Around the world, countries are handling the re-opening of their borders differently. While some are taking a more conservative approach, others have been hopeful and open to the idea of tourism resuming in their city. Ultimately, the revenue generated by summer tourism is vital to the global economy. The question is, do you feel comfortable travelling at this time?
Despite being an avid traveller myself, I must admit even I was rather hesitant to the idea of getting back on the road. With cases in the United States reaching daily all-time highs, the idea of boarding a full flight did not sound particularly appealing. Nevertheless, with the border to the EU remaining closed to American citizens, I had a gut feeling as though the United Kingdom would not be too far behind. Thus, I decided to get out while I could to reunite with George in London.
Last week I made the tough decision to leave the United States and embark on my first international trip during the time of a global pandemic. In doing so, I understood that I was completely avoiding the rather serious level 4 ‘Do Not Travel’ advisory by the CDC.
So what was it like you may ask? Well, to be honest, I had mixed emotions about the entire experience. While some parts of my experience put me at ease, others left me utterly dumbfounded.
Upon arrival at the airport, I was surprised to see the attention to detail in regard to helpful signage placed throughout the terminal. Once inside there were clear signs directing travellers on where to sit and stand to ensure a safe 6 ft distance. There was also plexiglass installed at the check-in counter. Once past security, I was interested to see how many travellers actually followed the government regulation of wearing a mask, to my pleasure, they were! Most everybody apart from those who were eating their food kept their masks on at all times whilst walking around the airport. I also appreciated the fact that there were plenty of hand sanitization stations spread out throughout the gates. One of the major changes in being at an airport was the number of restaurants and shops open. For a large terminal, only 3 dine-in restaurants were open, along with 5 quick to-go options as an alternative. Therefore, if you plan to fly, make sure you bring some of your own snacks as finding decent food may be hard to come by.
Travelling During a Pandemic
Unfortunately, due to the decrease in international flights, I was unable to secure a direct flight to London. Therefore my first stop and layover was in Dallas, Texas.
It was my flight to Dallas that left me feeling very uncomfortable. The airline had little to no sense of understanding when it came to social distancing. In fact, the flight was full. I had heard that certain airlines were making an effort to leave the middle seat vacant, or that they would fill the plane to only 80% capacity, however, this was not the case. I sat in the middle seat on a very packed flight and I wasn’t very happy about it.
However, despite it being a completely full flight, I was pleased to see that each passenger wore a mask with ease. There was no one fussing or complaining about the rules and everyone seemed to understand. I myself did not move for the entire flight, didn’t touch anything, and wore a mask and face shield for the entire ride.
Thankfully, my flight to London was a different story. With an enormous plane only filled to one-third of its capacity, each passenger was given plenty of space. Everyone had a row between them at the very least and were given ample time to properly wipe down and sanitize their space.
Flight attendants were wonderful and made sure to wear their masks as well throughout the flight.
One major question I had before I left was, “will they provide food?.” For international flights, yes, food services resumed. Everything was sealed properly and sanitized prior to our flight. On the domestic flight, the flight attendants handed passengers a bag with a water bottle and a small snack. Other than that there was no food or drink service on the domestic flight.
Travelling During a Pandemic
Border & Customs
This was the part of my trip that I was the most anxious about. Seeing as though nothing but ‘essential’ travel is being permitted at this time, I was cautious about what and how my choice to travel would be perceived. I must say, that in all actuality I received more hassle and questions from within the United States than I did once I landed in England.
Prior to my flight and checking my bags at the desk, I needed to show proof of a visa, and proof of my health immigration form- a form that is now required for all visitors to submit 48 hours prior to their arrival in the UK. They were very serious about not allowing any Americans to board the flight unless it was deemed ‘essential.’ Luckily for me, visiting my fiance deemed to be essential enough for them to let me leave. Before you decide to embark on any international travel I advise you to be prepared with documentation and valid reasoning for leaving.
Once I landed in the United Kingdom, I went through customs smoothly. I scanned my passport, submitted my form, and walked right through with ease.
Travelling During a Pandemic
Quarantined For Two Weeks
It is imperative that before you decide to travel internationally you do your research in regards to the rules and regulations of each respective country. While some have their borders still completely closed to certain nations, others are open but require visitors to quarantine for 2 weeks.
In my case, this was the rule for my arrival. All Americans who visit the United Kingdom are required to quarantine for 2 weeks before they can leave. So, if you plan to visit and explore the regions, make sure you understand that your first two weeks of the holiday will be spent in a hotel, or house of somebody you know.
For many, I believe the prospect of having a summer holiday was a dream that unfortunately will not become a reality. So many establishments, tourist sights, restaurants, and hotels still remain closed. Therefore, even if you could leave, there wouldn’t be much of a point.
It would be my best advice to continue to lay low and respect the government guidance unless you are in a desperate situation. Let’s hope that travel will resume by the end of 2020.
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