Coronavirus: Should You Stop Traveling?


There’s no doubt that the Coronavirus has hit the travel industry hard. All US airlines have shut down services to many parts of East Asia and the travel industry is already seeing bookings down by more than they would like to admit. And already hard hit Cathay Pacific has cut flights by 75% from Hong Kong with nearly 120 aircraft just parked at HKG.

Many airlines such as Alaska and JetBlue are offering free changes to customers proactively while others (American) are trying to capitalize on it and engineer more business.

The CDC and other health organizations have indicated that this is just the beginning of the spread of the virus. And despite what our president says, a cure is at least 12 months away by most expert projections. As of now here is the map on worldwide prevalence of the virus as it stands (map from the NY Times).

If you want a great way to educate or update yourself about the virus so far, check out John Oliver’s piece from last night’s episode of “Last Week Tonight”:

This all brings up the big question of our times: Should you stop traveling because of the Coronavirus?

Do note: I mean for my advice to be by no means comprehensive. If you are looking for a more in-depth advisory check out this NY Times article.

  • If you are a person (especially elderly person) with preexisting heart, respiratory conditions or are undergoing chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer, you should stop all non-essential travel immediately. 
  • If your trip is to a place where there are are very few or no reported Coronavirus cases like in many places across South America, South Pacific, and even South Asia (India, Vietnam). You should stop your plans immediately as asymptomatic transmission is becoming an issue.
Now brings up the other question: Will I stop traveling? Update: All my foreseeable travel plans have been cancelled. 

Absolutely not! Now is the time to express our solidarity with the global society we live in. I have been to many towns and places across the world where the sole economic activity is tourism. A cancellation here and there may not seem much for us, but for them it could be life changing. Think of tourism as someone’s livelihood and your perspective may very well change.

With that being said, I did have to shut down my plans to visit New Zealand and Finland because my grandfather is still recovering from his chemotherapy (definitely a person who shouldn’t be traveling).

However, I very much intend to stick to my travel plans for the rest of the year which includes travel within the US/Canada and international travel to Switzerland (yes one more time), India (in July/August), and Cambodia (in Dec).

Of course I will keep myself updated with the latest guidelines and  will change plans accordingly.  


3/15/2020 Update: Stop all travel immediately until incidence of the Coronavirus shrinks significantly. It becomes impossible for our health care providers to trace transmission of the disease if people keep moving.

Unless you really believe that you can isolate yourself from the rest of the world for the next year or two, don’t stress out about something you can’t control. Your likelihood of encountering the Coronavirus is still fairly low at the time this article was written outside certain areas of the world.

With that being said, there is one additional point to be made (credit to reader David for highlighting this): If your trip revolves around public events such as concerts, conferences, or other gatherings, many of which are are being interrupted as of this moment, it’s probably best to reschedule if at all possible. Even museums such as the Louvre are closed right now, which is a must see Paris attraction.

List of Reliable Sources to Keep you Updated on the Virus:






  1. David

    You’re missing an important point. No matter your concern over actually getting the virus (which I have little), the fact that it is distributing most travel related activities (museums, concerts, etc) means your trip will likely be ruined if taking a “trip of a lifetime” or a special trip. Stay close to home, travel regionally and take that next trip after the panic has passed.

    1. Good point David. I was mainly trying to address the safety aspect of it. But yes absolutely if your trip revolves around concerts, museums and other large events it’s prob best to reschedule. I amended the article to make this point.

  2. John Oliver is a source? Wow.

    Anyway. My concern isn’t getting sick so much as having travel interrupted. It’s like a circular firing squad. Take a cruise and get quarantined. Book a flight to Italy to have it cancelled at the last minute, etc. A good example is I have a sudden week off next week and would like to book a short vacation. I’m not afraid to fly here in the USA but if I get on a cruise ship it could miss ports because of hype or even turn into an extended event for weeks. Hopefully, the warmer weather will help turn the tide on all this.

    1. I wasn’t referring to Oliver as a source (I thought it was an interesting way for people to get updated on the facts). I cite all my CDC and other sources.

      Yeah if you are planning on a vacation right now no reason to put yourself in unnecessary harms way. However if you do have travel planned already there is no reason to not go to places like Argentina and New Zealand where there are very few cases.

      I couldn’t find a source that said cruise ships were a NO so I didn’t mention then specifically.

  3. Jon

    Thing to think about too, what if USA all of a sudden announces mandatory quarantine for all international travelers returning to USA while you are away? Are you prepared for that? Who would take care of your house, job, family, pets, medication needs etc. ? Definitely better have a plan B just in case. And then if traveling internationally , what is the health care system like in the country you are traveling to ?

  4. Joey

    I agree with David. Plus, if the trip is non-essential, accept the possible consequences you have to deal with if you get the coronavirus while abroad. If 14 days quarantine is out of the question or something that you can’t risk doing, then probably best not to travel at this point in time.

    1. Makes sense except for the likelihood of getting it at home is about the same as certain other areas of the globe (I’m not referring to China, SK, SIN, or Japan). It’s a good idea to monitor the situation and decide on your travels.

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