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pandemic travel

During my recent trip to Portugal I received a few messages along the lines of "How difficult was it to get there?", "Are you actually there?", "But we're not allowed into the country.", etc. - so I thought it might be a good idea to write a post about my travel experience.

First of all I have to admit that these kind of messages drive me slightly mad, because I always like to check my options and the actual facts that are out there amongst all the fearmongering and the mass of information floating around on the web.

So no - I didn't illegally leave the country. I just did my research and decided which risks I am prepared to take for myself (financially and from a health perspective) and for those around me (ie. the people I am staying with and the people I will be in contact with when I am back home).

Fact is - it was super easy. Traveling is kind of nice when there aren't many people around, you know? Of course there are more rules to follow than before, but most of us know these rules by heart now.

The Preparation

When preparing the trip I checked out the website of the German Foreign Office to see, which regulations apply to Portugal.

Here it is helpful to know, that these websites will always "advice against traveling for touristic reasons during the pandemic". However, like with everything in life it is on you to decide if you want to follow that advice or not.

Secondly, it might be good to know that the websites always list the worst case scenarios first and you are likely to have to scroll down to the very bottom of the page until you find the facts that relate to you as an average Joe citizen (who does not live in an officially declared High Risk area or an area with virus variants). I guess this is where most people give up, because you get to read everything about all possible quarantine options, if and how these can be shortened via a test, which countries they apply to, which exceptions there are, what applies to people that have had the vaccine or have had the virus in the past, etc. By then your brain might be so fried, that you give up on trying to get anywhere in the first place.

If possible try and speak to the locals, if you know someone at the other end. Most of our classic holiday destinations desperately need tourism to return and they therefore will know about non- existent "legal implications when entering the country" (which might also be a phrase you come across on various websites).

So - in my case all I needed to enter Portugal, was a PCR Test no older that 72 hrs at the time of landing as well as filling out a Passenger Location Card with the address I was staying at in Portugal. I am lucky enough to live close to Cologne Airport, where PCR tests are offered by Centrogene. It was really straight forward and you actually got your test result electronically and could add it to your Apple Wallet together with your flight ticket. I love that sort of convenience.

Prep list

Research the local entry requirements for your destination at the official government websites
Know how to interpret the wording. Advising against something does not mean it is "not allowed".
Make sure you read until the end so that you actually find the regulations that apply to your situation.
Speak to the locals beforehand, they are likely to know which rules apply as their business depends on it.

During the flight

For all my (4) flights during the Pandemic I chose to travel to and from the airport by rental car rather than by train or public transport. This way I could minimise contact with other people as much as possible.

It goes without saying that you have to wear a mask as soon as you step into the airport. This also applies if you have been vaccinated or have had the virus in the past. I always wear one of the FFP2 medical masks and cover it with a light fabric mask as it is proven to protect you even more, when you wear two. I also always make a point of wearing my glasses, so I don't rub my eyes, etc. I even have one set of gloves with me should I ever feel the need to wear them (which wasn't the case so far.)

Inside the terminal building it also still feels very safe and possible to keep the minimum distance. However, as soon as you get to the Check-in desks or your gate you will need to relax and let it be. People just fall into old habits of wanting to be the first in the queue, having their kids run everywhere and so on. That's the reality of it, but in theory everyone of these people should have a had negative PCR test, which makes it feel a little safer. When you enter the plane you are given a disinfectant wipe which I always use to clean my seating area (tray, arm rests, seatbelt - anything someone else could have touched before me). I also do not take the mask off during the flight. In my mind it doesn't make sense to stick to all those rules, when suddenly everyone takes their mask off to eat their sandwich at the same time. I may have some water if I need to, but otherwise the mask stays on. Sanitiser and hand cream are also always by my side. I have been flying with Lufthansa on all occasions and they are now boarding the plane by groups (= seating rows) to avoid the aisle getting too crowded. The same applies when letting people off the plane and I felt really safe on all flights.

In the air

Keep your distance where possible
Wear two masks, if you feel comfortable with it.
Eat before you get on the plane, so that you don't need to take of your mask during the flight
Wear glasses to avoid rubbing your eyes with your hands
Disinfect your seating area as soon as you sit down

When I got to Faro I spent a lot of time at Passport Control, even though it was literally only people from my plane in the queue. They checked the PCR tests thoroughly, so you have to make sure that you have a valid one because otherwise you might not be let in, you'll have to quarantine or do another test and wait for the result before you can leave, which will mess up your holiday.

Another thing to think about are the entry regulations when travelling back. You may have to make appointments for PCR tests in advance and a lot of places are booked up for quite some time or you may have to drive quite far to have it done.

Luckily the Algarve is now no longer a Risk Area so that I only had to do an Antigen Test at the local Farmácia, which is half the price and you only need to wait 10 minutes for the results, which meant I could do it the day before.

I was surprised that the tests were only checked at the Check-in counter at Faro airport, but not on the German side when getting off the plane - but hey, I am surprised by how this whole situation has been handled by our government in general.

So yes - more rules, but also not rocket science. And by the way: Nobody during the whole journey asked me, if I was travelling for touristic reasons.



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