Traveling during COVID

I’ve just arrived in Bermuda to work on my next novel. Although it’s lovely to be away again, it’s a different world now and I won’t lie; it can be a little daunting to get from A to B. During the preparation, paperwork and testing leading up to my journey, I thought back to the ‘good old days’ when everything was simple. If I wanted to go somewhere, I’d book a train, a rental car or a flight, and I went. I usually left accommodation until the very last minute. Sometimes, I didn’t book anything and just followed my intuition or asked locals for tips. For the first time since I started traveling, I had to prepare everything in detail, and let me tell you, that took a lot of time. I thought I’d share my experience for those of you who are thinking of flying somewhere. Here it goes:

The preparation
Twelve days before departure: I didn’t feel like my current travel insurance was good enough, so I went shopping for a one-off deal with an extensive medical cover and accommodation in case I got stranded.
Seven days before departure: I was tested for COVID, then prayed my results would be in on time to apply for Bermuda travel authorization. This is a test done by a private lab and costs £175. Luckily, I got my negative result 2 days before my flight, but all in all, it was very close with only one day to spare by the time I got my authorization.
Basically, my mindset shifted from ‘I’m going’ to ‘I might be going if I’m lucky’, and I was okay with that. Make sure you have a last-minute cancellation cover on your flight and accommodation as that will take away some of the stress.
When I arrived in Bermuda, I had to show my ‘fit for travel certificate’. I was then tested again ($75) in a tent set up outside the airport, before taking a taxi straight to my Airbnb, where I self-isolated until I got the (negative) results. During my stay, I’m required to get tested twice more, and then I’ll do one last test when I land back in the UK (another £175), where again, I’ll be self-isolating in a hotel in London until I get my results. The last one is not mandatory and purely to make sure I don’t pass anything on to others. Still, even without it, that’s a lot of testing. It doesn’t come cheap, so keep that in mind when you see a heavily discounted holiday in a country where ‘fit for travel certificates’ are required.

Packing over COVID is a whole different thing, too. There’s no need for make-up, as I’ll be wearing a mask and mainly just be by myself. I also had to bring a thermometer as I’m required to take my temperature three times a day and upload the results onto an app. I won’t be going out either, so I left my glad rags at home. Instead, I packed food in case my arrival test would take longer than usual to process. I never thought I’d be filling ¼ of my suitcase with noodles, cereal bars and instant coffee!
Usually, it takes me about ten minutes to pack as I just throw whatever I can find in my suitcase, but to avoid having to go into shops, I made a list and made sure I had everything I needed.

The Journey
I stayed in a hotel close to London Gatwick Airport the night before my flight. Due to COVID, there was no night staff when I arrived, but they’d left my key in an envelope with my name on for me. It’s a small, family-run business, and they’ve had to furlough most of their staff as they’ve been missing out on their airport traffic. When I got to my room, it was a sauna. The heating was on full blast, and in an attempt to turn it off, I pulled off the knob by accident and was unable to put it back on. After several fruitless attempts to fix it while burning my hands, I gave up and went in search of tools as there was no one there to help me or move me to another room. Roaming the hotel’s corridors, I found the kitchen (super creepy in the middle of the night, got some ice cubes for my drink), and finally, a staff storage room. There were no tools, but I did find a big standing fan that I dragged down the stairs and into my room, where I aimed it at my bed. Then I opened the window fully (ground floor, also creepy) and managed to sleep through the night. It was certainly an interesting hotel experience, and I had a good laugh about it with the manager the next day, who was super apologetic and sweet and drove me to the airport, together with his dog Walter.

Gatwick airport was blissfully quiet, and the flight was pleasant as the plane wasn’t full. Passengers stayed in their seats instead of pacing up and down the aisle. The airline provided antibacterial wipes, etc., and all the food was wrapped. It felt very clean and safe.

I usually like to be in the middle of the action and prefer staying in a city so I can properly soak up the atmosphere but like most people, I don’t want to be in crowds right now. My Airbnb is remote, located at the very Northern tip of the island, and the view from my patio is breath-taking. Non-residents are not allowed to drive here and there’s not much public transport, but I love walking and it’s only a half-hour walk into St George’s. Overall, it will be 12 days of solitude, just me and my laptop, which means I’ll be able to get lots of words down.

So, here I am on the veranda, with a million-dollar view, an instant coffee, and already super inspired. It was so worth it.

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