In this report, we share our Travel Warning How to Restart International Travel.
When you land in a country that has just reopened international travel in the last few months, things just won’t be the same. Many international airports will have fewer services available to help you than they did the last time you arrived.
In the past, you would often have been fine landing in the early morning or in the late at night but that isn’t necessarily true anymore. Now you have to have a backup plan for everything. What we took for granted about travel services before the pandemic may no longer be true.
It makes sense if you think about it. Why would companies just pay people to sit around for a year when there were no tourists? They didn’t. So now they are trying to hire and train new people. So you will not find the same quality of service you expect from over 1 year ago.
So this report is a Travel Warning How to Restart International Travel so you will know how to cope with all the problems we have encountered over the last year since we never stopped traveling.
Travel Warning How to Restart International Travel
Whenever we would fly into a new country, we used to do the following routines. But some airports and cities have not completely recovered from the services they had before the chaos started over a year ago now. So we explain the adaptations we have made to overcome the challenges we have faced at various international airports.
One. Visa: Verify that no visa was required. First, we check Kayak.com to see if either Qiang or I need a visa to fly into the next country. Kayak will also tell you any additional requirements to fly into the country including negative COVID tests, health questionnaires, etc. Second, we verify what we learned at Kayak on the Embassy webpage and the tourism webpage for that country. Even if no visa is required, what documents will immigration expect us to have upon arrival? They may need proof of accommodations, our itinerary, onward flight proof, proof of negative COVID test, health questionnaire, etc. Decide to go to that country if the requirements are reasonable or pick another nearby country with less documentation or testing. Once we pick the next country to visit based upon requirements for entry, then we begin to get all of the required documents and move through the following steps.
In step One, you will find that there are just many more documents you need. In the following steps, you will find more actions you need to take in this Travel Warning How to Restart International Travel.
Two. Flight. Book a one-way flight into the country once we decide to go. (More about onward flights later). Use the “cheapest flight of the month” feature on Skyscanner to find the best airfare to that country. Once you book the flight, check to see if the airline wants any documents not required by immigration before they let you board the flight. They will have the documents listed on the airline webpage. Added to Step Two. Try to book your flight so it lands during normal business hours at your destination country. We recently landed in Guatemala City very early in the morning and nothing was open in arrivals: No ATMs, no SIM card sellers, no ground transportation. Luckily, we found an ATM machine and SIM card seller in departures. So we were able to pull out local money to buy a local SIM card. Once we had the SIM card, we were able to order an Uber car. So we were fine. But when you book your flight, try to land at a more reasonable hour to increase your chances of finding open services when you land.
Three. Accommodations. Research the best place in Airbnb for your needs including internet connections, central location around places of interest, kitchen utensils, air conditioning, pool, gym, whatever you require. Pick the top 5 or ten properties and make offers on all 10 to get the best-negotiated price. Boof for a few weeks or months depending on time available to you on the visa and other places you want to see in that country. Added to Step Three. Book only the first few nights in the landing destination and then follow this new process to get a better deal with feet on the ground (link provided). Airbnb used to be a workable solution for slow travelers on a budget but has become overpriced in many areas of the world. Hotel owners have been lobbying corrupt politicians for ‘government protection’ from Airbnb competition. You have to be more creative in many parts of the world to get a furnished apartment now at a reasonable price. So try our new process. It has been working for us.
Four. Transportation. Verify if Uber or Grab is allowed in the country, and if so, verify if they are allowed to pick you up at the airport. You can Google to find this information or send a message to your accommodations to ask. If Uber or Grab is not allowed, ask them for a ground transportation referral and how much a taxi to their destination should cost. If you will be using a taxi, and you don’t know the local language, have your accommodation host leave a recorded message on your WhatsApp account explaining to the taxi driver in the local language how to get to your accommodations and how much money it should cost. The last sentence should ask the taxi driver if they agree to the price. Later in step 7, you will play that message to the taxi driver. Added to Step Four. Whether or not Uber or Grab is operating, get the landlord to leave the message described above. If there are no SIM card sellers when you land, you won’t be able to order Uber or Grab. So you can use the message to take a taxi. Your other choice would be to just order ground transportation and pay in advance so someone is waiting with your name on a sign when you land at the airport. That often costs more, but it might be worth it especially if you are landing at an odd hour or the airport just reopened recently for international tourists and the services available in the airport are unknown or it is a very remote destination.
Five. 12 Hours Before Flying. Exchange Rate. Check the exchange rate for the local currency where you traveling. Then you will know how much to pull out at the ATM in local money when you arrive. For example, if the local currency is 7 to 1 USD, and you normally pull out $200 USD at a time. You will know to pull our 1400 of local currency from the ATM when you arrive in the new country. Onward Flight Proof. Also, if required, get your onward flight proof. Onward flight proof is available from multiple companies for about $12 to $15 USD per person. They put your real name on a real flight for 48 hours in the international database so it functions as proof of onward flight for 48 hours. 48 hours is just enough time for you to check-in, fly, and clear immigration in the new country. Then the ticket expires so you will not be able to fly for $12 USD. Later, when you decide to actually leave the country, you’ll have to pay for a flight out of the country before your visa or extension expires. Here are a few of the ones we have used recently. Top Onward Flights. Onward Ticket. Research Sim Cards. Read online about which SIM card you should buy and have installed in your unlocked phone when you land in the new country. Added to Step Five: Do all of the above but add these changes. We used to just save PDFs to our smartphone of all documents that we might need to show immigration upon entry into a new country. But now we print out any documents needed to board the flights or clear immigration (documents determined in Step One above). Why? The immigration officials seem to have more time on their hands these days because they are not so busy. So they seem to be asking more questions and asking for more documents. So we just print them out and hand them to them now when they ask. They don’t always ask, but we print them just to avoid having to talk too much since they have so much time now. Airports are not as crowded now. We just hand them the documents and they read rather than open them on our smartphone.
Six. Day of Flying: Go to the airport at least 3 hours before your flight time to check-in. If something goes wrong, you will have time to adjust and still make your flight. For example, if your onward flight proof (described above) is rejected (which has never happened to me), you will have time to buy a real onward ticket and show proof before you miss your flight. You need time to go to a coffee shop, get wifi, and buy a ticket. So go to the airport early. Added to Step Six: Do all of the above, but also go to the money exchanger before your boarding gate and exchange $100 USD for the local currency of where you are flying. The airport services around the world are more limited so you may not be able to exchange money when you land and if the ATM machine fails and there is no money exchanger, you won’t be able to buy a SIM card when you land. Without the SIM card you won’t be able to order an Uber. So if there is no money exchanger or functioning ATM machine when you land in the new country, you will have at least some local money. Better to have some local currency when you land. Then you will have money to pay a local taxi to get to your accommodations even if you can’t order an Uber taxi.
Seven. Landing in New Country. Clear immigration, grab your luggage, and clear customs. Grab local money at the first ATM you see. Don’t assume there will be multiple ATM machines available as you move through the airport. I assume you have $100 USD worth of local currency because of the new step six above. Buy a local SIM card in the arrivals area after clearing immigration. Use your new SIM card to order your Uber or Grab taxi if available. Or play the voice message your accommodations host left on your WhatsApp account and obtain a price agreement before jumping in the taxi. Added to Step Seven. Do all of the above but buy the SIM card (for your smartphone) at the first SIM seller you see. There may not be a second one. Also, get more local money out at the first ATM you see. Don’t assume there will be another ATM machine after your clear customs. Also, if there is no ATM machine anywhere and no SIM card seller anywhere, make sure to check the departures area to see if they are located there. You already have some local currency from New Step Six. But if there is still no ATM in departures, grab another $100 USD worth of local currency from the money exchanger before leaving the airport. If you ordered a transfer service in advance, look for your name on a sign as you exit the airport. If you didn’t get a transfer service in advance, but you were are able to get a SIM card then order your Uber taxi. If there is no SIM card in the airport, and you didn’t order a transfer service in advance, then head over to the taxi stand and play the recorded message you obtained in step Four.
Here are two completely new steps we have added in this Travel Warning How to Restart International Travel.
New Step Eight. If there was no SIM card at the airport, use your wifi connection at your accommodations to search for the nearest SIM card seller near your accommodations. From inside your accommodations, use the wifi to order an Uber to the locations where you intend on buying a new SIM card. Get your new SIM card installed. Once your smartphone has a working SIM card in the new country, use your phone to find the nearest ATM and get more local cash.
New Step Nine. When you finally have a SIM card and you are able to use Uber or Grab, they may start asking you to take a picture of yourself wearing a mask before they let you book a taxi. That is something we saw for the first time last week in Guatemala City.
Thanks for reading our travel warning how to restart international travel.
Make sure to grab a free copy of my eBook, “How I Fired My Boss and Traveled the World for 14+ Years.” Thanks for stopping by. This is Dan of Vagabond Awake, the YouTube channel for Vagabond Buddha. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?