By guest author Keeley Collins / Part 1 of 3 articles
Some days, it feels like a dumpster fire, right? But my mother used to say “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” – and this has never been truer. Traveling now is possible – but it’s going to take a lot of flexibility – creativity – and tolerance for risk. This 3-part series will share our experiences, review our Shark Week liveaboard on the Sea Dragon, and inspire you (we hope) – to get out there again. Or at least to plan for your escape…
Adding fuel to the flames – every country has different rules, and they can change abruptly – closing their borders, requiring COVID tests and quarantines, and cancelling flights. We experienced all of these, plus Hurricane Isaias.. Make sure you plan appropriately – a good travel agent is worth their weight in gold. Why did we go? Our dive team (8 people) was highly motivated to make it happen for a terminally ill friend. We had relationships spanning decades with the owner/crew of the Sea Dragon, local contacts to help, and flexible jobs. Did I mention Shark Week?
Despite the challenges getting there, we enjoyed our 10-day trip & learned a lot about diving in the Exumas. A liveaboard was ideal – within 2 days we’d forgotten all about COVID. It’s truly eat-sleep-dive-repeat!
The requirements below are applicable for nearly all international destinations:.
- Check with US Embassy for current travel restrictions: https://bs.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information/
- Negative COVID Test Results = biggest challenge currently:
- Any timeline less than 10 days is risky….
- Expect 7-10 day test result turnarounds for most USA drive-through clinics/labs.
- Your desired destination may specify a “ RT-PCR“ test (molecular swab, not Rapid / Antibody test). Look closely at your target government’s restrictions.
- COVID testing ISN’T covered by insurance unless you have symptoms.
- We used a mail-in kit from Everlywell $250/48 hr results. (Here’s a link to the lab Keeley mentioned for your information: https://bit.ly/2Fs1oKo )
- Bahamas requires a Health Visa Application (72-hour turnaround, weekdays only)
- Flight cancellations: Some airlines refunded, but most gave us vouchers for future travel. Few repatriation flights are happening at the moment. You could get stuck there. See #4 (Something to keep in mind when planning your length of travel stay.)
- Private charter flight strongly recommended – best chance for return should current circumstances change while you’re traveling. Downside: weight limits & cost. (Please remember this decision is destination dependent and should take into account the country’s current health status.)
- Required proof of international health insurance coverage. Many health insurance plans don’t cover foreign countries, check yours. Be prepared to pay in cash regardless of coverage.
- Quarantines – 14-day quarantine at your expense.
- Travel/trip insurance does not cover COVID related expenses, check carefully.
- Take 30 days supply of medications (just in case).
- Your employer may require you to quarantine 14 days before returning to work. (Again, something to keep in mind when planning your length of travel stay.)
Our US based flights and connections changed 5 times prior to our departure. Make sure to check the status of your flights multiple times prior to leaving home. The good news about air travel, the reduced number of travelers made check-in a breeze. Most people were considerate about space and mask-wearing.
Until there are better solutions and a vaccine, consider the extra planning the new normal and start looking now to lock-in destinations in 2022-2023.
Stay tuned to hear more from Keeley on her liveaboard experience and her travels diving the Bahamas…with sharks!
Keeley Collins is an avid traveler & award winning marine photographer based in North Carolina. A DAN Ambassador, she dedicates her time to supporting non-profits that promote reef conservation, diver education and the NC scuba community. See her work at KelpandCoral.zenfolio.com .