So recently, I took a little trip to Portugal with some of my family. When we left, obviously it was on the green list, but when we came back it was about to be moved to amber. Being one of the few major foreign holiday destinations that was actually on the green list (even if brief), I wasn’t sure if this post was necessary because I’m fairly certain not many people are actually still going to try and travel that much. But anyway, I figured just in case COVID rules regarding holidays start to change again (as they often do), I’d write a little about what going abroad in 2021 was like.
At the time of writing, I believe that my observations are accurate, but I am not, have never been and will never be the pinnacle of knowledge regarding holidays, or coronavirus, or anything really. So make sure to check everything I have said with a reliable source, such as government websites, or maybe Boris if you can get hold of him.
Know that things are subject to change
What you can and can’t do relating to COVID seems to be a constantly changing affair. This applies to travelling during COVID too. In my own personal experience, I was about 4 hours away from having to self isolate on my return to the UK.
A lot of people over the last year or so have lost a lot of money on holidays or ended up spending more than they would normally have to when travelling abroad. With my family scattered between the UK and France it’s been a lot more complicated to bring us together than it usually would’ve been. A lot of our plans have been hugely uncertain until the very last minute. We’re lucky in that most of us can be a little more last minute with these things than most people. So it’s important to know that nothing you plan or book is completely fail safe and ensure you have the resources to deal with sudden cancellations or date changes. Maybe this is monetary-related resources or inflexible times, but whatever it is, make sure you wouldn’t be facing too many problems if some part of your plans have to change.
Travel insurance or booking flights/hotels that will allow you to cancel or change dates without too much of a fee will be useful, but they might not cover you 100%. And some travel insurance may not be applicable because of COVID or some flights may not offer these options. I know it’s a drag, but it’s probably a good time to start reading the T&Cs of these things (I know, I know, no one ever does that).
There is a bit of a risk with booking holidays right now, so if you’re not able or willing to acknowledge and take that risk, whatever the outcome, taking a trip abroad may not be the idea for you right now.
The world is full of various, ever-changing rules and regulations and whatnot, relating to COVID. By now, I’m sure we thought we’d be done with it, but we’re not and I don’t think that’s going to change for quite some time after the pandemic has fully passed. So when it comes to taking a trip, make sure you’re fully aware of any and every rule you might need to know of. This applies to both the country you are travelling from, the country you are travelling to and any country you might pass in between. Also think about rules that may be specific to a hotel you’re staying in (for example, where I stayed in Portugal had a system for the buffet breakfast and many on-site activities were still closed), or any activities planned or rules specific to the airline you’re flying with (the airline that my mum flew with only allowed passengers to fly if they were wearing a surgical face mask whereas the airline I chose allowed any face covering).
Basically assume that all things you do or places go have a set of COVID regulations and do your best to find these out in advance. Also consider if they are likely to change during your stay and how that change may affect you – the change of Portugal being put on the amber list would have thrown a huge spanner in the works for some of my family members if we had not gone home before it.
This is such a big one. I was going to mention it within the rules section, but it was such a hassle I thought it deserved its own.
It’s pretty much impossible to avoid taking a test if you are going to travel. We had to provide evidence of our test results a few times while at the airport, so keep in mind that it’s not just about getting the test and knowing you’re negative. Evidence of the test is absolutely key.
The rules vary by country and I’m not entirely sure of everything you need to know, so make sure to look at government advice from both the country you are travelling to about the country you are travelling from, and vice versa. The likelihood is that you will most likely have to take a test before departing each time, but the UK also requests a test two days after you return at the very least. So if you want to travel abroad, take note of the tests required, very, very carefully. This includes how many tests you need to take, when you need to take them and also the type(s) of tests required.
For my trip, I took a total of three tests, and all of them were PCR tests. This included one home-test within the 72 hours before I flew to Portugal, one test at a testing centre within the 72 hours before I flew to England, and one test 2 days after arriving in England. If I had arrived in England 4 hours later, I would’ve had to also self isolate for 10 days and take a test on the eighth day after arriving (and one on the fifth if I’d wanted to be released from self-isolation earlier).
It’s important to know where you can get tested in these countries and have something planned before you travel, because you don’t want to be scrambling for a test in a foreign country while on holiday. If possible, try and book in advance.
I also need to point out that testing for travel is expensive, so make sure to factor any tests into your budget.
Respecting the country you are holidaying in
Surprisingly (at least to an alarming number of British folk), other countries don’t purely serve as places for Britons to go and get some sun. Real people actually live there. These real people are also quite keen to keep safe from Coronavirus. So make sure that you don’t treat these countries like they purely exist to allow you a getaway from real life and an escape from the pandemic.
Every stranger you meet, every waiter who serves you, every taxi driver is just living their normal pandemic life (regardless of what regulations that country has, I am pretty certain that they are probably still affected by it). A bunch of foreigners coming over and acting like idiots (the British often don’t have the best reputation abroad and I’m not hugely surprised by that). Add in the fact that the UK is still reporting a fair amount of new cases each day, possibly more than the country you are travelling to and to be honest, I’m wondering why other countries even let us in.
So, and I guess this should be something to keep in mind whenever (and wherever) you go on holiday, just remember that just because this is a holiday to you, and you’re now allowed to do so, it doesn’t mean that everyone around you is having that holiday experience. Be respectful of the country, and the people who’s country, you’re in.