Worldwide Photographic Journeys

So what is travelling like in the Age of Covid?

25th September 2020

by Mark Beaman

I started to travel overseas again this summer, as our tours resumed.

So, what has it been like?

Well, the first thing I had to do was to arm myself with facts and try my hardest to rid myself of irrational fears. The media coverage since March has been overwhelming and relentless, so even for someone with a scientific background, it is easily possible to be swept along by all the negative news and in particular the, very understandable, focus on those who have tragically died from Covid-19, rather than the overwhelming majority who have recovered.

Firstly, many countries in the world have very little covid. Fact.

Secondly, if you do catch it in spite of the low risk of doing so in most places, you have a high chance it will be mild or even asymptomatic. Fact.

Thirdly, even for old-timers like me, the survival chances, unless you have underlying health conditions, are very high. Fact.

Fourthly, modern aeroplanes have amazing air filtration systems that can remove airborne virus particles. Fact.

Even so, it was the flying bit that I was most nervous about. Leaving covid-infested Europe for safer climes, I would have to sit there for hours with folk more likely to have the virus than the fortunate inhabitants of the places I would visit. Gulp…

But then I came to learn something that is now key for long-haul travel (because of regulations imposed by virtually every open country outside Europe and the US), but which does not apply if you are heading to and from the ‘party islands’ in the Med, for example. EVERYONE on your flight has had to have a Covid-19 test within the last few days and show the certificate to prove they are negative, otherwise, they will not even be able to get on the plane, let alone get out at your destination! This is a massive reassurance.

Since then I have been on no fewer than 22 flights and I have felt safe throughout.

Safety protocols at airports have been pretty impressive, even social distancing on boarding and disembarkation. Masks are mandatory at airports of course, just as they are during flights except during the meal service. Sanitization stations are all over the place now. Even the security trays are sanitized.

On arrival overseas, they take your temperature, check your negative covid certificate and then there are just the usual immigration and customs checks to go through.

In hotels you need to wear masks in public spaces, but not at meals of course. Hand sanitization stations are the norm and temperature checks on arrival, using the little ‘gun-like’ devices that are pointed at you, are now commonplace.

Local drivers now wear masks and in built-up areas they are often compulsory for passengers. When travelling in rural areas with one’s companions, all of whom were negative tested, of course, mask-wearing is often more of a personal matter.

In the field, mask-wearing is not compulsory, and social distancing often easy enough, but if you feel more comfortable wearing one then you can do so. No one is going to mind.

One needs to remember that the chances of meeting someone infected with covid is minuscule in most of the long-haul destinations that are currently open to tourism. Your chances are way higher back home if you live in Europe or the US.

Apart from the mask getting itchy after hours on a plane, I have enjoyed every minute of my recent travels and I never felt worried. It is good to be out exploring the world again.

Mark Beaman

Mark Beaman lives in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire with his Australian partner and fellow photographer Inger Vandyke. He is Managing Director of Wild Images. Mark has travelled to every continent, including Antarctica, to view and photograph wildlife and has a worldwide interest in every aspect of wildlife travel.