet. We are hopeful our September tour for Independence Day will be able to go ahead and that our Five Stans trip in November will be fine too.
Africa and the Middle East
Some parts of the Middle East have been hit hard by COVID-19, and Africa remains something of an enigma as to how much the pandemic has really affected the continent.
All YPT tours to the Middle East and Africa remain unconfirmed although the first tour to happen maybe our Alternative Egypt tour which is another good trip for a first post-pandemic getaway and a good time to visit a country that would usually have a much larger number of tourists.
Socotra will almost certainly be impossible in 2020, if not because of COVID-19 then because of uncertainty over the recent takeover of the island by the STC during the ongoing Yemeni civil war.
Somaliland has just announced it is open again to tourism though, and we can arrange independent trips there from now, hopefully, more countries will follow suit!
South America is one of the centres of the pandemic at the moment, but one country always in the hearts of YPT has been very successful in dealing with COVID-19, which is of course Cuba. While it looks unlikely we can visit Colombia or Ecuador this year, this may be a good time to go to Cuba on our November tour.
Remaining in semi-lockdown but also not severely affected by the pandemic, much of South East Asia is ready and waiting to welcome Chinese tourists back, although this is not happening quite yet. For ex-pats in the region, some travel is becoming possible and we are making the most of our time in lockdown in Cambodia to explore this amazing country, and we have just been up to Anlong Veng, last bastion of the Khmer Rouge.
We are hopeful that our popular, annual Least Visited Countries tour can go ahead in some form in the Pacific this Christmas and New Year although we need to fully confirm dates and the itinerary for this one because Pacific airlines have been hit badly by the pandemic and are operating on minimal flight schedules at the moment.
And lastly, if you have given up on travel for the near future completely, now is the time to get excited and put down a deposit on our Antarctica Frozen Continent Voyage in December 2021, the cheapest and of course most exciting way to visit the southern continent!.