Travel in the Time of Covid provides a bit of insight and a bit of perspective on how to travel internationally.
Something interesting and awesome seems to be happening. It is occurring right before our eyes.
Borders are opening, airports are filling. The world is beginning to resume its normal, global interconnectedness at a frantic pace. Public health emergencies, lock downs and border closures—may we all sincerely hope—could well be a thing of the past.
As the Pandemic transforms from an oppressive, all-encompassing fog of shit into a strange, horrible, Twilight Zone episode of a memory… perhaps we can all begin to get back about our business. May it now be time to make up for all of the lost opportunities, canceled trips, and mitigated plans that defined so much of 2020.
Of course, by the fact that I am writing this and you are reading it, we are more fortunate than others among us. If missed leisure opportunities define your memory of the pandemic—rather than something much worse—you’re living right.
With all appropriate respect for those who have suffered—and even a nod that we can’t be completely sure about what is to come next– enough of this shit. It is time to get back to fishing, traveling and eating in great, exotic places.
We picked a hell of a year to launch something called FishTravelEat—for much of the first eight months of our existence, about all we could do was eat (and drink!)
As we collectively reemerge and set about living with a renewed vengeance, we must navigate new obstacles. The process of leaving one country, entering another has become a bit more complicated.
The process can be a bit nerve wracking the first time you go through. And it does include a scenario by which you can be quarantined in another country. The process can be anxiety provoking… but it beats the Hell out of being stuck around the house.
Please Consult with the Latest Information Before Traveling
Before we get into how it works, here’s some legalese. I’ve traveled internationally twice since February of this year—both times for the purpose of fishing.
I have not contacted the Corona Virus or SARS, Ebola, social anxiety disorder or anything else on these Covid era travel trips. Neither have I been forced to hole up in a hostel someplace to quarantine. Nor have I been unduly inconvenienced by any new laws or regulations that define international air travel.
These have been my experiences—and I can relate how they have worked for myself—but can’t make any promises that your experience will be the same. Before going on any international trips, check the latest rules with your airline, the host for your trip, and on the appropriate government sites in the US and the countries that you will be visiting.
If you are not quite comfortable with the process yet, that’s ok too. If, however, you feel ready… let her eat… here’s how it worked for me.
The processes described here reflect only our understanding of the rules at the time of our travel—to Guatemala in February and to Panama in April 2021. The world still seems a more fluid place than it was before Covid, so be ready for the possibility to roll with some changes.
The Covid Travel Process
Both Guatemala and Panama required proof of a negative Covid test in the days prior to departure. In the case of Guatemala, the test needed to be performed within 72 hours of departure. Panama required the test to be performed within 48 hours.
You can schedule the test at many pharmacies in most places. Both CVS and Walgreens have electronic appointment systems. When you schedule your test, be sure that it is of the 24-hour result variety.
There is another type of test that provides results within four days, but cannot guarantee the results any more quickly (though they may well come through).
The test consists of coming up to the drive through and sticking a swab up each nostril for 15 seconds per side. You then slide it back into the sleeve the swab came from and go home. They email you the results.
If your test comes back negative, it’s party time. A positive test can be a buzzkill from Hell.
You can print out the test results and keep a copy on your phone. You can either keep the email or screenshot it and save it to photos—in case you lose your paper copy while packing.
The Health Pass Form
Governmental agencies from most countries request that you fill in a form that affirms that you are not sick and that you can provide a negative Covid test from within the window. Guatemala goes a step further.
My favorite part of the five question Guatemalan Health Survey was number 2. It reads, “Ha tenido contacto directo con orina, heces, sangre, saliva de personas enfermas en los últimos 21 dias?”
I have never been more happy to deny to anything in my life. Guatemala’s Minsterio de Salud Pública y Asistencia Social actually asked if in the last 21 days a sick person had spit, pissed, bled or shit on me!
Panama’s Covid travel form was a bit less colorful, but had more or less the same idea. They just want to make sure that some tall gringo doesn’t bring the Corona with him—and you certainly cannot blame them for this precaution.
Boarding, Flying and The Like
Upon showing all of these forms and proofs of health to the airport ticket agents, the boarding and flying process is about what it always has been. While you still have equal chance of being stuck next to someone who is drunk or smells like cheese, the lingering Pandemic has introduced two new types of air traveler.
Some poor bastards on airplanes these days are now even more nervous and fidgety than ever before. Folks of this type—the kind that mumble, “Oh my God!” under their breath as you sit down next to them…
These poor folks seem to visualize an airplane like being trapped in an air fryer of recirculating Covid. For some of them, it can be nearly more than they can handle—even while wearing a face shield and 16 masks.
Then there are those on the other side of the equation. I was seated across from one guy who actually held a glass of coca cola to his lips for 15 minutes—without drinking it—just so as not to have to put the mask back on. Watching this yahoo fight with the flight attendants was a true revelation as to the human condition.
Arriving in your destination is also about like what it has always been. Aside from maybe having to walk through a scanning thermometer or two—that likely as not might blurt out “temperatura normal” (HIPPA laws in the states would never let that happen!), you just need to show your negative test, your passport and the health survey to the customs agent and you’re on your way.
Now it’s time to go fishing or do whatever you came to do.
Covid Travel: The Return Procedure
To board your flight back to the states, your airline will require proof of a negative Covid test within three days of your departure flight. If you are going to a fishing lodge, your host will likely have all of the information you need to know.
In both cases, my hosts arranged for the Covid testers to come—decked out in full hazmat suites—ready to explore the inner workings of my sinus cavity. The testers were nurses or some type of health care professional that was entirely more medically skilled than my self-administered swab in my truck. The lodge then arranges for the delivery of your test results and gives you everything you need.
I was fishing with a great group of three guys in Guatemala. Two of them put the manager up to reporting to their friend that his test was positive and he would immediately have to report to the hospital for quarantine. It was some pretty funny shit.
That said, there is a possibility that you could catch Covid or test positive on your trip. You would be wise to speak with you’re the lodge or your host about the procedure and what they can do for you if you find yourself in such a predicament.
Most lodges offer to put you up should you need to quarantine.
Back to the States
Upon checking in for your flight home, you’ll need to show your passport and proof of negative Covid test to the airline booking person. Then you just have make your way through the process (of disrobing, un and repacking eight times, being groped and temperature scanned eight times) that is passenger screening these days.
Once you clear that gauntlet, it’s onto your flight and time to see what your luck has in store for the seats around you. When you land, the customs process of getting into the US is about the same as it always has been.
With that—if you can remember where you parked your car—you’ve done it. You have survived travel in the time of Covid.
Even if your plane neighbor smells like Cheetos and keeps coughing on you, the ability to go places beats the Hell out of lockdown! Why not call up your favorite fishing charter and stamp the passport… it’ll be fun. Besides, you’ve probably earned it—we all have.