As governments around the globe impose lockdowns and people self-isolate, COVID-19 has hit the travel industry hard. The World Nomads Travel podcast is suspending its regular destination episodes and, in their place, offering a daily round-up of the major coronavirus-related travel headlines.
00:36 China lifting travel restrictions
01:39 How to self help
03:40 Why these travel writers decided not to return home
07:17 What Scott and Renee are doing in South Africa
08:44 Plans for once the pandemic is over
10:33 The New York couple tying the knot during COVID-19
“Ensure you are able to enter your intended destination. There are some additional entry requirements, these can also apply to countries that you are just transiting through, so check all those destinations and transit locations with your consulate or local embassies to see if they have any requirements for you to enter.” – Jake
“…we are very interested in flattening the curve, so this whole idea of wherever you are, stay, it didn't make sense to us to get on planes and fly back to the US because we're in a place where the Coronavirus has not yet taken a real stronghold, and we're also in a country where they're taking things very seriously” - Renee
Jake Caldwell NIB Assist, emergency assistance team, team leader.
Renee Alexander and ScottMansfield run a website Story Scout, sharing stories for social change, but these couple of freelance writers, with a lust for travel, have decided not to return home to California during the pandemic, but instead they're hunkering down in South America.
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Kim: In this episode, the US Travel Writers who decided to stay in South America following the outbreak of COVID-19, what you can do to avoid further delays when trying to get home, and China is lifting travel restrictions near the center of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Speaker 2: Welcome to the New Daily WorldNomads Podcast. We'll be keeping you up to date with travel alerts, information about Coronavirus, and sharing some uplifting news and views to inspire you, and keep you smiling.
Kim: Hi, it's Kim and Phil sharing some of the travel industry headlines surrounding Coronavirus, and hearing stories from Nomads affected by the pandemic. But Phil, the idea of China lifting travel restrictions, does it ring alarm bells for some, do you think?
Phil: Yes, I think so. They've announced restrictions would be lifted in Hubei province, except in Wuhan, the center of it all. But China claims to have brought their outbreak under control. Some dispute that, but all residents will still need the green code, which is a monitoring system to travel. With travel to Thailand down, dozens of elephant parks are closing down, and park owners say, unless the government intervenes the Thai elephants could be forced back into things like illegal logging. I hope it doesn't happen because the welfare of those elephants is something that concerns us all, I'm sure.
Kim: All right, well away from the headlines, travelers are understandably asking what they can do to avoid delays when trying to get home. Now it's a question that's coming up a lot for NIB Assist, our emergency assistance team, and hot from answering the phones is team leader Jake Caldwell, take it away Phil.
Phil: So Jake, the emergency assistance line has been inundated, and I know you're coping with it very well, but you've got some great suggestions for how people can self-help.
Jake Caldwell: Yeah, that's right Phil. So look, a few things you can do, contacting your airline 72 hours before your flight, checking if they have any special requirements for you to meet before you travel. Some airlines are asking for medical clearance or confirmation that you're a resident or a citizen for that country to enter or transit through.
Phil: What about if you're sick or injured, or you need a test for COVID, what can you do?
Jake Caldwell: If you're needing to access healthcare for any illness or injury, you may be required to undergo a Coronavirus test. These tests can be expensive, and if you don't have any symptoms, it can be difficult to get those tests. So I would recommend contacting your emergency assistance team, who can direct you to an appropriate provider.
Phil: What else can travelers do? What about registering yourself with your government?
Jake Caldwell: Yeah, that's right. So we recommend that you contact your appropriate authorities, smart travel or foreign affairs ministry, and just let them know where you are and if you need any assistance. They can also provide any advice on closed borders and quarantine laws, and things like that, that may apply.
Phil: Look, if you're one of the few who is continuing on a journey for whatever reason, what should you do?
Jake Caldwell: So look, a few things. Ensure you are able to enter your intended destination. There are some additional entry requirements, these can also apply to countries that you are just transiting through, so check all those destinations and transit locations with your consulate or local embassies to see if they have any requirements for you to enter.
Phil: And sometimes there are quarantine rules for when you arrive somewhere.
Jake Caldwell: That's right, some of them do have legal enforcements, so make sure abiding by those and checking what's required. Make sure all the services are available. Are you able to access your accommodation, is there food, access to... What can you get? Make sure that your destination, it is running and equipped properly.
Kim: Thanks Jake, some very helpful tips there. Renee and Scott run a blog Story Scout, sharing stories for social change, but these couple of freelance writers, with a lust for travel, have decided not to return home to California during the pandemic, but instead, they're hunkering down in South America.
Scott: Well, we left the US for a year for world travel last June. We've decided we like South America so much that we've just stayed here. So we've just been noodling around South America since then. And the last couple of months rolled around, we started seeing signs up when we go from one country to another to let the visa people know if you've been in China, and then it gradually just got tighter and tighter. And by the time we got to the last, I'd say three weeks or so when we got here, we realized we needed to make some decisions, and had decided to go to Mexico a little earlier than we'd planned before we went back to the US. And then the last week or so, we decided that it didn't look like a good idea to go to Mexico.
Scott: One, they weren't taking things seriously, and two, the airports were beginning to look like a zoo.
Renee: Well, and also, we are very interested in flattening the curve, so this whole idea of wherever you are, stay, it didn't make sense to us to get on planes and fly back to the US because we're in a place where the Coronavirus has not yet taken a real stronghold, and we're also in a country where they're taking things very seriously. So it seemed more responsible to us, to kind of hunker down here, instead of taking the chance of picking up the virus in an airport along the way and then spreading it further in the US. And as time goes on, that seems smarter and smarter as things really take hold in the US, and we're seeing, like in New York, where cases are just skyrocketing and they're really worried about overloading the hospitals. And before we left the US, we were living in California.
Renee: We don't have a home in the US right now, so if we went back, we would be looking for a place to live, which is not really a very good activity to undertake when you should be under quarantine, so staying in Argentina seems like a really smart thing to do, and it seems smarter every day.
Kim: So tell us exactly where you are, and you mentioned that they seemed to have a hold on it, what kind of measures are in place?
Scott: Well, we're in Buenos Aires now. I'd say in the last week or so, the last four days, Argentina itself is shut down. Every place has got its own definition for what that means, but here in Buenos Aires... There are about 50 million people that live in Buenos Aires, there's 45 million that live in Argentina, so here you can go out on the streets, but you can't stop... You can go outside for exercise, you can go to a store or a pharmacy, but it's only one person. Every time... Well, it's only really been twice since they've shut down that we've gone out for groceries, both times we've been stopped by the police. Our Spanish is not that great. We gave them our passports, showed them we're in the country legally, that we weren't under quarantine, because of anybody who... In the news lately, we've seen people that have skipped the quarantine, and if they get caught they go to prison. So they're taking it... As I said, they're taking it really seriously here.
Kim: Yeah, absolutely. So in the meantime though, what's happening with your blog, Story Scout?
Renee: Well, we certainly seem to have plenty of time to update it, but I actually have been working on an assignment from Wired about a story that we came across a couple of months ago in Uruguay. So I've been trying to focus on getting that finished. I am kind of a professional procrastinator, so that's been a bit of a challenge, but I finally finished the first draft today and hope to turn some attention to our Story Scout blog, because we just have a backlog of stories to talk about, and we would love to share those stories with people who have been following us.
Kim: Yeah. A lot of travel bloggers are saying that like it's forced you to sit down and stop for a start and you're not thinking about your next adventure, but getting your stuff together. Whether it be your stories, whether it be your photographs, whether it's working on your SEO, this is a time where you could be really productive.
Renee: Thank you for pointing out our lack of productivity.
Kim: When you're not drinking wine, that is.
Scott: Supporting the local economy here as best we can.
Kim: Good on you. So once this is all over, when it's all over, what are your plans? Have you sort of sat down, because there's a lot of time to do some talking, sat down and thought about what you want to do?
Renee: Well, I mean we're supposed to return to the US in June. Originally this was... our plan was to travel for a year and then return to the San Francisco Bay area, and look for a place to live. So as of now, that's still our plan, but we also recognize that we could be here longer. We could be hunkering down in Buenos Aires for quite a while. Honestly, it's kind of a wait and see.
Kim: How you going as a couple? We're all being forced into this kind of working from home mentality here in Sydney, I'm in a tiny flat with my husband. I spoke yesterday to Jessie from Jessie on a Journey, and she's in an even tinier flat with her partner in Manhattan. Are you two coping okay together, is everything all right?
Scott: Now we're um... We've got a... Since we don't have a lease, we're doing Airbnb, so we've got a slightly larger place. It's still pretty small, not Manhattan small. I don't know, we can get out of each other's hair periodically. Even though we're not allowed to leave the building, I can still go up on the roof and cry for a while.
Renee: The last place we were in our Airbnb flat, was a studio apartment, so the only way we could be in separate rooms was if one of us went to the bathroom.
Kim: I have read that rather than a baby boom after this, there could be a big spike in the divorce rate.
Renee: No, the Courts are all closed, so...
Kim: Well guys, I love your sense of humor, and you sound so positive. I really appreciate you sharing your story with me.
Renee: Well, thank you so much, and good luck surviving the quarantine.
Kim: I'll share their blog and story they wrote about their choice in China, and to get in touch with your story, email [email protected] Phil, anything else before we wrap up this episode and tell you who are we chatting to tomorrow?
Phil: I like this one, with weddings around the world canceled and the honeymoons that follow them, a couple haven't let that get to them, tying the know in a New York City street, while a friend officiated from the fourth story window.
Kim: That's cool, isn't it.
Phil: That's physical distancing.
Kim: I am loving all these kinds of stories. Now, would you laugh Phil if you were stranded with your boyfriend, well you probably would, wouldn't you?
Phil: Yeah, that would make me laugh a lot. Yeah.
Kim: If you were stranded with your partner, and two bikes in Uzbekistan-
Phil: Go on.
Kim: Well, Ashley's laughing and we'll hear her story tomorrow.
Phil: All right.
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