COVID Requirements & International Travel
How was it traveling with all the COVID requirements? Having just returned from a month-long stay in Spain, that’s the one question I keep getting asked. The truth is -- it was a bit difficult but absolutely worth the effort. Here are the details.
Documentation Needed to Fly to Spain
Because of COVID-19, in addition to passports and possibly Visas, many countries require specific health documentation to enter. In Spain’s case, it's an official pass from the Spanish government's health website SPTH. The site requires basic information such as: What type of vaccine you received (Pfizer, Moderna, etc.), dates of your shots, passport numbers, your airline flight number, and, surprisingly, also your seat number. Filling out the needed information was pretty straightforward; however, even though you could input most of the requested information early, you couldn’t complete and hit the submit button until two days before your flight was scheduled to arrive in Spain. It’s important to note arrive, not depart for Spain.
The website works great and I quickly received my official pass in a confirmation email with the needed QR code. After doing a happy dance, I printed out the code and, just to be safe, took a screenshot to save on my cellphone. What I found a little difficult during this whole process was until I actually received the QR code, there was this sense of uncertainty; what if I entered the information wrong, what if I mixed up the seat number? Was I going to have to cancel my whole trip? Luckily, that wasn’t the case. I showed up at the airport the day of the flight, showed the agent my coveted QR code and off I went to Barcelona.
Safety Precautions While Traveling
To feel safe and be as proactive as possible in thwarting off exposure to the virus, both while flying and during my time in Spain, I brought along a backpack filled with antibacterial wipes, packs of hand sanitizer, nose spray, a thermometer, extra strength pain-relievers, vitamin C, and masks, so many masks! And, trust me, you’re going to need that many masks.
Wearing a mask while in the airport and on the plane is definitely a requirement, so take a deep breath before entering the airport and kiss that fresh air goodbye for the duration of your journey. In my case, that was about twenty-four hours start to finish (I had a fun-filled six hour layover in Miami; enough time to fully explore all that the airport has to offer). I could also be spotted all over Spain sporting a mask; in taxis, on trains, museums, restaurants, you get the idea. It was required and a normal part of daily life, which I very much appreciated. By no means did I want to have anything to do with the virus. Documentation Needed to Come Home
When it was time to return the United States, I needed to show proof of a negative COVID test before receiving a boarding pass for my flight. The test must be administered no earlier than three days before the flight time. Conveniently, the airline I was flying recommended purchasing test kits to take with me to use with the VeriFLY app to self-administer the test. This sounded easy enough, but the devil is in the details. The tests could only be purchased in sets of six ($150); the test boxes were big and cumbersome and they were to be packed in a carry-on, not a piece of checked luggage. Remember the backpack I mentioned earlier; guess what else went into that bag ― yes, three of those bulky COVID tests.
Two days before leaving Spain, it was time to figure out the VeriFLY app and finally use one of the kits I had been hauling around. After loading the needed information into the app on my phone, I followed the prompts from the live technician, who was watching me open and remove the test from the bulky box. Then, well, then I lost the connection with the technician, thus invalidating the kit. Good thing there were more of them stuffed in my backpack.
Instead of trying the VeriFLY app again and risk losing another kit, I downloaded the NAVICA app. According to the test kit’s packaging, the test was actually designed to be used with the NAVICA app. After once again loading in the needed information, a live technician appeared on my phone screen. It seemed like everything was going great until the technician began to speak; I’m not sure if it was user-error on my part or just a technical glitch that NAVICA needs to address, but it was almost impossible to hear what the technician was saying. The volume was full-blast and still it sounded like he was whispering. And, to make it more challenging, I had to keep the phone camera focuseon the test kit, not by my ear, the whole time. It was definitely frustrating and yet, comical at the same time. There I was yelling at a phone and sticking things up my nose all in the comfort of my AirBNB apartment.
Luckily, I never lost the video connection, the test was negative and I received the needed documentation via the app and email. Mission accomplished. But next time, next time there is no way I am doing a self-test. That whole experience was crazy ― the cost, the bulkiness, the quiet whispers of the technician ― crazy.
Even though the masks and QR codes, the hand sanitizers and tests kits, and all those COVID restrictions and requirements make travel a bit more challenging, as the saying goes: travel changes a person, and you, in turn, have to be willing to change to travel. At the end of the day, it’s so worth it.