Notwithstanding the Covid-19 issues I have been lucky enough to have four holiday visits to Europe this year; five if I include a skiing trip to Italy in February when I’m sure my wife and I caught the disease! So I thought I would give readers a brief outline of the new normal for travelling in Covid Times.
First, as always, plan ahead and know what paperwork you may need to visit your chosen destination. We had two trips to Greece and each time we needed to provide a copy of the Greek Government acknowledgement of our registration before being allowed on board the plane. Each country has different requirements so it is best to check the respective government websites rather than just relying on your airline carrier’s advice. Equally, know what may be required upon your return to the UK in the form of test and trace documentation which is now compulsory.
Pleasantly and slightly surprisingly, Heathrow was a picture of efficiency and effectiveness when it came to check-in. Remember that you must wear a face mask at all times – though do take them off if you are using face recognition entry gates!! For our Greek trips we needed to go to the check-in counter even though we had checked in online and had only carry-on baggage. This was due to the need to verify the aforementioned registration. For our other two trips, to Portugal and Italy, it was straight through to security and the lounges. Some but not all duty free stores were open but this is never a priority for us.
Boarding takes a little longer but most airlines sensibly ‘board from the back’ so one doesn’t have to look at all those smug Business Class travellers who normally get priority boarding. Take food and drink with you as there is generally nothing forthcoming from the airline. Face masks are compulsory for the duration of the flight. One very positive change is disembarkation where now it is done four rows at a time hence avoiding the mad crush as everyone gets up, jostles, pulls down baggage then stands hunched for the next ten minutes before shuffling to the exit. Hopefully that innovation remains whenever we return to normal times.
Although not great for all those who rely on the tourist season for a living, the lack of crowds was a god send. We had tickets to various galleries and the like in Italy where the social distancing is taken seriously so we had ample time to enjoy the exhibitions. Similarly the beaches in Greece were wonderful. One additional advantage is that the locals really do appreciate you coming to their country/city/town/restaurant/etc and the welcome is genuine.
Now for the best hint. Cash is still King; particularly outside the major cities. Discounts are always available for everything from food to clothing to whatever. I was even offered a better car hire rate for cash! So where did I get my cash? Not that I would ever use them, but note that a number of traditional providers have closed at the airports, and buying from the likes of the post office is just uneconomical.
So of course, I used Bidwedge.com where the rates and service were outstanding. I bought a large amount of Euros and they arrived the next day. And they offer a buy back service with immediate crediting to your bank account. Using your UK credit or debit card results in a number of ‘service charges’ (what a misnomer that is!!) and together with their retail rates results in an awful effective exchange rate.
Hopefully this has been helpful and if you can do it, I highly recommend a visit to Europe.
One more thing, if you want to travel then have a look at Just Travel Cover – experts in travel insurance