International Travelers’s Pandemic Plans, Challenges and Concerns

Ben Liwanag
2 minute read

American and Canadian international travelers miss travel but differ on plans to go back abroad.

The pandemic has disrupted life as we know it. From lockdowns, frequent testing and ever changing travel restrictions, much of the past two years has been spent at home and in a digital setting. With a significant portion of life as we know having changed, Wise set out to better understand how international travelers feel about the state of travel.

Americans plan to go abroad sooner than neighbors to the North

In a recent Wise survey of international travelers in the US and Canada, nearly four in five (82%) of Americans and about three in four (78%) of Canadians reported that international travel is one of the things that they’re looking forward to most as things get back to normal.

However, when asked about their plans to travel abroad, Americans are planning trips abroad much sooner than Canadians. For international travelers in the US, 72% have expressed they are currently planning a trip internationally, with 42% indicating a trip within the next six months. Canadians, however, are more hesitant to leave the country. The survey found that only 59% expressed they’re planning a trip abroad with just under a quarter (24%) planning an international trip in the next six months.

Delta variant, vaccines and COVID-19 testing concerns are still looming

The pandemic still presents challenges for international travel, and the Delta Variant is affecting how North Americans feel about getting back out in the world. In fact, over half of US (55%) and Canadian (58%) International Travelers feel at least somewhat less comfortable traveling internationally due to the Delta Variant.

In addition to concerns about new strains of the virus, nearly three-quarters (77% of Americans and 74% of Canadians) found challenges in navigating vaccine and testing requirements.

Canadians understand inflated exchange rates more than Americans

While local- and airport-based currency exchange companies offer some of the worst inflated rates around, many are unknowingly losing money to these providers. When managing finances on trips, 31% of U.S. travelers still convert into local currency at the airport or local exchange shop compared to just 18% of Canadians. Additionally, 27% of Americans get cash abroad at a local ATM while 18% of Canadian counterparts reported such.

When withdrawing money from ATMs or using your card in shops and restaurants, always remember to pay in the local currency (for instance, if you’re a US resident traveling abroad, don’t choose the US Dollars option) on the card machine. That’s called “dynamic currency conversion” and merchants make a bit more by giving you poor exchange rates. You’re better off letting your bank convert it.

It’s also much cheaper to get a travel money card, like Wise, to withdraw money from an ATM. Before going abroad, call your bank or card provider and understand their foreign transaction fees, including the cost to withdraw at international ATMs. Base transaction fees plus the percentage taken out of the exchange rate markup can be high, so be sure to factor these numbers into your travel budget.

The current pandemic has completely changed what we know about travel. As a leader in helping millions of businesses and consumers manage money across borders, we have an obligation to our customers to better understand these challenges.

In the meantime we will continue working to make it easier, cheaper and more transparent for our customers to send or spend money internationally.

This poll was conducted between August 27-29, 2021 among a national sample of 500 International Travelers in the US and 500 International Travelers in Canada. The interviews were conducted online, and Morning Consult employed robust sampling and weighting strategies guided by Census measurements to ensure our final data is nationally representative according to gender, age, household income, educational attainment, race, ethnicity, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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