2020 has hit all of us around the globe. I remember celebrating into the new year with friends and family, whilst we cheered to a very happy and successful 2020. How wrong we all were.
It has especially been a difficult time for us holiday makers and we had to make the most out of a very unique situation, looking for safer holiday alternatives. Let’s face it, a weekend trip to Cornwall over a week in Hawaii just doesn’t have the same appeal.
We’ve recently got back from holiday in Cyprus, where we stayed in the popular tourist area of Paphos. We’re so grateful to have been able to travel, whilst Coronavirus is still very much apparent. Some of you are so eager to jet away but will evidently have some worries about travelling. We’ve therefore put together a helpful story guide of our experience travelling during the pandemic. It’ll hopefully provide you with some reassurance and that you really can enjoy your holiday despite all that is happening in the world. 😊
Choosing a holiday destination during the pandemic
After coming back home from a long weekend away to The Cotswolds, we dropped off our hire car and passed through Heathrow airport without actually boarding a plane. We both looked at each other and said, ‘let’s book a holiday’. Knowing that we weren’t able to afford the 2-week quarantine, we had limited options to choose from. Nevertheless, we were determined to visit somewhere where we could both relax and explore.
Unfortunately, our original destination, Croatia, got added to the UK quarantine list a few weeks before we were due to fly out. We therefore had to find an alternative. At first, we weren’t so keen on Cyprus, mainly because we were put off by the rules and measures we would have to take if we were to visit the country. We’ll explain this in more detail later on! We were so intrigued at whether a holiday during Coronavirus was safe, irresponsible or even possible. There seemed to be so many border restrictions and measures in place.
A note on the UK quarantine list:
To help curb the spread of the virus, the UK government introduced a 14-day quarantine for holiday makers earlier this summer for selected countries they believed were high risk.
The government would base this on several factors, such as:
- The total number of people infected (if it exceeded 20/100,000 people, it is likely to go on the list)
- The total number of tests carried out daily in the country
- The reliability of the data of the country
Over the summer months, the travel corridor list has become smaller and smaller. There’s now just a handful of countries you can visit, without having to quarantine for 14 days.
It’s important to note that even if you are not required to quarantine in the UK when you get back from holiday, the destination may have either closed its borders to non-citizens. Tourists may be required to quarantine upon arrival.
This list is updated on a regular basis, so ensure that you are stayed up to date with the latest government news and advise, before you plan a trip.
You can find the list of countries currently on the UK’s travel window here.
Travelling during the pandemic to Cyprus
As more and more countries got relegated to the ‘naughty list’, i.e. travellers having to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to the UK, we were very limited on where we could travel to during the pandemic.
Initially, Cyprus wasn’t on our radar, mainly due to the requirement of having to have a Covid-19 PCR test. However, after a lot of research on TripAdvisor forums, we learnt that the process on the whole was seamless and there were little to no issues at all.
Things weren’t so simple though. There were a few things which we had to do before the day of the flight…
Covid-19 PCR Test
As of 1st August, the UK was moved to category B on the Cyprus government travel website, which means that anyone travelling to the country must present a negative Covid PCR test result within 72 hours before travel. The test results can be presented in the form of an email or SMS. They just have to state the date and time when the test was taken.
As UK NHS tests are restricted for those with symptoms, this meant having to find a private test clinic. These are widely available in cities throughout the UK and a quick Google search will guide you in the right direction for the best clinics in your area.
Cyprus Flight Pass
In addition to the test, all passengers must complete a Cyprus Flight Pass before travelling, which is available on the Cyprus Flight Pass website. It takes no longer than 20 minutes to complete. This has to be completed within 24 hours of flying, with a requirement to upload your negative Covid test result.
Passenger locator form
Upon arrival in the UK after your holiday, all passengers need to complete a passenger locator form. This ensures that if someone on your flight contracts the virus, you will be notified. This is in an effort to stop the spread of the virus from inbound travellers.
Waiting for the Covid test results…
The most stressful thing for us was waiting to receive our test results. We were told that we would receive them within 48 – 72 hours. We were still really anxious, especially as it got to the day before we flew out, as we still hadn’t heard back. I received my result around 1pm on the Wednesday and Ricky received his at 6pm. We were incredibly relieved to receive them but mentally exhausted. I thought at that point that nothing was worth some time in the sun and we no longer wanted to go.
At the airport
Upon arrival at Gatwick airport, it was incredibly quiet and quite eery. Check in was really smooth. The staff asked to see our documents (Covid test result and Cyprus flight pass) and placed an ‘all documents enclosed’ sticker on them. This indicated to other staff that we had all the necessary documents to travel.
Our flight was fully booked and there were only a few spare seats. Luckily there was a spare seat next to us, which made us feel safer. All passengers wore face masks during the entire duration and were only able to take them off whilst eating. It filled us with confidence that everyone (apart from children under the age of 12) took a test and presented a negative result. The cabin crew also reminded passengers at the start of the flight that masks are compulsory and reminded them exactly how they need to be worn (i.e. covering the mouth and nose).
Arriving in Cyprus
We arrived at Paphos airport and the staff only allowed a certain number of passengers in the airport, whilst the other passengers at the front of the queue cleared customs. They were also very strict in terms of ensuring that passengers kept 2 metres apart. We had to show our negative test result in order to pass through to passport control. Once we got through, we were finally able to enjoy our holiday!
We rented a car as to avoid using public transport and it definitely made us feel safer. However, it is compulsory for the public to wear face masks when using transport, whilst maintaining social distance where possible.
Covid-wise, here are some of the things we noticed during our stay in Cyprus:
- Face masks had to be worn by all members of staff at all times. There were big fines for those that didn’t follow the law.
- Face masks had to be worn in the hotel lifts and only a maximum of 4 people could enter the lift at the same time. There were also placement marks to illustrate the direction you need to stand in the lift.
- Gloves and masks had to be worn by all guests whilst self-serving during mealtimes.
- Face masks were compulsory in all shops and enclosed spaces. Fines were threatened by those that didn’t wear a mask.
- Face masks were compulsory on public transport and passengers had to follow social distancing measures.
The above list is just some of the things we noticed and how Cyprus was affected by the pandemic. It seemed that most people took the restrictions very seriously. Other than the above and being a little quieter than usual for this time of year, everyone else seemed normal. On some days it felt to us like Covid-19 didn’t exist! We were only occasionally reminded by the occurrence of a face mask.
Our overall experience of TRAVELLING DURING the PANDEMIC TO CYPRUS
We both had such an amazing holiday and were able to fully switch off from the outside world. The Cypriot government acted really quickly with Covid-19 to ensure that cases remained low. It really shows – we felt very safe! We were slightly apprehensive about travelling during the pandemic, what with everything happening in the world right now, but we are so glad we did!
Summer usually brings in the most tourism for Cyprus. However, businesses struggled to stay afloat this year and we found that a lot of hotels, bars and restaurants were temporarily closed. However, there were still lots of places still open for us to enjoy.
Our top tips for travelling during the Covid-19 pandemic
- Do your research – It goes without saying that you need to research the destination before booking any arrangements. The key piece of information is to understand if the country you are looking to visit is allowing travellers into the country and/or imposing a 14 quarantine, along with any other local governmental advice.
- Book flexible travel arrangements – This one is one of the most important in our opinion! Take advantage of hotels that are cancellable a few days before arrival and Airline tickets that can be changed or refunded for a voucher. We found British Airways to be the best in this regard, but Easyjet were also good. Airlines such as Ryanair and Wizz Air are best avoided as they don’t allow for much flexibility.
- Documentation – Ensure that you have any relevant documents printed out before your flight. Boarding passes, fit to fly certificates (for countries requiring a negative Covid test result) and any other documents you are required to present upon departure and arrival. Check the UK government travel advice website for entry requirements for your destination.
- Bring a spare mask – It’s always a good idea to bring at least one spare mask with you, especially if you own a surgical one, as the loopholes can be a bit temperamental. You won’t be allowed anywhere indoors if you don’t have one!
- Be prepared for random checks – Your temperature may be taken whilst in the airports, upon entering your hotel and in some shops. In some countries, you may be tested for Covid-19 at random.
- Be sensible – Even if you are travelling to a destination that is extremely safe and a low number of infections, it doesn’t mean you can break all the rules. Ensure you follow government guidelines and be responsible during your stay. 😊
- Book travel insurance with Covid cover – If you’re planning on travelling during the pandemic to a destination on the UK quarantine list, you probably won’t be able to get insured. A big deal breaker in our opinion! If you’re heading to a place on the ‘safe-list’, research travel insurance before buying. Look out for insurance cover that covers Covid-19. We found All Clear Insurance, Halifax and World Nomads to provide the best cover.
Thanks for reading! We hope this gave you an insight about travelling during the pandemic and what it’s really like. We had an unforgettable time away and are so grateful to have been able to go on holiday in 2020!
Travelling during current times can cause a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. You’ll will need to be aware of the risks and implications if you do travel abroad, as things can suddenly change. Stay safe and check back soon on more articles about Cyprus!
BY SUSIEAuthor bio
I’m is a passionate traveller that loves a sunny beach holiday, but also appreciate the cultural side to a trip and checking out undiscovered destinations. I’m the go-to Toucan Traveller for great holiday stories, cool photos and foodie recommendations.