Thinking of travelling abroad? Don't forget your face mask (or your vaccine)

Stay'll need to pack plenty of face masks for travelling.Stay'll need to pack plenty of face masks for travelling.
Stay'll need to pack plenty of face masks for travelling.
Remember last week I made some suggestions for a winter getaway? Well, I took my own advice and jetted off for some much-needed R&R – not to mention some sunshine. Did I book the trip wondering if I would ever get through the paperwork needed to satisfy the entry requirements? Yes. Was I scared I wouldn’t actually get there as the rules are still changing almost daily? Yes.

Recently, some countries are starting to take a hard-line approach to who can and cannot visit and if you’re not fully vaccinated, it will be a bit trickier to go on holiday. We are seeing a rise in Covid cases in Europe and we may see more restrictions imposed. I think I got lucky, and my trip came and went without incident.

I love city breaks and pre-Covid when the world was our oyster, I’d have gone anywhere. I love discovering new places and I visited somewhere I had never been to before. Lisbon.

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I had been to Portugal years ago on a bucket and spade holiday, but the beach bars of the Algarve weren’t what I was after on this occasion. I wanted more than that but mostly, I wanted a quick and easy flight out of Scotland to road test the new ways of doing things -travel in the Covid era. I needed to get over the fear of setting foot outside my front door and I hoped a quick jaunt to a beautiful city would restore my equilibrium and it did.

Stunning...Lisbon bathed in winter sunshine and gearing up for Christmas in the Praca do Comercio.Stunning...Lisbon bathed in winter sunshine and gearing up for Christmas in the Praca do Comercio.
Stunning...Lisbon bathed in winter sunshine and gearing up for Christmas in the Praca do Comercio.

During the first lockdown, I was scared. I was happy to abide by the rules and barely left my house. I had everything delivered to me and only went out to have a socially distanced visit on my parents’ doorstep. I was obsessed with disinfectant and there wasn’t a surface that wasn’t doused in Dettol every 10 minutes. I was fanatical about doing everything I could to avoid catching this dreaded virus. Living like a hermit became the new normal and worse than that, I didn’t seem to mind. We’ve all lost out on so much yet it seemed a small price to pay.

Travel for me isn’t just about getting two weeks of sun, sea and sand, lying on a lounger from sun up to sun down. Overseas travel feeds my soul. I love learning about other cultures, trying new food, drinking wine in a country where the grape is grown. I am a huge fan of European art and architecture and the sights, sounds and smells of a new place has been one of life’s joys since I took my first foreign trip to Italy in 1985. During lockdown I wondered if I’d ever go to Tesco again let alone go abroad and I didn’t realise how much I missed travelling until I went away last week. I felt like I was seeing the world through new eyes.

This was my first overseas break since before the pandemic hit. Everything went smoothly and there wasn’t much difference to how we do things here. Wearing masks in the airport and during the flight was slightly uncomfortable but we’re used to them now, right? The same measures were applied in Lisbon as they are here. Wear a mask until you sit at a table to eat but pop it back on if you want to move around, say to visit the loo or when you are leaving, although I did see more people wearing masks outdoors than we see here. The only change was the admin involved for getting into Portugal and getting back into the UK. Firstly, you have to upload your vaccination status (I’m double jabbed!) and be prepared to show either a paper or digital version. Passenger locator forms are a bit of a faff, but I appreciate why they’re necessary. I did my PLF for Portugal before I left but the one needed to come home had to be done whilst I was in Lisbon. Yes, it was a slight inconvenience, but it was 15 minutes out of my morning. Just don’t forget to do it. I was amazed to find people checking in at the airport who hadn’t filled theirs in only to be refused boarding. You also have to book a day 2 test for your return, which I ordered in advance, and it was waiting on me when I came home. You have to put the booking reference for the test into your passenger locator form so make sure you do this ahead of getting to the airport.

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After a glorious few days in the Portuguese capital, I was reluctant to come home, knowing it might be a while before I can soak up the atmosphere (or the sun) in a different country. Sure, there’s more effort involved in your preparation but just research the entry requirements for your chosen destination so you’re not caught out at the airport with missing documentation.

I took my lateral flow test on my return and within a couple of hours my result was emailed to me. Thankfully it was negative, and no isolation required. If you pay attention to what you need to do, it will be relatively easy but time will tell if we are going to be facing more restrictions over the winter. For now, I am grateful I was able to see another corner of the world, albeit in a surgical mask. Oh, and Lisbon was wonderful.

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