Digital vaccine certificates for Europe. Tracking COVID. Adventure-tour companies merged.

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 4 of the January 2022 issue.
In Vevey, Switzerland, Charlie Chaplin’s statue is a stone’s throw from a 26-foot-tall fork installed in Lake Geneva by the Alimentarium, a food-themed museum. Photo: ©irisphoto18/

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 550th issue of your monthly worldwide travel magazine, with articles and letters supplied by its world-traveling subscribers. In this issue, read how they have been managing lately!

Meanwhile, I’ll fill you in on some of the latest news.

In the ITN Travel Brief “Vaccine Passport for France”(Oct. ’21, pg. 30) , it was reported that France was offering a digital COVID-19 vaccine certificate to American and Canadian travelers who were planning to visit that country. Allowing entry into the country as well as to indoor venues, it had to be applied for online. 

Well, it seems That particular program has ended. Anyone visiting the website will see the message, “This procedure has been closed, it is no longer possible to submit a file.” We thank ITN subscriber Laura Kritz of Blaine, Washington, for letting us know about that.

However, it is still possible to get that digital health pass, known in-country as a pass sanitaire, within France; it’s just no longer available in advance. The pass is accepted throughout the European Union and in other countries participating in the EU’s digital vaccine certificate program (Dec. ’21, pg. 27), which include countries in the Schengen Zone and other European countries, such as the UK.

To get a digital pass after arriving in France, a person would take their paper vaccination-record card and their passport to a pharmacy, where, if they qualify, a pharmacist will grant them the digital pass at a cost of 36 (near $41). For more information, visit

In addition, Switzerland is now offering digital vaccine certificates to foreigners who are planning to spend at least one night in the country. 

There is a CHF30 (near $32.50) charge, which is non-refundable if the application is denied. (Tourists whose certificates are not approved will not be allowed to enter Switzerland.) To apply for a digital Swiss vaccine certificate, visit

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020, but it took until Oct. 29, 2021, for the first case of COVID to show up in the island nation of Tonga.

The country’s first COVID patient was a fully vaccinated citizen who had just been repatriated from New Zealand along with 214 other Tongans, none of whom tested positive in subsequent tests. The infected individual recovered without any complications and, it appears, without having infected anyone else.

Only a few other countries remain that have had no “recorded” cases. Tuvalu, also in the Pacific and regularly sharing its testing data with the WHO, still remains COVID-free. Two others, North Korea and Turkmenistan, have repeatedly told the WHO that there has not been a single infection inside their borders, though they have not shared any corroborating data. Let’s just say that the WHO is skeptical.

While North Korea has not cooperated at all with the WHO, in June 2020 Turkmenistan did allow a group of doctors in to observe the steps the country was taking in response to COVID. The doctors witnessed people wearing masks and social-distancing. Just prior to the doctors’ visit, people wearing masks in public in Turkmenistan had been fined for “sowing panic,” so there were signs that the country was starting to acknowledge the disease was a threat. 

Turkmenistan is now one of the few countries in which vaccination is mandatory for all adults, even while it insists that the virus is not present there.

Most countries are much more public with their pandemic numbers. For example, at press time, continental Europe was in the midst of possibly the worst wave of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, accounting for half of all new global cases and deaths. On Nov. 18, Germany confirmed more than 65,000 positive cases in a 24-hour period — a pandemic record number for that country, one of several countries in which records were broken that month.

Because of the precipitous rise in case numbers, many European countries went back into full or partial lockdown. Some lockdowns were scheduled to last two or three weeks, while others are open-ended.

Health authorities in Europe are describing the current wave as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” since the majority of those sick and, in particular, hospitalized are unvaccinated. Because of that, some European countries, including Germany, Czechia and Slovakia, have taken a slightly different lockdown tack, only restricting the movement of the unvaccinated while allowing those vaccinated to skip most of the lockdown restrictions.

In late November, a new COVID-19 variant, dubbed Omicron, was identified in South Africa. At press time, infectious disease experts did not know what kind of impact Omicron would have on the pandemic, but, in an effort to stem the spread of the virus, many countries initiated short-term travel bans to countries where Omicron had become endemic.

On Dec. 7, the UK began requiring that a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours of departure be provided by any arriving traveler, regardless of vaccination status, before they’re allowed to board their flight.

On Dec. 2, President Biden announced new restrictions for travelers entering the US, including returning Americans, regardless of vaccination status. At press time, travelers were each required to submit proof of a negative result to a COVID-19 test taken no more than 24 hours before departing for the US. The time limit had been 72 hours. Additionally, the federal public transportation mask mandate was extended to at least March 18.

Those looking forward to a trip should learn what kind of restrictions are in place for the country or countries they plan to visit. The list of winter activities available to visitors may be greatly reduced.

ITN subscriber Fred Koehler of Orange, California, brought something to our attention that many of you may be interested to know.

Several years ago, the adventure-travel companies International Expeditions (IE) and Zegrahm Expeditions (both former advertisers in ITN) were purchased by TUI Group, a German conglomerate that owns a number of travel and tour companies. Despite being owned by TUI, both companies continued to operate independently. 

On Oct. 4, 2021, however, the two companies were merged with another TUI-owned company, Exodus Travels. (Most of TUI’s North American holdings, including all three mentioned, are managed by a company called Travelopia.) The announcement of that absorption was made back in January 2021, but ITN somehow missed the news until Mr. Koehler wrote in about it.

While tours and cruises can no longer be booked directly with IE or Zegrahm, whose brand names no longer exist, every tour and cruise that was already booked with them is scheduled to go forward as described in the published itineraries but will be operated by Exodus Travels (Toronto, ON, Canada; 800/267-3347 or, in the US, 844/294-6551).

In the wake of the merger, Exodus created a new trip category, “Exodus Expeditions,” with several former IE and Zegrahm staff listed as tour leaders, so if you had a leader you liked from either company, you may find an upcoming adventure being led by him or her.


An Editor’s note in Marsha Caplan’s letter about the Myrna and Sheldon Palley Pavilion for Contemporary Glass and Studio Arts, in Coral Gables, Florida (Nov. ’21, pg. 27), stated that a temporary exhibit of the late Myrna B. Palley’s jewelry ended on Oct. 16. The exhibit now is running until June 5, 2022.

• Bruce Mason of Baltimore, Maryland, is keeping us on our toes. He wrote, “In the News Watch item ‘Afghanistan Mosque Bombings(Dec. ’21, pg. 5), it is stated that the Taliban are Shia. Not so! The Taliban and Daesh are both Sunni but don’t get along with each other, though there is some movement of members back and forth.”

Thanks, Bruce (and Ralph Jackson of Cross Plains, Wisconsin, who also called us on this).

• In Stephen Strecker’s account “Exploring the Texas Panhandle(Dec. ’21, pg. 26), he wrote about listening to an audio history book while driving. The correct title of the book by S.C. Gwynne is “Empire of the Summer Moon.” We thank another sharp-eyed subscriber, Jean Mackey of Salina, Oklahoma, for catching that error.

We skipped it following the outlier year of 2020, but, with opportunities for travel having increased in 2021, we are recommencing our “Where Were You [last year]?” contest.

The rules are simple. If you are an ITN subscriber, make a list of all of the nations you visited outside of your own country anytime in 2021 (dates not required) and email it to or mail it or a postcard to Where Were You in 2021?, c/o ITN, 2122 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Be sure to include your name and address because, at the end of the contest, a drawing will be held for prizes.

Knowing where ITN subscribers are traveling is helpful to our editorial staff, and the resulting statistics also may impress potential advertisers — important for keeping this magazine in publication! Our readers, too, have often expressed interest in the annual country-count results, which, in these “interesting times,” are sure to be thought-provoking. 

I will announce the results in the June issue… along with the winners of the drawings. The deadline for entry is March 31, 2022. 

To answer a few anticipated questions, Hong Kong, Macau and Tibet all are officially part of China and are not separate nations; visits to any or all count as only one visit to China. Similarly, a visit to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be counted as a single visit to the United Kingdom. Also, longtime subscribers may remember that, at one time, Canada and Mexico were not covered in ITN, but they have been for many years now and, of course, will be counted.

Lastly, nonsovereign territories will be tallied but listed separately from official nations.

In the past, when announcing the results of our unofficial poll, we’ve compared them to those of previous years, pointing out various travel trends, but we’ll let the results speak for themselves this time. 

Also in previous years, the tallies showed that multiple subscribers had traveled to more than 20 countries each. While I don’t expect to see that this time, I’ll be excited to see where people were successfully able to go.

So jot down your list of countries right now, before you turn the page. Where Were You in 2021?