It’s November and it’s time to return to Sally in Grenada. Unfortunately, the pandemic with covid-19 has picked up speed again and the number of infections is rising almost all over the world. As the number of infected people rises, more and more travel restrictions are introduced in many countries and scheduled flights are canceled. It feels like the longer we wait, the harder it will be to travel to Grenada and Sally.
We try to read about what applies, but on the one hand, the rules and conditions change, on the other hand, the information is not always completely unambiguous and there is room for interpretation.
This is how our trip turned out
On November 2nd, we book Lufthansa from Copenhagen with a departure on Thursday, November 12 via Frankfurt to Barbados and with InterCaribbean from Barbados to Grenada. We are expected to arrive in the evening the same day, absolutely perfect. We also book PCR tests on Monday 9 Nov and accommodation in a quarantine hotel in Grenada and fill in entry forms for Barbados and Grenada. Unfortunately, the conditions for us changed several times over the next two weeks until departure.
The final trip took about 80 hours and we made 7 landings in 6 countries (Sweden, England, Barbados 2 times, Antigua, St Vincent, and Grenada) and slept 3 nights in hotels during the trip. In addition, we had to fill in or change entry and health forms for the United States, England, Barbados, Antigua, and Grenada several times as the dates of entry and travel route changed all the time.
The calendar below shows how our trip turned out with flights, hotels, quarantines, PCR tests, and changes.
1 week before departure, Lufthansa cancels the flight to Barbados. But they have the same route available departing on Saturday 14 Nov and arriving in the evening the same day.
We rebook to 14 Nov and also move the booking for the flight Barbados-Grenada and our accommodation in Grenada and postpone the PCR test to Wednesday 11 Nov and change all travel documents required by Barbados and Grenada.
On Monday 9 Nov we were informed that Lufthansa has canceled the flight between Frankfurt and Barbados and all subsequent flights to Barbados this year so it is not possible to change to later dates.
This means that we request the money back from Lufthansa and after a few days we have received the money back. The trip with InterCaribbean is not refundable but we can have travel at a later date.
We book a new trip to Grenada, this time with Travellink.com which finds a trip that goes over Copenhagen departing Friday 13 November and arriving in Grenada on Saturday 14 November. We fly with Lufthansa via Munich to Newark, the next day we continue with American Airlines via Miami to Grenada. Travelink also offers travel insurance that proves useless because it does not cover covid-19, but who has time to read the fine print when booking on the internet !? We obtain ESTA for transit in the US, it was approved 3 days before departure. This booking turns out to be a big mistake!
We are once again changing the time for PCR tests and rebooking accommodation in Grenada and updating travel documents and filling in new ones for the US.
We are not allowed to check in to travel to the United States. After a lot of mailing, it turns out that transit is not allowed for travelers from Sweden, which is now classified as a high-risk country by the USA. So despite valid ESTA, we weren’t allowed to go there.
This means that we have to rebook the trip with Travelink, which turns out to be both difficult and ultimately impossible. When we called Travelink to rebook the trip, we had to wait in a telephone queue for over 1 hour. In broken English on a bad telephone connection, they tell us that we have to ask the airlines to rebook the trip. Lufthansa claims that since the trip is booked by an agent (Travellink), it is the agent who must rebook the trip. So there we are with a journey that no one wants to help us rebook. We ourselves do not have the right to rebook via the internet, neither with Travelink nor Lufthansa. American Airlines allowed changing to another trip later that we can’t use. The insurance we bought does not apply in the pandemic, talk about misled!
We find a new trip from Sweden via England and Barbados with SAS and Virgin Atlantic. Then we can use the outstanding trip at InterCaribbean to fly to Grenada. This trip starts on Friday 13 November. The PCR test from Monday will still be new enough to apply in Grenada, which requires a maximum of 7 days old test. However, it is uncertain what requirements Barbados has for those who only do transit and are not going to visit the country. For safety’s sake, we decide to do a new PCR test the same day we travel from Malmö. It is uncertain whether we will have time to get the answer before we land in Barbados.
Friday morning on the way to Sturup, we pass the only place in Malmö that had time to do PCR tests for travel documents at. 8 in the morning.
Even on this trip with SAS, it is carefully checked PCR tests and tickets for how to travel and what to do in England. We are approved and can follow. However, the airplane between Arlanda and Heathrow is almost completely full and at Arlanda, no mouthguard is required (the only airport that did not require it during the entire journey). There are also no bottles with rubbing alcohol, which all other airports have had. Onboard, however, face masks are required on the SAS aircraft.
At Heathrow, we will check into a hotel until the next day when we will continue with Virgin Atlantic.
We got problems when checking in with Virgin Atlantic at Heathrow! Our PCR test from Monday will be too old for Barbados which requires a maximum of 3 days old test, ours will be 5 days when we land in Barbados and according to Virgin Atlantic, it does not help that we only have to do transit.
They deny us check-in and instead suggest that we continue with the airplane to Antigua, which has a 7-day limit for PCR tests. However, we must have a flight ticket from Antigua to be admitted and Virgin Atlantic suggests that we purchase a refundable ticket to Jamaica from Antigua.
The alternative is to wait in London until Wednesday and fly with Virgin to Barbados then instead. However, this would mean that we need to do a new PCR test in London and stay in a hotel for 5 nights with the risk of being infected with covid-19 while in London.
We choose to go to Antigua and hope that the latest PCR test is negative so we can go back to Barbados on Sunday.
Now it’s hurry to the plane and we do not have time to eat breakfast as we intended. Onboard the plane we book a trip to Antigua to Barbados and book a hotel and food delivery in Grenada. We do not have time to book the trip to Barbados to Grenada before taking off.
It will be a pleasant trip to Barbados with good service onboard and a good selection of movies so time passes quickly. Unfortunately, the PCR test is delayed so when leaving Barbados, we do not know if we can return to Barbados tomorrow.
It is a short flight to Antigua and after a well-functioning covid-19 process, we are transported to a quarantine accommodation near the airport. Later in the evening comes the answer to our PCR tests, both are negative, ie we have no viruses. Yes, we can go to Barbados tomorrow. We quickly booked the tickets from Barbados to Grenada, unfortunately, we also have to spend the night in Barbados, there are no connecting flights on the same day.
The remaining flights to Grenada go as planned with rigorous checks at check-in and when you get off the plane.
Monday 16 November we finally arrive at the quarantine hotel in Grenada and the food we ordered has been delivered there. Great, now we can finally relax, but it will prove to be much more cumbersome to get money back for the ticket to Jamaica.
Measures to prevent spreading Covid-19
All airlines have requirements for mouth protection onboard and all airports we passed (except Arlanda) had requirements using face masks. There is the staff who urge people to wear face masks properly so that they cover both nose and mouth.
All airports (except Arlanda) have containers with rubbing alcohol placed everywhere and there is the staff who urge you to spray your hands several times during the passage through the terminal to the aircraft.
Social distancing is applied everywhere and you can only sit on every other chair in the terminals. Passengers that travel together are seated together and the groups are spread out in the airplane.
Disinfection on board, partly by wiping surfaces such as handles for toilets and disinfecting the entire aircraft interior before landing.
From this trip, we have learned some important things.
- Airlines have strict rules so that those who come on board meet all the entry requirements that exist. If they bring people who are not allowed in, they are fined and have to bear the cost of transporting the person in question back.
- Those in border control have a number of rules to follow and it is usually not possible to get them to stretch the rules in order to be admitted.
- During our search for travel, I found a great tool at KLM. Unfortunately, it was too late for us to really benefit from it. KLM has a page where you state which itineraries you are thinking of and information about your travel documents. Then you are informed which documents and rules apply to be able to travel the intended route. Really a good site.
- Another experience we have is that when it says that a PCR test can be a maximum of 7 days or 72 hours, they count the time from the time the test was taken to the time you plan to enter the country.
- When it comes to the USA and ESTA, you can get an ESTA but still be stopped at the border if, for example, you have been in a certain country for the past 2 weeks.
- Buying travel and hotels via the internet
- I experienced that Travelink tries to incite purchases by saying that you only have 10 minutes and in times like these it means that you do not have a chance to read through all the different rules that apply to the intended trip. Rules that are often fine print and in English wish is not always easy to understand if you arn’t fluent in the language.
- When we booked with InterCaribbean and Caribbean Airlines, it has been stated that there are only 4 seats left on this flight. When we got on board, it was not even half full.
- Internet-based tour operators like Travelink.com, Kiwi.com and Hotels.com have great websites for searching for affordable travel and accommodation. Unfortunately, they have poor or downright lousy customer service to handle changes that can not be handled via the website, for example to request a refund or other change that involves cost to the agent. It is also remarkably difficult to find how to make this type of change. Unfortunately, this also applies to Virgin Atlantic, which had a great flight with excellent service. But when it came to requesting a refund of the Antigua ticket to Jamaica, they have bad customer service and slow repayment.
- To reach customer service you have to call and calling abroad becomes expensive when the telephone queue is 1 hour or longer. So we will never book again through that type of travel agent, we only have bad experiences. We can use them to find travel, but we book directly with the airlines or hotels.