Quarantine Series

TRAVELING TO THE PHILIPPINES THIS PANDEMIC? HERE’S WHAT TO EXPECT

7 Tips for CoVid Travel

We finally made it to the Philippines for our annual Christmas vacation. We are enjoying beautiful Pico de Loro in Nasugbu as I write this.

Pandemic travel is not easy. But with enough foresight and preparation, the inconvenience can be lessened.

When we were planning this trip, we have heard stories after stories of being turned away at the gate for lack of documentation, long wait at NAIA, and being stuck indefinitely at quarantine hotels.

I’m sharing my experience. I hope this will be useful for anyone who will be going home. Although protocols are constantly changing, I think our experience will give Filipinos abroad a general idea of travel to the Philippines right now.

Make sure to also visit Philippine Airlines’ guide on arrival and quarantine procedures.

# 1

ARRIVE AT YOUR AIRPORT EARLIER THAN USUAL.

At the Los Angeles airport, we arrived two hours earlier than the required 3 hours. The gates were already open, there were no crowds, and we were first in the line. You don’t want to be in a huge crowd during a pandemic.

Because we arrived at LAX early, check in was stress free

# 2

IF YOU CAN, TRAVEL NON STOP

We always traveled with Philippine Airlines even pre Covid. It might be a bit more expensive than other options (especially there is three of us traveling) but it’s a non-stop flight which saves us time from layovers and potential delays. On a pandemic, I would pay anything to avoid more inconvenience in other airports. I don’t want to deal with additional foreign airport protocols.

# 3

KNOW WHAT DOCUMENTS WILL BE REQUIRED IF YOU HAVE A FOREIGN SPOUSE

Although the Philippine Government already canceled the visa requirement for foreign spouses and children of Filipino nationals, we were still asked to present these to Philippine Airlines upon checking in. That includes Dave’s 9A visa and our apostilled marriage contract.  The ground crew read all our documents very thoroughly and made photocopies.

In another post “VISA APPLICATION FOR FOREIGN SPOUSE OF A FILIPINO NATIONAL”, I detailed the requirements for the 9A visa. Although Philippine immigration no longer requires this (for now) I was surprised that Philippine Airlines still required this.

# 4

STAY AT EMPTY GATES WHILE WAITING FOR YOUR FLIGHT

AVOID THE CROWDED GATES! The airport scene was surreal. The typically busy and crazy LAX was so eerily quiet except for a few gates. Most of the shops and restaurants were closed except for a couple. I’ve seen people traveling attired in PPE and it was life imitating the bad sci fi movies my husband watched.

Travelers wearing PPE at LAX

# 5

BE READY WITH YOUR SHIELD AND MASKS AND A LOT OF PATIENCE

On board the plane was another story. Philippine Airlines was 90% full. There were only a few vacant seats but for the  most part, social distancing was almost impossible. I’m glad it’s three of us traveling and we didn’t have to be seated with strangers.  We were required to wear our masks and face shield for the whole flight except when eating. I couldn’t breathe!

Mask and Shield!

We were still served full meals and snacks and we were given a liter of water each as soon as we were seated. Maybe this was to lessen contact. The flight attendants were all garbed in PPEs and it felt like being in a hospital and not on a plane.

I miss seeing the beautiful PAL flight attendants who are now fully covered

Upon arrival, we were told  to remain seated. Philippine Coast Guard personnel came in to give a briefing and to take our temperatures. This took another half an hour.

Coast Guard Personnel

# 6

SAVE TIME AND INCOVENIENCE BY KNOWING THE PROTOCOLS AND DOING THINGS AHEAD

We were then ushered to the testing area. The wait was not too long. In 20 minutes we were done testing. It was hateful! I hated the nostril swab test! They also did a throat swab. We paid PHP 4,500 each. We were told that since we did the test at 4.30am, we will most likely get the results within the day. (we got it at 3pm same day)

Swab testing personnel

Reminder: Do your online registration for this swab test before departure. Have a photo of your QR code that will be sent to your email upon registration. This will make things quicker.

After the swab test, we were led to another area where they checked our hotel reservation and transportation arrangements.

Reminder:  Make sure you have a printed copy of your hotel reservations or a photo on your phone.

Hotel reservation verification after the swab test

I recently read an article about a group of travelers from the US who were brought to a cheap nasty hotel in Batanggas. Make sure you do your hotel arrangements well.

At the immigration, make sure your foreign spouse or child is in the same line with you, even if there is a separate line for Filipino nationals and foreigners. It will just make things easier. The immigration officer DID NOT REQUIRE the 9A visa but asked for our marriage contract. When I asked him if he needed to see my husband’s visa, he said – “You are your husband’s visa”

After immigration and customs we met our hotel shuttle. If you have not made arrangements you are required to take the airport taxi. You cannot be picked up by family.

# 7

CHOOSE YOUR HOTEL WELL!

“READ REVIEWS AND FIND OUT FROM FRIENDS OR OTHER TRAVELERS ABOUT THEIR HOTEL EXPERIENCE. REMEMBER YOU WILL BE THERE FOR AT LEAST A NIGHT OR WORSE DAYS

We were taken by the hotel shuttle to the hotel basement and we had to take the service elevator instead of the usual front desk check-in. Maybe the hotel didn’t want to scare off other non-quarantine guests.

As soon as we got to our hotel room, we saw our food already waiting for us outside our hotel door. And this would be for the rest of our stay. Food was just left outside the hotel room.

We chose to stay at Parque Espana,  a condotel in Alabang instead of a regular hotel. I got a two bedroom suite with kitchen and dining room. This was better than a cramped hotel room. We also had a fridge for the food we brought in from the US. I was also ready to make some light meals for us just in case hotel food was not good. Surprisingly, the food they served was more than enough and was actually good.

If you are from the South of Manila, I highly recommend Parque Espana for your quarantine. I had a nephew who stayed at the B Hotel and food was horrible. Remember, you will not be allowed to go out or order food from outside while in quarantine.

BREAKFAST was fried rice with Longanisa and eggs, pastries, fruits, coffee and juice

LUNCH was Chicken Teriyaki with mixed vegetables, miso soup and fresh fruits

DINNER was Beef with onions, Garden salad, mushroom soup and fruit salad

So finally at 3pm we got our test results. I immediately called up the hotel and they informed the Health Department and gave us clearance to go.

Traveling during a pandemic is not easy. But we chose to do it and take our chances because this year has been extremely difficult for everyone and more than ever I needed to see my family in the Philippines. I needed my silver lining in these dark and difficult days.

In all these I still say, I am grateful for the gift of family and good health. Happy New Year to everyone.

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