Traveling and moving to a foreign country can be quite stressful in the best of times, but moving during a pandemic is even more challenging. In my recent post, I talked about our first-hand experience and challenges with moving from Canada to Scotland. I have compiled a list of tips to hopefully help you if you are deciding to move to a different country during Covid 19.
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Make sure you check with the local authorities in regards to restrictions
No matter where you are going right now, local authorities will have their own set of rules and restrictions regarding Covid 19. It is super important to go onto government websites to view what you need to do to enter the country. Some countries are requiring you to get a Covid test done before your arrival. In this case, you would need to have the results readily available. It is also a good idea to check with your public health authority on how long the results are taking and how to obtain the results. For most places, travel swabs are a very low priority; I would suggest booking in for a test about one week in advance.
When we moved to the U.K., we thankfully did not have to do any prior testing, but we did have to fill out contact tracing forms online; these had to be done no earlier than 48 hours in advance. This allowed customs and the public health authority to see where you would be for the two-week quarantine, your seats on your flight, and how to get a hold of you. All of this information was efficiently laid out on the government of U.K.’s website.
I was super stressed about customs not letting me into the country. I printed everything out about our trip from our accommodation receipt, contact tracing forms, visa forms, and double-checked that I had done everything I needed as per the government’s website. Some people were scrambling at customs because they did not have everything they needed, but we got through pretty easy. Sometimes it is better to be over-prepared as it made our trip through customs seamless.
Another thing to think about when making travel plans is if you have to quarantine or not. Right now, the standard is 14 full days from when you arrive in the country of your final destination. Some countries will have a list of who needs to quarantine and who does not. Make sure to review this before planning your trip! You will also need to know where you are going to be staying for the two-week quarantine duration. Be prepared to be checked on to ensure that you are following quarantine rules.
We booked an Airbnb and chose to pay a little extra to have some flexibility with canceling and requesting changes to our booking dates. Traveling during a pandemic can be extremely unpredictable. Flights and Covid rules can change at any time. We were upfront with our Airbnb hosts about our plans for coming from Canada and that we would be in quarantine. We were lucky because our hosts were super flexible with our changes and were easy to communicate with. Make sure to message your hosts in advance!
Another option is to get an apartment before you get to your destination. We did not because there was so much uncertainty about when and if we were going to be able to move. We really did not want to be paying rent on something that we were not going to be living in. Something else to think about that we found out is that to open a bank account in Scotland; you need to apply online but then physically go into a bank to prove your identity and provide a paper copy of proof of address. Going into a bank goes against quarantine rules, and unfortunately, most utility places require you to have a bank account. Most apartments will have electricity and water set up for you to use until you get things switched, but it was impossible to get broadband (wifi) without an account. Broadband was something we needed ahead of time due to it being our only form of communication and entertainment. There is only so many Netflix shows you can download ahead of time.
With being in quarantine, you also need to think about food. Most places will allow you to order delivery through their websites. The U.K. government will also allow you to go out of quarantine to get groceries if you do not have anyone to deliver you food, either through a relative or a food delivery service. I did pre-order for a grocery order for the next morning when we arrived but had trouble getting through for future orders as our credit card security was not letting the payments go through. Our cards were not necessarily locked; there was just a computer blocking online purchases. We could make purchases in-store and were told by our credit card company that the only way to stop our cards from being declined was to use them, which is hard to do when you are in quarantine. So, my husband was our designated shopper and went out a few times to get groceries. I would suggest bringing some pre-paid credit cards just in case and making sure you stay somewhere close to a grocery store.
This one speaks for itself. We had our flights booked for July 2020 and did not end up leaving until the end of September. This was due to us knowing that we were not going to be able to do the touring we wanted to do, and our flights were either canceled or rescheduled a total of three times. Flights are constantly changing right now, and unfortunately, there is not much anyone can do to predict what will happen. I also found that most times, you have to fly into big centers when flying internationally. Instead of us flying right into Scotland, we had to fly into London and then book additional transport from there.
Different countries have different visa requirements based on what you are doing in the country. The U.K. has a detailed list of the different visa types and has a quiz on which visa best suits you if you are unsure which one you should apply for. From there, it will give you a checklist of what you need for requirements. I felt confident doing the process myself, but you can pay for extra services at the biometric appointment to help with things like photocopying. The visa process was almost all done online and was pretty easy to navigate. The one thing that I did not realize was that you needed to go to specific centers to do your biometrics report. There is a total of five VFS centers in Canada, so the closest one to you might involve some traveling. As far as I am aware, all the centers are now open again. The appointment took five minutes to hand in your passport, required paperwork (make sure to print it out ahead of time unless you paid for the extra services), and for them to take your photo and fingerprints. The earliest appointment I could get into was two weeks from the time of booking on a tier five youth mobility visa, but my husband could get a next day appointment for a tier four student visa. They say to allow three weeks for a decision on your visa for the United Kingdom unless you pay for a priority decision, which is almost double the cost, but you receive a decision in one week.
Most places are not allowing non-essential travel yet. Just because you can book a flight into a different country does not mean they will let you in at customs. That is why it is important to always follow what is being recommended by the government. I do not regret our decision to continue with our travel plans for moving; it just required a little more planning and patience.
If your wondering what it is like to move abroad during a pandemic, than click to view my post on My Experience of Moving To A New Country During A Pandemic!