Tips for Travel During Covid (with Resources)
Travelling during the Covid pandemic is not easy. And not knowing where next can even be a bit stressful at times. But here are some resources and tips which I rely on for our travel planning during Covid. I hope they will make your travel planning a bit easier.
Where Can I Go, Can I Get In, is there Quarantine and What Are the Requirements?
I can't tell you what you'll need. The requirements change depending on where your passport is from, where you're travelling from, where you're going to, your age, if you're vaccinated - and the list could go on. Argh.
To find out if you can enter a country and what you need to enter, I usually refer to Can I Travel. This website is very helpful because it allows me to get specific information for my passport and current location. I found the information was a bit limited when I was using Borderless by SafetyWing. I'll still refer to the SafetyWing site from time to time to get an idea of what countries I might be able to get into. But Can I Travel is my main research tool right now (and probably one of the best tips I was given for researching travel during Covid).
We've only taken one international flight (two legs) with the full on restrictions going on. Our earlier pandemic flights were before countries started going into full lockdowns. I learned a lot during our escape from Vietnam.
What I can tell you is, don't rely solely on the information provided by these reference websites. You'll need to double and triple check the country requirements AND the airline requirements. This means going to the official immigration or visa website of the country you're planning to travel to, and searching for the most up to date Covid entry information. It also means contacting your airline or finding the relevant part of their website and checking their requirements. I'd probably say your safest bet is to contact the airline directly, take notes, get reference numbers (especially if you're travelling out of a country like Vietnam)!
How Long Can I Travel for?
In this crazy time, we are always looking for countries that have favourable visa timeframes. It's too difficult for us to be in countries a short time. We are aware that (for us anyway) we cannot go home in a hurry. We've found it much easier to go slowly. My main resource for researching this is Passport Index. I found this useful to look at how long we can stay in each country with a rough idea of which ones we can't get into. This site has also helped to give us ideas about which other countries we'd like to stay longer term with a view to citizenship to acquire second passports eventually.
We don't book in advance anymore. It's too hard to predict what will change next week. Our flights out of Vietnam were booked ten days out. I booked accommodation the night before we flew to Istanbul. We found this house-sit and moved in two days later. I don't know where we will go next.
If you do book anything, check the cancellation options. I usually won't book anything unless it's got a free cancellation.
With flights, look for flexible fares. Many of the airlines offer flexi fares now by default. But definitely check this. Most insurance won't cover flights cancelled due to Covid!
For us, being from New Zealand ruled out all the usual insurance options. To travel into Turkey we needed a policy that covered Covid. We still had our World Nomads insurance, but it didn't include Covid cover. For this section of our journey we added cover from SafetyWing. I used to work in insurance and know for a fact you need reliable insurance. The reviews I've seen about SafetyWing make me hope I never have to claim on this policy. Personally, I cannot recommend it because I haven't used it.
At this point in time we've finalised two claims with World Nomads, and both were effortless, painless and fast. Their customer service has always been responsive. We felt really cared for when Elijah got sick shortly after arriving in Vietnam. I won't hesitate to recommend this company.
We are now looking at International Travel Insurance policies because of our unique situation. This probably won't be necessary for most people, but if you are travelling long term, I'd highly recommend investigating this option. Being sick and in hospital overseas is not a great experience. It would be even worse to be with a company who refuses to answer calls and delays claim payments.
Do your research.
Our top tip for travel during Covid: PCR or Rapid Test?
This might be one of our most important tips for travel during covid. It's important to know that all tests aren't equal. We learned a lot about this when trying to get out of Vietnam. I learned that Singapore Airlines would only accept PCR tests from CDC approved facilities. In our province, we couldn't access a CDC approved facility easily. This was a challenge for us because of the lockdown situation across the country.
Click here for Singapore Airlines testing approved sites (listed by country). I mention this site because I heard of people getting a PCR test, only to arrive at the airport and learn it wasn't from an approved facility, or taken with time for travel into the arrival country. Seriously, you don't want to be stopped BEFORE you even get on the plane.
If a rapid test is acceptable for the airline, you MIGHT have a few more options. These are really fast tests. BUT be warned. A rapid test result may be valid for a shorter time period (eg 48 hours prior to either arrival OR departure - so again, DOUBLE and TRIPLE check this).
For PCR testing, it's quite common for the airlines to require this inside of 72 hours prior to DEPARTURE. However, that won't mean the arrival country has the same requirement.
Don't get caught out.
For example, arriving in Turkey (during August, 2021), you can enter with either a PCR test OR a rapid test (and under 6 was exempt from requiring any test). If you have a PCR test it must be taken within 72 hours prior to ARRIVAL. A rapid test must be taken 48 hours prior to ARRIVAL. Our Airline required tests taken within 72 hours of our departure. The reason it's important to understand this is, if you're travelling long haul and have a layover (like we did), there's a good chance you could be in the air 24 hours or more. And that might impact when you get your test taken! We got ours taken the day before our flight to be safe.
Extra tip: Prevent a Positive Covid Result
One thing I learned during this adventure, was that some people do test positive on their tests two to three days before flying. And they don't get to fly!
We felt reasonably confident we were Covid free. We'd been living in a tiny Vietnamese village, An Bang Beach near Hoi An, Central Vietnam. In mid July, we were required to do a mandatory PCR test, along with anyone residing in holiday accommodation in the Hoi An area. That test was negative, and there were no positive cases in our area, which made us feel really confident in the lead up to our flight.
Once we booked our flights, we decided it was best to just lay low. We didn't fully quarantine ourselves, but we weren't social butterflies either. We stayed home, ate in, and were very careful in the lead up to our flight. Visiting busy places unnecessarily was definitely not a risk we wanted to take. I didn't want to test positive before our flight and I was happy to take extra measures to ensure that it didn't happen!
If you plan to travel internationally, I'd recommend taking this approach. Just be conscious of where you're going and who you're spending time with. As families, I think for the most part, we are mostly really careful. It's a good idea to reduce the socialising in the week or two before an international flight to reduce the risk of not being able to fly at all.
For a lot of travel options, you need to also check your transit. Singapore Airlines required us to travel on one ticket and had a maximum time permitted for the transit. We weren't able to enter Singapore and do a 24-48 hour stopover. You'll need to check this out with any country you transit as these requirements can vary greatly depending on if your transit country is open or heavily restricted.
Also, be really careful if you're travelling domestically to take an international flight. Definitely check something like FlightRadar24 to check your domestic leg is flying if you're not certain. In the European countries this seems to be less of an issue, but if you're connecting to an international flight, I definitely recommend giving yourself plenty of time in case of domestic delays or cancellations.
In Vietnam, many of the domestic flight routes were able to be booked and were frequently cancelled. Very few were actually flying. We booked our domestic flight two days ahead of our international flight. The domestic flight was cancelled along with all the remaining flights for the rest of the week, which turned into the rest of the month and there are still ongoing domestic travel issues in Vietnam. You can see how we managed to scrape in on the last flight out of Da Nang in my IGTV below (hectic).
So far we've been lucky. No quarantine. Some countries do require quarantine. Some, like our home country, New Zealand, have a hotel system where you're fully locked in. Others have self-isolation options. Some of these are user pays, others are covered by governments in certain situations. Many countries don't require it at all. Make sure you know what you're in for. If you're booking a trip to NZ, the quarantine booking is almost impossible (and this is why we are in Turkey, not New Zealand).
We discovered places like Thailand have a managed isolation system, however the length of time you stay there can increase if anyone on your flight tests positive. You would have to pay for the extra time too. This was why we didn't end up jumping across to Thailand!
At the Airport
I can't tell you much about the state of the world's airports (except for Hanoi, Singapore and Istanbul), but if you're flying from a country in full lock-down with few international flights, check-in time might run late. We got to Hanoi airport ridiculously early because we anticipated issues with immigration due to our visa (I'll write a blog on this another day). We rocked up plenty early only to be told by immigration we had to wait to check-in.
Then at check-in, we couldn't check in until after we saw immigration. This is Vietnam though, so it probably won't be such an issue in other countries.
I'm guessing here, I assume most airports around the world are going to require you to wear a mask. This probably applies to your kids, but for the most part, it seems like there is a lot of leniency for younger kids. Our youngest is five and didn't have any issues.
I can't tell you if you'd need one of those weird looking plastic casing mask things though. We didn't need them departing Vietnam, or transiting Singapore, or arriving in Turkey.
When you plan, don't expect too much to be open. In Vietnam we'd heard the Ho Chi Minh Airport didn't have the aircon on and most of the power points had been switched off. In Hanoi nothing was open. We didn't test out the power points. There are no flight announcements. Most of the display screens are off.
In Singapore, most of everything was closed. We could order from order stations that deliver to the terminal which was a nice touch. The Business Class Lounge was closed for us because we'd flown from Vietnam. The makeshift 'premium' lounge, wasn't really that premium. Lighting isn't standard. Speaker systems are portable.
Istanbul seemed to be more open. I don't know what the departures side was like though. The airport itself was much busier than Hanoi. But I guess that's because Europe seems to be open for the most part. SAW airport departures was chaotic. You couldn't just walk into the airport. There was a process of lining up outside, and being allowed entry in small groups. My poor son desperately needed a toilet and we still couldn't get in quickly. Definitely allow for extra time prior to check in so you can make it to the check in counter on time.
Onboard - Our Most Positive/Happy Tip for Travel During Covid
One thing we noticed was we felt REALLY SAFE onboard. There was a requirement to wear masks for the duration of the flight and children under six were exempt. We had a whole cabin to ourselves. My kids took their masks off to sleep. My hubby told me he also slept without interruption and without a mask. The cabin crew didn't really come in to check though as it was a red-eye flight and we only saw the staff when visiting the bathroom and during meal times!
Singapore Airlines provided extra masks and hand sanitizer for each flight. I heard a lot of flights no longer serve meals, but we managed to get lunch from Hanoi to Singapore, and we got a late dinner and early breakfast for our flight from Singapore to Istanbul.
We spoke with the airline crew and they were really positive. They were happy to see us flying. They need people like us to fly!
The crew told me they feel safe while flying!
They also told me it is extremely rare to pick up Covid during a flight. They have amazing air filtration systems and it is highly unlikely that you'll catch or spread Covid onboard.
This made me feel a lot better about our travels. Since then, it's made me feel more confident about booking any further flights!
Will you Fly?
I hope this gives you a bit of confidence if you do have to travel during the Covid pandemic. I'm still not brave enough to take short trips everywhere frequently, but I am happy to know that when we need to travel internationally next, I'm sure it will be ok.
- Can I Travel
- Borderless by SafetyWing
- Passport Index
- Singapore Airlines testing approved sites (listed by country)
Please let me know if you found our tips for travel during Covid helpful or useful! If you did, please share it with others who also might get some use out of this!
Let me know if I've missed anything. I'm sure I can add to this post!