Traveling has always been considered a luxury and yet, over the last few years, it’s become more and more accessible. From last-minute weekend getaways to long-haul flights, exploring our beautiful world has been our shared passion. Then suddenly, from one day to another, everything’s changed. Lockdowns, travel warnings, airport closures, quarantine: Coronavirus.
After months of uncertainty, the world is slowly but surely starting to open up again and we are looking at a “new normal” when it comes to traveling. How different is traveling during the Covid-19 pandemic and what should be considered, you ask? Let me give you an insight into my recent travel journey from the UAE to Austria…
The below information is based on my own, personal travel experience from the UAE to Austria. Due to the current situation travel restrictions, rules and regulations are changing on a daily basis. Before you travel, we recommend you get in touch with your end destination’s embassy to find out the latest requirements.
THE PRE-TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
It all started in the first week of July when I decided to travel back home to Austria. Luckily, restrictions were eased shortly before and I was able to book my flight with Emirates from Dubai to Vienna. The only requirement at that time was a negative Covid-19 test (not older than 4 days at the time of arrival in Austria), so off I went to the nearest clinic 72 hours before my flight.
There are several clinics as well as drive-through test centers in Dubai but I decided to have mine done at Aster Clinic in JLT as appointments were available and the cost of AED 330 was reasonable. I’m not going to lie, the nasal swab was horrible (I have very low pain tolerance) but thankfully it was also super quick and I was done within a few minutes. An important thing to consider is that you have to be home quarantine directly after the test until you receive the results. In my case, I decided to remain in quarantine until my flight, even though I received a negative (Yayyyy!) test result in less than 48hrs after the test.
THE DUBAI AIRPORT EXPERIENCE
With the test result print-out in my pocket, I headed to the airport, early morning on the 09th of July. The major difference for me this time was the luggage situation. I wasn’t allowed a carry-on suitcase and instead opted for a spacious backpack (fitting all my electronics) and my favorite travel handbag (a large Longchamp bag). To my surprise, it was almost more practical than the carry-on. 🙂
When I arrived at the airport, I was quite shocked as I had never seen the airport so empty before. Don’t get me wrong, it was busy considering the circumstances, but obviously nothing compared to “normal” operations at Dubai International Airport. From the moment I entered until I got on the plane, everything was extremely well organized by the airport personnel and Emirates crew. From temperature measurements to hygiene kits and screens between seats in the waiting area, I truly felt safe and well looked after the entire time.
Check-in was exactly the same procedure as always, except for the ground staff asking for my PCR test, which I gladly provided, before receiving my boarding pass.
The good thing definitely was that, since the airport wasn’t all that busy, the security check wasn’t either and I never got through so quickly.
Duty-free had recently reopened and I was able to witness a completely different shopping experience. Staff with sanitizers awaiting customers and every shop had square boxes taped on the floor allowing only one person per (square) box at a time.
Every other chair in the waiting area was blocked so travelers could practice social distancing.
THE AIRPLANE EXPERIENCE
The flight was well booked but not at full capacity; wherever possible, they kept one seat empty between two passengers.
Other than the fact that we had to wear masks at all times, meal service was slightly modified (I didn’t notice a huge difference) and no carry-ons were allowed, it all felt completely “normal”. The crew has been extremely friendly and tried to make everyone as comfortable as possible.
The only negative thing I’ve observed is people not keeping a distance from fellow passengers upon boarding and constantly touching their masks (removing it for eating/drinking a lot, then putting it back) without washing their hands/using sanitizer afterwards. Let’s face it, even if measurements are in place, the airport and airlines are doing the best they can, we all have to do our part too. It’s really that simple. 🙂
THE VIENNA AIRPORT & TRAIN EXPERIENCE
Upon arrival in Vienna, everything was very smooth. The Austrian army has been in charge of checking all PCR test results and has reconfirmed that a 14-days home quarantine was not necessary if a negative result (not older than 4 days) was provided. At this point, I’d also like to highlight the extreme professionalism and friendliness I’ve experienced at Vienna International Airport. Both, the Austrian army as well as the police and ground staff have been polite and efficient, all while keeping their smiles. After a long journey, this has been such a pleasant experience.
The arrivals hall at Vienna International Airport pretty much resembled a ghost town. Very few shops were open and it definitely was more quiet than usual.
I then continued my journey from Vienna to the south of Austria (Carinthia) by train. At that time, we only had to wear masks on public transport, in doctor’s offices and pharmacies. This has since changed and it is now mandatory again to also wear face masks in supermarkets, gas stations, post offices, and banks.
The train was very clean and not fully booked and social distancing was therefore easy to practice.
All in all, I’d say the “new normal” isn’t all that different from the “old normal”. The airports and airlines are taking great precautions in order to keep passengers and their crews safe. I haven’t felt at risk at any point during my trip.
WHAT SHOULD YOU CONSIDER WHEN TRAVELING (LONG-HAUL) THIS SUMMER?
SO, WOULD WE RECOMMEND TRAVELING (LONG-HAUL) THIS SUMMER?
I’m afraid there’s no simple yes or no answer to this. We are, of course, thrilled to see that our industry slowly starts to get back on its feet and more people are again considering a vacation. If wearing a mask for a couple of hours and getting a PCR test done don’t bother you and you’re carefully adhering to all safety measures, we certainly think you can expect a safe, smooth, and “normal” travel experience.