travel

Travelling during COVID-19

I have just returned from my first overseas trip in five months, and although I was so excited to finally get away (and back to my favourite city; Amsterdam), I was also a little apprehensive at how drastically different the travelling may be. While there were notable changes – mainly to facilitate social distancing – the whole process at both airports ran smoothly and efficiently and I felt safe.

I flew out from London Luton, and from the moment I entered the airport, there were clear signs to follow and plenty of hand sanitiser stations to use.

I’d already checked in online (which is encouraged by most airlines now) and so I proceeded straight to security with my mobile boarding pass. Security was very quiet – I assume due to the fact number of flights is currently reduced – and there were plastic screens up to keep passengers separate when putting your belongings into trays.

Once through into the departure lounge, there were lots of signs stating the rules to ‘help protect yourself and others’, along with plenty of hand sanitiser stations. The seating areas had also been marked, with seats ranging from empty single chairs, those reserved for family groups and those which could not be used at all. Some food and drink outlets were open and allowed you to remove your mask for eating and drinking, as long as it was replaced as soon as you were finished. Shops such as WHSmith and Boots were also open.

Boarding the aircraft wasn’t too different from pre-COVID times, apart from a few small changes, such as scanning your own boarding pass and holding your own passport open to show staff rather than handing them over.

Once on the aircraft itself, there were no ‘spare’ or empty seats left between parties as some people predicted there would be, and we were asked to take our seats quickly and avoid walking around the aircraft. The cabin crew asked us to make sure there were only ever two people in the queue for the toilet at any time, and the on board magazines and menus had been temporarily removed. A reduced service was offered in terms of food and drink, and they no longer accept cash as payment.

Upon landing, disembarking was done in a very orderly fashion, and this is one thing I’d be more than happy to see stay long term! We left the plane row by row, only standing and retrieving bags from the overhead lockers once the row in front had moved.

There are currently forms that need filling in depending on which country you’re visiting, and your airline should inform you of this before your flight. I was never asked to show my health declaration form at passport control in Amsterdam, but I saw some people who were randomly selected to do so, so make sure you’ve filled in everything you need before you fly, just incase. When returning to the UK, you must complete an online form which can be found here. This cannot be completed until 48 hours before your return.

The return journey from Schiphol followed a similar pattern to my outbound journey, although the rules in The Netherlands are more relaxed than the UK and so masks were only necessary at the airport when passing through security and boarding the plane. Again, there were plenty of hand sanitiser stations and signs telling you to keep 1.5 meters apart (the distance necessary in The Netherlands). Schiphol have also set up a dedicated webpage with all of the information you need regarding travelling to and from the airport, your time in the airport and the most frequently asked questions from travellers. It was super helpful and something that we could really do with from the major UK airports too!

Overall, my travelling experience felt safe and well organised, and I wouldn’t hesitate to travel again in the near future (as long as government advice permits!)

For a full list of countries that can currently be visited from the UK, see the government list here.

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