Global pandemic and a summer holiday are two phrases which aren’t particularly synonymous. Yet with the travel restrictions beginning to lift, there has been a rise in people packing their suitcases and jetting off to make the most of the last weeks of summer. But what can you expect if you want to travel abroad during COVID-19?
I myself was one of these people desperate to have just a glimpse of summer sun before starting back at university again for the year. So, I checked the government website to see which countries were on the safe list and got searching for budget flights. I decided on Greece and booked my flights and accommodation.
I would be going in the following fortnight and began to prepare myself for pandemic safe travelling, ensuring I knew the correct documents which needed doing, such as the Passenger Locator Forms (PLF) for both Greece and the UK. These weren’t too stressful to complete as they just required details such as your full name, date of birth, address and where you will be staying.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, and even felt a bit nervous, but the process of travelling actually wasn’t too different from the norm. I had to complete the PLF for the Greek government a few days before I flew. You then get sent a barcode 24 hours before your departure time, and this is essential as you will not be able to fly without one. So obviously, this form was the main difference for your pre-travel checklist. The second difference was stocking up on medical masks.
Upon arrival at London Stansted airport, we put on our masks and headed to check in our baggage. This is where they check you have the appropriate documentation, so for us, this meant our PLF QR codes (you won’t be getting very far if you don’t complete these!). After that, everything is as normal – you go through security, go to your gate (where you have to show your QR code once more) and then board the plane. It really was as easy as that. You have to wear your mask at all times, even on the plane (except when eating and drinking.) Luckily, I only had a three-hour flight, so it wasn’t too bad. I could imagine it not being the most comfortable for long haul flights, so that is something to bear in mind when deciding on a destination to travel to.
When we landed, awe rushed through baggage collection after showing our QR code to the Greek authorities. We then went outside for some much needed fresh air before putting our mask on once more for the transfer to our hotel. Like in the UK, in other countries it is also required by law to wear a mask in any public transportation. When we got to our hotel, we were told it was no longer a requirement to wear them around the building and it was now optional. All hotel staff were wearing their masks, so I opted out of wearing mine but still ensured I complied with social distancing. For example, I sat in sun loungers away from other guests and only got in the lift with my travel companion. The hotel we stayed in wasn’t busy at all, which made the process of social distancing much easier.
Other than social distancing, the holiday felt relatively normal. For the majority of the week, I was just relaxing by the pool or on the beach with a good book (I definitely recommend Normal People by Sally Rooney!) I suspect there would be a higher need for masks and other PPE for city breaks, but it was nice just to be able to have a relaxed holiday. We were able to order drinks from the bar ourselves as it wasn’t strictly table service as we have in the UK, yet at the buffet breakfast station, you did have to wait to be served, rather than helping yourself. We were even able to book a boat trip, which I think the captain was grateful for as he said business still hadn’t picked up as a result of the lack of tourism. There were only four people on the trip in total, including the two hosts, so it was still compliant with the rule of 6 which was also implemented in Greece (and many other European countries).
I think that as long as your research thoroughly and know what to expect, you can still be extremely safe whilst travelling abroad. I know a common opinion at current is that travelling should be banned again. Yet, with my experience of flying during this pandemic, I believe all companies involved followed the government rules well and considered everyone’s safety.
So, if you are considering booking a trip, or are even in two minds about a holiday booked pre-COVID-19, my advice would be to do research, stay safe and travel safe.
Written by Courtney McLaven
Feature image credit: Courtney McLaven