5 tips for international travelers.

5 tips for international travelers.

In many travel industry news lately, there has been a resurgence of travel, and international travel is part of that recovery.  As the world has sprung back from the many restrictions from the Covid pandemic, so has travel.  Covid restrictions have relaxed worldwide, and Americans now have many more travel options.  There are many tips  I can give if international travel is in your future.  But after talking to a few friends currently traveling internationally, here are five tips for international travelers.

QR Codes.

Although many Americans think of the US as the world’s trendsetter, Covid realities have proven that the US trails the world regarding Covid documentation.  QR codes in the US are far more uncommon than in many international destinations.  Worldwide, digital QR codes allow others to access Covid test results and Covid vaccinations.  Many international destinations require this digital proof for entry rather than a photocopied or scanned copy of a vaccination report or test.  In many cases, you may be denied entry or turned away from your destination without a QR code, so check the requirements and prepare accordingly.

Visa travel requirements.

Again, many Americans think that the US passport is all that is needed for travel.  Although the US passport allows for visa-free travel to many countries, many international destinations require a visa upon entry.  In some cases, a visa upon entry into some countries is available.  However, many travelers will find the error of not considering visa requirements at the airport check-in when they are denied boarding.  Other times they will discover this fact when they are denied entry and never get to leave the airport of the country after hours of travel.  Travelers can apply for travel visas at the country’s embassy, consulate, or online.  Please ensure you apply when necessary and be aware of scam sites using an online platform.

Travel information.

After years of traveling, it’s amazing how many travelers travel with little travel information.  At most international destinations, a landing card or arrival card is required.  This card is considered a legal document presented at immigration and used by the country authorities to collect information on passengers entering their country.  This includes personal details, flight information, and travel details such as hotel stay with name and address.  It’s incredible how many people simply know the destination but not the flight number of the airplane they are traveling on.  Please try to have all this information and a pen in your hand-carry luggage when traveling internationally.

WhatsApp messenger service.

While not as common in the US, the WhatsApp messenger service is used worldwide.  It only requires Wi-Fi in some cases but may incur international charges based on your cellular plan.  Please remember to turn roaming off on your phone to avoid fees.  Most importantly, WhatsApp calls are free when connected to the internet.  The key to using this service when traveling internationally is downloading and setting up the app before leaving your home country.  Additionally, have those you plan to stay in contact with download the app.  I have found that calls and chats are easier on the app if the person you are trying to contact is listed in your WhatsApp contacts.

Medication

If you are taking prescription medications, please travel with your prescription bottle and carry medicines in your hand-carry.  Many people carry weekly pill carriers with medication they may identify on sight.  However, if you ever lose your medication when traveling, having the prescription bottle, which has your identification information and the medication name, will make it much easier to access the replacement medication.  In some countries, you may simply go to the pharmacy with the information and bypass seeing a doctor.

These are but five tips that are useful if you’re thinking of international travel.  There are many more, so look for future blog posts with even more tips and information.  If you found any of these helpful.

There’s a reason for airline rules.

There’s a reason for airline rules.

As a former flight attendant, I have seen many travelers take offense to a flight attendant’s request to follow an airline rule.  I can honestly say that flight attendants do not try to make passengers unhappy.  In contrast, happy passengers make for a comfortable flight for everyone.  Flight attendants are simply doing their job, and that job comes with rules and regulations they must follow and ensure that you do as well.  Not enforcing the rules exposes flight attendants to fines and loss of employment.  Here are a few reasons for the rules some passengers take offense to.

Seatbelts.
Although it may be comfortable not to wear a seatbelt, there is an excellent reason for ensuring that passengers wear their seatbelts during the flight. One of the most compelling reasons is air turbulence.  There are times when turbulence occurs without warning.  If this happens and a passenger is not wearing a seatbelt, they can be severely injured or killed.  One of the reasons this does not occur often is because flight attendants ensure seatbelts are worn.

Exit seats.
Airplane exit seats are desirable because of the extra legroom.  However, many passengers conveniently forget that the extra room is there to get people out of the airplane in an emergency quickly.  This reason is why young children and disabled people are not allowed to sit in the exit row.  Imagine a young child trying to open and throw a 70-pound window exit or someone unable to get out the exit quickly.  Flight attendants are required to ask before every flight if a passenger is willing and able to assist in the event of an emergency.  Moreover, there is no time to rearrange seats in an emergency.  Therefore, even when the exit seat is available, there may be a reason a passenger is unable to sit in it.

The seatbelt sign.
Passengers must be seated before the aircraft can leave the gate and stay seated until the seatbelt sign has been turned off.  This rule is not an airline rule but an FAA rule.  Although there are rare cases, flights have had to stop on the runway suddenly, and if not seated, passengers can be hurt.  In addition, airplanes can occasionally collide, which is another chance for passenger injury.  However, these occurrences are rare, and so often, passengers think walking around to be of no danger when that is far from the truth.

Disruptive passengers have become more and more common recently.  However, passengers should understand that flight attendants are doing a job that requires them to enforce the rules.  Not following these rules can impact passenger safety and jeopardize a flight attendants’ job.  Challenging flight attendants on basic rules is simply being rude.  By sharing this information, I hope that the reader will be just a bit kinder to flight attendants next time they get on an airplane and merely follow the rules.

Traveling with pets.

Traveling with pets.

For travelers with pets, considerations must be made when making travel plans.  For many, pets are a part of the family, and traveling decisions are made around the pet’s needs.  Can the pet be taken on the trip?  Will they have to board the pet?  How long can they make a trip?  How will the pet travel?  These and many more concerns need to be well thought out.  Here are a few thoughts for travelers with pets.

Traveling with a pet.

Traveling with a pet locally is not as cost prohibitive as traveling with a pet internationally.  Most small pets can travel with the owner in an approved pet carrier when traveling domestically for a small fee.  For larger breeds, travel must be in the cargo area and will require a specially designated approved pet crate.  Some pets can also fly at no charge if they are fully trained service animals.  When traveling internationally, your pet needs to have a health certificate to prove that they are in good health and free from parasites or any contagious diseases.  In addition, based on the country’s destination, other paperwork, including a picture of your pet, microchip information, as well as health and vaccination records, are required.

Pet documentation.

Pet owners should ensure their pets have a sturdy leash and collar with current identification.  In addition to having a recent picture of your pet and copies of your pet’s health and vaccination records.  It is prudent to have your pet microchipped and access to that information with you when you travel.  It is not uncommon for pets to become alarmed and run off when in unfamiliar surroundings.

Boarding costs.

The average cost of boarding a pet in the US averages $30 to $50 per night.  Rates can vary based on the size of your pet, the length of stay, or boarding accommodations.  Depending on your dog’s age, other special considerations and needs will have to be addressed, and if you want your pet to socialize daily, this may also add to the boarding costs.  In addition, the pet must be current on vaccinations as they will be exposed to other dogs.

Pet accommodations.

Not all hotels have pet accommodations, so travelers must ensure that their hotel will allow them to have their pets on the premises.  Like when traveling with babies or toddlers, pet owners should ensure the hotel is free from any hazards that could harm the pet.  In addition, consideration must be made on whether the pet can stay in the room without supervision or if it needs to be always with the owner to prevent costly damages to the room.

Travelers need to take many other travel considerations, including your pets’ food and water, potty breaks, exercise, and even travel sickness.  In addition, any delay or cancellation of your travel plans will also affect any accommodations you have made or will have to make for your pet.  If you plan to travel with your pet, I hope you think it through as much as you do for yourself and your family.  For me, pets are like family too.

How Covid testing impacts your travel budget?

How Covid testing impacts your travel budget?

Covid testing

Covid testing and travel have almost become synonymous.  If you travel internationally, a negative Covid test is needed to get into the country.  I recently traveled to Bangkok, Thailand, from Singapore.  I had to take 10 Covid tests to complete the trip.  I now realize a new cost of travel, Covid testing.  Here are my reflections on Covid testing and its impact on the travel budget.

Types of Covid testing.

Generally, there are different types of COVID testing available.  The most often used tests are a Rapid test and a Viral test, also known as an RT-PCR test.  As stated in the name, a rapid test gives results quickly, while a viral (PCR) test may take twenty-four to forty-eight hours for results.  Passengers need to ensure they know which type of testing is required as not all testing will fit specific country requirements.  Each traveler should do their research on testing requirements.

Testing Requirements.

In addition to being sure of the type of test they require, travelers need to know if the test result must indicate specific identifying details.  If the test result does not display the required information, this can also invalidate the acceptance of the test requirement.  Some countries require passport numbers, names of travelers, and birth dates to be on the Covid test documentation.  Travelers can find Country-specific requirements on the US Department of State website.

Pre-departure Covid tests.

If you fly internationally, be prepared to take a Covid test before your departure.  Depending on the destination, the test must be done anywhere from 24 to 72 hours before your date/time of departure.  Travelers need to be aware of and read the requirements carefully.  Some travel guidelines require testing before the date of departure, and some require before the time of departure.  Be sure to verify that your test result meets the required criteria, or the test may be invalid for travel, and you will need to take another Covid Test.

Covid tests on arrival.

In addition to taking a Covid test before departure, many travelers must also take another on arrival at their destination.  In many cases, travelers can prepay for the testing before arrival to speed up the process.  If not prepaid, travelers must be able to pay in the destination’s currency or other acceptable payment methods the country specifies.

Arriving back in Singapore from Bangkok, I had to take an on-arrival Covid test at the airport.  Four self-administered Covid tests at home and two Covid tests at a designated facility.  In all, I had seven days of mandatory Covid testing at my expense after my arrival.  Covid testing and the associated costs are a travel reality I don’t think many travelers are aware of or consider.  Covid testing adds additional charges to a planned trip that most likely has not been budgeted.  Have you incurred any unexpected Covid testing costs?  Have you budgeted Covid testing into your travel plans?  Please comment below and let me know.

 

Traveling to Thailand-The Thailand Pass

Traveling to Thailand-The Thailand Pass

COVID has created many changes in traveling, and I’m happy that many countries have started to open their borders to travelers.  As I’ve mentioned before, now more than ever, traveling takes planning.  As of November 1, 2021, Thailand has reopened to travelers with a no-quarantine option.  Here are a few tips if you plan to travel to Thailand.

No quarantine.

No quarantine entry does not genuinely mean quarantine-free.  Thailand is happy to accept fully vaccinated travelers under three programs. Test and go, Sandbox, and Alternative quarantine.  In any program, travelers must complete at least a one-day quarantine.  With the Test and Go program, travelers must stay at least one night in an approved hotel and wait for their pre-paid COVID test results to return as negative.  Only a negative result will allow the traveler to move around inside Thailand.  With the Sandbox program, travelers must stay in a sandbox destination within Thailand for seven days before moving through other parts of Thailand after a negative COVID test result.  With the Alternative program, travelers must stay for 7 to 10 days in an approved hotel and test negative before being free to leave the hotel.

Thailand pass

The Thailand pass is required for all travelers to Thailand, both citizens, and foreigners.  It ensures that travelers meet all the entry requirements before arrival in Thailand.  It is free to apply for the Thailand Pass, but the system is rather cumbersome and rigorous. Some service providers can complete the process for travelers for a fee, and I highly recommend it for those who do not want the stress.  The response time is from 3 to 7 days to get a response, so I highly recommend preparing well in advance.

Thailand Pass requirements.

The requirements for the Thailand pass include 

  • Passport
  • Proof of a WHO-approved vaccination
  • Proof of at least $50,000 U.S. of COVID insurance
  • Payment confirmation of one night’s stay at an approved hotel
  • Copy of flight booking
  • Copy of visa, if required

Travel requirements

  • To be able to travel to Thailand, travelers will also need,
  • A negative PCR test to be taken at least 72 hours before departure
  • Payment confirmation of the PCR test you will take after arriving in Thailand
  • Thailand’s MorChana App to record the results of your rapid test
  • Cannot have visited any of the countries not on the approved list within the past 21 days.

In short, travel to Thailand is not as easy as it once was.  The new Thailand Pass online registration system is not very easy to navigate.  I found that some credentials had to be formatted correctly for the system to accept them. For example, some documents could be PDF, but others needed to be in Jpeg format.  Even though I am an experienced traveler, it took me three tries before I could complete the process, in addition to two phone calls with over an hour of holding time.  

Post-COVID travel has proven to be a bit daunting. Has it stopped you from traveling? I’d like to know.

https://www.tatnews.org/2021/10/quarantine-free-thailand-reopening-for-vaccinated-tourists-from-1november-2021/

COVID-19  travel restrictions.

COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Recently a friend traveled from Washington DC to Egypt. She discussed with me the harrowing experience of trying to get a required Covid test for travel. With recent federal guidelines, the need for Covid testing has increased, and availability has decreased. As the holidays are a busy travel season, it stands to reason travelers needing testing during the holidays will also surge.  Here are a few things to think about regarding Covid testing and the holidays.

A surge in Covid testing

Many of the issues involved with the current availability of Covid testing affect the recent executive order requiring Covid vaccination for federal employees. Companies with over 100 employees will be required to comply with the order or face significant fines. As expected, there are many questions regarding the order and implementation that need an answer.  However, the demand for Covid testing has risen, and so travelers need to prepare.

Thanksgiving travel

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it’s usually one of the busiest times for people to travel.  In 2020, many suggested curtailing travel during the Thanksgiving holiday, and many ignored that suggestion.  In preparation for the upcoming busy Thanksgiving travel season, the U.S. Air Travel Public Safety Act may require all passengers on domestic airlines to either be fully vaccinated, tested negative, or fully recovered from Covid.

Preparing for holiday travel

In essence, travelers should be aware of travel restrictions and Covid guidelines.  They should know where their Covid testing sites are. Find out if they need to have Covid symptoms or can test as a precaution. Research the timing of their test before seeing friends and family as exposure varies. It’s also good to know the different Covid test options, PCR or antigen.

As with any travel experience, preparation is critical.  Stay safe this holiday season and if you choose to travel, do it safely.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/09/09/executiveorder-on-requiring-coronavirus-disease-2019-vaccination-for-federal-employees/

https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=09C19B4C-EB814CD1-B793-486B573EA1D1

https://ebonytravelers.com/know-before-you-go-covid-testing/