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.

Fall travel

Fall travel

Fall is a great time to travel. Leaves are changing colors, and it can be an excellent time for a road trip.  However, the weather can be a bit unpredictable, and temperatures can drop unexpectedly. Here are a few ideas to consider as we head into the fall if travel is in your future.

Packing light.

Packing for a fall trip can be a bit tricky.  Sweaters, hoodies, and jackets can be bulky to pack.  One way to pack light is to think of dressing in layers. Layering long sleeves, vests, button-down shirts, and jackets make it easier to take on or off and adjust to weather changes.  In addition, varying different items can refresh outfit choices leading to packing less.

Be prepared for weather changes.

Fall weather can be unpredictable so prepare for rain or sunshine. An umbrella or poncho will often come in handy.  However, sunscreen and sunglasses might also be necessary.  Mornings are usually cool and crisp while the afternoon warms up.  In addition, rain is often in the forecast.

Off-peak deals.

Fall travel is much less hectic than summer travel as many destinations are much less crowded.  In addition, fall can be one of the cheapest times to travel, and prices on airfare, hotels, and activities tend to be lower. Food also tends to be more affordable as fall festivals and seasonal changes in food make fall dining an incredible experience.

More hotel perks.

The hotel industry tends to slow down in the fall season.  There are far fewer crowds, so hotels and other places offer more perks to attract business.  It is easier to receive hotel upgrades, and hotel points go further than in peak season.  Hotel staff is usually more attentive as they have fewer guests to serve, so the service tends to be better.

Fall sickness.

Temperature drops, more rain, and humidity tend to increase people’s risk of getting sick. Due to the change in weather, fall is often a time many people experience colds and cases of flu.  This trend, along with the realities of Covid, means fall travelers should be more careful of fall sickness and try to stay as healthy as possible. Getting more exercise and sleep is a great way to enjoy a fall vacation while maintaining your health.

Do you have any plans for fall travel?  I’d like to know.

A positive Covid test out of the country.

A positive Covid test out of the country.

When I started my blog journey, my goal was to give valuable and relatable information about travel.  I love the great vacation pics, but there are other travel stories beyond the beautiful travel photos.  This week I’d like to focus on the reality of a positive Covid test result while out of the country.

As of January 2021, the CDC mandated that all travelers into the US have a negative test result before entry into the country. The CDC guidelines read as, “If you plan to travel internationally, you will need to get tested no more than three days before you travel by air into the United States (US) and show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight, or be prepared to show documentation of recovery (proof of a recent positive viral test and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).”

If you test positive while out of the country, you will have the added expense of staying in your location until you recover. Your stay could be a minimum of 14 days. Research the Covid testing and quarantine guidelines and regulations of the country you are traveling to for information on the process if there is a positive test on arrival or during your stay.  Know that airlines cannot board passengers who cannot show proof of a negative Covid test.

I wrote on a previous blog about travel insurance.  I highly suggest travel insurance and for travelers to give thought to a Covid 19 travel insurance plan. Covid insurance will cover the insured during their stay. It also includes medical expenses incurred during your stay, daily stay rates, and even medical evacuations.  Policies differ, so it is best to research the different options available. Please note that you can purchase basic travel insurance up to 24 hours before departure. However, premium add-ons such as “cancel for any reason” must be purchased based on when you made your travel payments.

Now more than ever, the cheapest flight option might not be the best option for travelers. Flexible and refundable tickets can make a significant difference if you extend your stay in a foreign country.  There are substantial fees associated with canceling or rebooking airline tickets.  Read the fine print to see if you will be refunded or given a voucher.

Consider visa deadlines.  Many tourist visas are for 30 days.  If you test positive, you may have to quarantine between 7 to 21 days.  The forced quarantine stay in addition to your vacation time may have you overstaying your visa.  Consider how you will handle visa technicalities while in quarantine.  Not all hotels will be able to take care of those details for you. Now more than ever, consider registering with the STEP program. It’s free, and you will have access to the nearest embassy or consulate.

The bottom line is that if you test positive for Covid outside the country, do not expect to return until you can provide a negative Covid test result or proof of recovery.  Have you considered the possibility of testing positive while on vacation? Let me know.

Traveling with the USD

Traveling with the USD

As a frequent traveler, I am aware of the value of the US dollar. It is the most recognized currency in many foreign destinations. The US dollar is also the closest thing to an international currency because it is so widely accepted. However, please know that individual international businesses can decide whether to take the money. Here are a few tips on traveling with the US dollar.

In many countries, the value of the US dollar is high. Many local vendors prefer payment in USD rather than the local currency. However, when using larger bills, you are often given back change from your purchase in the local currency. If you don’t plan a lengthy stay, the money is usually not worth it back at home. It can also be difficult to get a decent exchange rate.

It is good to note that some foreign countries will not accept currency older than a specific date. On my recent travel to Tanzania, a particular vendor would not take US currency older than 2009. I learned that there are no restrictions on banks to accept or reject the USD with further research. In some cases, if older notes are accepted, you may be given a lower exchange rate.

Similarly, many may not take torn or mutilated currency at some foreign locations. There was much concern while shopping in the local Maasai village because a bill had a small corner ripped. While this is a common occurrence in the US, note that foreigners are suspicious of the currency’s being valid when presented for payment elsewhere or at their banks.

Try to travel with currency in small denominations. Small notes are great for tipping, so before you travel, try getting your small bills from the bank as they are less likely to give out damaged or dated currency. With currency from the bank, you are more likely to have your USD accepted wherever you travel.

Has your US currency ever been denied when traveling abroad? Were you even aware of the possibility of your USD not being accepted when traveling? I’d like to know.

True but little known facts about Tanzania.

True but little known facts about Tanzania.

I am a strong proponent of research.  I believe it’s essential to know about the culture and customs of the destinations you travel to.  It’s a well-known fact that Tanzania is home to Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa.  However, several other points are important to know.  In my blog, I try to give more than just picturesque information. Here are some true but little-known facts I found out about Tanzania.

Since 2019, mainland Tanzania has been enforcing a ban on plastic bags. There are a range of fines imposed on travelers if found improperly disposing of plastic bags.  Visitors should avoid carrying plastic bags in their suitcase or carry-on before arriving in Tanzania. Ziploc bags for toiletry are still allowed.  There is a special desk at all entry points into Tanzania to dispose of plastic bags visitors may unknowingly bring into the country.

It is illegal to wear camouflage in Tanzania.    Green camouflage clothing is reserved exclusively for Tanzania’s People’s Defense Force. While you may see some people may be wearing some colored camouflage outfits. Know that only official military personnel is permitted to dress in the official green camouflage uniforms. Travelers can be stopped by police, forced to change clothing, and fined.  It’s simply not worth the hassle.

Parts of the Tanzanian population are Muslim. Some places can be conservative, and men and women usually cover their knees in public. Traditionally women wear only skirts. However, tourists and foreigners often wear pants but should try not for them to be form-fitting. To be safe, avoid shorts and skirts above the knees. Also, avoid wearing tops that bare your shoulders or cleavage. A headdress may also be appropriate. And as always, please try to respect the culture.

Knowledge about Tanzanian culture is essential.  Visitors should always use their right hand for greetings as the left hand is associated with toilet activities.  Greeting only one person in a room is considered impolite, so acknowledge everyone in the room.  Males and females may eat in separate rooms even when related. Also, saying no to food being offered to you or smelling food is considered impolite.

Age is highly respected in Tanzania. Greeting an older person is sometimes accompanied by a bow.  Much respect is given to older tourists.  It’s common to see bargaining in shops and marketplaces, even to have prices increased for foreigners.  However, age can be advantageous when bargaining in shops and the market.

These are but a few little-known facts about Tanzania.  I encourage all travelers to research their destinations before travel.  Have you ever been surprised by cultural etiquette? I’d like to know.

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