Places to go in 2021: The 10 overseas countries Australians will most likely be able to visit

Where are you going in the next 12 months? That's not the open-ended, dream-big question it used to be. The world is not your oyster right now. It's barely even your mussel.

The destinations Australian travellers choose to visit in the next year will more than likely be governed by availability, by the countries we are and are not allowed to enter, and the various quarantine restrictions applied to each.

With that in mind, these are the destinations that are likely to be both open to Australians, and most popular. All have their pros and cons.

AUSTRALIA

The first country to open to tourism is the most important: our own. Australians are already allowed to travel intrastate, and within the next few months the entire nation is very likely to be open to residents.

Pros: There's much to love about spending your time and money in Australia: supporting hard-hit businesses, cutting down on unnecessary air travel, and getting to know and appreciate this beautiful place we call home.

Cons: Our home turf can lack a little of the surprise and excitement that those used to the overseas experience might expect.

NEW ZEALAND

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Milford Sound. Photo: iStock

If Australia is our obvious first destination, New Zealand is just as obviously our second, with the country likely to open up a trans-Tasman bubble within the next few months.

Pros: The Land of the Long White Cloud has plenty to offer, from great outdoors adventures like road-cycling, mountain-biking, hiking, skiing and more, to wineries dotted around the country, great people, a good range of accommodation options, and peace of mind in terms of medical care and coronavirus caseload.

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Cons: About the only con of NZ is that it's too good – it takes away a little of the desire to travel in Australia, which is something we really should be concentrating on.

PACIFIC ISLANDS

The likes of Fiji, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands have been almost entirely spared from the coronavirus pandemic, and these nations, which depend so heavily on the tourism industry, are likely to join the trans-Tasman bubble before the end of the year.

Pros: Warm sun, clear ocean, beaches, cocktails, culture… What's not to love? The Pacific islands have always been popular with Australians, particularly families, and with coronavirus being practically non-existent in these countries, you can expect that attractiveness to remain.

Cons: There's an ethical question that travellers will have to ask themselves before visiting the Pacific islands: if COVID-19 is both highly contagious and frequently asymptomatic, should we really be travelling to areas that have been largely free from the pandemic? And if there is a breakout, will local medical facilities be able to cope?

VIETNAM

Vietnamese women riding bicycle, Mekong River Delta, Vietnam Note: This is a GENERIC Vietnam Mekong River photo. Please caption accordingly. sundec15mekong mekong river with Emerald Harmony ; text by Julie Miller ; iStock *** REUSE PERMITTED *** 

Photo: iStock

Vietnam's response to the coronavirus pandemic has been stunningly successful, with only 328 confirmed cases and zero deaths. That will make the country a prime candidate for early access, and a very popular destination for Australian tourists.

Pros: This is the perfect location for your south-east Asian fix: the food is incredible, the people are friendly, you get everything from the buzz of Saigon and Hanoi to the chill of the Mekong Delta, you can explore by plane, train or scooter, and you might even be able to see Hoi An without a million of your closest friends there as well.

Cons: Vietnam is a long way from home, and those unfamiliar with the country could be a little concerned about dealing with its medical system should anything go wrong.

JAPAN

satnov24tokyo Ramen food tour Tokyo Japan ; text by Rob McFarland ; iStock *** REUSE PERMITTED ***Note: Generic Shibuya, Tokyo image. Does not feature the restaurants in the copy. People walking in Shibuya shopping district, Tokyo, Japan

Photo: iStock

Though Japan has had its issues with coronavirus – a nationwide state of emergency, for a while, with almost 17,000 cases to date – restrictions are easing, and with the Olympics due to be held in Tokyo in 2021, the country will look to open for business soon.

Pros: Japan is highly reliable in terms of medical facilities and its ability to cope with any new COVID-19 outbreaks. It's also one of Australia's favourite travel destinations, and for good reason. You'll never get bored of visiting Japan.

Cons: This isn't the world's cheapest destination, with one Australian dollar now buying only 72 Japanese yen (it was up near 100 just a few years ago).

TAIWAN

Taipei, Taiwan - Aug 1, 2018: Tourists are shopping around the famous Raohe Street Night Market. SunOct13Itinerary
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Raohe Street Night Market in Taipei. Photo: iStock

Here's another country that has dealt with the pandemic admirably – only 442 cases to date – and for that reason Taiwan is likely to open to Australian tourists, with direct flights, sooner rather than later.

Pros: Here's a part of the world you probably haven't explored before, and now could be the ideal opportunity. Taiwan has plenty of history and culture, as well as outdoor activities, and excellent food. There's also peace of mind in terms of the country's ability to deal with the pandemic.

Cons: Though nothing has been confirmed yet, it's possible that Taiwan will enact strict tracing measures for entrants, which could turn some visitors off.

GREECE

Monastiraki is a flea market neighborhood in the old town of Athens, Greece, and is one of the principal shopping districts in Athens. The area is named after Monastiraki Square, which in turn is named for the Church of the Pantanassa that is located within the square. Photo contains many locals and tourists visiting the square. NB - may not be an exact location as per story, pls caption in general terms if required ***satnov2athens athens greece society culture daily life ; text by Steve McKenna ; iStock *** REUSE PERMITTED *** 

The old town of Athens, Greece. Photo: iStock

Greece is keen – that much is obvious. The country has mooted allowing Australian travellers access as soon as this month, so watch for this to become our gateway to Europe before the end of the year.

Pros: Chances are you won't be going to Spain or Italy in the near future, which will make Greece even more attractive as a Mediterranean hotspot with plenty of islands, beaches and southern European culture. Greece has also had only 3000 coronavirus cases to date.

Cons: Very few really, except that Greece might seem a little far from home for those nervous about their re-entry to the world of travel.

NORWAY

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Geiranger Fjord, Norway. Photo: iStock

Though Norway has recorded almost 9000 cases of COVID-19 in a country of little more than 5 million people, the Scandinavian nation has flattened the curve and is being touted to open to select international travellers soon.

Pros: If you want to get away from it all, you can certainly do that in Norway, with plenty of wide-open spaces amid stunningly beautiful natural attractions. The coronavirus risk should also be low.

Cons: This isn't a great destination for the budget conscious, particularly given the distance you will have to travel to get there.

ISRAEL

File photo dated 28/01/16 of an El Al Israel Airlines plane landing at Heathrow Airport, which has been named as the airline with the worst environmental impact by the airport.. Issue date: Friday June 16, 2017. A total of 24 out of 50 carriers performed poorly on at least one measurement of noise, emissions and unscheduled night flights between January and March, according to figures published by the west London hub. See PA story AIR Heathrow. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire tra13-online-unusual

Israel wants to start direct flights to and from Australia. Photo: PA

Israel has already announced it wants to introduce direct flights to Australia for quarantine-free travel by December, which seems an exciting proposition for Antipodean travellers, who could use the country as a gateway to Europe.

Pros: Both Israel and the Palestinian Territories are beautiful, fascinating and welcoming destinations that people really should take the time to see. In Jerusalem, in particular, you have one of the world's most amazing cities, a deeply historic and culture-rich hub. After a peak in early April, Israel has also now flattened the COVID-19 curve.

Cons: It's a long flight to Tel Aviv – you're looking at about 17 hours on a plane. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's declared annexation plans for the West Bank should also give travellers pause to consider their support.

THAILAND

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Loh Samah Bay, Phi Phi Island. Photo: iStock

Seemingly against all odds, given the direct flights to Wuhan that were running even in March, Thailand has fared well this year, with only 3000 COVID-19 cases and 57 deaths. Look for this tourism-dependant country to open its doors in the next few months.

Pros: Thailand has so much to offer, from cities to beaches, mountains to islands, hotels to resorts, great food to… more great food. It's also reliably affordable, and has excellent medical facilities in its cities.

Cons: This is another country that may feel a little risky to those unfamiliar with it, and certainly hospitals aren't always top notch if you stray from the beaten path.

SINGAPORE

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Singapore's Gardens by the Bay. Photo: iStock

Singapore looked to be handling the coronavirus well – then, in late April, a spike in numbers sent the country into lockdown. While the curve still hasn't been completely flattened, this is a nation that knows how to deal with pandemics, and as a major air hub will look to open as soon as possible.

Pros: There's peace of mind here in Singapore's excellent medical facilities and its advanced approach to handling any outbreaks. Singapore is also an ideal hub for exploring anywhere in Asia or Europe, and has plenty to offer for a short stay.

Cons: As a notoriously busy port attracting people from across the globe, travellers may feel they're putting themselves at extra risk by transiting through Singapore.

Which countries do you think will be popular in 2021? Where do you plan to go? Is there anywhere you're planning to avoid?

Email: b.groundwater@traveller.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

See also: You have to be there: 10 overseas dishes Australia can't replicate

See also: Good riddance: Seven things in travel that won't be coming back

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