With vaccination certificates, pre-travel tests and an endless range of hygiene measures, travelers around the world are doing their best to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection. But it can still happen - as evidenced by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant around the world - and it is important to be prepared for this possibility.
Expecting the unexpected is a necessary part of the pandemic era travel, but what's even more essential is thinking ahead so you’re prepared if things don't go exactly as planned.
The first step is to book flexible transport and accommodation. Read the fine print or call ahead to see if companies refund last-minute cancellations, allow exchanges, and cover any costs related to COVID.
Then make sure you have health insurance that would cover hospital fees in the place you go. Paying out of pocket for things like hospital visits and tests can be expensive. Full travel insurance sometimes covers even a quarantine hotel stay, so be sure to check all the options and don’t hesitate to secure the best offer.
Finally, leave room in your luggage for COVID-19 tests so you can get answers quickly, no matter where you are. With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, travelers may find it a good option to do regular and frequent antigen tests, regardless of symptoms or testing requirements.
If you have symptoms of coronavirus, be sure to go to a laboratory for testing, then stay isolated until you get the results. Information is power: the earlier you are diagnosed, the faster you can protect yourself and the people around you.
If the test is positive, notify your local health authorities immediately. Informing them allows them to guide you according to local action protocols and to start tracking contacts in the community you are visiting. In Bulgaria, the RHIs at the respective place of residence are responsible for quarantine and following up the epidemiological chains. The lab will submit your contacts to them and they should contact you.
Protect people around you by isolating yourself and, if possible, use separate bathrooms. Also, make sure you have access to everything you need for a long stay, including basic things like food, water, medicine and WiFi. If someone delivers food to you, they must leave it at your door. The duration of your isolation will depend on the state, so consult with local authorities and follow their rules. Violation of quarantine laws can lead to huge fines and, in some destinations, imprisonment. In Bulgaria, the duration of quarantine is 14 days, and fines are imposed by the police authorities for violation.
If you become infected with COVID-19, tell your host or hotel immediately so they can help you get organized. In most cases, the hotel will allow you to extend your stay for a fee.
According to the popular Airbnb platform, guests who suspect they are ill should not use the platform for self-isolation. If a guest is in the middle of a stay, they should contact the support team for help and communicate with their host to strategize next steps.
To avoid unpleasant last-minute surprises, look for quarantine options before traveling. Consider access to things like refrigerators, kitchenettes and nearby restaurants when booking your stay. In Bulgaria, there was information about quarantine hotels in the summer only by sea, but there is no such data for Plovdiv.
Follow the instructions of your doctor or local healthcare provider to determine if you should stay home or seek treatment. Ambulances and private vehicles are the safest ways to access a nearby hospital. Avoid using public transportation or shared vehicles such as taxis. The emergency number in the country is 112.
Don’t board an airplane if you have tested positive for COVID-19. Many countries are currently imposing requirements for testing vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers, and travel rules are changing rapidly. Find out what the latest regulations in your country are before you travel, and stay tuned for changing data during your trip.
If you need a negative COVID-19 test to fly home, avoid waiting until the last minute to get your results. Testing before you leave the hotel allows you to weigh your options, change your flight and connect with the right people if needed.
Contracting COVID-19 is stressful, but if you prepare appropriately, working out last-minute logistics can be the least of your concerns.