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Before the Coronavirus became a pandemic and being risk-tolerant about the current situation, my mom and I decided to push our flights abroad. We left the Philippines on February 19th and headed to the United Arab Emirates.
Everything went well for the first month, until the situation got worse.
With this in mind, I thought it would be best to share with you our journey of what it’s like to be traveling during the pandemic season, so buckle up!
I hope my post will help you determine your risk tolerance for traveling during the pandemic season. 😀
February – Pre-pandemic
It was *post-winter* in the Middle-East. Not scorchingly hot, as it usually was, we were able to explore Dubai and Abu Dhabi in UAE for about 3 weeks. Everything was opened and people barely wear masks at the time. In fact, we asked our fellow “Kababayans” / Pinoys who worked in a Mall in Dubai, why they aren’t wearing masks. They replied: It wasn’t allowed and it might instill fear to the tourists.
Although lockdown did not occur, they brought up that their sales were declining by a huge margin. At this point, travelers from China were banned from entering the country. My guess is that the Chinese were the ones bringing in most of the sales.
Overall, it seems to be pretty normal with only a few people who wear masks. Businesses were slightly affected but the city is still bustling.
I was happy seeing my mom experience traveling with me for the first time, riding camels, soaking her feet in the desert, and often in awe by the tall exquisite-looking buildings and the majestic Grand Mosque. I’ve always wanted to take her to places.
March – The Pandemic
Before our flight from Dubai to London on March 9, I developed an unusually high fever. Perhaps, this is just some other type of flu, or fatigue?
And then .. I collapsed at the airport.
My mom panicked and called help. Medics came to check my vitals and temperature and to our relief, my fever wasn’t that high at the time. Although they pointed out that I have an abnormally high blood sugar level and also asked me if I have a sore throat. I didn’t and so they let me board the plane and then, escorted us to our gates. I saved myself from walking a long way. How nice of them. At the time, they weren’t that strict.
The whole duration of the flight was full of discomfort and I’ve have felt some sort of heaviness in me. We landed safely after transiting from Beirut, Lebanon. Passing through the UK’s immigration took some time as we were asked a bunch of questions, probably because we were the last ones in line. There were no temperature scanners at London’s Heathrow Airport. It wasn’t crowded and there were only few people at that time.
Our relatives picked us at the airport and warmly welcomed us. Naturally, they were worried about my condition and I felt bad that I might have …had it.
The weather was “nice” for them, but for someone who was having a fever, it was … damn cold.
We went home after buying groceries and medicine and I isolated while recovering.
A week later, the Coronavirus became a global pandemic. The UK, Philippines, and other countries were in a state of lockdown in order to keep the virus from spreading.
The symptoms and the struggle
I can’t fully comprehend. It was very different from my previous sicknesses. From what I can remember I was having:
- Body and chest pain
- 38-40.5 degrees celsius fever
- Sleepless and uncomfortable due to endless coughing
- No appetite to eat, as if the flavors were gone.
Good thing that my asthma had not triggered and my breathing were fine.
When I wasn’t feeling better, we phone called the National Health Service for assistance and asked if we could get tested. I was prepared to be admitted, fear of having my Mom and aunt get infected. Guilt and regret clouded my mind.
From what I read, the UK covers the hospital expenses if you are diagnosed with having a corona (even if you are a tourist), so that’s a relief.
The tests were limited at the time, and I did not fit to be tested since shortness of breath wasn’t part of my symptoms and I have not been to China.
After a week, my cough lessened but to another horror: a tinge of blood in my sputum.
And, it was getting redder and redder each day.
Each cough felt a stab of a knife in my lungs. We thought this is just an aftermath of endless coughing, cause my lungs had a beating. Surely, there’d be blood?
I continued recovering and isolating at home, trying out other methods to heal like “tuob” and a series of garlic + ginger teas.
I was lucky to have my mom and Aunt Emma who was a nurse, took care of me. Imagine being sick like this while traveling alone?
…and eventually, with prayers and special care, I was healed. It appears I have not infected them. (?) They had coughs and colds but that was it.
Whether I had it or not, it’s still a mystery for me… I’m just grateful I have surpassed that trial.
April – Healing, and Acceptance
When I was completely healed, I was yearning to be able to explore the UK but also accepted the situation that we might not. I was patient, thinking that the virus will be over soon. We can only get out if we need to buy some essentials. Ahhh, those glimpses of the city were lovely.
Bedford was mesmerizing and beautiful. The skies were too blue and the grasses were too green. The picturesque villages have that certain character in them, and the houses blend together. Its aura reminded me of some Old English Bedtime Stories like the Gingerbread House.
We were allowed to go outside to exercise but with social-distancing.
We were supposed to leave the UK and fly to New York, on the 14th of April and go home from there but that was obviously canceled due to the lockdown. The USA now ranked #1 for COVID-19. I cared less that it was canceled. The recent events has taught me to chill and calm down for a bit. Haha
May – June – July
We ended up extending our stay in the UK more than expected. Ha! When the lockdown was over or perhaps lightened, we got to explore for a bit. Though, mostly inside the car to be safe.
And since most of us are at home, who can’t deny the temptation of online shopping? I blame Amazon Prime Usurper of moolah $$$.
I loved it too much that I wished we also have it in the Philippines. Convenient and fast.
Being at home also means more time. Out of this pandemic, I made new habits. I learned to love Audible and I have been reading more books than ever. Such therapy!
So many things I have learned and enjoy about this beautiful country. I’ll post more about it soon.
We were able to visit parks and tourist sites like the Buckingham Palace (just outside), but with extra caution. Almost all of the attractions, stores, and museums were closed. Some were there but closed too early. And everything was a takeaway even after the lockdown.
Potter head that I am, I accepted the fact that my #1 bucket list in the UK, to experience Harry Potter Studios will not happen anytime soon. But that’s okay. I ended up rereading the Harry Potter books, and thought every village I came upon as “Privet Drive“.
Flying back to PH and the cost of going home
It took us about a half a year to be able to go home. (Feb-July)
The flights were rare and we fear exposing ourselves to the virus. Although, I feel like I was stronger than ever, feeling that I am immune already. It is my mom that I fear the most of being infected. I almost regretted this decision of traveling and bringing her, but then I thought, there’s also a reason why this was meant to happen. And it did had.
Leisure traveling is also halted for God knows when. There’s just too much risk now.
I am grateful for this experience no matter what. The important thing was I was able to bring my mom safely, and COVID-free. Thank God. This trip is also an opportunity for us to get to know our relatives on a deeper level while staying with them. The blessing also of having a place to stay.
Breakdown of Expenses upon Arrival
The journey of going home was also a bit of an adventure. The frequent cancellation of flights, the possibility of being stranded on a different country/city while transiting.
It was costly too. Upon arrival in the Philippines, if you are just a tourist like us, meaning not an “OFW“, you ought to cover all the expenses below:
- The Mandatory Swab-Test upon arrival (MNL/Clark/Cebu) (around Php 3875 or more)
- Mandatory Hotel Expenses while waiting for your result (around Php 1950 or more per day) (one person per room only)
- And if you still need to fly to your province (like for us, in Davao), you ought to book your flight ticket after your swab test result arrives. Tricky to time that when you are not sure when your swab test result to arrive. (Php 15k to Davao if flight booked the day before) Buying ahead of time is also suggested, but there’s also that risk of missing your flight if your test arrived longer than expected. Ours took 3 days.
- And the possibility to get retested if your city requires you too.
With those numbers above, prepare at least Php 12, 000 – Php 15, 000 each per person upon arrival excluding flight tickets.
After all that struggle, we were screaming with joy when we have finally landed in the Philippines, in Davao, and in the arms of our loved ones.
The question now persists:
Are you still willing to take the risk of traveling?
As for me, I have no regrets but I won’t do it anytime soon.
2020 is rather an eventful year. Tragic for the most part and has brought certain matters to either evolve or die. This means it is important for us to constantly adapt to new realities and deal with them. I hope we all learn and evolve from this.
Stay safe and hope to see you soon,