International Travel During Covid
Covid-19 has had a profound effect on all of our lives. The hospitality and travel industries may have been among the hardest hit industries with many hotels still operating at approximately 20 percent occupancy, depending and the location. The travel landscape has changed in a huge way, leaving those of us still traveling during these uncertain times feeling a constant scramble as regulations and processes are constantly changing.
Covid Related Requirements
As we enter the second year of this pandemic, there are still a lot of questions as to what restrictions are in place in relation to travel. Many countries around the world are still closed to outsiders, some countries are requiring quarantines upon entry and it seems most are requiring negative tests prior to boarding your flight. I have found that information needs to be researched on a regular basis as requirements are always changing. The best resource for me has been the individual pages on the United States State Department website.
Now for a hot topic, vaccinations. With an outsider view, looking back at my home country hoarding the world supply of vaccines at the beginning of their availability felt frustrating. Even worse was seeing how the idea of vaccines became so politicized with many people refusing to get the vaccine, meanwhile plenty of people in other countries wanting to get them. It is times like this that really show much the experience of traveling opens your eyes with different perspectives.
As we entered into the final quarter of 2021 more and more countries were starting to require proof of vaccines. As a visitor, I was ineligible to receive the vaccines, understandably. Finally, when I entered Peru they were offering them to tourists and I was able to complete the first two doses. Unfortunately, at the same time I was able to get the vaccine, the Omicron variant was also taking over the world.
My Positive Test
One thing that never seems to be written about is what happens when you test positive for Covid while abroad. This happened to me, at the worst time possible, as I was due to fly out of Peru to go to my next country, Chile. As we rolled over into a new calendar year, I was feeling under the weather with what I thought was a sinus infection. I did get an antigen test at the time but that came back as negative, likely because I waiting until my symptoms have mostly cleared before leaving the hostel.
Three weeks later I was due to fly to Lima in order to finalize everything to go to Chile as several documents as well as a negative test were required for entry. Two days prior to my booked flights, I went for my PCR test and to my horror received a positive result. I opted to have another test done the following day in the off chance it was a false result only to receive another positive test. Of course I immediately informed my Airbnb host and figured out new options to extend my time an additional week and started the process to change my flights, which was a nightmare.
I found another Airbnb and enjoyed the downtime staying quarantined until testing once again five days later. Thankfully, this time the test came back with a negative result and I was able to rebook my flights for that night and ensured all of my documents were in order for my arrival into Chile.
The biggest concern with this situation was that on a visa-free visit, I was only allowed to be in the country for a maximum of ninety days, and my original flight out was the day before that time expired. I reached out to the US Embassy in Lima as well as the Immigration Ministry in Peru, neither of which provided any assistance or concrete answers. Luckily, in the end I just needed to pay a very small fine at the airport before clearing exit immigration for the overstay.
My biggest takeaways from this experience is that when it comes to traveling, having the ability to remain flexible is always helpful. Also, use a credit card which when making reservations. In the event of non-existent or less than desirable customer service (hello airlines) there is at least an option to open a dispute with the credit card issuer. This experience is all part of the risk of traveling during a pandemic and despite taking all necessary precautions, it is still possible to acquire this virus.