For many months now the Coronavirus has impacted all our lives across the globe. While in many ways we are starting to adjust to the “new normal”, travel is one of the few things that is only picking up again very slowly now. Additionally, there’s not a lot of information about first-hand experiences of travelling in times of COVID-19.
So today, I would like to tell you all about my recent travel experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. My name is Fabienne, I am a travel and adventure enthusiast working at Follow the Camino/One Foot Abroad in Dublin.
My family lives in Germany, but I’ve travelled to and lived in multiple countries across the world. So, after months of lockdown, I finally got to visit my family in Germany again. Here is my experience of travelling by plane to Germany in June 2020 while the world is dealing with Coronavirus.
Planning & Packing
When you start planning, you want to inform yourself about travel restrictions or warnings for your destination country with regards to your country of origin. In this case, I looked up restrictions for people travelling from Ireland to Germany and back. The immigration websites of each country should have lists of the countries who are allowed in and whether they are required to quarantine on arrival.
More and more countries are opening up borders throughout July 2020, without having to self-quarantine. You can check our travel updates for the countries our trips focus on here. Although we update our blog regularly, please double-check that you are allowed to enter your preferred destination country.
I booked our flights roughly 3-4 weeks before departure (within Europe) as some airlines haven’t picked up their regular schedule yet. I found a flight for a reasonable price during Covid-19 and for the first time in months, I got a glimpse of hope for travel when receiving my booking confirmation. I was actually going on an aeroplane after months of lockdown!
Be Aware of Local Measures
- Social distancing at the destination (1 meter? 2 meters?)
- Which rules and regulations apply? What is open? (This might differ between regions or cities within countries as well)
- Where and when are masks mandatory or advisable?
Packing for Travel in Times of Covid-19
- Hand sanitiser
- Masks – there are some great washable masks online, otherwise, you’ll need multiple single-use masks
At the Airport
When we arrived at Dublin Airport, I was excited and anxious at the same time. Excited to see aeroplanes again and get into the travel mood, but also anxious as we have spent months in lockdown. Travelling outside of our new home country had a little bit of a strange aftertaste and we didn’t know what to expect.
Almost all airports across the world have made masks mandatory, so make sure you have your mask on before entering an airport.
When I entered the terminal I noticed a large number of signs, marks on the floor and hand sanitiser stands across the airport. There was also a number of safety and security officers checking that people maintained distances and wore their masks. The officers were also very helpful in answering any questions we had relating Covid-19.
Throughout my time before boarding, I noticed more cleaning staff than I had been used to, as well as more frequent cleaning sessions, and restrictions on the number of people in the bathrooms.
We only travelled with carry-on luggage, which made the check-in process very convenient. With the help of online check-in, we didn’t make use of any of the service counters. We went through security, where again, every person (including staff) was wearing masks.
Social distancing also applied when queueing. It worked quite well with marks on the floor and staff advising where necessary.
The Flying Experience
Every second seat in the waiting areas was marked as unavailable to make social distancing easier for travellers.
Shortly before boarding, the airline staff walked through the gate. They ensured social distancing and that people were wearing masks while queuing to board to aircraft. The boarding process was very well organised and people entered the plane with little pauses in between passengers.
On the aircraft, most middle seats were left empty and people acted very responsibly. At my time of travel, no drinks or food were served on the flight.
You also had to ring a flight attendant in case you wanted to use the bathroom. This measurement, however, was only put in place to help people to follow social distancing guidelines in the best way possible and avoid unnecessary crowding on the aircraft.
Other than that, it felt like a normal flight and I decided to relax and enjoy the beautiful aeroplane window seat view.
I received a very friendly and open welcome from my family in Germany. We spent most of our time outdoors with my family and since I personally love walking (ha! – who would’ve thought), I enjoyed many walks in nature, away from large crowds.
I even managed to surprise my best friends with some spontaneous social distancing walking. Walking outdoors is, quite honestly, one of the easier and safer things to do in times of COVID-19. Plus, it keeps your mind and body healthy. Generally, parks and walking trails were incredibly nice to walk and mostly empty, or people minding social distances.
While in Germany I also enjoyed my first restaurant visit in five months at my favourite Japanese restaurant in Düsseldorf. If you didn’t know before, Düsseldorf has one of the largest Japanese communities in Europe and simply the best food. So I was especially excited when we made a reservation to dine in.
It is advisable to reserve a table when going to a restaurant, as many are operating on a reduced capacity to allow for social distancing. If you don’t know where you might want to eat, count in a little extra time as you may need to wait for a table.
Wearing a mask in a restaurant is also mandatory in Germany while you aren’t eating. Wear a mask at a restaurant when…
- entering/leaving the establishment
- sitting at your table
- speaking to waiters
- going to the bathroom
- paying away from your table
The tables in the restaurant I visited were reduced by half, and mobile walls with plastic screens were built up between the tables to form a booth for each unit to sit in.
I was very sceptical about visiting a restaurant at first. I wanted to avoid any risk of catching COVID-19, and didn’t know how the restaurant would be set up and prepared. You also had to give your contact information for the local health departments in case they needed to do contact tracing.
But I felt very comfortable and not at all unsafe while I was there. Plus, the food was unbeatable and I enjoyed every little bit of it!
Tips & Recommendations
I had an incredible trip to Germany and I can’t wait for more trips as we hopefully start coming out of the coronavirus pandemic – or how I would like to put it – in times of safe and healthy tourism.
In the end, it’s up to every single one of us. We can all contribute to stopping the spread of the virus while supporting the travel industry and most importantly, keeping our minds and bodies healthy.
So, if you are ready to travel again, we are thrilled to hear it. Just make sure you travel as safely and responsibly as possible. Check official resources for more information on individual destinations and please reach out to us, should you have any more questions.
To make you feel more comfortable about planning your next walking holiday, we have updated our booking policy to increase our flexibility if your plans change.
We hope that these tips will help you to make plans for your next active holiday! If you would like to get more inspiration, we have plenty of Camino routes recommended for this summer and autumn.
To start preparing, our blog offers you plenty of information and inspiration for your next holiday. If you want to get your body back into walking shape for your next holiday or even just want to get stronger and more limber at home, check out our training session with physiotherapist Daniel.
It is also very important to keep busy during those weird times and that’s why we prepared the list of our favourite Camino-related ways to do it!
If you would like to find out more, go check out the interview with travel writers, Rupert Parker & Portia Jones about how has coronavirus disrupted the travel industry in a whole new way.
We hope to see you on the trails soon!
– Fabienne from Follow the Camino
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Originally published on 8th July 2020