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Long congested lines of passengers at the baggage counter. A crazy dash for tickets. Impromptu tours. The oh-so-familiar hubbub of thousands flocking at the airport to board their flights or disembark from one. Everything seems like a distant past now as the ‘new normal’ of lifestyle and travel surfaces.
For those bitten by the travel bug, it may come as a respite that international borders are opening up, albeit with scores of unprecedented COVID-19 travel requirements and guidelines.
Returning to your home country? Visiting international tourist destinations? Need to travel overseas for business meets? Whatever be your purpose for travel, here’s your ultimate travel checklist before you decide to fly.
Packing and baggage restrictions
It needs no introduction that all airlines have their standard maximum weight and/or size allowance for all the luggage you carry. Overpack and you’ll have to bear the brunt of unwanted hefty surcharges. But while you try not to overstuff your luggage, don’t forget your essentials. Tick off clothes, toiletries, personal items, travel documents, and COVID essentials.
Bring along your hand sanitizer as you’d need to clean your hands regularly and having access to soap and water isn’t always feasible. While United States now allows up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer to be carried on board, But like any other liquid on the airplanes, you can’t carry a bottle of more than 100 ml. If you’re concerned that it wouldn’t suffice, you can also resort to antiseptic wipes. Pack a medical kit too.
Check with your airlines what they are allowing and what they aren’t. How many checked-in baggage and cabin luggage can you carry? What are the limitations with regard to weight? These will vary from one airline to another and from one country to another. You may also need to carry your own food and snacks as some airlines have stopped their in-flight meals.
Most airlines are also increasingly encouraging (if not mandating) web check-in for luggage during the pandemic through their portals. Download the baggage identification number. Either that or check-ins through phone or at self-service kiosks are in effect to ensure a contactless course of action.
Make a document checklist and carry them on your flight. Wherever possible, you may carry an additional xerox copy in case you happen to lose the original ones.
Visas and passports
Most countries saw stringent visa regulations owing to the spread of COVID-19. As the issuance of new visas and passports begin, check with your own country as well as the destination what the updated visa rules are. Are tourists allowed to enter? Can students return back to their universities? Is only essential travel permitted? Several European countries have opened up for international tourism (mostly within the continent EU-approved states and Schengen associated nations) while barring tourist visas from places like India and the USA.
A negative RT-PCR test report
The real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) test is mandatory in several countries. Greece requires citizens arriving from countries like Sweden, Malta, and Spain to carry an RT-PCR report which cannot be older than 72 hours. Passengers who arrive in India must carry the negative report issued no earlier than 96 hours if they want to opt-out of the mandatory institutional quarantine. Although no reports are necessary for German tourists in Turkey, they’d need it when flying back to Germany.
Check with your destination country and take the test at a certified lab in due time before traveling.
The health insurance in the country of your origin is not likely to cover costs when you are abroad. In case, you need to bear medical expenses and more so in the wake of COVID-19, travel insurance with international healthcare coverage becomes indispensable. This is why more countries are mandating the same with borders reopening for tourism.
Some of the countries where travel insurance covering COVID-19 is mandatory are:
Costa Rica: For wanderlust souls in the UK, European Union, and Canada who seek tropical adventure amidst the wonders of Costa Rica, the Ministry of Health is allowing entry of tourists from August 1, provided they have a travel health insurance. This must be purchased from the country’s National Insurance Institute (NIS) and will cover medical expenses and bills for an extended stay.
Tahiti: While filling up the online Sanitary Entry form, you’ll be prompted to attest for health insurance. If you don’t have one, you must agree to pay for all COVID-19 related expenses, should you catch the infection in French Polynesia.
UAE: Dubai has opened its borders for foreign tourists from July 7. Government guidelines state that you either need to carry medical insurance covering COVID 19 or submit a declaration that you will be footing the bills for COVID-19 treatment and isolation cost.
Turks and Caicos: For pre-authorization that you must apply for through the TCI Assured Portal, proof of health insurance is obligatory.
St. Maarten: If your end destination is St. Maarten, you need to supplement your travel documents with health insurance coverage.
Even if you are traveling to some other country, it is highly advisable that you opt for a travel health insurance.
Health declaration form
A self-health declaration form asks for the person’s travel history, travel destination, and particulars about their health. It is a declaration that the person does not have any symptoms of COVID-19 to the best of their knowledge.
Most airlines, as advised by the destination country’s government, will have an online form that passengers need to fill up and submit. You also need to carry a hard copy of the document and submit it to the immigration center. If you forget to carry one, you can fill it up at the checkpoint in the airport terminal on arrival.
Download the COVID tracing app
To track movements, particularly of arriving passengers, COVID Tracing apps have come into effect. Various countries have come up with their apps to reduce the chances of the virus spread.
Australia has COVID Safe app, India has Aarogya Setu, Singapore has developed Trace Together, Dubai has COVID-19 DXB Smart app, among others. Passengers are advised to have the app downloaded on their mobile devices and fill up all necessary details. It may also be mandatory in certain destinations countries or states.
Things to carry while travelling during covid
In the wake of the global pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has rolled out regulations regarding the use and necessity of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). While mandatory for healthcare personnel and infected individuals, they go a long way to restrict transmission when used in populated areas and public transports.
Carry with you or rather don face mask and face shield, and if possible gloves. Goggles can be a good option too as they keep your eyes protected from any accidental droplet.
As per the WHO advisory, wearing masks in public areas is highly recommended. While masks alone may not effective in keeping the virus at bay, it is an indispensable part of the comprehensive precautionary strategies. You never know if the person sitting right next to you is COVID positive or negative. To be on the safe side, wear it.
Most major airports and airlines require passengers to wear masks, the non-medical fabric masks in the least. And in case you decide to ditch it, you may even be penalized by certain airlines. Citing the importance of face-covering gears, both Delta and United Airlines can bar you from future travel benefits with the respective airlines if you do not cooperate to wear the mask.
General recommendations for personal hygiene
Apart from the above requirements, here are a few COVID 19 travel etiquettes you must adhere to:
- To ensure social distancing, maintain a gap of 6 feet at the airport.
- Ensure hand hygiene by regularly sanitizing them and avoiding contact on surfaces as much as possible. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Do not touch your face or eyes with your hands before washing them properly.
- If you are sneezing or coughing, use a tissue and dispose it of properly.
- Report to the airport around two to three hours before boarding. Don’t unnecessarily spend your day at the terminal.
- Cooperate with all health and airport officials and abide by their word of advice.
Any other travel requirements?
Be a conscious traveler, not a careless one
Every place and country you’ll be traveling to will have its own rules and regulations regarding travel during COVID-19. Some places may require you to quarantine at home for 14 days, others mandate paid institutional quarantine.
For example, several Indian states and cities require you to stay at designated quarantine hotels, unless you’re caring a negative RT-PCR report. The same is true for Qatar. There are also movement restrictions, screening, and testing requirements in some. Others may still remain closed for tourism almost indefinitely.
While all such quarantine rules and travel guidelines may seem overwhelming, they must not be neglected at any cost. A, for the safety and well being of you and your family and B, to avoid heavy financial penalties, be it at the airport or the destination city.
Always check the official sources for travel guidelines and quarantine requirements. Talk to your airlines, check out the destination country’s official websites and Twitter handles. Given the circumstances, they are subjected to drastic changes in a short span of time. So, keep an open eye and stay updated about the new SOPs.
If you experience even mild symptoms before traveling, cancel or postpone your flight. Seek medical help if needed.
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