Nici tells us what it is really like to travel right now

Nici tells us what it is really like to fly right now

As more and more countries are opening up for UK visitors the options for where you can now go to are expanding.

We understand that there is a lot to consider when booking a holiday in terms of entry and returning requirements so we asked our very own Nici who recently enjoyed a well earned break in Portugal just what really happens at the airports and how easy is it to fly these days?

Which airport & airline did you fly from Nici and how busy was it in the Terminal?

 We flew from Stansted on a Friday morning with Jet2 and whilst it was as busy as you would normally expect with people heading off for weekend breaks everything was orderly and for us, check-in took no longer than normal.

What tests did you have to do before you travelled and what forms did you complete?

 We travelled to Portugal prior to the 4th of October (the date that they started accepting the NHS Covid Pass as proof of vaccination) so we needed to have either an antigen test in the 48 hours prior to departure or a PCR test in the 72 hours prior to departure. We opted for the quicker and less expensive antigen test which was conducted at a local clinic and we had the results back by email within 3 hours. They came in the form of a certificate that could be shown at check-in. We also had to fill in a Portuguese Passenger Locator Form (PLF) which is very simple and asks for your basic information, flight details and where you will be staying.

 What happens at check-in in the UK?

At check in we showed our passports and e-tickets as normal plus we were asked to show proof of our vaccination status and the negative test results. As we were both fully vaccinated, we could show this on the NHS Covid Pass as we had downloaded the NHS Covid Pass app.  It is also possible to get a letter from the NHS showing your vaccination status if you do not wish or are unable to download the app. When we completed the Portuguese Passenger Locator Form we received a QR code on the confirmation email which we also had to show at check-in.

I know it’s not very environmentally friendly but I would really recommend printing these out if possible as we saw lots of people having problems finding the right documents on their phones and heaven knows what would happen if the NHS app crashed! And whilst our check-in took no longer than normal I would advise allowing plenty of time due to the increased amount of paperwork that needs to be checked by the check-in staff.

 How was boarding and disembarking handled?

 Even though we’d already shown our negative tests and PLF forms at check-in we had to show them again at the gate before boarding, which was more orderly than I have ever seen before even though the UK weather treated us to a torrential downpour and we were the only plane without an airbridge! On arrival at Faro we were instructed to disembark row by row from the front and back of the plane. Hallelujah – no more not being able to get out of your seat because somebody from row 31 has sprinted like Usain Bolt to be the first person off!

What about immigration when you arrived?

 I was expecting long queues and meticulous dissemination of our Passenger Locator Forms and test results but overseas airports are so used it now that we sailed through. As long as you’ve got the right paperwork (which you know you have as you would not have been allowed to board otherwise) then it’s no hassle at all. Oh – and I got a stamp in my passport!!

What tests did you have to take to come home and how did you organise those?

Thankfully as we returned after the 4th of October and are fully vaccinated there was no need for us to have a test to return to the UK. However, for unvaccinated travellers and travellers returning to some other countries in Europe that requirement still remains, so in our hotel they had on-site testing facilities. From my experience this summer nearly all of the hotels we have been sending clients to have been able to conduct tests on-site and for those clients staying in villas the villa managers have been able to assist.

Every arrival in the UK needs to have a Day 2 test booked prior to their return to the UK, (unvaccinated travellers will also require a day 8 test), I had ordered these online before we went. At the time we returned it was still necessary to have a PCR test but we did these as soon as we got back, dropped them in a nearby drop box and had the results by the next day.  You don’t need to wait until the 2nd day to take the test you can take it anytime after you land until the end of your 2nd day back in the UK.

From the 24th October this Day 2 test will only need to be a cheaper antigen test for the fully vaccinated.

What about forms to come back to the UK?

 Again, just a relatively simple form to fill in on-line and as long as you know where you live then you’ll be fine! You do have to provide proof that you have booked and paid for the necessary tests on return to the UK (Day 2 for fully vaccinated, Day 2 & 8 if not) – make sure when you order these tests that you make a note of the reference number that comes on the confirmation email, this is what you will need for the PLF not the actual serial number on the test.

I think that when we filled in the form, there may have been a glitch as we were unable to upload our vaccination QR codes when requested but we just ticked the “no – we do not have a QR code” and showed them at check-in at the airport instead. Again, once you have filled in this form you will receive an email asking you to log back in to get your QR code (for the PLF  – sorry so many QR codes!!) which you will need to show at check-in. The check in staff at your departure airport will need to see this before allowing you to check in. The people in front of us had filled theirs in incorrectly but there were lots of helpful staff on hand to assist, so don’t let it stress you out.

And what about the “nightmare” queues that the media are reporting to get through passport control?

 We were through passport control and into the baggage hall well before our luggage! Yes, as always if you arrive at the same time as a lot of other flights then there can be queues but that is the same as it has always been. We came through the E-gates at Stansted and apart from the fact my mother had to take her glasses off for the camera and then couldn’t see the screen which was telling her to take her passport back and proceed through the gate it was plain sailing. In fact, there were no checks on our PLF’s or vaccination status as these had all been completed pre-departure.

 Would you travel again based on your experience?

Absolutely and now that more countries are accepting the NHS covid pass and the need for an expensive PCR test on return has been scrapped I can’t wait to get away again soon.

Don’t forget that the expert team at Travelwise is not only here to inspire you with our destination knowledge but also to guide you through these requirements and ensure that your holiday will run as seamlessly as possible

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Conrad Algarve

Penthouse Infinity Pool
Deluxe Room
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