While many countries have opened their borders to international travellers, restrictions remain in place and vary by destination, making travel much more complicated than before COVID. Plus, travel restrictions remain unpredictable – what was true when you arrived can change while you’re on the ground – meaning you should be prepared for a number of scenarios if you choose to travel at this time. .
Of course, you might not have many choices. Earlier this week I returned from a 10 day work trip to Dubai which involved COVID testing before I left and again before I returned with a number of unknown procedures along the way. I share these experiences with you as a guide, but also do your own research. The key to a successful trip abroad is planning, so you know exactly what to do at airports, hotels and other public places.
First, know the test or proof of vaccination requirements for the country you are visiting and the cities of any connecting flights. For my trip, no proof of vaccination was required, but I still took my vaccination record with me and took a photo of it on my phone as a backup in case proof was requested. A negative PCR test was mandatory to enter Dubai and this documentation had to be presented upon check-in at the airline’s office in Salt Lake and at a health screening gate in Amsterdam before proceeding to the main departure gate. Print your test result and keep it with your passport. Keep the electronic document in an easily accessible location on your phone.
Know exactly what type of test each location requires. To travel, you will need a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test from a lab. (Hawaii only allows test results from approved labs.) The Salt Lake City Health Department offers the test for free, as well as a rapid antigen test. I took both to find out if I had COVID in a few hours via the rapid test and should cancel my trip. I then waited for the PCR test result within the mandatory 48 hour window. The results window varies and can be as short as 24 hours or as long as 72 hours before your flight, so make sure you’re within the limit.
If your flight is delayed, have a backup plan. My colleague’s flight was delayed due to bad weather in New York, which meant that his result expired and he had to take another test at the airport. Salt Lake International has private testing on site, but be prepared to pay $250 or more, and this company does not accept insurance.
You will also need to arrange the test to return home and this test must take place within 24 hours of your flight home. Your hotel should be able to arrange this for you – a nurse will come to your room – and there are local healthcare companies that will do the same. Check with a local colleague, embassy or tourist office for a reference. I paid around $75 for my farewell test.
All airports in the United States, Europe and many other countries require the wearing of a mask at all times. You will also be required to wear a mask during your flight. Disposable N95 masks are more comfortable and effective than cloth ones. In Dubai, the government rule was a mask at all times, indoors and outdoors, unless you were eating or drinking, but you had to sit down to remove a mask for these reasons. Pay attention to local mandates and follow them as the consequences of not doing so can be serious.
The biggest international travel risk is testing positive for COVID while abroad. If this happens, you will receive the bad news just hours before your scheduled departure. What will you do? Before finalizing your travel plans, make sure you know your destination’s quarantine rules. In some places, this means you will spend an additional 10 days in your room at your own or your company’s expense if you test positive. Discuss the plan with your employer, who should have an insurance plan in place for employees traveling on business. If you are on your own, you may want to consider private COVID insurance to cover your quarantine expenses. Also think about what needs to be done at home if your absence is prolonged and discuss a plan with those who will replace you.
While 10 extra days stuck in a hotel room can be inconvenient and expensive, it’s not the worst case scenario. There are countries like Hong Kong and Singapore that move travelers to hospital or a quarantine facility if they test positive upon arrival. In this case, I would postpone the trip.
Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for over a decade. As a mother of four, value, usefulness, and online safety come first. Have a question? Email Leslie at firstname.lastname@example.org.