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Saturday 12 December 2020

Tips for Travelling during these COVID times

The best practices for travelling during this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic situation.

You may be planning to travel these days for a trip, some commitment, or because your work requires you to. Here are some tips and best practices for travelling during this unprecedented COVID situation.

Travelling during Covid times
Travelling during these Covid times. (Representative Image - Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels)

You may be planning to travel these days for some personal reason or for your work requirements, and being concerned about your health and safety at the same time, you may want to follow some simple best practices during these unprecedented times of Covid-19 pandemic. So, here are some tips and best practices for the same.

1. Get to know about the place you're visiting

If you're planning to travel to a different state or country, get to know the situation there and try to find updated travel restrictions or testing and quarantine requirements for that place or region, if any. Check for the most recently updated or revised state-wise quarantine norms or rules for travellers or any other related guidelines or rules they may have for people travelling to that place.

If you're planning a road trip, try to find out whether food and basic amenities are available along the route to your destination. If feasible, you may want to pack some food along for the way as well.

In addition to getting to know the restrictions and any arrival procedures at your destination, you'd also need to know if there are any new curfews or lockdowns announced for the place that you're travelling to.

Each state can have different guidelines for people entering their state from another state. Also, as these guidelines may change or be updated, it is always better to re-ensure if anything is updated or changed before you embark on your journey, even if you had seen it some days ago.

While it is unlikely that any new major lockdowns may be imposed across India, there may still be temporary curfews or even lockdowns in some places, areas, or states. For example, the lockdown was extended in the state of Tamil Nadu till December 31, 2020, with certain relaxations.

And internationally, some countries or regions within them may announce new lockdowns, like for example, England had locked down for four weeks in November 2020 and most parts of the US state of California were under a strict new lockdown for at least three weeks in December 2020. So, it is essential that you should keep track of the news for the place that you're travelling to.

People boarding a flight (Representative image). Photo by Anugrah Lohiya from Pexels.

While the regular international air travel is suspended, there are temporary Air Travel arrangements or “International Air Transport Bubbles” between India and other countries, and their details can be found on the official website of The Ministry of Civil Aviation. Updated Guidelines for International Arrivals can be found on the official website of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

For updates on inter-state travel or state-wise quarantine norms or rules, you'll need to keep an eye on the news portals or news websites, in addition to searching for the same online or look it up on the respective government websites.

Furthermore, some states or regions may require you to possess negative Covid test reports obtained through particular testing methods, for entering them. And you'd also need to know the rules or conditions (for testing, quarantine, etc., if any) that your own state or country has set for people returning. 

Anyway, keep yourself informed and updated with recent news about the place you're travelling to, and you may do an online search to try and find relevant information for the same. Just be careful and rely on information from reputed and genuine sources only.

Online Search Tip

To try and find latest search results :

On your desktop, While doing an online search for this, for example on Google, first do a search. When the search results appear, do the following :

  1. Look for a Tools button right below the search bar. Click/tap on this Tools button to make the sorting options visible.
  2. Choose your time frame and sort the results as per Past Hour, Past Week, Past Month, etc. as per your requirement, to find the latest updates easily.
A screenshot of using advanced Search Tools for finding only the latest results. (Use this only when you're looking for most recently updated information and don't forget to reset it back to Any Time after you have finished your search and found what you were looking for, because if left as it is, the same filter may continue to apply to all your future searches.)

On your smartphone, if you are finding it difficult to find these options on the app, then you can visit on your phone's web browser, for example, Chrome or Firefox, and then do a search. When the search results appear, do the following :

  1. Look for Search Tools option below the search bar. It can be found at the end of the options links below the search bar, by scrolling/moving them sideways. Tap on this Search Tools option. An additional toolbar appears below it with options such as Any Time and All Results.
  2. Next, just tap on Any Time to change it to either Past Hour, Past Week, Past Month, or to any duration to filter the results as per your requirement.

Alternatively on Google on a web browser, you can go for Settings > Advanced Search > and set the last update: field to as less as possible, say for 24 hours or even up to a week, to get only the latest results.

You can look for and try similar advanced search tools available on any other online search engine that you may use.

While reading the news articles that you find, do note the published date or the last updated date, to ensure the recency of the article.

2. Get to know the cancellation and refunding terms and policies when booking

Read the cancellation and refunding terms and policies carefully when booking.
Representative image. Photo by Maksim Goncharenok from Pexels.

While you may have found a great deal in flights or hotel or resort accommodation, do carefully read all their booking and cancellation terms, including their refunding terms or policies. In the worst case scenario, if either you yourself or your hotel or flight agency are forced to cancel your travel or trip bookings due to unavoidable circumstances, then these factors of cancel and refund policies would come into picture.

While booking hotels or resorts, you may also want to look into the necessary facilities they provide and the best practices or safety protocols that they enforce and follow for these Covid times. In case you're booking or hiring a cab, you may want to ensure that they follow the necessary Covid safety guidelines for the same.

Also, as there are restrictions on the number of seats available on public transports like flights due to social distancing concerns, you may need to book sufficiently in advance as there's a possibility that seats may run out for the date you want, especially during holiday and festive seasons.

3. Pack the essentials

The preparation begins at home, just like your usual travel preparations of packing your usual travel essentials. Now, you just need to pack your additional face masks and hand sanitiser.

Typical face masks. (Representative Image. Photo by Vera Davidova on Unsplash)
  • Pack some clean face masks and add it along with your clean pair of clothes in your travel bag. Depending on the place you're visiting, your face mask may need replacing, especially if the place is hot and humid where your mask can get wet and soaked due to sweating and make your breathing very uncomfortable.

  • Depending on the place you're visiting, you'd typically find hand sanitisers in medical shops easily nowadays. However, if you're travelling to interior or rural places, you'd better take an extra hand sanitiser along with your other travel essentials. Pocket-size hand sanitisers come in handy and you can keep another one in your backpack as a backup or a bigger one as a refill.

  • Carry water bottles or purchase good quality bottled water. If you want to avoid outside food and are carrying your own food and eating along the way, don't forget to pack some additional water and hand-wash soap in your travel bag for washing your hands before eating.

  • Also, if you're planning for a road trip and you're unsure of the availability of food and beverages along the way or you're unwilling to eat in places along the way, you may want to pack some food and beverages in hot boxes and thermos flasks, or just in case you may need them. 

4. Best practices while travelling

While it may sound a bit silly to some of you as you may think it's a no-brainer as these are just points of common sense, you'd be surprised to see how many don't give a thought or follow these simple things. So, here are some simple but best practices to follow during your journeys or road trips during these Covid times.

Representative image. Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels.
  • Do strictly follow all the Covid prevention guidelines of wearing a mask, carrying a hand sanitiser and using it when required, etc. Maintain social distancing by physically keeping sufficient distance between others and yourselves. Do not travel if you aren't feeling well or feverish.

    And yes, the mask goes over the nose and do not keep touching it once you've worn it. When you touch it with unclean hands, whatever is on your hands gets deposited on it. Medical professionals and other professionals who need to work wearing such masks know well about these protocols that they shouldn't be touching the mask until it's time to finally remove it.

  • Carry water bottles, and if you plan to carry your own food and eat it on the way, carry some water along with a hand wash if you want to wash your hands before proceeding to eat. Wherever you are, please ensure that you do not litter.

  • If you decide to eat outside in a restaurant or an eatery in these Covid times, make sure it is clean enough and consume only hot and freshly prepared food or drink in there. And yes, do not forget to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water before proceeding to eat.

  • When you are at public places, try and refrain from unnecessarily touching any external objects as far as possible. Remember not to touch your face, mask, mouth, eyes, or nose when outside, as these are potential entry points for the virus. If you have children accompanying you, ensure that you've trained them to follow the safety guidelines (yes, yes we know it's easier said than done in their case, but their safety is your duty.)

  • Make it a habit to clean your hands well with soap and water, along with washing your feet, whenever you get back to your rooms or accommodation. When outside, after using public restrooms or toilets, clean your hands well with soap and water.

We've been on road trips spanning hundreds of kilometres during these Covid times, not for only touring or travelling's sake, but because of work or other necessities. We've always adhered to the safety guidelines while travelling and haven't had any issues so far.

These few precautions can be easily followed. People have already gone on road trips to wherever possible, especially within their own state or to nearby ones where they're allowed to. Many monuments are already open to tourists and more destinations are opening up in this month of December, like the Nilgiris and the State of Meghalaya (with certain conditions or restrictions, of course).

Stay informed, stay safe, and happy travelling.

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