As we finally close the chapter on 2020 and look forward to 2021 with a degree of optimism, many people are beginning to think about travel again and where their first post-pandemic trip might take them. With the situation changing day on day, it’s hard to predict what countries will be open to tourism and what kind of border restrictions might be in place come summer. Instead, we’ll be offering a broad overview of the kinds of restrictions to look out for, key terms and what they mean, hygiene procedures you can expect and how to be as careful as possible when travelling.
Many airlines are offering flash sales right now, hoping to get customers buying up flights for the summer. However, despite the various vaccines being steadily rolled out, we cannot know for sure what the next few months will bring and how ready the world will be to open up international travel once again. For this reason, be very careful when making a booking, ensuring that you have full cover in case of cancellation – either by the airline or if your own circumstances change. It could be that you snap up a bargain, securing yourself the trip of a lifetime to reward yourself for a tough year. Alternatively, it could be yet another payment lost to greedy greedy rona.
Terms to look out for:
Negative PCR test needed:
This means that in order to travel into this country, you need to bring proof of a Covid test that came back negative. Usually, the country will specify a maximum number of days this test could have been taken before flying, such as 48, 72 or 5 days before. Some countries will then ask you to take another test a few days after arriving, to rule out any infection you might have picked up whilst travelling.
Quarantine on Arrival:
This is a common requirement for those entering a country for an extended period. Some countries have flexibility on this, but the general rule is that you should travel straight from the airport to your pre-arranged accommodation and remain there for 14 days. This means you do not leave your flat for any reason, including grocery shopping. If sharing a flat with others, you should technically remain within your own room, asking your housemates to bring you your meals. Of course, these choices will have to be at your discretion and what works best in your situation. Sometimes you can get out of quarantine early by doing a test, but this is not always the case.
It is very important to make sure you buy a ticket that you can refund if necessary. This might be a case of buying premium insurance, splashing out a little extra to cover the cost of your journey. Remember that insurance companies will always try to get you and may not cover your ticket cost in all events! For instance, if the flight itself is not cancelled, they may not cover you, even if your government forbids you from flying. Make sure you read the fine print and get cover that suits you. Alternatively, an easier option is to always book a ticket marked ‘flexible’ (this is shown clearly on Skyscanner under each relevant flight). Flexible generally mean you can swap the ticket for another, pushing it back to a later date, or sometimes they will simply give you your money back.
Checking an Airline’s Hygienic Procedures:
Skyscanner have been quick to update to provide new information to fliers, highlighting which flights have the best social distancing and sanitising guidelines. For instance, some flights only fly at half capacity, guaranteeing you a reasonable space around you. Others keep it full, meaning you will be seated directly next to a stranger. Though the info is limited on this, for those flying in the US, try to book through airlines such as Delta, Alaska, Southwest, Hawaiian and JetBlue, as these have all confirmed they are blocking middle seats.
Don’t forget to think about every section of your journey and what social distancing procedures will be possible. Some airports have plenty of parking, making it easy to drive to. Others require busy subway journeys, crammed in with others. Once there, the airport should have made changes to ensure smooth socially distanced processing of travellers through check in and security, but this is not always possible. Be prepared to potentially have to have a temperature check (a non-invasive and immediate form of Covid check), random testing (some airports have stated that they will randomly test up to 10% of fliers) and of course, mandatory mask-wearing requirements.
Things to Remember:
Don’t forget, that the responsibility for hygiene doesn’t just rest on the airport, all fliers must also do their part. Make sure you bring enough hand sanitiser to use throughout your journey, ideally using every time you touch a surface, move from one mode of transport to another and particularly before touching your face. You will almost always be required to wear a mask, which for long travel days can be for many hours on end. A lot of places are selling masks nowadays, but these are not always medical-grade and often do little more than look fashionable.
Try to buy one that contains a filter or is medically approved. If you have made your own, include a little pouch to insert a filter (can be as basic as a folded square of kitchen roll), that you can swap in and out. Don’t be embarrassed to go hard on the PPE, you’ll probably find plenty of others doing so in the airport and they’ll be grateful for your effort! From gloves to face shields, there is plenty you can do to up your protection and you won’t look silly for it. Just remember to wipe down your phone before touching with bare hands as it will cancel out all your efforts!