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.
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.
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 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.
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
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
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.
I decided to return to Singapore to be with my husband, and I knew there would be COVID restrictions. However, many travelers consider the requirements for getting into the country but not the restrictions once in the country. In the US, COVID restrictions pale
in comparison to the US. Here are a few realities of COVID restrictions in Singapore.
It is only recently, November 2021, that the Singapore government has allowed more than two people to gather. Previously a household could have only two visitors a day and only dine in pairs. This restriction meant that a family of four dining out would have to sit at two tables. Yes, that’s correct; even a family could not dine out with more than two people at a table.
Every person over six years is required to wear a mask in Singapore. The government has deployed enforcement officers around the island to ensure the wearing of masks.
People not complying with the mask mandate can get a $300. fine on their first offense. Repeat offenders can get a fine of up to $1000. or be prosecuted by the courts.
People in Singapore are required to maintain safe distancing when in public. The government has deployed safe distancing ambassadors who ensure that groups do not gather in more than the rules allow. They also provide distancing guidance when there are long lines/queues. Fines are similar to the regulations for mask compliance, $300 for the first offense and second offenders $1000.
Malls and public spaces.
As of October 2021, all people must be vaccinated to enter a mall or public space. Of course, they are exceptions, but those with exceptions have to show proof before entering the mall. In many cases, security guards also help to monitor and maintain compliance.
Trace together app.
All these safety measures are made more accessible by the trace together app. People must have this app on their phones or have a government-provided token with their information to access public spaces. The app allows the government to enforce contact tracing and quickly notify people if they have been exposed to COVID or had contact with someone with COVID.
Upon arrival in Singapore, I had some issues verifying the vaccination status on my trace together app. As a result, I could not go out in public, even to get a cup of coffee until I could resolve the situation. I had to take a serology blood test to verify my vaccination status and have it confirmed by the government. These measures might seem quite limiting for many, but Singapore has better handled COVID situations much more effectively than in other countries.
Travelers should be aware of the requirements to get into the country they are traveling to, in addition to any restrictions they may face once in the country. Have you experienced any unexpected COVID rules while traveling? I’d like to know.
We’ve spent most of 2020 and 2021 living with COVID and its impact on travel. I previously wrote a dated blog post about the effects of COVID-19 on travel. It has become clear that 2022 will not be much different than the previous years. The travel industry has once responded with this new Omicron variant of the Coronavirus. Here are a few realities travelers should be aware of.
New Omicron variant.
On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified a new virus variant and named it Omicron. The realization of the new Delta variant once again highlighted the need for vaccinations, boosters, and other COVID-19 precautions. This means that travelers need to better plan for vaccinations and testing as the convenience of appointments will be less available.
Omicron in the US.
On December 1, 2021, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced that on November 22, 2021, a traveler from South Africa had already arrived in California infected with the Omicron virus. Regardless of precautions, the Delta and now the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus are here in the US.
COVID testing requirement.
Previously proof of a negative COVID test was required “no more” than seventy-two hours” before arrival into the US. As of December 6, 2021, the CDC has shortened the global testing order timeline to twenty-four hours. Travelers to the US now are required to a negative COVID test taken the day before they board their flight to the US as of 12:01 AM ET on December 6, 2021.
COVID-19 orders and regulations
The CDC has legally binding orders and regulations regarding the COVID-19 virus and the associated protocols and procedures. I highly suggest that travelers get the latest news and updates on the CDC site before making travel plans. Here you can get information on the federal mask mandate, which has recently been extended through March 18, 2022. In addition, you can find information on the orders for airlines to collect passenger information for contact tracing. Many travelers have incorrectly blamed airline personnel for requirements beyond their control.
Somehow, I think this will not be my last blog post regarding COVID-19 and travel. The realities of COVID and its impact on traveling continue to be significant. For many, traveling is a part of life and may be necessary. As with all travel, travelers should stay informed and plan accordingly.
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 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.