Travelling in times of covid-19

Long time no see! I’ve had a hectic few weeks. And, well, also an international move. Kind of. We’re in Spain! We weren’t planning on travelling this year, but an unexpected (and quite bizarre) turn of events forced us to leave China for the time being. Life is strange!

Spanish blue. Oh, those clouds…

We also had a one week stopover in Abu Dhabi of which I will write in another post. Today I wanted to describe my experience travelling in the middle of a pandemic, as especially taking planes is quite different these days.

The first thing is that, if you want to take a plane, you need to get a PCR done. I had to go to the only hospital in Suzhou which gives the results document in English, although I don’t really know why as the only ones requiring that are the check-in staff at Pudong airport, who are all Chinese. Luckily in China PCR are done swabbing the throat, not inside the nose, so this PCR was painless and comfortable. You need to do this within 72 hours of your departure time. At least with the airline I was taking (Etihad), children under 12 were not required to do a PCR.

When I arrived to Shanghai Pudong International Airport I was surprised at how empty it was. China resumed normal domestic travel basically one year ago, but international flights are still very few. There were only three international flights for the whole evening and night! Most of the check-in counters were closed. But even though there were very few passengers and the queue was short, the staff took a long time checking each person’s documents. We were at the counter for maybe 20 minutes and the staff checked and rechecked our documents several times. I was freaking out a little bit inside because we were supposed to have the onward tickets from Abu Dhabi to Spain but we had not bought them yet and had a fake booking for a flight that didn’t exist, and I thought the lady at the counter was actually searching for that flight. In the end it turned out she was doing something else and we got the boarding passes. Phew!

After getting the boarding passes I had to fill a form for myself and another one for my son and get a QR code to enter the boarding area. There was again a short line with a security guard checking the QR codes and a machine where you had to scan them a few meters ahead. Then we had to line up again for the passport control, which was also way slower than usual for some reason. And then another queue to pass the security control. I was alone with my son (my husband was already waiting for us in Abu Dhabi) but fortunately he behaved very well. I saw a fellow mum travelling with two small children and one of them which must have been around Baby A.’s age was howling the whole time… Poor woman.

We got to the gate when it had just started boarding and entered the plane. Inside the plane you need to wear your mask at all times, except when you are eating, and you are asked to move around as little as possible. Luckily we had an empty seat beside us and Baby A. could lie down and sleep. As it was a nighttime flight, he slept most of the time.

I don’t have pics from that flight, so this is just for illustrative purposes. A very cool indoor playground in Abu Dhabi.

This flight had quite a lot of passengers. Most of them were Chinese men and, based of what I heard from their conversations, they were workers in those infrastructure projects that China builds in African countries. Many of them were wearing those protective suits, googles and latex gloves. I thought they were taking it too far, considering that all of us were coming from China and the possibiliy of someone being infected was quite low…

We arrived in Abu Dhabi at 5 am local time and after passing the passport control and getting my luggage I had to get another PCR, this time on the nose. It was the first time I had one and I have to say it was better than I expected, considering that they get reeeeeally deep. Again, children did not need to do it. We were registered on some database and given the green light: As China is in UAE’s green countries list, we did not need to quarantine at all. But it is required to conduct another PCR test on day 6 and day 12 of your stay there (they even make a phone call to remind you).

A week later, when coming to Spain, we also had to take another PCR to be allowed on the plane. In theory this PCR should also be checked when arriving to Spain, but no one asked for it. I have to say, Madrid Barajas airport was quite a mess and I can totally see why there are so many covid cases in Spain… Things are not being done right at all. The only thing we had to show when exiting the airport was a QR code generated after filling a form.

By the way, the plane from Abu Dhabi to Madrid was basically empty… I think there were maybe 30 passengers, including the three of us. I’d never seen such an empty plane in my life! I don’t even want to think about my carbon print for this flight…

Flying is quite a pain in the ass during covid times, but on the bright side I can say that we were practically alone in the tourist spots in Abu Dhabi and got great pics. Well, except when we visited the Presidential Palace and there was a very annoying YouTuber/influencer or whatever that was hogging the picture spots while she repeated her takes once and over again. INFLUENCERS GO HOME. But I’ll share my Abu Dhabi pics and impressions on my next post!