You may read the title of this blog post and expect to read about how different travelling is or what the touristy spots were like during these times of Covid but that´s not what it will be. We left in April last year (2021) and were actually living in Ireland while they were in the strictest level 5 lockdown while planning our getaway. For many, travel was the last thing on their minds as it was pretty hard to even move around in your local vicinity, let alone go abroad. But with Ty´s Irish visa running out… we had to go and it was actually pretty simple.
Costa Rica was our first stop on the list because of Covid. Asia was shut, Ty´s passport doesn´t allow for many options, we were both intrigued by Central and South America and many countries were banning citizens from the UK at the time. So Costa Rica became pretty much the only option on that continent that A. Ty didn´t need a visa for, B. As a UK citizen I was allowed to enter, and C. They actually had flights that Ty was able to take without needing a transit visa for either Europe or the US.
But as it all had to happen, we went for it. We got our expensive PCR test in Ireland, made it to Dublin and from there had a smooth journey to Costa Rica. From this point you all know that we had an amazing time travelling in Central and South America if you have been reading our blog. The actual travelling part with the pandemic pretty much came down to (always) wearing masks in public places, having to take a test before we entered every new country, which was never a problem. As well as a few bonus touristy activities which were certainly less crowded than before the pandemic.
The problem actually came AFTER the trip. Ty and I left South America at the very beginning of February. We both flew from Sao Paulo, Brazil. I went to the UK for a while and Ty had to fly back to South Africa because his passport was expiring this year. Which was actually half the reason we left, the other half being that we need jobs now. Leaving and ending our trip had nothing to do with the pandemic.
But Covid still has a way of causing problems. Between us we have really got off lightly, it hasn´t really affected us at all. We were lucky. So I guess it had to get to us eventually. I was on my pit stop in England to see family. Since the Omnicrom variant has been said to be more contagious and there were so many cases in the UK I tried to continue to be careful and not catch it. I had my flights booked to South Africa to come back and join Ty but apparently this is when Covid decided to make life difficult for us.
For my flight I needed a negative PCR test to enter South Africa so I ordered the standard ´fit to fly´ at home testing kit, I took the test 2 days before my flight, did everything right, and posted it correctly to the lab. You are meant to get your results the same day that the lab receives the sample so with express sipping it should have gotten there the day before my flight. It didn´t. Although results can come through until midnight, I was still holding out hope. My result still hadn´t come through when I arrived at Heathrow airport, I still thought that it would. Even so, my last resort back up was that South Africa states that if you fail to produce a negative PCR test then you must take a test on arrival at your own cost, fine. However I never got that far because I was denied boarding for my flight.
Yes I should have taken an express test when the results didn´t come back but I won´t dwell on that now. That was a terrible day finding out I couldn´t board the flight. Crying down the phone to Ty, we figured I had better take an express test at the airport, wait for the results and fly that same evening with a different airline. I feel like I know Heathrow airport quite well now as I had to go on the hunt for the testing facility and the other airline that is in another terminal to check seats would still be available. I walked back and forth maybe 3 times in the end.
While waiting for the results to come back I felt so ready to get out of England, bags all packed and feeling very excited to be in South Africa with Ty again. But the result came back positive.
More tears on the phone, another walk back through the terminal, tube back through London, and a train back out to the countryside where my Dad was waiting. Very depressing journey, very depressing day. The most frustrating thing though, is that 3 days later I took another PCR test because I just could not believe I was positive, and that test came back negative. NEGATIVE. So, I ordered another fit to fly PCR test, this time from a different company. That also came back negative! That express test at the airport must have been wrong and cost me a lot in wasted time and money. Having this new negative result come through early in the morning, I booked my flights for that same evening, and left for the airport again.
Armed with my negative result I knew I was going to make it this time and I DID. I had a smooth journey to South Africa and met Ty in the airport (an all too familiar feeling). We are back home now with a lot to sort out, and many more adventures to come.
I guess the moral of the story is that travelling during a pandemic is not hard, it´s just the initial leaving part that can be a bit challenging. Arriving in that new place is the most satisfying feeling, and I am so glad we didn´t put off our adventures until after the pandemic. We had an amazing time in Central and South America. Although we are back for now, this certainly isn´t the end of travel for us.