Welcome to Friday Around the Planet, where I wrap up the travel-related news from the week to help inform your travel planning as requirements and restrictions in countries around the world rapidly change. 

Our thoughts continue to be with the people of Ukraine whose country has been under siege for the past week. While the impact of this violence and the lives of the people of Ukraine is foremost in our thoughts, the war is also destroying communities and threatening cultural heritage sites.

As governments around the world have come together to put economic pressure on Russia to stop the violence, the subsequent sanctions and airspace closures have had an impact on travel. Our sister publication The Points Guy has been covering how this is impacting flights and airlines. 

Some tour companies canceled scheduled trips to Russia in an effort to assist in putting pressure on the Russian government to stop the invasion.  

At the same time, we're seeing Omicron cases drop and more COVID-19 restrictions rolling back and major festivals returning.

Zulu Crewe Performing in Mardi Gras Parade
New Orleans' famous Mardi Gras celebration is back in full swing (pictured: 2017 Mardi Gras) ©Bob Sacha/Getty Images

After a hiatus due to the COVID-19, New Orleans' famous Mardi Gras celebration came back in full beaded and costumed glory to welcome in the start of the Catholic season of Lent. If you missed out, don’t worry. We have a guide that will help you start planning for next year. 

It’s also Women's History Month so check out these groundbreaking women travelers as well as 10 sites in the US where you can reflect on the contributions and historical achievements of women.

More COVID-19 restriction rollbacks

France’s Prime Minister announced starting March 14, you’ll no longer need to show a digital  health pass to access indoor establishments. If you’re American and have wondered what it has been like to travel with a CDC card, Emily Schultheis has documented her experience for us.

Hawaii announced it would end its Safe Travels program for domestic travelers starting March 25.

New Zealand moved to its second phase of reopening a little more than a week early. The country still has July as the earliest it will let in foriegn visitors with no specific date announced yet. 

Australia opened its borders last week but one last state had not joined. Dubbed the “hermit kingdom, Western Australia has lifted its border restrictions after 700 days to welcome domestic and international travelers. 

Southeast Asia has also seen several countries reopen but still there are many restrictions and requirements in place. Here’s a country-by-country guide on what to expect if you’re planning a trip. 

Group of tourists on a kayak at Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, Thailand
Thailand is among the Southeast Asian countries now open to tourists ©S-F/Shutterstock

Outdoor Adventures at National Parks

March is a busy month for US National Parks and not just for an uptick in Spring Break visitors like they expect to see at the Grand Canyon National Park.

Several iconic hikes, like Yosemite’s Half Dome, have permit lotteries open. Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road tickets also went online on March 2. 

With its first permits allowing thru-hikers on its trails issued for March 1, Pacific Crest Trail hiking season is upon us and the highest peak in the lower 48, Mt. Whitney, has its permitting lottery open. 

Nesting season has begun at Zion National Park for the peregrine falcon, the fastest animal in the world. 

March calendar alert: These US National Parks release permits and tickets this month

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, a significant archaeological site as well as a sacred place to the Muskogee tribe in Georgia, recently doubled in size thanks to efforts to protect it from encroaching development. 

Meanwhile, if your travel dreams include seeing animals like leopards and elephants in their natural habitats, take a look at this guide exploring some of the spectacular national parks in Sri Lanka. 

Heritage sites in Danger

The World Monuments Fund also published its list of 25 endangered heritage sites due to factors like climate change, imbalanced tourism, under-representation and damage due to a crisis. 

On the list, the historic buildings of Beirut which were damaged in an explosion in 2021 and the historic center city of Benghazi still has not been repaired after being damaged in the uprising in 2011. 

The inclusion of these sites shows just how long it can recover from a crisis like war.  

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