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The “Lived” Travel Experience

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My release from Singapore SHN

My release from Singapore SHN

I finally got released from my seven-day SHN.  Because I was so prepared to stay in a hotel, but not knowing which hotel, 2 star or five stars. I had a lot of anxiety about my arrival in Singapore.  It was a pleasant surprise to spend my SHN at home.  However, not leaving the apartment was limiting, and I’m happy to say I am now officially released from my SHN.

Swab testing appointment

The first step in the process of being released from SHN is a swab test.  I was given an appointment and told to show up.  As I don’t have personal transportation in Singapore, I had to arrange with a designated taxi company for travel to the testing site.

Testing location

The location of my testing was an old school building.  When I first went there, more workers were present than people needing to be swab tested, which soon changed as the lines queue.

The process

The process was the same for everyone.  We were all given a sticker designating us as SHN.  We then had to verify our name with identification.  Answer health questions. Get our temperature taken, then once again queue for the swab test. The process seemed to move relatively smoothly.  Once inside, there was another checking of ID, medical questions, and then I was escorted to the swab testing station, where I again had to verify my particulars. Once my swab test was completed, I was free to return home.

Final release

Tracker no more

My final release from the SHN came the following day.  I had to wait for a text notification of my negative test results.  Once I received that text, I could then cut my tracking bracelet off and throw it away.  Officials picked up the gateway portion that came with the bracelet.

Now I am free to leave my house, but not go everywhere I would like to.  I must install an app that allows the government to track my every movement in Singapore.  In addition, although I have my vaccination cards from the US.  I will need to take a serology blood test to get a vaccination designation on my tracer app.  Unvaccinated people have limited accessibility.  I’ll tell you a bit more about that in my next blog post.

Getting into Singapore

Getting into Singapore

I highly encourage traveling, but I also strongly suggest that travelers do some research before traveling to any destination.  Even though I lived in Singapore for several years and was familiar with many of the rules and regulations, Covid had created many changes.  Even on a dependent pass (my husband lives and works in Singapore), getting into Singapore was not an easy process.

Traveling to Singapore

Singapore provides a checklist for inbound travelers.  While this is a great tool, entry requirements and health controls are different for each passenger based on each passenger’s travel history and profile.  Singapore provides an online tool that helps to determine a travelers entry requirement.

Vaccinations

Although not being fully vaccinated does not prohibit entry into Singapore, I highly suggest it.  In addition, vaccinations must be more than two weeks old to be considered fully immunized in Singapore.  Singapore follows the WHO EUL vaccine protocol, so be sure to verify your vaccine meets the requirements.

Covid testing.

While many countries require a negative Covid test at least 72 hours before departure, Singapore requires the test to be at least 48 hours. Since the Covid outbreak, travelers must present proof of a negative Covid test at airport check-in for all international travel.  It never fails that a fellow traveler will try to use documentation from a phone, and I have noticed where some places say a QR code is acceptable.  This was not the case for my flight, and I highly suggest printing out a paper copy of your results before heading to the airport.

Singapore arrival

Even though a negative Covid test is a requirement for Singapore, all travelers are still required to take another test upon arrival at the travelers’ expense. The test can be paid before arrival to shorten the process, and the traveler gets the results within hours.

Upon arrival, travelers are directed to specific travel lanes based on their application for entry.  I made preparations to spend 14 days in a designated hotel.  However, my entry coincided with a recent change for US travelers, and I was allowed to quarantine at home.  Airport personnel gave me a tracking bracelet and gateway, which I had to install and wear upon arrival home.  My stay home notice (SHN) is for seven days.  I have received a video call to verify that my bracelet is worn and that the gateway is activated.  An appointment for yet another Covid test at the end of my SHN has already been arranged.

After being away from my husband and dog for over a year, the effort it took to get to Singapore was genuinely worth it.  I have yet to find out if the required prepayment for a quarantined hotel will be refunded.  If Singapore is in your travel plans, research and preparation are an absolute must for a smooth travel experience.

I’ll update you on Wednesday’s blog about my release from SHN and the next steps I must complete to resume life here in Singapore.  If there’s anything you’d like to know more about, comment below.

https://safetravel.ica.gov.sg/arriving/overview

https://safetravel.changiairport.com/#/

The long trip home to Singapore

The long trip home to Singapore

I finally made it back to Singapore and my ex-pat life.  I left Singapore for one of my routine trips back to the US.  However, Covid and the many different guidelines set up by Singapore complicated my return. I hadn’t seen my husband or dog for over a year, and I finally made the long trip home.

Getting there

As an ex-pat, I am not a Singapore citizen or permanent resident. The first process for getting into Singapore is to get approval from the government for entry.  Planning the trip home took several attempts as my arrival had to coincide with the dates given by the Singapore government, the availability of flights into Singapore, and the availability of designated stay-at-home quarantine hotels.  Once all the pieces aligned, I could finally schedule my long trip home.

Travel options

As a former flight attendant and living in SE Asia for over ten years, I am accustomed to traveling long distances.  My first attempt at getting to Singapore had me transiting through Germany.  That route was ideal as an established travel lane between Singapore and Germany was established, and travel connections were perfect.  As I could not coordinate all the pieces for my travel, I transited through Istanbul, Turkey.   This route meant an 11+ flight from Dallas to Turkey, a 9-hour layover, and another 10+ hour flight from Turkey to Singapore.

Travel choice

With 30+ hours of travel ahead and my experience as a traveler, business class on Turkish Airlines was my preferred way to travel.  The benefits far outweighed the costs for me. I was particular in this choice because it meant having access to the airline lounge where showers, private suites, meals, and luggage lockers were available.  My preference is always to have a stopover as I do not have a tolerance for 18-hour flights.  I can only say that a hot shower between trips can make a difference between a good or great travel experience.

For me, travel is more than getting from one destination to another; it is about the travel experience.  If you ever must travel long distances, try to make it as pleasant an experience as possible.  Investing in your travel experience will make a tremendous difference in long-distance travel.  Have you taken long-distance trips? How was your experience? Comment and let me know.

p.s. I made preparations to spend my two weeks of mandatory quarantine at a designated stay-at-home hotel before being allowed to go to my home in Singapore.  However, I was permitted to spend my quarantine at home.  I will not be able to leave home for seven days and must wear a tracking bracelet.  In Sunday’s blog post, I’ll discuss more on the arrival process of getting into Singapore.

 

Travelers Beware-Drug mules.

Travelers Beware-Drug mules.

I recently wrote about theft on an airplane and got so many responses.  Today I’d like to discuss another aspect of air travel many do not consider.  As flight attendants, we knew to look out for the warning signs of drug mules, excessive sweating, refusal to eat or drink, or acting nervous.  I recently saw a post on social media where a lady shared the story of her interaction with a drug mule.  I like to write short insightful pieces, but I had to share this as is. This story is not my story, but I am sharing it because it is accurate and does happen.

COPIED (As was written by the unknown author without correction)

If you travel by air a lot, beware of over friendly chatty seat neighbours.

 The older lady comes and sits next to me inside the plane. She asked me to help her put her bag in the overhead luggage compartment. But a gentleman sitting across quickly came through. (I am not very tall and the overhead luggage compartment is something I try to avoid at all costs.

Immediately she sits down she strikes up a conversation.  She was very pleasant and well spoken.  So we chatted all through the flight to Dubai.

Suddenly, when the pilot announced that we were now proceeding to begin our descent into DXB, my good friend ‘developed’ stomach pains.  Me with my good heart, I pressed the stewards button, and the stewardess came to find out what the problem was.  I told her my seat mate was not feeling well.  And this lady, she suddenly began to address me as ‘my daughter’. The stewardess told me that there was nothing they could do except give her some painkillers and wait until we landed.  The pilot announced that we had a medical emergency on board and advised us all to stay calm.  My new friend was crying and sweating like crazy.  And she refused to let go of my hand… everyone assumed we knew each other. 

So we landed at DXB and the same gentleman who helped put up her luggage in  the overhead compartment removed her luggage.  But as he removed the luggage, he advised me to distance myself from this lady and make it clear to the cabin crew that we were NOT travelling together. He was a godsend!

So indeed, the cabin crew came and asked me if we were related, I categorically told them we had met on the plane.  I didn’t know her at all.  So we began to deplane and as I said goodbye she kept begging me to carry her handbag. I was so torn… but the gentleman looked me in the eye and emphatically shook his head.  He passed me a note telling me to let the cabin crew handle her. 

So I exit the aircraft and leave my ‘new friend’ to wait for the wheelchair and be handled by the cabin crew feeling very guilty. 

As we waited for our luggage to come through, I hear this commotion. My ‘new friend’ was running, trying to escape the cabin crew, having gotten out of the wheelchair! She left the stewardess with her handbag and just ran towards the exit with the rest of her hand luggage! Luckily the airport police were faster than her.  They got hold of her and brought her back in handcuffs. 

This lady starts calling out to me.. my daughter… my daughter!.. how could you do this to me….. that’s when I caught on.  She was carrying drugs and she was trying to implicate me!

Luckily for me, the gentleman who had helped her with her luggage came forward and told the airport police that me and her had just met on the plane.  The police took my passport and asked her to reveal my full names if it was true we were travelling together.  By God’s grace, I had not even told her my first name! I was still asked to follow the police to a little room where I was questioned extensively.  Where did I meet her?… where did I board…  where did she board. Etc… And my luggage was extensively searched and dusted for fingerprints. 

They dusted all her luggage and my fingerprints were not found anywhere on her luggage or on her handbag!

I was let go with advice never ever to touch anyone’s luggage either in flight or at the airport.  So from that day, I don’t care how much luggage you have, you will deal with it yourself.  I will not even offer you a trolley to put your luggage on! Your luggage… your problem….  is my policy.  And if you can’t reach the overhead compartment, and I am the nearest person, please call the cabin crew because all I will do is give you a blank stare and then look away!

A lesson to glean therein for intending air travelers.

COPIED.

Just as I wrote about theft on the airplane, I could not have relayed the dangers of being too friendly more pointedly.  Travelers should be relaxed and have fun, be nice, but most of all, be cautious.  I hope this story opens your eyes a bit.

Behind the scenes- Airline agents

Behind the scenes- Airline agents

My last blog post tried to prepare travelers for the reality of Covid restrictions and holiday travel.  I want to focus on holiday travel and travelers’ role in the overall experience in this post.  We have all heard the horror stories of unruly passengers and the obnoxious behavior that affects many others.  Here are a few behind-the-scenes realities of airline agents I’d like you to be aware of next time you travel.  I hope your knowledge will make you a kinder traveler.

Airline ticketing agent.

This person is probably your first point of contact at the airport.  The ticketing agent checks your bag or handles any airline-related issue before you are even through security.  Ticket agents are responsible for ticketing, baggage, complaints, cancellations, lost luggage, weather delays, and other traveler problems.  They enforce rules made by the company, and they don’t personally make up rules just for you.  And yes, they can be fired for not following the rules.  So, when it comes to their livelihood or your demand, guess which takes priority?

Here are a few things I think they would like to tell you but can’t.
  • No, we can’t just give a free upgrade, it’s a computerized system, and big brother is watching.
  • Don’t be late and take responsibility for your poor planning and actions.
  • Saying no is not being rude. We are following the rules made by the company, not by us.
  • You get more with honey than vinegar. Treat me right, and I will do the best I can.
  • If you’re rude and yelling, do you think I want to help you?

Gate agents.

The gate agent is the person who, as the name suggests, works your departure gate.  If you have traveled recently, you may have noted that there is usually only one or two gate agents at the departure gate.  Due to airline cost-cutting, gate agents often work alone.  They must meet the inbound flight, coordinate unaccompanied minors and wheelchairs, answer passengers’ questions, clear the standby list, process upgrades, and board the plane.  If this seems like a lot of work, that’s because it is! Additionally, gate agents are also required to get the airplane out on time. This means getting every passenger onboard and seated before the airplane doors can be closed for departure.

Here are a few things I think they would like to tell you but can’t.
  • We can see everything about your ticket, including how much you paid, when and where you paid. Lying about how expensive your ticket was or that it was a first-class ticket is pointless.
  • On an oversold flight, we do have the discretion to move passengers to first class. However, the choice is usually automated and based on fare price or elite status. In rare cases, your behavior or the way you are dressed helps inform my decision.
  • My boarding time decision depends on plenty of factors. Is the airplane clean? Does it have enough crew members? Does air traffic control have a hold on the boarding process? There are many other reasons, and staring at me or crowding the boarding area will not make the decision faster.
  • We are accountable for getting the flight out on time except in the cases of weather or a mechanical delay.
  • The computer system shows how many people are connecting and their chances of making the flight. Delaying the flight for just a few passengers is often not an option as the airplane must be at its destination at the designated time.

I know that traveling is stressful for passengers, but it is also stressful for the agents who work with hundreds of passengers daily. The airport is fast-paced and hectic, and there is rarely time for bathroom breaks.  Give grace and practice kindness to your agents next time you travel.

If this has made you think differently about your previous airport experience, let me know.

Covid Restrictions and Holiday Travel

Covid Restrictions and Holiday Travel

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.

The World and 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.