Travel in the Times of COVID: The Good, the Bad, and the Germy. Part 2

Quarantine and (anxiously) chill.

In part one of this two-part series, I detailed the current health protocols for traveling to Barbados. You can check out the full post here, but to catch you up quickly, I covered scheduling and getting your PCR test, compiling your paperwork and supplies, checking in at the airport, and making it onto the plane. In this second part of the series, you’ll find out what the experience is like once you’re actually on the ground. 

THE ARRIVAL

Deplane 25 people at a time. 

Hahahahhaha!! Truly, all I can do is laugh. Shortly after touchdown, the airline announced that this was to be the disembarkation procedure. A socially distanced, orderly filing out. That was a good attempt on the airline’s part, but nobody paid attention to it. Not even slightly. 

The goal was to deplane in that fashion since only 25 people at a time would be allowed on the shuttle buses to the terminal. Instead, almost everyone stood up at the same time and positioned themselves as close as possible to the passenger ahead of them. You know…like in the days before COVID.  -_-  The staff was strict about only allowing 25 passengers at a time on the buses, however, so once off the plane, there was some measure of social distancing possible. 

THE LINES

Queue like your life depends on it. 

The shuttle bus took us to the arrival gate (For those of you who know Grantley Adams International Airport, it was, ironically enough, Gate 13.). Signage directed those with a PCR test to queue to the left, while people without a test (of which there should be none, right??!!) to queue to the right. While we stood in line outside, uniformed staff checked everyone’s test documentation, and also tagged us, wildlife like, with bright red bands indicating that we had arrived from a high-risk region. (Thanks, Agent Orange.) People whose test date fell outside of the cutoff were removed from the queue and taken to get a test. (Note to tourists, TUI, and anyone with an entitled attitude: Barbados. Is. Not. Playing. Around. With. You. The island’s COVID numbers are comparatively low, and we plan to keep them that way.) 

Once we finally entered the arrivals hall, each passenger was made to sanitize their hands, and given a form to complete (biodata, testing status, quarantine arrangements, etc.). Upon completing the form and submitting it to one of the ground staff, we were then tagged with another band identifying which quarantine hotel we would be staying at.

After this, we all went through immigration. Since deplaning, the total time up to this point was an hour. 

Then came Queue Part Two. 

In the baggage claim area there were two more lines, which you couldn’t join without sanitizing your hands and getting your documentation checked again. 

I have bad queue karma, so I ended up in the line that took about an hour and a half. When I finally reached the desk, a representative from the Ministry of Health gave me yet another form which included quarantine instructions, contact information for the Ministry of Health, COVID symptoms to be aware of, and a temperature check monitoring chart. 

While I appreciate and applaud the Ministry of Health’s thoroughness, they frankly need to station more staff at the pre-baggage-pickup checkpoint. There were two people processing two full international flights from JFK and LHR respectively. The molasses-like slowness of the progress made the experience much more frustrating than it needed to be. All told, the time from disembarkation to getting into my taxi was close to 3 hours. 

THE QUARANTINE

Take a cab to your designated hotel. 

There were no agents in the customs area, so the next step was to get to my quarantine accommodation. Staff just inside the exit doors of the terminal verified my name, contact information, and hotel. A staff member in the arrivals area just outside of the exit doors did the same, and informed the taxi dispatcher of where I would be going. The dispatcher will get your cab – one passenger per vehicle – tell you the price, and you’ll be on your way. If memory serves, my taxi cost USD $20. Naturally, this price will vary depending on the location of your hotel.

Check in.

I stayed at Dover Beach Hotel and, despite the circumstances, had an enjoyable stay. The check in process was quick and seamless. I was comfortably ensconced in my room in minutes. They provided an information sheet detailing the quarantine protocols, the most important of which was that guests under quarantine are not allowed to leave their room. 

Stay put. 

Why does this need to be called out? Because some people have no considerateness or common sense. The people in the rooms adjacent to and obliquely across from mine repeatedly left their rooms to socialize. I have no words. These are the types of people who keep putting locals in jeopardy.

Get supplies.

Since I’m vegan, there was not really much on the hotel menu for me to eat. If you are someone with dietary restrictions, you will have to take that into account and plan accordingly. Fortunately, my loved ones dropped off a care package with lots of fruit and other goodies, and I borrowed some crockery and cutlery from the hotel. I had learned beforehand that I would also need a thermometer, so I brought one with me. If you don’t travel with your own, the hotel staff can help you source one.

Contact the Ministry of Health. 

Or they might contact you. In my case, someone from the Ministry called my room the morning after I checked in. She introduced herself, explained that I would have to text her my temperature for the next 7 days, and we exchanged phone numbers. Thereafter, we communicated via WhatsApp. 

Take your temperature twice daily.

Send the data to your Min. of Health contact person each night.

Go for your 2nd COVID test. 

Your second PCR test should be administered four to five days after your original test. My assigned agent made my appointment for me, arranged transportation, and then WhatsApped me the information. Blissfully simple. The driver was there promptly – early, actually – and off we went. This test was a little less comfortable than the one that I had had done in the States, but still not horrible. I did not feel, as many people have reported, like I was having brain surgery done. 

I lucked out because there was no queue at the polyclinic that I was taken to. I was in and out in minutes. Many people, however, have reported long lines and waiting times, so in addition to your mask, take some water and a snack with you just in case. 

Get your results.

I took my test at around 5:00 p.m. on December 11th, and my get out of jail card Ministry of Health certificate was emailed to me at just before midnight on the 12th. That’s a very decent turnaround time. 

LESSONS LEARNED

  • Plan to stay in quarantine for longer than 3 nights.

When making my reservation, the hotel suggested that I book three nights and extend as necessary. To be honest, the likelihood of you getting out of quarantine in that timeframe is slim to none. Set your expectations (and your budget) for four to five nights at the minimum.

  • If you have to quarantine, Barbados is one of the safest places to do it. 

The rules are stringent, which is why there is no community spread. The island at this point is swimming in a sea of hand sanitizer, and I for one am happy about that. Barbados has their containment and contact tracing protocols down to a fine science. People who violate quarantine or breach other protocols are identified, fined, and if necessary, jailed. Many other countries could learn from us. #ISaidWhatISaid. 

  • I would only do this to see family.

The entire COVID-travel experience is quite a vision quest. I absolutely don’t regret it, of course, but I would not subject myself to it for a casual trip. My hope is that before this time next year, I’ve received both vaccinations, which will hopefully make pandemic travel a bit easier. 

I end this as I did Part 1: stay safe, stay healthy, use common sense, follow the protocols, and for heaven’s sake #WearADamnMask. 

Comments

  1. Kathleen Hurley says:

    Another excellent post, Lisa. Interesting and informative, as always. Thank you.

  2. Mitchell Allen says:

    Hi Lisa,

    Wow. The things we take for granted. You really do have to have more funds set aside to travel during these times. Imagine the horror of not having enough to extend your stay! Yikes.
    I’m glad you had a safe experience, overall.

    Cheers,

    Mitch

    1. Thanks so much, Mitch. And Happy New Year! It’s definitely not as easy as it used to be.

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