As the world slowly reopens after closing in 2020 due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, it only makes sense that the urge to get back out there and explore the world will affect many of us — and some of us. , it strikes with vengeance. Unfortunately, so does the virus, as the new Omicron variant has shown.
And while the ethics of whether or not to travel has yet to be debated, the fact is that many travel. If you choose to go on an adventure during the pandemic era, it is important to recognize that the risk of contracting Covid-19 during your travels is very real and could put you in a dire situation. In fact, even with improved safety measures and vaccination requirements, Covid can still happen to you.
So, what happens if you find yourself testing positive for Covid-19 during your travels? Let’s dig in and see.
What should I do if I test positive on arrival?
You reach your destination and get off the plane. You will then undergo an additional screening to find out that you are symptomatic. Remember, “symptomatic” is defined by the person you’re examining, not you. And in some countries, like India, you can be randomly tested, even if you don’t show any symptoms at all.
Depending on where in the world you are located, the process will vary, but for the most part, after the detection of symptoms related to Covid-19 you will be wiped out for testing and placed in some form of isolation until your results return .
If the test is positive, you will most likely need to remain in quarantine until the mandatory incubation period has ended and you are no longer at risk of spreading the virus. The range for this is usually no less than 10 days and all the way up to 21 days if you remain symptomatic. Again, the details, such as the length of the mandatory quarantine required, all vary depending on where in the world you are currently located. Some of these provisions even vary from city to city, not just individual countries, so be sure to do your research beforehand.
The definition of “quarantine” also varies widely. In some countries this simply means staying in your already booked hotel room or holiday home, ordering room service and checking in via an app. Being in a beachfront property with a nice balcony may not seem like the worst thing in the world.
But in other countries, it means staying locked up in a government-chosen hotel and getting cold sandwiches delivered once a day. And you’ll be the one paying for that shelter that some “guests” have compared to “life in a cage.” You are advised to have travel insurance that covers the costs of a quarantine.
What should I do if I test positive during my travels?
In this situation you have come out of the airport and have a great time enjoying your surroundings when you suddenly feel “out”. And then you just know because you’ve read all the signs and understood the symptoms – it must be Covid-19.
The first step after recognizing these symptoms is to make sure you are not in close contact with others. Then you need to contact the local health department who will help you test. Most destinations ask you not to go out in public to find a test to reduce the chances of spreading the virus.
The CDC provides an international directory of health departments, which you can access here. Another helpful resource from the CDC is this guide to healthcare while traveling.
Once you have been identified, you will fall under the purview of the local health department at your destination. Again, your treatment will vary widely.
You may be tempted to do a self-test and not report it or not test at all. Nor is wise advice if you want to be a responsible traveler and protect others as well as your own interests.
What should I do if I test positive before boarding?
Current flying test requirements make this scenario unlikely. For example, most countries require proof of a negative test to even be allowed to enter the airport, let alone board. You will find a complete list of the rapidly evolving requirements for travelers to Europe here.
If for any reason you test positive before boarding, it is vital that you isolate yourself from others as soon as possible. Do not board the flight.
Contact your doctor as soon as possible. When you are at your home airport, go back home and continue to isolate yourself from others. While you’re still at your destination, prepare for an extended stay at a hotel or government-selected accommodation. a stash hotel points and/or travel insurance are invaluable in this situation.
What can I expect?
Whether you catch Covid-19 at the airport or halfway through your trip, chances are you need to isolate yourself from others. Mandatory isolation can range from staying at your Airbnb or whatever accommodation you’ve booked, to full state-run “quarantine hotels.” These are usually remote facilities designated by the government to detain and isolate people with the virus. They can range from first class accommodations to the most basic room. Again, whether you can quarantine or stay in a “quarantine hotel” depends on the country and its protocol.
Some countries will foot the bill when visitors are quarantined at a government-mandated facility, but a significant number of countries won’t. If you are in a country that does not cover costs, you will be held responsible for all costs associated with quarantine. Some of these costs can also be significant.
For example, the country of New Zealand charges fees about $2,100 USD per adult and $323 for children over three to stay in a state-approved “quarantine hotel.”
How can you prepare?
It is vital that you arm yourself with information and knowledge of the protocol for positive test results at the site or places you will be visiting. Not only for your own safety and health, but also for your wallet.
Pandemic travel insurance
One of the best ways to protect yourself during your travels is with travel insurance, whether in the pandemic era or not, but especially in this time of uncertainty. However, not all insurance companies offer pandemic protection, so it’s especially important to make sure you find a company that will protect you from the costs that can arise from Covid-related complications.
Pandemic travel insurance plans, unlike regular travel insurance, help protect you from the problems and costs that arise for things like travel cancellation due to border closing. But possibly the most important coverage these plans offer are for both medical and quarantine costs. As mentioned, if you do have to quarantine anyway, chances are these costs will fall on you. Pandemic travel insurance can cover these additional costs and prevent you from potentially having to spend thousands of extra dollars.
In the worst cases requiring hospitalization due to complications from Covid, pandemic travel insurance can make the difference between affordable healthcare and bankruptcy. If things go really bad, good insurance will even cover a flight from the country to your home country.
Each of these cases can cost travelers thousands to even hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the level of care needed, the form of quarantine required, and more. Be sure to research and compare insurance policies thoroughly before purchasing one to ensure it provides all the essential coverage you may need.
Note that some countries require travel insurance with pandemic protection to enter their borders. For a more thorough breakdown and comprehensive list of insurance companies offering pandemic travel insurance, read more here.
If you’re planning to travel while the pandemic is raging, try to keep your plans as flexible as possible. The more leeway you leave to yourself, the more time and options will be freed up.
Other ways to be flexible include:
- Please ensure you have plenty of time at the front and back of your trip for any potential issues that may arise
- Stick to booking flights with airlines that offer free flight changes or cancellations.
- Take home your own FDA-approved test kits that provide an easy and smooth testing process for homecoming. Check with your airline and home country to check if these tests are allowed.
- Allocate additional time for throughput using any method. Airports are not the only transportation facilities that may require additional screening measures.
Being prepared with knowledge of what will happen if you test positive for Covid-19 while traveling is the best way to ensure you get quality care in the worst case scenario. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the requirements and protocol for the country or countries you plan to visit. And finally, strongly consider pandemic travel insurance for the unexpected, which ironically is expected more than ever these days.