Should we travel now? Or wait for the situation to improve? What if one of us contracts COVID-19? What if we get stranded because of it? Will I be able to stop my two year old from licking and touching things during this travel? What if borders are closed while we are on the other side?
Above questions and many more like these crossed my mind zillion times before we finally booked our tickets and travelled to our home country, India.
While we knew some friends who successfully travelled from Denmark to India, it took us a lot of courage to take this decision. What fueled our decision was my strong urge to see my father who had been diagnosed with kidney failure. After hours of discussion on this topic, we decided to use the vouchers from Qatar Airways, that were lying with us since we cancelled our trip to India in March due to COVID-19.
Before going to India, we followed following steps:
- Booked a Corona test at Coronaprover.dk for the whole family (to be done within 72 hours before boarding). (Our 2 year old did not open his mouth, hence no result)
- Registered ourselves at Air Suvidha
- Installed ‘Aarogya Setu’ app on our phones (this needs an Indian number for OTP).
Since the Danish health authorities were experiencing very high number of people turning up for Corona tests prior to Christmas holidays, our test results took longer than usual for us. Hence the situation was that we were to leave home by 5am next morning for our flight, we were still awaiting our test results when we went to sleep that night.
Be ready to pack for your trip with some uncertainty. World has changed a lot for travellers and is changing constantly with new guidelines and restrictions coming up every day.
As the result came negative for us, we finally boarded the flight. Children under 6 years were not required to wear a mask. My son cannot a keep a mask on for more than 10 seconds, hence this was a relief but at the same time we had to ensure his safety on the trip.
I poured sanitizer on baby wipes and wiped our seats, screens, handles and everything that came in contact with him during the flight. A lot of airlines claim to clean the aircraft from COVID-19 point of view before every flight, but this was for my own peace of mind.
We were required to wear a mask and a face shield through out the flight (check my Instagram profile), which was a bit uncomfortable for sure but the meal breaks made it easier. Passengers in the middle row were asked to wear a PPE gown. As we landed in Mumbai, we were to show our documents related to COVID-19 where we showed our Air Suvidha registration.
After clearing usual immigration checks, we came out of the Mumbai Airport (in one hour that it usually takes) and boarded flight to my hometown Bhopal after few hours.
I had to be extra alert through out our stay of 2 weeks in India and kept a sanitizer handy all the time when outside. Masks are a requirement almost everywhere and thermo-guns to check body temperature are also very popular even to enter restaurants, stores and malls, unlike in Denmark.
Despite the restrictions, we could have a lovely time in India. We avoided going to crowded places and preferred to go to mountains or historical places in the outskirts, while spending time with family and friends.
As the time neared for our return journey, the news about India banning flights from the U.K. due to new Corona virus strain started surfacing, which did raise few doubts in our mind but we were still hopeful that it should not impact the situation with Denmark. Some of our friends also started sending us messages to ensure we know of this.
Thankfully the situation between India and Denmark did not change until we travelled back though we had to reschedule our return flight not once but twice. Qatar Airways stopped all the flights from India to Copenhagen for the month of January while some countries are not allowing transit at all which was the reason why we could not board our flight via Abu Dhabi.
Despite having a US visa which exempts Indian nationals to apply for a visa for Abu Dhabi and airline officials confirming to us over phone that we will be allowed to board, we were denied boarding. The interesting thing is this information isn’t available on their website, which said at that time – “we are open to tourists”. We could have also paid for ‘an on arrival’ visa to travel to Abu Dhabi but apparently it wasn’t allowed either in the pandemic situation.
We finally flew back via Air France and thanked God as we got the Boarding passes to our “home”.
Now that we are home safe and I have unpacked all the dirty laundry and almost back to our usual schedules, I am writing this blog. Before I sign off, here is my conclusion for those planning to travel in current situation:
- I DO NOT recommend travelling at this time with kids (at the same time, I do not regret travelling myself either). It sounds hypocritical I know, but all I can say is we were perhaps just lucky despite the financial loss and inconvenience that we arrived back ‘safe’.
- Few days after our arrival in India, we heard that passengers from Europe need to do institutional quarantine in India. Those with kids might be exempt but do check this thoroughly if you still plan to travel.
- Given our ordeal due to transit visa, be very very careful while booking flights via other airports. Since there is no direct flight from Copenhagen to India, stop over in a Schengen country seems like the safest option.
- I have not shared above but we also had to cancel our tickets with British Airways booked in October for the reason that they were not allowing people without valid UK visa to transit. Thankfully we got full refund but just sharing my experience.
- The insurance companies are recommending against travelling except in case of urgent travel. Hence check with them before you travel, to ensure you are covered.
- Denmark also requires a negative COVID-19 report now to allow entry. This requirement came into effect on 9th of January 2021.
- Some airlines (Air India, Qatar Airways) are giving the whole kit even in case of domestic travel consisting of mask, face shield, sanitizers, gloves, PPE gowns etc. while some do not give anything (like Air France provided only mask upon request) so make sure to carry the items you need, on your own.