Which ILP Programs Are Reopening?

Are volunteers abroad right now? Are you taking applications? Are programs opening back up this Fall? We have the answers to the questions you’re asking, all in one place.

Guys, we have big news to share. So many things have been changing for every one of our ILP countries and we know you’re pretty anxious to hear updates … While there's several things we're waiting on to help us determine when programs will be reopening, we really wanted to find a way to keep you up to speed and let you in on information that we have week to week. So we put it all in one place, mapped everything out, and are giving you a behind-the-scenes look at it all.

We have a main page complete with all of our ILP countries mapped out + some FAQs we’re sure you want the answers to. On the map, you can easily click into each country and read more about how things are looking: everything from opening borders, potential flights, visa policies, schools reopening, and what travel could look like. 

Right now, we’re mainly answering questions about Fall 2020 semesters, but we’ll be changing and updating the information for Spring 2021 semester in the coming months, and for future semesters after that — as long as we need to be.  You’ll want to keep an eye on this webpage, which we’re updating often. 

We’ve been working so hard behind-the-scenes to help figure out what life is looking like for our countries around the world and when we can have ILP semesters again  — and we are so excited to share all of this hard work with you. We hope it’ll help answer some major questions and keep you more informed about the countries you already love.

Check it out here.


Nicaragua Is Open For Tourism

September 21, 2020 

We’ve been carefully watching each of the countries we send volunteers to and are happy to see that things are opening up for the happy country of Nicaragua. While the nation didn’t shut borders or close down as strictly as others, airports did close and flights here weren’t really happening. 

But now, airlines are starting up itineraries and airports are open, with flights returning in September and October. This week, Spirit Airlines is restarting their flight from Miami to Managua, with more airlines starting itineraries in the first week of October. Right now, Nicaragua isn’t requiring a quarantine unless travelers present a negative PCR test, taken within 72 hour of arriving. 

It’s a short and sweet update, but a good sign as we’re watching things for the Spring 2021 semesters! 

Read more here.


School Is Back In Session In Romania

September 16, 2020 

Around 2.8 million Romanian schoolchildren are back to school as of this week! Whether that’s in-person, online, or a combination of both is determined on what the pandemic is like in a certain region. According to the article linked below, “towns with a single case per 1,000 people reported in the last 14 days will see all children back in classrooms. Those with up to three cases will see only kindergartners and a few grades back, with other classes held online. Towns with more than three cases will hold classes exclusively online.” 

The president, Klaus Iohannis made a Monday announcement letting kids know they have the “opportunity to be superheroes by wearing masks, washing their hands, and listening to their teachers”.  This week, news reports showed all ages back in school, wearing masks while meeting new teachers, sitting for lessons, or lining up in the hallways (6 feet apart). It’s a big step we’re hoping is successful for this country we love so much. 

Right now, we are also watching the orphanage where our volunteers spend their time. Currently, they’re not open to any outsiders and are only having 1-on-1 therapy and treatments. We’re hopeful to see that small group session will be opening soon. 

You can keep updated on what’s happening in Romania here and more about schools reopening here


New Plans In The DR To Boost Tourism

September 10, 2020 

The happy Caribbean island opened for tourism on July 1st and has had a shifting policy to both welcome tourists and keep the virus in check. The DR first required that all visitors have a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 5 days of arrival, but recently rolled out a new policy.  Now, the country will be utilizing random testing, providing a travel assistance plan, and mandating social distancing and masks. 

Beginning at the end of September, everyone entering the DR will be subject to random COVID-19 testing (they’re utilizing a breath test), no longer requiring that negative-test-on arrival. There are also a few other updates which will hopefully encourage tourism, like offering a free temporary travel assistance plan that “includes coverage for emergencies, telemedicine, prolonged hotel stays, and change of flights in the event that they contract COVID-19 during their stay”. This is provided for all travelers staying in a hotel. 
 

For a country so dependent on tourism, we’re hoping these steps encourage more and more visitors without creating a spike in numbers.

Read more here.


Thailand Talks About Opening To Tourists

September 8,  2020  

This tropical country has been having some exciting conversations about how to safely reopen their country to tourists. Thailand has been handling the virus well and domestic tourism has been flourishing — we’ve loved seeing favorite places like the markets in Chiang Mai open, same with the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Now, the country is talking about opening certain sections up to tourists starting up in October. 


According to a public forum held last week, Thailand's Minister of Tourism Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn is hoping to allow foreign tourists as a part of their “Safe and Sealed” tourism program. 


Tourists will fly into Phuket and settle in for a 2-week quarantine at a designated resort (taking a COVID-19 test at the beginning and end of their quarantine). The resort does have a beachside property set apart, so tourists can hang out on beach during their quarantine and soak up the tropical weather. After the two weeks, tourists can travel around Phuket which is a widely popular tourist destination. If you’d like to travel throughout Thailand, you’ll need to quarantine for an additional week, and take a final COVID-19 test at the end of day 21. 

The tourism board is hoping this strategy sets the stage as a way to slowly and safely invite tourists back to Thailand. The timing’s good too, since it’s pretty popular with Europeans who like to spend the winter months in and round Phuket. We’re hoping this trial period goes well, and allows for more smaller steps in the right direction. We can’t wait to see Thailand welcome back more and more travelers safely back to their country. 

Read more here.


Soon, Costa Rica Will Be Allowing Some US Travelers

September 2, 2020 

Costa Rica has slowly been opening up to allow tourists, first only allowing visitors from a list of approved nations who had low risk. Visitors from countries like Canada, Japan, Thailand, China, and others were allowed in, started August 1st. US tourists have been anxiously been awaiting being added to that last, and now have a bright little update. 

Starting September 1st, the tropical country will be allowing visitors from eleven US states: Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, D.C. In the next week, residents of Colorado, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania will also be allowed in.  Supposedly, states allowed in were determined to have similar (or better) outbreak conditions than what’s currently happening in Costa Rica

We’re hoping that list of US states is evaluated frequently and even more will be added to that list. 

Read more here.  


Life Is Starting To Look Like Normal In China

August 27, 2020

In a recent New York Times article, we all got a peek at what life is looking like in China, where the virus started ... and it's looking pretty close to normal. In major cities like Beijing, thousands of students are headed to campus to start school in the fall, and Shanghai is seeing crowds in restaurants. According to the article, "life in many parts of China has in recent weeks become strikingly normal. Cities have relaxed social-distancing rules and mask mandates, and crowds are again filling tourist sites, movie theaters, and gyms." It's been a long journey however — when the outbreaks first hit the nation, China responded swiftly with strict quarantine measures that had thousands and thousands on total lockdown.

Now, case numbers are extremely low ("on Sunday, China reported no new locally transmitted cases for the seventh consecutive day. The 12 new infections it reported were all imported"). Per 100,000 people, the number of active cases in China has been in the 0.0-0.1 range for weeks. By comparison, the United States is currently reporting 770+ active cases per 100,000.

While many tourist attractions have been open for months and new allowances are permitted (select movie theaters just opened last month), there are still precautions in place. Temperature checks are required at certain locations before entering, and China is still utilizing an app to help with contact tracing (which lets citizens know if they've been in close contact with an infected individual). Perhaps one of the most stringent prevention measures is still in place, however, with no word on it being lifted: foreigners are still not allowed in. 

Experts warn that the country could experience another surge in cases, especially with cooler weather coming which has people spending more time indoors. But we are hopeful that enough parameters are in place to see life continue as normal (and hopefully allow the country to open back up to foreigners again).

Read more here.

Is It Safe To Fly On A Long Distance Flight?

August 20, 2020

As the world is slowly opening back up to travel and tourism, you can bet there are multiple studies out there to help answer this question — is it safe to head off on a long flight? 

According to a new report, the risk is small and even smaller since so many precautions have been put in place since the outbreak of the pandemic. Back in March, a German research team reported on the health status of 102 passengers who boarded a flight in Tel Aviv, Isreal to make the 4.5 hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany. This was all before more extreme lockdown measures and requirements (like passengers and crew members wearing masks or decreasing crowding in the aisles). The case takes an interesting turn when researchers realize 7 people on that flight had tested Positive for COVID-19 upon landing. And what about the other passengers on the plane, who had been on the flight with the infected passengers? 

"We discovered 2 likely SARS-CoV-2 transmissions on this flight, with 7 index cases," researcher Dr. Sandra Ciesek, of the Institute for Medical Virology at Goethe University in Frankfurt, stated in the report. Only two transmissions occurred with no attempts to prevent the spared of the virus. 

“(E)ven with no attempts to prevent spread, [the] spread was limited to only those in close proximity. Plus, nowadays with a better understanding of viral transmission, and recognizing the importance of masking and social distancing as possible, the likelihood of transmitting COVID-19 to someone on an airplane is very low," says Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of Infectious Diseases of Mount Sinai in New York. 

The measures airlines are taking are exactly what epidemiologist Glatt reports: social distancing while on a plane (and in the airport) along with wearing a mask is going to decrease the risk of contagion while flying.

 Read more here


Vanuatu Discusses A Travel Bubble


August 17, 2020 


There haven’t been many updates regarding Vanuatu, but recently, the island nation has discussed opening up a travel bubble with nearby Covid-free nations, like New Zealand. 

 

Vanuatu has had a strict reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, quickly closing airports in March and not allowing anyone on their islands since. Though harsh, it’s been successful: The island hasn’t had a single case of COVID-19. However, as a nation that is heavily supported by tourism, conversations about how to restart that industry have been a recent topic of discussion. 

 

Apparently, there’s a task force who has been preparing tourism guidelines. Countries that have been discussed as being a part of this so-called “Tam-tam bubble” are New Zealand and the Solomon Islands (Australia was in previous conversations, but higher community spread has taken them off the table for right now). 

 

There are talks that this bubble could begin as early as September, but government announcements and declarations hint at a more realistic December timeline, at the earliest. Considering the nation hasn’t seen any level of tourism for months, we’re happy to see the beginnings of that returning to a country we love so much (in a safe way). 

Read more here. 


The Update On Costa Rica’s Latest Phase

August 12, 2020 

This popular tropical country has had ever-shifting policies to help contain the spread of the virus. The most recent update? Costa Rica is now in the “Closed Phase” which will last from August 10 to August 21. 

Within this phase, most business are allowed to operate as normal (with capacity limits). There’s also a pretty welcome change for grocery stores, who up until this point, were only allowed to sell and stock essential items. All open-air tourism activities are allowed, including beaches which are open each day from 5:00 AM to 2:30 PM. Restaurants, coffee shops, and sodas (our fav place to eat!) are also open. Sounds like a nice way to test run opening back up the country on a more permanent basis. 

This new “Closed Phase” applies everywhere in the country that’s considered “Yellow” — At the time of this article, there were a handful of different cantons that were still considered “Orange” which have less lenient restrictions. There are a few cantons in San Jose, Puntaras, Heredia, Alajuela, and Cartago that aren't Yellow quite yet, but we're hoping that more transition soon —  All cantons in Guancaste and Limòn are still Yellow which is a good step forward for this country. 

Read more here and here.


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