I have always loved travel. My very first solo (with my school) trip was to Romania way back in 1989. That was the trip that sowed the wanderlust in me. It has never left. Travel has changed so much since the late ’80s. Budget Airlines arrived, the internet came and of course, now we have Covid.
What is it like to travel in 2021?
Many of you have contacted me asking me what is it like to travel in 2021. Below are my observations of the good, the bad and the ugly of travelling in 2021.
I have spoken a lot about my fears of over-tourism. Before Covid came along the news was focusing on locals protesting about too many tourists in their cities. Now, the opposite is happening. Many small tourism companies are crying out for tourists. So why is this in the good section? To be fair it could also be in the bad section.
As a traveller having quiet train carriages and planes is heaven. Visiting top tourist attractions without crowds is also very special. On our recent trip to Lisbon, Portugal we pleasantly experienced the top attractions. No queues, no noisy tour groups and no rush.
Have you noticed the smiling waiters, friendly immigration staff and helpful bus drivers? Again, in Portugal, we were met with incredible service. It is amazing what a little time can do for people.
Having fewer tourists makes the service you receive a little more personable. Waiters actually had conversations with us. The immigration official was trying to convince me to move to Portugal as he checked my passport!
Locals Reclaiming Their Areas
From Barcelona to Sydney, locals have started revisiting areas of their cities that they avoided because of mass tourism. Venetians could enjoy their amazing city without the crowds. We noticed this in Lisbon. Wherever we went there was a mix of locals and tourists. In an ideal world, this is how it would be. A happy middle way.
The flip side to having tourist destinations to yourself is the fact of tourism businesses struggling or collapsing. I am talking about the girl who would sell me fresh juice on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok. Or the family-run restaurants in Sri Lanka. These people relied on travellers for their income. Since the pandemic began it is estimated that 100 million tourism jobs have been lost.
When we departed to Lisbon, Portugal was on England’s green list. During our 7 days there it moved to amber. That change meant that we had to quarantine for 10 days when we got back home and had to take an extra PCR test.
We are luckier than most, we both work from home so being forced to quarantine wasn’t a major issue. People who can’t work from home either had to leave Portugal earlier (and pay ridiculous airline costs) or take 10 days unpaid leave. There was a mad scramble to get back to England before the deadline.
One of the things I love about travel is not knowing. I am talking about not knowing the language or what I am eating. I love getting lost on our travels. The current situation is different. Not knowing if you have to quarantine when you have children is not a pleasant feeling. It brings anxiety to your holiday which is the very thing you want to avoid on your well-earned break.
I am quite sure that by the time you read this post things will have changed yet again.
I believe in science. As a Travel Blogger, I have taken enough tests and vaccines to be allowed to enter countries. So I totally agree with taking tests to travel. However, the prices of some of these tests are astronomical. We spent over £1000 on our tests. If you are a family of 4 you will need to double that. Don’t forget that if any of those tests come back positive, you can’t travel. So you would either be stuck at home after spending all your money. Or, stuck abroad for 10 days. It is a huge risk. At the moment, travel is only for the well off.
On our flight back from Lisbon to Stanstead, I overheard a woman talking. She went on holiday to Portugal with her husband and two young sons. Like us, they decided to stay for the duration of their holiday and quarantine at home when they got back. Like us, they took a test at Lisbon airport. Unfortunately, they had a problem with their tests and had to miss their flight to Liverpool. Eventually, the tests were sorted out but now they had to buy another flight. There were no more flights to Liverpool, hence why they were on our flight to Stanstead.
Our flight landed at midnight. Because Portugal was now on the amber list this poor family had to hire a car at the airport and drive directly to Liverpool. They were not allowed to stay in an airport hotel in Stanstead. I am not even sure they were allowed to stop at motorway services. They were forced to drive hundreds of miles in the middle of the night with two tired kids.
This could have been avoided if the government stuck to what they promised and gave holidaymakers notice if a country was moving from green to amber.
Travel has changed. You need to plan more and expect the unexpected. If they could bring the costs of the tests down I still believe that travelling is worth it. The one week break we had in Portugal did us a world of good. I have always encouraged people to travel more in their home countries. I still do, but for me nothing beats eating different cuisines, learning about other cultures and not knowing where the hell I am going.