By Alice Bloom
Across Europe, travel is much more widespread than in the UK, where the costs and logistics required to navigate a holiday during Covid-19 have made many question whether the hassle is worth the supposedly relaxing break. Having struggled through the seemingly endless requirements of foreign travel in the coronavirus-era and finally made it to Russia for the first leg of my year abroad, the experience has certainly reminded me that the effects of coronavirus are far from over, despite the UK’s ostensible ‘freedom day’ almost two months ago.
Indeed, if you do decide to attempt to escape the UK, the rules and requirements vary depending on a myriad of factors, such as your destination, nationality, and vaccination status (including when, where, and which vaccine). First of all, many countries require a fit-to-fly PCR test to enter, which must be done in the UK no more than 72 hours before arrival, but with enough time to get the results before departure. As well as balancing this fragile timeframe, many have rebuked the UK’s pricing, labelled as excessive and exploitative by our own health secretary Sajid Javid. In the UK, the average private PCR test costs £92, in stark contrast with the £20 fee in countries like Turkey.
Having last got a flight in 2019, the thought of going through an airport and onto a plane seemed like a foreign concept, but once there the typical procedures and nuances soon came back to me. At the airport, the only noticeable differences to pre-coronavirus flights were the mandatory masks and the certificates showing a negative PCR test and proof of vaccination, requested on several occasions. By the time I made it onto the plane, the familiar excitement of taking off and heading to a new country began to set in.
Gauging the rules once in Russia has proven to be a particularly challenging task. I was told by my university to get another PCR test when I arrive here and isolate until I get a negative result. While this ended up only being one day, I have met people here who have been told to isolate from anywhere between 1-14 days. Furthermore, due to the high cases in St Petersburg, which is in the midst of a peak, it is supposedly in a form of lockdown. However, I quickly learned that the Russian version of lockdown is a stark contrast to the UK’s stringent no-sitting-on-a-bench rules. I attempt to quench my look of surprise as the locals complain about lockdown, wondering when they will have to stop wearing masks (the seemingly only rule of this lockdown, and one which is scarcely followed at that).
Of course, Covid-19 provides a whole new host of risks to travel abroad; many people have caught the virus on planes or at airports despite the stringent rules in place. A positive test result is enough to put an immediate end to any holiday, with many ending up stuck in their hotel rooms for up to two weeks. Or perhaps even worse, the lottery of the fortnightly travel reviews which induce a background fear of your destination moving to the red list, and either being stuck abroad or landing a 10-day hotel quarantine and £2285 bill upon return.
I am undoubtedly excited to finally be out here and past the hurdles it took to arrive. After two long years, the opportunity to travel again has come as a welcome source of excitement. Being here for four months, I am sure the experience will outweigh these struggles. However, for a short holiday I am personally not convinced it is worth the hassle, unless visiting a country with exceptionally lenient rules and requirements. Indeed, thanks to the ever-changing rules and subsequent logistical challenges, travelling is no longer the relaxing treat it once was!
Image: Eva Darron via Unsplash