What’s it like to travel abroad during Covid?

What’s it like to travel abroad during Covid?

In August I booked a last-minute villa in the Peloponnese in Greece, and flights with Ryan Air.  I travelled with my immediate family. We had a brilliant week away and felt thoroughly refreshed. I understand many people are reluctant to travel during the pandemic but for us, the chance to get away for a week as a a family outweighed the risks of getting there. We’re not in a high-risk group and were happy to follow advice with regards to wearing face masks and social distancing.

Here is a brief summary of my personal experience of travelling abroad during Covid:

  • The Airport & Flights

We allowed extra time to get through the airport – we weren’t sure what the queues would be like or how many people would be travelling – but found everything quick and efficient and ended up having lots of time in hand airside. This turned out to be a good thing as one of us forgot to put their bag in the car boot and needed to do an emergency shop! We found many airside shops and restaurants were closed so it’s good to go with everything you need rather than rely on the airport…

Throughout the airport there were lots of signs reminding passengers to wear a mask, wash hands and keep spaced out. We travelled with hand sanitiser and all had a couple of masks each. To board our Ryan Air flight to Greece we had to complete a Passenger Locator Form and download a QR code at least 24 hours before travel. I did one form for the whole family. These were checked, several times, at the gate. We saw people being refused boarding because they had not completed the form. That’s why you must keep updated with your airline’s policies.

The outbound flight was very busy with only a couple of spare seats – where possible the middle seat was left unoccupied. Everyone had a mask on apart from for eating/drinking. We picked up water and snacks at the airport but the cabin crew were running a food/drink service. The return flight was very quiet and the crew were happy for people to spread out as much as possible.

  • How to Ship My Stuff If I Can’t Travel in Times of Covid?

You may not be able to travel in these uncertain times due to restrictions, but your luggage certainly can. Use excess baggage services at any time to transport your belonging from one country to another without hassle.

  • Arrival in Greece

The queue for immigration was very long but steady – we queued outside the terminal building with spaces between support bubbles – we were grateful for our hats and sunglasses as there was no shade. There was air-con running within the terminal building and once we were inside  our form/QR code was checked. We were then free to go to baggage reclaim and continue on our way. We had heard of people being Covid-tested at the airport at random, or having their temperature taken,  but we saw no evidence of this first-hand at our gateway of Kalamata.

  • Car Hire & Villa Check-In

Everything was beautifully clean and check-in for both the car and villa very quick. We did not get given any maps in the car – that was about the only difference.  When hiring a rental car remember to have a backup in case your vehicle is damaged or breaks down.

At the villa, a few extra measures had been taken, for example, removing all the usual well-thumbed brochures/leaflets from the holiday folder, and covering the air-con and TV remotes with an additional cover, presumably to allow for easier, more thorough cleaning. The maids visited once in the middle of the week to change sheets and towels – they wore gloves, turned off the air con and opened all the doors and windows while they worked.

  • Exploring and Eating Out

We wore face masks in shops – many had signs at the front door asking for people to sanitise, wear a mask and socially distance. At the tavernas, which all had seating outdoors,  all the staff wore visors and the table and chairs were sanitised between guests.  It was, of course, much quieter everywhere than usual for August. Local people were pleased to see us, and incredibly welcoming.

  • Return to UK

We completed a form online for our return to the UK. However this was not checked at any stage and our temperature was not taken on arrival back at Stansted. We did not have to quarantine as our destination was listed as an approved Travel Corridor.

  • Summary

We absolutely loved the Peloponnese – found it very good value – there was absolutely loads to do, with a focus on being active and outdoors,  and we felt safe. The worst bit of the journey was the outbound flight where it was a bit more challenging to observe social-distancing. However the flight was short (just 3 1/2 hours), we were wearing masks throughout and the joy of clear blue sea and sunshine for a week was definitely worth it.

There are plenty of resources online which will help you research travel restrictions and requirements for the destination of interest. Depending how far you are going, these tend to be the main questions:

Am I covered by my insurance if the FCO is advising against non-essential travel to my destination because of Covid-19?

If the FCDO advises against non-essential travel you’re unlikely to be covered by your standard travel insurance.  If the  area has a lower transmission rate than the UK, and you are happy to fulfil all entry protocol, then there are insurance providers who offer specialist policies when you are travelling to a region against British FCDO advice.

Will I have to quarantine when I get back to the UK? 

If your destination is on the UK Travel Corridor list then you will not have to quarantine. The list is updated frequently and can be checked here.

I’m living in an area with local restrictions. Can I travel beyond my area?  

You should check the advice here. The same goes if you are travelling into an area with local travel restrictions. If you don’t want to travel overseas you can of course travel within the UK. How about Northern Ireland? It’s a stunningly beautiful country, as Game of Thrones fans will testify, and offers mountains, loughs, buzzing Belfast and of course the unmissable Giants Causeway Story.

Do I need to take a Covid test to travel?

Some countries, as part of their entry protocol, require you to have proof of a negative PCR Covid test within 72-96 hours of arrival. You should check entry requirements for your destination. PCR tests are a particular type of Covid test and must be arranged at private clinics (not the NHS). PCR tests cost approximately £140-£300 per person depending on the clinic and you can get results back within 24-48 hours. If you are travelling long-haul, it is reassuring to know everyone on your aircraft has had to present a negative PCR test before boarding. Temperature scanning and Covid testing at UK airports is in the pipeline and may be trialled as early as next month. It is thought these tests will be more rapid (within an hour) and allow more routes to resume, for example London to New York, while boosting consumer confidence that it is safe to fly.