International Travel During Covid
I HAD PLANNED a trip to Vietnam for 2020—which coincided with the start of the pandemic and got scratched. I naively rescheduled the trip for this summer. Unfortunately, countries that lack vaccines have been forced to lock down and keep out even vaccinated tourists like me, so that trip also got nixed.
Ever the optimist, I rescheduled for Europe in July. This time, it was the delta variant and changing travel restrictions that ended my third international trip before it even began. I asked my tour group what my options were. The folks there mentioned four countries: Iceland, Croatia, Costa Rica and Egypt.
I chose Egypt. The positive: There were very few tourists at the pyramids and the temples. The negatives, however, were numerous: wearing a mask on 10-hour flights, the risk of frequent flight cancellations, and COVID testing when both entering and leaving airports, even though I’m fully vaccinated.
This last requirement was the hardest to understand. For my flights, I had to have a negative COVID result within 72 hours. I also learned that there are two types of test—the rapid antigen test and the less rapid but more accurate PCR test. The PCR test was required to fly through London on the way to Egypt. I paid $220 for same-day PCR test results to ensure I could board the plane. My daughter, who was accompanying me, was able to get her PCR test at no charge from her university.
The testing went smoothly for us. But others in our tour group were forced to take more tests at the airport because their results needed to be within 48 hours of departure. Just before returning from Egypt, our tour group provided us with another COVID test for $150. The results were delivered to our hotel just three hours before our rescheduled flight was due to depart.
On our last night in Egypt, a few of our group watched a belly dancing performance on a riverboat on the Nile. While on the boat, I got a call saying my flight was canceled and that I needed to take another, less convenient flight home. Since my COVID test results would expire if I didn’t catch a flight soon, I rebooked on a different airline leaving a little earlier.
Was my trip to Egypt worth the hassle? Yes. For me, the lack of tourists more than offset the airline and COVID testing challenges. And I wasn’t the only one who was happy. In Egypt, our tour group leader teared up. He was so thankful to be working again.