Hooray, international borders are open again – at least to the double vaxxed.
There are conditions though, such as mandatory Covid testing – either before you leave or when you arrive, depending on where you go and who you fly with – and a pile more paperwork to fill in and submit than there used to be. But we’ve just learned the hard way that just because you’ve got a ticket to fly, it doesn’t mean you will actually get off the ground.
Our plan is to be away for four months, so when the NSW/Victoria state border re-opened in early November, we thought we’d do a quick road trip before we took off for our big adventure to say goodbye to family in Sydney and hello to a new nephew in Newcastle born during lockdown. Three cheers for being free (again) and easy.
It didn’t quite go to plan.
On our second day in Sydney we woke up to the news that the four people we had dinner with the previous night had themselves had dinner the night before they met us with someone who had just tested positive to Covid. All seven people in the chain are double vaxxed.
We get a test just to reassure ourselves that we’re not infected. It’s negative. We’re not a close contact at this point because we’ve never met the poor soul that now has the virus, but our four dinner companions are directed into isolation at home: luckily, they also test negative, but they still have to isolate for a week, and retest on day 6, which is two days before we are due to fly to London. A positive result by just one of those four will mean we’ll be deemed a close contact. And grounded.
We’d been very careful to make sure all our travel arrangements – flights, accommodation, car hire – had good cancellation policies, penalty free up until around 48 hours before departure. That window of refund possibility slams shut while we’re waiting for those four test results to come in.
It’s an anxious, terrifying wait. Two of our dinner companions’ tests come back negative within 24 hours, but the other two – thankfully negative – arrive just hours before we are due to drive to the airport. Cutting it fine is an epic understatement.
Restrictions may have eased – both at home and away – but travelling anywhere, even to the local pub, in this post pandemic world is still very much a game of Russian roulette. If you really want to play it safe, lock yourself in your bathroom for a week before you leave.
–What it’s actually like to go on a cruise right now
–Port Macquarie has found its full-strength cool
–PCR tests – what international travellers need to know
–Here’s what it was like on the first flight from Singapore to Australia