Okay so here we are, over a year later and still fighting this nasty virus. One way or another, everyone’s lives have been affected by this so, I am writing this blog in the hopes that it will help you prepare for your upcoming travel, set expectations and most importantly, travel safely!
Let me add a BIG DISCLAIMER HERE, I am not a travel pro and I am not giving advice on whether you should travel or not, for official information, please visit the CDC’s website and each of the countries you are visiting for up-to date information.
In early May (2021) I boarded a plane bound to Brazil to see my family after a 2-year wait. Brazil is 3rd on the list of total cases of COVID and currently under a “do not travel” advisory. Truth be told, if it weren’t for my family, I’d not go anywhere near Brazil.
Yet, plenty of people are filling airports across the globe and getting on with their lives. I am fully vaccinated since earlier this year and felt it was “safe enough” for me to travel given that I would be religiously wearing my surgical mask and following guidelines for asepsis and use of hand sanitizer.
In addition to that, everyone on the international plane bound to Brazil had to test negative for COVID within72 hours of their trip and some people, me included were turned away because the airline did not accept the time of the test taken (even though I was within 72 hours of my first plane ride from BWI) so, let’s get to it, shall we?
Anyone who is not fully vaccinated by an approved vaccine, should refrain from travel by plane until they get vaccinated (fully vaccinated means 2 weeks after your second dose, if your vaccine has 2 shots). You travel at your own risk, but I saw a fair share of people wearing masks incorrectly or not wearing them at all! (See CDC’s website for official vaccine and travel info).
I know I sound hypocritical but I’d avoid any countries with a high number of infections and low rate of vaccinations, Brazil being on of them. To obtain aan updated list, go to google and search the stats for COVID 19 globally.
You can expect to provide (and pay for) a negative PCR/Viral covid test both ways. Check the embassy or official website for the country you’re planning to visit to see their requirements. Rapid tests are typically NOT accepted because they can give “false negative” results.
To return to the U.S. you will need a negative PCR/Viral test performed within 3 days of your departure in English so, make sure one is available to you in the destination, I had a huge headache over this. If you test positive, will you have somewhere to stay for another 2 weeks or more in quarantine? Can you afford to stay?
Expect delays, flight changes and last-minute adjustments too. Most people (me included) that I spoke to had their flights modified. Some from direct flights to an added connection. Mine had to ve changed as well and I ended up with a 7.5 hrs layover, fun, right? I left BWI on a Sunday and didn’t arrive until the next Tuesday (should’ve been Monday).
Expect to be disappointed. Some services may be different, on my way back, domestic in-plane service was suspended due to a government order. At the end of my trip, on the weekends, all businesses that were not essential had to close, beaches were closed for bathing, walking and exercising.
This was the weirdest trip so far, but I had already planned to “do nothing and see nobody”. We stayed in most of the time, some of my family is either vaccinated or have had covid (thankfully without hospitalization) so we were able to see each other, hug and share a meal, but mostly just our pod and immediate family.
Regardless of your vaccine status, wear a GOOD mask, surgical is best, look for level 3 masks as opposed to level 1, they will offer you 2 extra protective layers, or better yet, get a k95 mask, but make sure you’re buying from a good source so you’re actually protected.
Whenever you are at your destination, practice social distancing, wear your mask, and be mindful of what you touch. Carry 70% alcohol or sanitizer with you, so your hands are always clean. Think about how many hands will touch the handles of your luggage. And you will need to test negative to board a plane back to the U.S.
Well, my experience was a bit frustrating. If you use your healthcare plan, your test results take longer to come out. Here in Columbia PCR results are given within 2 business days, and mine took 4 phone calls for results to be uploaded to my patient portal.
That is frustrating because you basically get it all in the nick of time. If I had to do it all over, I would search for a place that does same-day results and taken my test 2 days or a day prior to boarding. My test had to be before my “first plane ride” if all the tickets were purchased together. Delta was only looking at the time my plane took off from ATL, and between my check in and flight + wait time I spent 6+ hours already traveling.
They wanted a time stamp, and even though I provided one, they didn’t accept it. They gave me a hotel room and the name of a location (that was closed by then) to get tested the next day for $150 with results within the hour (tens of people were also on the same boat, going to Paris, Egypt and other countries).
So here goes 24 hours wasted of my trip., and the worst of all? They checked absolutely nothing when I got to Brazil. On my way back I had to fill papers, and from one airport to the next, everyone’s protocol seemed to change, the papers the lady made me sign at the 1st airport were no good for the second, I had to re-do it a different way.
Everyone is trying their best, I am sure, but there is a lot of things that “nobody seems to know”, getting information about test results wasn’t always straight-forward, you have to read between the lines.
So, if you’re hitting the road this Summer, stay safe, be ready for changes and try to enjoy it as it comes!