Pandemic travel: what to expect

A Covid-19 FAQ guide to help travellers plan and travel with confidence during the pandemic…

Change is the only constant in life: seasons change; people change; feelings change. What matters is how we accept and adapt to this constant state of flux. Living amidst a seemingly never-ending global pandemic has reminded us, rather boldly and unexpectedly, to not only acknowledge that the only certainty in life is uncertainty, but to also embrace it.

If we have learned anything from Covid, it’s to adapt. Constantly. We’ve had to completely revolutionise the way we work, shop, learn, exercise, socialise and, indeed, travel. But as the world now gradually re-opens and we slowly regain our former freedom, our thoughts are plagued with countless questions about how to emerge safely and confidently.

The only certainty is uncertainty.

A cloud of questions & uncertainty

We all have questions about the new world of travel. Where can you travel during the pandemic? What are the safest ways to travel? What happens if there is an outbreak in the country where you live and travel becomes restricted again? What happens if the country you are travelling to won’t accept tourists from countries you will be travelling from?

There’s no such thing as a stupid question. We’re all living amidst the same frustrating travel uncertainty and every question is valid. What’s tricky, however, is that the pandemic is constantly evolving and the situation can, and does, change in just 24 hours.

Therefore, maintaining an accurate and up-to-the-minute FAQ resource is an impossible feat. The goalposts are forever shifting due to vaccination rollouts, new waves and variants, unexpected outbreaks, reinstated lockdowns, fluctuating travel advisories and revolving border openings.

The aim for this article is to merely act as a guide as you start to plan your long-awaited and well-deserved journey back out into the real world. Adventure awaits … and we’re here to answer any questions you may have before, during or after your grand return to travel.

The 10 certainties of travel

Travel has always been a reliable antidote to life’s uncertainties and, although we’re still finding our travel feet, we’ll all soon be reminded of the beautiful certainties of travel.

Your greatest travel allies

Global travellers quickly accepted and adapted to the heightened security measures and increased travel uncertainty following the devastating events of 9/11 and we will emerge from this pandemic, too, with strict protocols and security checks that will become the norm for years to come.

As you start planning your post-lockdown, post-vaccination or post-pandemic adventures (depending where you sit on the travel confidence spectrum), these will be your 5 greatest travel allies:

1. Experienced travel specialist

With today’s fluctuating restrictions and ongoing travel uncertainty, the expert guidance of an experienced travel specialist is priceless. The memory-makers and life-changers of the travel world, a travel specialist soon becomes part of your travel tribe, offering sage advice, regular updates, seamless logistics, destination knowledge, insider tips and a sense of calm when those sporadic moments of travel anxiety crop up.

2. Reputable tour operator

Travelling with a well-established, respected and responsible operator will help alleviate all of the fears and concerns you may have about travel during a pandemic. Not only will their operations be guided by strict protocols, but the same high standards will apply to the properties and service providers they choose to partner with. A reliable operator will also have flexible terms and conditions for peace of mind during uncertain times.

3. Around-the-clock concierge

In addition to having your dedicated travel specialist on speed dial, it also helps to find an operator that provides a trusted, accessible concierge service. The &Beyond Global Concierge is a 24/7, 5 days a week service to assist guests with any questions or concerns they may have while travelling. With language diversity, and the ability to book &Beyond beds in Africa, travellers can get up-to-the-minute advice and make changes to their booking, en route.

4. Travel insurance

Now, more than ever, travel insurance is a necessity given the ongoing global uncertainty travellers face. Our partner, Global Rescue, is a world-class provider offering integrated medical, security, travel risk and crisis management services in all of the destinations we operate.

We recommend Global Rescue IMG Signature Travel Insurance, including their Cancel for Any Reason and Interrupt for Any Reason cover (this needs to be secured within 20 days of your booking confirmation). It is also important to check your government travel advisories and airlines often, as things can, and do, change in a New York minute.

5. Your Covid kit

Whether you’re fully vaccinated, or Covid-negative, your Covid health documentation is your golden ticket to travel. Don’t leave home without it. You’ll need to provide this proof often, so keep it handy.

Pack plenty of hand sanitiser and face masks. While vaccinated travellers may feel bulletproof, the same mask-wearing, social-distancing and hand-sanitising protocols still apply in most places. Despite being vaccinated, you can still be a carrier and put other non-vaccinated guests, staff and vulnerable community members at risk. Be respectful of the protocols in the destination to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all.

More tips

Word on the street is that most of the Covid cards and vaccine certificates are too large for the standard wallet, so get a handy document holder, leather case or lanyard to keep it protected and at-the-ready. Don’t laminate it just yet, as booster shots may become the norm in time to come.

Keep in mind that health practitioners recommend that additional vaccinations, such as yellow fever and typhoid, should not be administered within 14 days of the Covid-19 jab. It is therefore important to plot a vaccination timeline well in advance to ensure you are appropriately covered in time to travel.

Be sure to make a few copies of these documents, just in case.

Lastly—and these are just as crucial—don’t forget to bring an extra dose of patience and a good-natured sense of humour. There will no doubt be (socially-distanced) queues and embarking/disembarking the airplane will be a much slower (albeit far more organised, not to mention civilised) process. So be patient, embrace the new protocols and smile (behind that mask).

And while we’re on the topic of what to bring, there are two things you should absolutely leave at home: your anxiety (when travelling with &Beyond, you are safely in our hands) and your diet (again, when travelling with us, the food is so moreish, you simply can’t be counting pesky holiday calories). Bon voyage and safe, happy, worry-free and unforgettable travels.

10 travel tips for pandemic travel

In summary, here’s a handy checklist as you venture back out into the world:

  1. Ensure you plan ahead with these 5 important travel allies.
  2. Coordinate your vaccination timeline to ensure the correct timing between Covid vaccinations and any other essential travel inoculations.
  3. Carry these original proofs of vaccination on you; do not laminate, rather find a protective case or lanyard and always have them at the ready.
  4. Make multiple copies of these documents; leave one copy at home and keep a few in different places in your luggage, just in case.
  5. Avoid multiple stops (queues, connections, requirements, etc.) for now and opt to linger longer, and luxuriously, in one destination.
  6. Allow ample time between flights and transfers for additional queues, slower aircraft embarkation and disembarkation, Covid screenings and other delays (your &Beyond travel specialist will do this for you).
  7. Pre-book any required arrival and/or re-entry Covid screenings (your &Beyond travel specialist can do this on your behalf).
  8. Double, triple, quadruple-check all travel advisories and especially flights, as delays, restrictions and cancellations are to be expected as countries and airlines continue to navigate the pandemic.
  9. Be over prepared, be patient and have a sense of humour.
  10. Cherish the adventure and the long-awaited return to travel.

Your Covid questions answered

The health, safety, security and wellbeing of our guests, staff and surrounding communities remains our highest priority. We have consulted with medical advisors, park doctors, as well as referenced the World Health Organization, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the WTTC, and the regulations of each government of the countries in which we operate in order to develop detailed Covid-19 protocols for all aspects of our operations across three continents.

We continue to monitor the constantly-evolving situation and our standards are being reviewed and amended as the Covid-19 situation evolves. The protocols may also vary between our destinations based on local legislations.

The following FAQs have been answered as accurately as possible; however, given how quickly things can, and do, change, it is all-the-more-important for travellers to work closely with an expert travel specialist with access to on-the-ground teams and the most up-to-date information, restrictions and openings for each destination.

Planning your adventure

Question: where to travel during Covid?

Answer

One of the most common questions is where are the safest places to travel during Covid? The beauty of an &Beyond journey is that not only the destinations in which we operate, but the tailormade experiences that we offer, too, have always naturally had social distancing deeply entrenched, even pre-Covid.

Think once in a lifetime safaris, idyllic island escapes and get-back-to-nature adventures in vast, untouched landscapes. From pristine wilderness areas, immense deserts and secluded beaches, to remote islands, mountain peaks and thick rainforests, the common denominators here are remote locations, boasting wide open spaces, fresh air, no crowds and the great outdoors.

Wary travellers can opt for smaller, more intimate properties and secure themselves private flights, private transfers, private safari vehicles and/or private activities, in order to limit their contact with other travellers. In addition, many of these smaller properties can be booked exclusively for sole-use, enabling small groups of travellers to limit their risk even further and travel within the safety and convenience of their own uninterrupted travel bubble.

Many travellers are choosing to make it count with longer, more private and immersive stays in one destination. Instead of racing from one crowded stop to the next, travellers are choosing to limit their movement, and exposure to others, by travelling in the privacy of their travel bubble and staying in one destination, for longer.

Question: how long can I move my booking for?

Answer

Up to 12 months from the original travel start date.

Question: will there be extra costs?

Answer

If a booking is postponed and the new dates fall within a different season, or prices have increased, or the logistics have changed, then there will be extra costs associated.

Question: what if I got married during the pandemic and now want to take my postponed honeymoon?

Answer

Great news for couples that were married between 01 Mar 2020 and 31 Dec 2021—we have now extended our honeymoon offers so that pandemic-postponed honeymoons can still happen (for travel before 15 Dec 2022). Check our honeymoon page for more information, inspiration and special offers.

Question: what insurance should I buy?

Answer

We recommend Global Rescue IMG Signature Travel Insurance, including their Cancel for Any Reason and Interrupt for Any Reason cover (this needs to be secured within 20 days of your booking confirmation).

Getting there

Question: is it safe to travel by airplane during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Answer

Airlines are adhering to strict aircraft cleaning and sanitising protocols as guided by local and international health authorities. All aircraft are cleaned and disinfected before and after every flight. Passengers are required to wear face protection and sanitise throughout the flight and plane embarkation/disembarkation procedures have been adapted to increase social distancing and limit physical contact between passengers. Travellers are advised to check with their airline directly for up-to-date Covid-19 protocols and safety measures.

Question: do I need a Covid test to fly?

Answer

It is crucial for travellers to check in frequently with their airline for the latest Covid-19 travel restrictions and testing requirements for the destination they are flying to, including any stops for connecting flights. Travellers are required to travel with the appropriate travel and health documentation as per the regulations in their country of origin and the country (or countries) they will be visiting.

Question: are there any changes to the travel documentation that guests receive?

Answer

All &Beyond travel documentation and Personal Travel Journals are being sent to guests electronically, unless hard copies are specifically requested. In this case, a strict process is being followed to make sure that all documentation is sterilised and safe to be handed over to guests.

Question: what changes have been made to your transfer services?

Answer

Guides, drivers and porters all sanitise their hands before and after handling luggage, and all guests have the option of having their bags and suitcases sanitised before being placed into the transfer vehicle. Individually-packaged spare masks and gloves are available for guests should they request them. Beverages and snacks will also be provided on transfers, however, all packaging will be sanitised before being handed over.

Where we operate sedan-type vehicles for road transfers between camps or lodges, we limit the number of guests to 2 per vehicle and where we use SUVs, we limit the number of guests to 2 per row of seats. While our vehicles are already cleaned thoroughly, inside and out, between each and every transfer, they are now also being fully disinfected between each use.

COVID testing

Question: is PCR Covid testing readily available, both at airports and in destination?

Answer

The costs, availability and turnaround times of PCR and rapid PCR Covid tests differ from country to country, however our travel specialists are in the know and can advise. Just as an example, though please note that the situation changes frequently, at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, there are 3 types of tests available on arrival (antigen, PCR and rapid PCR), which range in price and turnaround time for results (30 minutes to 24-48 hours; results are emailed).

Testing is available 7 days a week, including public holidays, however, it is recommended that appointments are booked in advance by your travel specialist. Should a guest display symptoms while travelling with us, our lodge and concierge teams are able to assist with emergency testing in all of our destinations.

When tailormaking guests’ travel itineraries, our travel specialists will always ensure ample time is included for guests to complete their screenings and make their connecting flights or transfers easily, seamlessly and on time.

Question: are all teams equipped to handle a Covid case, both in your lodges and at your partner properties?

Answer

We continue to engage regularly and intensively with our medical evacuation team who have provided clear guidelines and protocols. Our teams have been fully trained and the necessary procedures are in place should a case be identified in any of our lodges.

Guests can also rest assured that our selected partner properties and third-party suppliers also have comprehensive safety protocols in place that not only comply with guidelines issued by their local authorities, but that also have been assessed to ensure they are in line with &Beyond’s stringent standards.

We’ve been expecting you

Question: how will check-in be handled at the lodges?

Answer

We are proud of the warm welcome at our lodges and elements of this certainly have not changed. Although the jovial handshakes and heartfelt hugs are on hold for now, guests are still greeted with a song and a welcome drink; however both staff and guests are asked to keep a minimum of 1.5 metres (5 feet) away from one another during this time. Guests will also be given a choice between a welcome drink or a bottle of still or sparkling water from our on-site water bottling plants, which adhere to strict sanitising standards. Guests will also be provided with access to hand sanitiser at all times.

Question: how will luggage at the lodges be handled?

Answer

All guests will be offered the option of having their luggage treated with disinfectant both on arrival at the lodge and once again after it has been dropped off in the guests’ rooms.

Question: will you be taking guests’ temperatures as they arrive?

Answer

Yes, a quick temperature check is taken on arrival. Each lodge also has a discrete, but easily accessible station where guests can monitor their own temperature at any given time. This will be pointed out to guests upon arrival and it will be recommended that they make use of it periodically during their stay. Guests’ temperatures may also be tested daily or sporadically during their stay, should this be a government requirement in the country of operation.

Question: what training have your teams received in preparation for dealing with guests?

Answer

&Beyond Life is an internal programme that oversees the health and wellbeing of our staff and extends into the communities surrounding our destinations. As part of this programme, all lodge teams, transfer hosts, guides and field staff have been educated extensively about what Covid-19 is and how to identify the signs and symptoms of those infected, as well as the rules on strict personal hygiene, limited interaction with others, luggage handling and best practices for cleaning and sanitation. These protocols were developed in consultation with our medical advisors and all Covid-19 protocols are reiterated and discussed daily at staff meetings across our lodges.

Question: will your staff be required to carry out regular testing, including daily temperature checks?

Answer

All staff returning to work go through training and a screening questionnaire process before they can start working. Daily temperature checks are also carried out.

Question: will your staff be wearing masks?

Answer

All &Beyond staff wear face protection that can be washed, sanitised and safely reused instead of single-use masks. We have also made the decision not to use plastic gloves, but to instead focus on training staff to wash and sanitise their hands regularly. Not only is this approach more environmentally friendly, but research has indicated that it is safer than using gloves.

It is also important to note that each group of guests will always have a dedicated and limited team (ranger, tracker, butler and housekeeper) to cater to their every need and avoid unnecessary contact with other staff members.

Question: will you require guests to wear a mask and gloves?

Answer

We are guided by the requirements imposed by the health authorities in the countries where we operate. As a precaution, we advise all guests to be cautious and wear face protection and this will also be required from guests who are taking part in shared activities. Guests who are travelling together, who choose to book private and exclusive activities and who are able to maintain a safe distance of more than 1.5 m (5 ft) from the guide will not be required to wear face protection if they choose not to do so.

Guest areas

Question: how will you minimise gatherings or manage the number of guests in public spaces?

Answer

The layouts of our lodges already allow for effective physical distancing and our programme of activities is extremely staggered, which results in guests rarely being present in the public spaces in our lodges in large numbers.

Question: will guests’ rooms and public spaces be cleaned more frequently, particularly the most touched items, such as light switches, door handles, telephones, etc.?

Answer

Guest rooms are cleaned three times per day, as per our standard procedures. Housekeeping staff wear face protection and they thoroughly disinfect all high-traffic and high-touch areas during each cleaning. We will do our best to accommodate all guest requests, should they prefer to limit access to their rooms or require additional cleaning. All disinfectants being used comply with WHO and CDC requirements.

Question: will you be setting up hand sanitising stations?

Answer

Multiple cleansing stations, which include hand sanitisers, disinfecting wipes, paper tissues and, in some cases, hand washing stations, are situated at strategic points within our lodges and camps. Sanitiser is widely available in all guest areas, guest suites, dining areas, restrooms and on safari vehicles.

The dining experience

Question: what will the dining options at the lodges look like?

Answer

We continue to offer multiple dining options at all lodges that not only take advantage of the beautiful settings, but that also ensure that the correct physical distancing measures are in place. These include outdoor bush dining venues, private room dining, terraces, gardens, settings around our swimming pools and other secluded places around the lodges.

Given that most of our dining venues are outside, on a veranda or balcony of the guest room, we will continue to provide a full room service offering, combined with a dedicated butler. Buffets will be avoided, and instead tiered trays will be served to each table separately.

From the kitchen preparation to the plating service, every aspect of the dining experience will follow strict food preparation protocols, hygiene practices and disinfecting procedures.

Question: are you planning on having minimal capacity and strict dining times?

Answer

By the nature of our business, our dining areas are very seldom used at full capacity. Guests spend a large part of the day away from the lodge, enjoying the many activities we offer, and all return to the lodge or camp at different times. In those cases where we do have a larger number of guests at the lodge at the same time, we make full use of the wide range of dining venues available at all our lodges to ensure that guests’ table are always at least 1.5 m (5 ft) apart and that chairs that are positioned back-to-back are never closer than 1 m (3 ft) from each other.

Question: will the guides be able to join guests at the table for dinner?

Answer

In the interests of safety, we will avoid having our staff sit with guests at meal times. Ample time will be provided during the day and the early evening for guests to spend quality time with their guide.

The Covid-19 safari experience

Question: how will you handle game drives and space concerns?

Answer

Game drives are considered safe, by nature, given they are outdoors and in open safari vehicles. However, we are still taking all the necessary precautions to keep our guests and staff safe at all times.

All guides wear face protection (we are testing masks and other alternatives to find the best possible solution that will allow our guides to remain safe while ensuring that it does not impact the guest experience). As a precaution, we advise all guests to be cautious and wear face protection; this is a requirement for guests who are taking part in shared activities with other guests. Guests also have the option of booking a private safari vehicle (at an extra cost and subject to availability).

Guests who are travelling together, who choose to book private and exclusive activities, and who are able to maintain a safe distance of more than 1.5 m (5 ft) from the guide will not be required to wear face protection if they choose not to do so.

All vehicles are fully sanitised, and a maximum of 6 guests are permitted on each vehicle. Each room will receive their own Adventure Kit, which includes a Guides’ Journal and lodge fold-out map, as well as a pair of Swarovski binoculars (specific to African safari lodges only and sanitised on check-out).

Question: how will you handle game drive drink stops, pre-game drive drinks/high tea?

Answer

Guests who choose to have afternoon tea or a drink prior to their game drive are served by &Beyond staff wearing protective equipment, rather than helping themselves at a communal tea station.

Game drive drink stops will start with a communal hand sanitising ritual for the guide and tracker, with guests asked to join in. Once the drinks table is set up, there will be hand sanitiser and disinfecting wipes available for guests and staff on the table. Drinks will be served to the guests by the ranger and tracker. Training has been carried out to ensure that particular care is taken in the way they prepare and serve these drinks. All snacks will be served in environmentally-friendly pre-packaged packets and each guest will receive their own arrangement of snacks.

Refreshments served during activities (at stops and en route) will follow the same food preparation guidelines as our lodges and strict sanitation procedures will be adhered to at all times.

Question: will community visits be restricted?

Answer

As the rural communities surrounding our lodges are extremely vulnerable, we continue to work closely with community leaders and will take our lead from them as to when they feel comfortable to resume visits without compromising community members. Once both sides are satisfied that visits can go ahead without undue risk, community members and guests will need to follow strict protocols. The exact nature of these is still under discussion with community leaders. Guests at &Beyond lodges can still support the local communities by making a donation to Africa Foundation or by enquiring about the possibility of buying locally-produced crafts online.

The Covid-19 touring & activities experience

Question: are you making sure that your partner properties and third-party suppliers are taking the same health and safety precautions?

Answer

All partner properties where our guests might stay, as well as all third-party suppliers that are used for guest transfers, tours and additional activities, have comprehensive Covid-19 protocols in place that match &Beyond’s stringent standards.

Question: what safety measures will be adhered to on tours and while visiting places of interest?

Answer

We have always prided ourselves on having the insider insight necessary to help our guests avoid the crowds while sightseeing and we will continue to use this local know-how to ensure that our guests have the most secure and private experience possible. However, each tour is managed separately, as each destination and attraction has its own safety protocols in place.

Our city guides use their extensive local knowledge to recommend the best times of day to visit specific attractions to limit interaction with other people. They also ensure that guests have masks and hand sanitiser available to them at all times and have been trained to assist guests in maintaining social distancing protocols.

From our podcast library

Listen as &Beyond guest, Sherry Potter, describes her personal experience travelling during Covid, including the warm welcomes and the precautions taken to ensure her safety, as well as the help she received from her travel specialist, Janine Crawley, in managing all necessary requirements.

Useful resources

Our Covid info

Covid protocols

Our Covid FAQs

Our Covid T&Cs

WHO reports

Travel advisories

Travel insurance

Border updates

SEE WHAT LIES BEYOND

Our travel specialists are ready to help you plan your worry-free return to travel.

 

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