Travel is making a gradual emergence after 2 years, and we've definitely missed the fun and adrenaline of it all: planning the trip, boarding the plane, exploring new experiences; many of us just can't wait to have a vacation now! Recently, I've had the experience to take my first trip in two years to South Korea, and there's one important thing I've realised: travel may be back, but it's not the same as we know it to be. Fret not though, I've got you covered on what you can expect for your next trip and how you can navigate through these changes!
P.S. Here are more guides for your upcoming trip!
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7 Tips To Get Through Your First Post-Pandemic Vacation
1. Check that you have ALL documents needed by your destination countryCredit: Unsplash
This is my first tip because it's really important, and if you take this a little too lightly, you might end up in the same situation as me: being denied entry to board a flight just because I misread one tiny but crucial detail in the documents required ? Here's what happened: I was actually supposed to head to South Korea on Tuesday (17th May), and stay in Dongdaemun, Seoul for one night, before heading over to the Jeollanam-do region. While the Asiana Airlines staff were checking through my documents at Changi Airport, she stopped at my PCR test, and looked me in confusion. "Why did you do your PCR test so early?", she questioned.
I didn't quite understand what she meant, until she told me that I was supposed to do the PCR test 48 hours within my flight (i.e. I was supposed to do it on Sunday, instead of Saturday). As a result, my PCR test has expired; it was as if I didn't do my PCR test at all, so I was not allowed to board the flight ? I was really devastated, thinking that I was unable to join the rest. After all, this was my first time heading to South Korea, so all the hype and excitement I had disappeared instantly. I had to do an express PCR test the next day, and the travel operators for the trip managed to get me on a flight to Seoul the next day (18th May).
While many countries may not required a proof of a negative Covid-19 result, there's no harm in rechecking if your destination country requires it or other key documents such as your vaccination certificate, quarantine-free passes, visas and more, since there might be differentiated measures for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Have a checklist prepared, and keep all your documents in a handy file that you can keep in your carry-on ?
If you want to take extra precaution, you can do what I did: I printed out 3 copies each of all the documents required from k-ETA, to vaccination certificates, and flight itineraries, and placed one copy in my bag and the other two in my luggage. Trust me, missing a flight is truly a scary experience and you wouldn't want to start your trip on a bad note ? But if it happens, your Plan B comes in handy, which leads me to my next point.
2. Choose a flight that have flexible policies
The pandemic is still unstable regardless of improvements in the situation worldwide, so choosing a flight that offers flexible policies on rebooking and cancellation will come in handy. In my case, Asiana Airlines swiftly provided assistance to me and rebooked my tickets to the next day for a small fee! They even brought forward the halal meal I requested previously on the new flight at no additional cost, even though special requests for meals must be made 24 hours prior to the flight. You'll need this kind of reassurance when you book for your trip; no matter what situation you face, the airline you choose will be able to help you still get to your vacation! ?
I also suggest that you add-on flight insurance to your airline ticket before checking out. It might be a 'light' type of coverage, but it protects the costs of your flight, and prevents you from forking out too much money! Flight insurance, however, may not cover other costs such as Covid-19 protection, or other emergencies, so here's where getting a travel insurance helps, which I will discuss in the next point! ?
3. You'll definitely want to have travel insurance nowCredit: Unsplash
The surefire way to have a peace of mind when you travel is by purchasing a travel insurance with comprehensive benefits that includes emergency medical benefits, emergency medical transportation benefits, and coverage for other unexpected expenses, like trip cancellation and lost or stolen luggage ?
Choose one that applies to the type of traveller you are and how long will you be travelling for! The most important part you need in your insurance is the Covid-19 coverage. This is truly the worst case scenario, but being stuck in a foreign country having Covid-19 is already scary enough, but not being able to pay for the treatment offered is even scarier! ?
4. Be prepared for long queues at immigration
The queues for check-in at Changi Airport and Incheon Airport were really, really long! With the amount of documents the staff have to check through, plus having to wait to take my PCR test at Incheon Airport, you have to mentally and physically prepare yourself for longer waiting times. To avoid the anxiety and stress of waiting around, come to the airport earlier! ?
Not only will you be able to cut your waiting time, but at least you'll be prepared for any other hiccups that could happen! For PCR tests that must be done at your destination country, try to book an early slot (i.e. at least 1 hour from the time of your arrival at your destination country).
5. Everything is digital now...
You'll be literally using your smartphone for just about everything: For starters, checking-in to your flight will be fuss-free, contactless and faster, so it's much safer and you don't have to wait too long at immigration; just drop your luggage and go! Here's where a trusty pocket Wi-Fi or data passport will come in handy. Wherever you are in the country, even if you're in the deep countrysides of South Korea like where I was, having Wi-Fi connection is should be one of the top 5 items on your packing list ?
For me, I spent two nights at a homestay experience in the countrysides of Gangjin, and I needed to use the Wi-Fi for work. The Wi-Fi server provided by the owners of the home were not fast enough, and my Yogofi Travel Wifi, which I ordered via Klook, came to my rescue! It uses a virtual SIM technology to allow seamless connectivity all over the world, so I'm connected no matter where I am! ?
6. .... but don't take chancesThis is an exact representation of how stressed I was! Credit: Unsplash
We're all too dependent on technology, and when that fails, we become at loss on what to do, and I totally understand your fear. At the homestay experience, I unfortunately was not able to fully charge all the devices I need (i.e. company phone, my personal phone, portable charger, laptop, and others) because they were charging extremely slowly and by the time we left Gangjin for our next accommodation at Yeosu, I was literally not connected to anything because everything has died. And that was simply a nightmare ?
While I was lucky I had friends to help me, it might not be the case for those of you who are travelling alone or without tour groups! There's two options to this: it's either you buy a temporary SIM card in your destination country, or head off to the public places such as airports or malls which may provide free Wi-Fi.
7. Know about the social distancing measures in your destination countryCredit: Unsplash
This might seem like a no-brainer to you, but you should never assume that the social distancing regulations back home applies overseas! In addition, just because you're overseas, it doesn't mean you should be lax and not take precautions; the pandemic is still not over yet! For instance, we were at Yeosu ARTE Museum, and we wanted to take some pictures for our respective contents, but we all know having masks in our pictures aren't glamorous enough ?
One of us decided to take down his mask to pose for a quick picture, however a staff member spotted him doing so and reprimanded him! They even wanted to kick all of us out! So really, just play safe and keep a stack of masks in your bag; it's not worth all the hassle! South Korea's social distancing rules are also a little more stringent, so if you're heading there, check out this list first!
I don't intend to scare you with all these expectations; it's just some tips to help you get through your first trip in two years so that you can experience a fuss-free, fun trip ? Ultimately you want your trip to go smoothly so that you can enjoy your much-needed break! What other tips have I missed out? Let me know!