While Australia's international travel ban has ended, there's no downplaying the many concerns surrounding that long-waited overseas trip.
Different entry requirements – including on-arrival tests – along with vaccination rates, quarantine strategy and case number trends all influence how 'Covid-safe' a country is.
Those same factors figure into a new set of metrics by independent data and analytics consultancy Decision Inc.
According to the Sydney-based firm's Pandemic Travel Risk Index, of Australia's ten most popular tourist destinations in the pre-pandemic years, only three – New Zealand, Japan and Canada – are considered to be "the safest bets to travel to with a level of normalcy."
Right now, of course, only Canada is open to Australians (who must also be fully-vaccinated and test negative to Covid-19 before departure).
New Zealand expects to reopen sometime in early 2022, although there's no word on when Japan could welcome Australians back.
Interestingly, Decision Inc's Pandemic Travel Risk Index rates Thailand – which this week opened its borders to quarantine-free entry by vaccinated travellers from more than 60 countries, including Australia – as "avoid for now.”
Fiji – which will reopen to Australia on December 1 – is considered "a possibility" for delivering safe travel with a degree of normalcy.
Conversely, the United Kingdom – which has embraced a "living with Covid" approach and has relatively few restrictions on the ground – has seen cases spiral to 661 new cases per million, says Decision Inc.
Using publicly available data, the company's dynamically-updated Pandemic Risk Index includes an interactive map where you can scroll over a country to see vaccination rates, approved vaccines and current quarantine measures in place.
"Unpredictability is a constant reality of living in a world still experiencing a pandemic, even with vaccine availability increasing across the world," says Aiden Heke, CEO Australia of Decision Inc.
"But borders are open, and planes are set to take off again. It's clear that people want to travel once again, if not for business or leisure then to visit loved ones they haven't seen in two years. They just need to weigh the risks based on the available data."
Heke believes that while many Australians "are desperate for a vacation or need to travel for business reasons," they need to know if a country's program of Covid recovery "is trending the right way."
"No one wants to end up in a potentially unavailable hospital bed versus a pool side sun lounge, but it is unfortunately a potential issue that travellers need to consider, regardless of their vaccination status."