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International Travel In Covid Times

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When it comes to flying during a pandemic, there is nothing more frustrating. From the time you decide to take a trip, whether a vacation or for business, you are faced with what seems to be a series of obstacles thanks to Covid, Delta, and now, Omnicom.

From very beginning, the potential obstacles that could stop you begin at least 2-3 days BEFORE you even arrive at the airport. Nearly every country requires you to take a PCR test for virus detection that must be negative if you wish to fly domestic or internationally. Experiences vary, but just the hassle of getting a PCR test scheduled and then going there is the first hurdle. Granted, there is some pre-planning on your part to make sure your flight is within the timeframe of 2-3 days before you fly. There is always the potential that you test result will be lost, late, or positive (which would make it a no fly). It does happen in this electronic world.

Assuming that hurdle is a success, the usual airport situations are there, wearing a mask is a must, checking in overweight bags are a total nightmare and could cost you another $100 per bag! I will say that many airlines have done a great job streamlining check-in with electronic machines doing the work. Once on the flight, wearing a mask the whole trip is truly uncomfortable. The longer the flight is, the worse the situation is for the passenger.

Now, depending on where you are going internationally, it could be the real nightmare because of the rapid changing Covid spread and how countries all deal with it differently. Going there without knowing what is to be expected is just stupid.

Just take one example, the Philippines. The classify incoming travelers by three colors: Green- countries they deem as Covid safe and vaccinated, Yellow- those that are not yet fully vaccinated, and Red- those that are woefully not vaccinated. If you are Green- you still must show you fully vaccinated, take a PCR (upon landing), wait for the negative result in a pre-booked hotel for 3-5 days. Once negative, you are free to go on within the country. Yellow is the same BUT quarantine is up to 7 days (oddly, the USA is in this category!). Red is not allowed any further than the airport and you must leave the country. In the Philippines, once you are cleared to go, when you arrive at your city destination, you have local Covid rules and levels to adhere to while in public. Everything is controlled through personal QR codes, which you must obtain via their official website before you leave your home country. The problem is that the website is clunky and sometimes fails to work and you cannot do this until three days before your flight coming into the country. The connection can be a real issue.

As I said, the passenger arriving must show authorities that a hotel room was booked for the temporary quarantine time. The problem, again, is the horrible website with a list of hotels to book. It is not user friendly and very unreliable and not easy to locate. If you have no hotel, you have to book while in the airport before they will release you. Of course, many circumvent this by booking two hotel rooms and upon showing the proof and you are allowed to pass, cancel both of them.

In the Philippines, the government is frequently changing Covid danger levels and what is allowed to happen or must be worn within each level. It can get very confusing. Even traveling between different cities or towns can be challenging with road blocks to check for Covid etc. Taking flights domestically also require a PCR test before boarding.

Of course, when you are ready to leave the country, many countries require you to take the PCR test three days in advance of the flight, some, require just two days. All this makes for a very stressful experience especially when you are in foreign country where things may not be so available!

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With Omnicom and Delta surging still, things could get worse again before easing up further. Because of it all, if you don't have to fly, then take a car or boat.

Travelling in Covid times is stressful because of rapidly changing events and you might not be aware of new constraints until you are at the airport. As best you can, check the local regulations, watch Covid related news and how the country you are in are dealing with international flights.

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