Hoffman's Houston
cure your travel bug

Ken Hoffman on the easiest ways for Houstonians to see the world during COVID-19 travel bans

Hoffman on the easiest ways for Houstonians to travel during COVID-19

Mexico City Basilica de Guadalupe
No travel to Mexico? Not when you travel like this.  VisitMexico/Facebook
Pet of the week - Zaina retriever
Sweet Zaina is our pet of the week.  Photo courtesy of Citizens for Animal Protection
Mexico City Basilica de Guadalupe
Pet of the week - Zaina retriever

The headline came down last week: “Border Restrictions Extended Between U.S. and Canada, Mexico” for at least another month because of coronavirus. Only “essential travel,” like trucks bringing agriculture goods or medical supplies, are allowed to cross the border. Travel to and from countries in the European Union remains shut down, too, with no opening in sight.

I was talking to a friend, a big-time travel writer, who’s one of those Up in the Air guys, always on the move, everywhere in the world. I said, these COVID-19 travel bans must be killing you. You actually have to stay home until there’s a vaccine or coronavirus “miraculously disappears.”

He said, “I’m okay, I just got tickets for Acapulco. I’m staying there a few days. Then I’m going to Ireland for a week. I gotta work.” Huh? Acapulco? Ireland? Do you know the secret handshake or something? There’s a travel ban, isn’t there?

Well, yes and no, especially with Mexico.

Yes, there is a travel ban if you attempt to drive into Mexico from the U.S. They’ll stop you at the border and turn you around. Your screaming kids in the backseat are not considered essential travel. To be precise, land travel between the U.S. and Mexico is banned.

However, if you fly from, say, Houston to Cancun, you will be greeted with a refreshing adult beverage at your resort. It’s open season for tourism, as long as you fly into Mexico.

The question is, exactly how many Americans are driving to Cancun or Acapulco or Cozumel? I’ll put the over/under at zero.
Still, the major resorts in Mexico are reporting only 30-percent occupancy. Even though you’re allowed to fly to Puerto Vallarta, most Americans are hunkering down at home. Which is the smart play.

Europe’s ban on vacationers from the U.S. is tighter than Mexico’s air travel loophole. The European Union is  closed to U.S. travelers, end of story. Well, not exactly the end. A few weeks ago, People magazine ran photos of Brad Pitt and his significant other (pending) arriving in Paris. And what about those photos of Jay Z and Beyoncé relaxing on a yacht near Croatia?

The Jay Z and Beyoncé photos are easily explained. While Croatia is in Europe, the country is not a member of the European Union, so Americans can come and go.

The Brad Pitt photos are trickier. The EU ban does say that travelers “possessing high level of skills and knowledge needed to contribute to the EU’s post-COVID economic recovery” are permitted beyond passport control.

The paparazzi press reports that Pitt owns a home in France, so maybe that allowed him in. Or Pitt said he was scouting locations for a big-budget movie. Or it was just a case of celebrity privilege.

I have the travel bug, too, but I’m staying in self-imposed lockdown. Although, I did fly from Houston to Midland a few weeks ago and felt safe on the plane. Milling around the airport, not so much. I saw people not wearing a mask, or dummies wearing it around their neck or not covering their nose with their mask. Some people … fools.

If your cabin fever is at a boiling point, here is a list of countries where Americans (and their money) still are welcome while the pandemic rages worldwide:

Mexico (by air only), Ireland, Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Aruba, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus (tennis star Victoria Azarenka’s birthplace), Bermuda, Brazil (good luck), Cambodia, Costa Rica, Croatia (say hello to Beyonce), Dominica, Dominican Republic, Dubai, Equador (where Panama hats are made), Egypt, Ethiopia, French Polynesia, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Kenya, Maldives, Malta, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, North Macedonia, Rwanda, Serbia (Novak Djokovic), St. Barts (Jimmy Buffett), St. Lucia, St. Maarten, South Korea, Tanzania, Turkey, Turks and Caicos, United Kingdom, and Zambia.

The small print is, most of these countries have requirements, like negative results from a COVID-19 test taken within the past 48 hours, or a requirement to self-quarantine for a certain period upon entry, or a quicky temperature check at customs. Better check your destination’s requirements before you leave.

By the way, Happy New Year to my Jewish friends who celebrated Rosh Hashanah last week. It’s Year 5781 on the Jewish calendar. This happens every year: I’m still writing 5780 on my checks. (Editor’s note: You’re still writing checks, Ken?)

Pet of the Week

Name: Zania. Okay, people at Citizens for Animal Protection, you’ve finally stumped me. I’ve never heard of this name, and couldn’t find a single celebrity named Zania. But here’s the deal (I sound like Jake from State Farm), if you adopt this lovable pooch, you can change her name to anything you like. You should never give your dog a name that starts with Z. At dog obedience school, they may make the dogs line up in alphabetical order.

Birthdate: March 9, 2020. I’m a pup, barely past the age to get me out of the shelter. This means you can mold me into the perfect dog of your dreams.

Ethnicity: I’m a beautiful Retriever mix girlie girl. I weigh 33 pounds, which is perfect. I’m a shy pup, and a little nervous because I’m not comfortable in a shelter will all these other dogs in crates. I am housetrained, although I may need a reminder when you get me home. I will need to learn how to walk on a leash. Hey, I’m just a puppy. But here’s the guarantee, I’m the sweetest dog you’ll ever meet. If you need a companion, I’m your girl. I’ll be spayed and groomed when you come for me. 

Come and get me: If you’re interested, drop an email to adoptions@cap4pets.org. One last thing, I’ve gotten some notes saying that we’ve stopped running photos of the weekly pet. We haven’t. Just click on the photo above, and you’ll see me.

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