Travellers who want to avoid harsh quarantine requirements imposed by some countries are now planning stopovers in destinations with low Covid-19 restrictions.
While this allows them to see more than one destination, travel experts warn that travellers should familiarise themselves with the risks, especially with the uncertainty of global travel restrictions due to Covid-19.
South African travel agent Jennifer Morris, who owns Travel Savvy in Durban, said many of her clients have requested to spend 10 to 14 days in a country with little or no restrictions before travelling to destinations with strict quarantine requirements like the UK and India.
“As the most travel-restricted country in the world at the moment, it’s understandable that South Africans are feeling frustrated and looking at ways to avoid expensive quarantines. However, many factors need to be taken into consideration before you attempt this.
“At the moment, very few countries are offering unrestricted access to South Africans, and the ones that do are facing severe restrictions themselves by countries like the USA and the UK.” Morris said travellers need to ensure that their stopover country isn’t on the red list of their final destination.
“Restriction ‘red’ lists are updated constantly, and the amendments usually go into effect immediately or soon after an announcement. You could be transiting in an unrestricted country, only to find it added to your final destination’s ‘red’ list before you leave, making quarantine inevitable anyway. The entire exercise is incredibly expensive.
“The country you decide to transit in could also go into lockdown, as Kenya announced on Friday, March 26, which resulted in cancelled flights and restricted movements. You may find yourself stranded in transit with no way to travel to your destination and no way to return to South Africa,” she warned.
Travellers are required to show a negative PCR test three days before travel to a new destination.
However, spending time in another country may also expose them to Covid-19.
“You would have to test negative before leaving South Africa, and then again before leaving for your final destination,” Morris explained. “If you test positive, you would be forced to quarantine at your layover destination until you tested negative (this can take up to three months) before being allowed to fly anywhere, including back to South Africa,” she added.
Morris said if travellers tested positive for the virus while in transit, they would have to recover there and “be at the mercy of” the country’s medical infrastructure.
She said it could be dangerous and expensive, depending on your destination. That is not all. The person would be isolated from loved ones and may have to fork out a fortune for private medical treatment.
Besides country regulations, airlines have the right to cancel and reschedule their flights depending on the Covid-19 cases at a particular destination. The cancellation of flights may impact travel plans.
Gone are the days when travellers paid a set fee for their holiday that comes standard with flights, accommodation, food and activities.
They now have to factor in Covid-19 PCR tests, quarantine hotel costs and need a substantial amount of money in case of an emergency.
Budgeting is vital when planning pandemic holidays – especially if you want to make a stopover at another destination. Travellers have to plan for the worst. For example, a country has the right to ask travellers to quarantine even if they have made a stopover at another destination.
The travellers will need to have extra cash for accommodation and food while they quarantine.
Travellers should book travel insurance when taking trips during Covid-19. However, most companies are not covering losses incurred as a result of trip cancellations due to Covid. You will enjoy emergency medical and related expenses cover should you contract the virus on your journey.
Simmy Micheli, the manager for Sales and Marketing at Travel Insurance Consultants, said a vital benefit of taking a travel insurance policy is emergency medical cover.
She said that a comprehensive policy includes cover for losses incurred as a result of any of the listed perils for cancellation/curtailment of your trip, death and disability cover, personal liability cover, luggage cover and various other inconvenience benefits.