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Should you, or should you not travel during the ‘Rona? That is the question.
Ok, so Shakespeare’s opening phrase of a soliloquy uttered in his famous play, Hamlet, sounds much better and a tad bit more romantic than my version, but I’m not here to chat plays with you, I’m here to talk about travelling internationally during the ‘Rona.
I received a LOT of messages from my followers about my recent trip abroad. And no, I’m not just saying that because every “influencer” has to state that sentence before showing, or telling you something that literally nobody asked about.
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“Is it safe?”- YES!
“What happens if you get stuck over in Poland?” – I GUESS I’LL STAY THERE LONGER THEN.
“Are Canadians allowed to travel abroad?”- TO CERTAIN COUNTRIES, YES!
“Is there a quarantine upon arrival for Canadians?”- FOR CERTAIN COUNTRIES, NO!
“Do you need a Covid-19 test?” – FOR CERTAIN COUNTRIES, NOPE!
“Aren’t you afraid?” – HELL NO!
Now, I’m not telling anyone to book a ticket and just go on a trip halfway around the world, not one bit. You should only travel, especially internationally, if you feel confident, comfortable and are mentally and physically prepared to do so. Everyone is different and has different feelings regarding travel right now and even stronger opinions towards those who chose to travel internationally right now. If you don’t choose to travel now, or want to stay home because that makes you feel comfortable and safe, then you do you. I will not judge you for choosing to do that. I would also except reciprocated respect if I choose to travel. Everyone is able to make their own decisions and if it is done safely and with a lot of researching, then all the power to you! 🙂
That being said, travel restrictions are starting to ease up in some countries around the world, but with that, some countries are now taking certain countries off of their “safe lists” and imposing lock downs again. If it all sounds confusing, that is because it is confusing.
With travel restrictions changing more often than people change underwear, it is imperative to keep up on your research if you choose to travel internationally right now.
I made the decision to travel to Poland for almost a month after having to move my trip from April to October because of the worldwide grounding of all planes. I spent months researching restrictions that were changing on the daily, calling the Polish Consulate here in Toronto and overseas in Warsaw, being in touch with the Polish Tourism Board weekly and also reading international news rather than just North American MSM (mainstream media) to ensure that I was getting my news from other sources regarding the situation overseas.
If you do choose to travel internationally during Covid and you’re wondering what it’s like to do so right now, keep reading below to get my firsthand experience of what it was like and what you can expect before, during and after your trip.
Preparing For Your Trip
I’m a planner by nature. I am a Virgo after all. It’s what we do best. I can’t stress this enough when I say it, but the first thing you want to do while preparing to travel internationally right now is research, research and research some more. Every country will have different requirements and protocols for travelling to and from their country, whether I would need a Covid test (I didn’t), arrival requirements and definitely restrictions, if any. The entire country of Poland was under colour coded zones. The entire country was deemed a Yellow Zone, which restricted gatherings, sporting events. The zones that were under the Red Zone label were areas affected the most and people were told to work from home and some schools were forced to do digital learning. The day before I left Canada, Poland mandated masks be worn EVERYWHERE in outdoor public areas, which sucked, but I wouldn’t have ever known that if I didn’t keep up with local Polish news.
When preparing to travel to Poland I made sure to be in constant contact with the Polish Consulate in Toronto and in Warsaw to check and see if Canadians were still allowed to arrival with no quarantine. I also directly contacted the Polish Border Police to make sure that the information that I was receiving and reading everyday was up to date and correct. I checked this until the day I left, as restrictions and quarantine rules were changing everyday. I’m sure they knew me by name by the time my travel date arrived. It was a lot of extra planning and a bit more stress, but I felt at ease before leaving for the airport knowing that I wouldn’t have any surprises upon landing in Warsaw. I made sure to print any conversations between the Polish Border Police and myself in both English and Polish to present to the border officials if I was questioned, or told anything otherwise than what I was told about quarantines, restrictions etc. Print outs are key, so make sure you have some copies of documents and emails with you just in case.
At The Airport (Departing & Arriving)
The procedure at YYZ in Toronto was pretty much status quo…with a few changes, of course. If you’re being dropped off by friends, or family, you’ll have to give your hugs and kisses at the departures drop off zone because only employees and passengers with a valid flight ticket for that exact day are allowed to set foot inside the terminal. Before even stepping into the airport in Toronto (YYZ), I already anticipated that it would not be busy at all. I was right. As I walked through the doors to Terminal 1, I maybe counted 15 people, if that. There are designated doors to enter and exit the terminal and masks are mandatory all throughout the airport except if you are eating and drinking. Upon entry, a person manning a desk asks you to sanitize your hands and that’s about it.
The check-in process is still the same; find your flight on the board, your designated check-in desk and head on over. I still couldn’t believe how dead the airport was. Yes, I was the last flight of the night, but usually YYZ is bumping all through the day…not this time though. Checking my bag in literally took less than five minutes, as I was the only person in line. After I checked in and received my boarding pass, I made my way to security, but before entering security, I had to get my temperature taken. Once that was done, off I went to security. The security process is still the same, only it was lightning fast due to the lack of passengers moving through the airport. I was done in less than five minutes. The majority of stores and restaurants are closed with the exception of a few. I was able to grab a snack and a cold beer for the low airport price of $25 CAD. Oh, overpriced airport food, how I missed you so. 😛
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Arriving in Warsaw was easy breezy, lemon squeezy. I wasn’t even asked any questions, but I was stopped to put my luggage through secondary X-ray screening and asked how much cash I had on hand. Other than that, super easy. I made my way through border control, they looked at my passport, saw I didn’t need to quarantine upon arrival and then they asked me to pull down my mask to check my identity. When I heard the familiar stamping noise, I knew that I was good to go and free to head to baggage claim and make my way out of the terminal. Buh-bye!
On The Plane
Boarding the flight is pretty much the same as any other flight. They call you to board by priority, business class, people with mobility issues, children etc. Once they’re done with priority boarding, they call the other passengers by zones and row numbers. The airline crew will tell you to pull down your mask to confirm your passport identity, then off you go. It was seamless. My flight with LOT Polish Airlines was at 10:45pm and was the last flight of the night. It was near empty and I had the entire row to myself, which was ahhh-mazing! The perks of flying during travel restrictions, I guess. I always bring sanitizing wet wipes with me even before the ‘Rona came to town, so I took the opportunity to wipe down my food tray and anything else I knew I’d be touching, like the TV screen, even though the plane was spotless upon entry from what I could see.
The flight crew and passengers must wear masks at all times during the flight, except when eating or drinking, which I don’t understand and makes no sense to me really. So ‘Rona doesn’t spread when food is being served? The rules are kind of strange, but whatever, it is what it is right now. We were served three times (hot meal, cold meal, snacks and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink options) during the entire 8.5 hour flight to Warsaw. The transmission of a cold, flu, or other bacteria is near zero because of the HEPA filtration systems that airlines are equipped with these days. HEPA filters capture more than 99% of the airborne microbes in the filtered air. The air is filtered 20 to 30 air changes per hour, so even the most skeptical flyer should feel safe while flying. I never felt unsafe during my flight at all and enjoyed my empty row and fully stretched out across to sleep like a boss. If you’re still skeptical about air quality on airplanes, please read this document about HEPA filtration to learn more.
During my three week trip, I managed to stay in guesthouses, pensions, chalets, hotels and apartments. Every single place I stayed was immaculate and adhered to the rules for reopening accommodations throughout the country. At some hotels, they even had signs hanging on the door saying that the room was disinfected, or cleaned. Some hotels had signs that said that hairdryers couldn’t be used, which I thought was pretty stupid, since the majority of the places that I stayed came with hairdryers and allowed them to be used. Spoiler alert…I still used the hair dryers. I’m not going outside with wet hair and freezing my ass off. Sorry. 😛 You’ll notice that housekeeping doesn’t come and tidy up your room after each day and they will only come clean up once you leave. If you need more towels, toilet paper, or other room amenities, just call the front desk, or ask your host ahead of time. Most places I stayed were fully stocked with everything I needed. In hotels that provided breakfast buffets, everything was still status quo, you just had to sanitize your hands and wear a mask up at the buffet as you fill up your plate. Hotel staff wore masks while serving everyone, so for those who are worried about that, it’s all good!
Moving Throughout The Country
Travelling during Covid within Poland was pretty normal, albeit the constant mask wearing mandate while in any outdoor public space. Everything remained open to the public such as museums, shops, malls, churches, hotels and restaurants. The only restrictions that changed during my travels were that restaurants closed for dining in for the second half of my trip, which wasn’t too big of a deal. Public transit was open throughout the entire country and passengers had to wear a mask while on board at all times, except while eating and drinking. Train seats were sold to only 50% capacity, so luckily I had pre-booked all of my train tickets in advance online before I left Canada, so I was guaranteed my seat.
Most of my trains were near empty anyway, so there was plenty of room. Some of my trains felt like I was the sole person on board, while other trains did have a bit more people on board, but I still felt perfectly comfortable. The bathrooms on the trains were, for the most part, exceptionally clean, which I really appreciated on a five hour train journey some days. I only took public transit to get from city to city, but while in town, I moved around solely on foot. I think I took a cab twice during the whole three weeks in Poland and it wasn’t out of fear of ‘Rona exposure, I just wanted to save money and I like to walk everywhere. If you choose to travel, keep in mind that restrictions are constantly changing, so it’s important to keep up with local news sources in the country you are travelling in to avoid any upsets, mishaps, or faux pas while moving throughout a foreign country. That being said, the day I left Poland, the Polish government mandated stricter restrictions and shut down malls, stores, churches, museums etc. I was lucky to have visited Poland when I did.
Returning Back Home
Upon returning back home from nearly a month abroad, the process coming back to Canada was relatively easy and straight forward. Like at YYZ in Toronto, the Warsaw airport (WAW) had specific entrances for arrivals into the departures terminal and there were staff at the entrance to ensure you sanitized your hands upon entry. Checking in and going through security took a total of ten minutes and was super easy as well. Once you go through border security, you get your stamp and head to your gate, just as you normally would.
Upon arrival back home in Toronto, you must present your standard Customs form, along with a Canada Arrival Covid Form, which you present to the Border Guard and drop it in a box before heading down to collect your baggage. The Border Guard will reiterate the Canadian Mandatory 14 Day Quarantine Upon Arrival Act rules to you and then off you go. Once you arrive to your place of quarantine (mine was my basement in my house), you are required by law to stay home for 14 days. You are allowed outside for fresh air on a personal deck, or backyard space, which I am lucky to have. While in quarantine, they say that they will call you and check up on you in person at your home to verify your compliance and check on your symptoms, if any. Well, I can say that they didn’t contact me at all during the 14 days, except two generic emails and one robotic phone call. Umm, ok then. 😐 Don’t let the 14 day quarantine scare you. For me, the two weeks flew by and it gave me a lot of time to edit my photos, write, workout and catch up on Family Feud. Don’t judge me. 😉 If I had to do the quarantine all over again to travel somewhere else right now, I would, but hey, that’s just me. 🙂
When I made the decision that I was going to go ahead and travel during restrictions and against Canada’s travel advisory, people thought I was crazy and told me to wait until “things cleared up.” Judging by how things are now around the world with more restrictions, more rules, more lock downs, more bullshit, would that ever happen? As with anything in your life, making decisions should be based on your own research, your own judgement, your own comfort levels, your own health and your own ability to traverse through situations that may be less than ideal. I spent months researching, keeping tabs with local government officials, border police and consulates in order to make myself aware of everything happening overseas, what to except and how to conduct myself.
Did I feel like I missed out on a typical travel experience because of Covid? Absolutely not. Am I glad I made the decision to head overseas, albeit a national travel advisory and restrictions? Most definitely! Would I do it again? Hell yeah!
Not everyone is keen on travelling now, but then there are some of us that are, so long as you are able to make smart decisions, I truly believe that travelling internationally during Covid can be done responsibly and can be enjoyable. Less crowds, anyone?
Are any of you looking to travel during these times, or are you sticking to exploring your own backyards? If you want to travel, but are afraid, what are you worried about? If you have any other questions about travelling during Covid, please don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments below. xo