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Dealing with COVID19 while travelling overseas

As a travel journalist who has travelled a great deal throughout the pandemic thus far, I guess it was inevitable that I would eventually contact COVID19.

Being Queensland based, I was free to travel during most of the pandemic, only having a short lockdown at the start of 2020. I travelled to New Zealand in June 2021 during the travel bubble with Queensland, and again internationally to Hawaii in March/April this year. I took all precautions to avoid catching COVID19, including being double vaccinated. I wore a mask when social distancing was difficult, I took spare RAT tests to monitor if I felt any symptoms and I made sure I dosed up on as much healthy foods and drinks while away.

I now find myself sat in a hotel room in Toronto, Canada, testing positive on a RAT to COVID19. I have been in the country for two weeks now and have 12 more days of travel remaining before I am due to fly home.

What is it like to get COVID19 in a different country and what are you required to do?

First of all, the symptoms I had before testing were a killer headache, sweating and fevers so bad I had to sleep on a towel and was incredibly tired and snoozing on and off constantly. I travel with RAT tests, so I did two to make sure the first positive result was correct. Both came up positive.

The next step was to notify the hotel I am at. The Toronto Marriot City Centre immediately sent up a package of towels, bedsheets, water bottles, extra toiletries, toilet paper, tissues, tea and coffee and plastic bags. They also notified all staff that I had tested positive and they were not to enter my room.

I then needed to find out what the rules were for the location I am in for quarantine and testing after returning a positive case result. This information can easily be found after a quick search on google. As I am vaccinated, the rules in Toronto state that I must self-isolate for 5 days since the first symptoms show or positive test result, and then test again after 5 days. Lucky for me, I was already booked at the hotel for 4 nights (making it the 5 days since testing positive).

My next step was to check my travel insurance. I selected, TID Travel Insurance Direct, which has specific COVID19 coverage. This is absolutely vital for travelling overseas. I would not recommend getting any insurance that doesn’t cover this.

The cover includes up to $2500AUD in expenses as a result of contracting COVID19 – including airline flight change fees, hotel costs, food delivered to the room and even entertainment in the room. To be valid for this, however, you do need proof of a PCR Test. This is where it gets tricky.

I can’t leave my room knowing that the RAT tests were positive, so this means I can not get to a testing centre easily. I do not have access to a car to go to a testing centre and can not get in a taxi and risk infecting the driver to get there either. So it was back to google to find out if I can get a doctor to visit the hotel to do the test.

A quick search led me to a mobile testing company that will come to my hotel to do the test. This will then cover me for any extra expenses to claim on travel insurance.

Now all that remains is to rest up and order any food I need to my room via Uber Eats or room service.

And while I have a lot of time now, sat in my room, I can offer this checklist of how to survive COVID19 and isolation while travelling overseas.

Pack in preparation

The best defence is preparation. While everyone’s symptoms will vary, there are some common symptoms you can be prepared for. Pack a COVID19 kit. In mine, I have paracetamol for the fevers, temperatures and headache, hydralytes to add to my water and keep hydrated, Lemsip Cold and Flu which helps with the headcold symptoms, tissues (you are going to need lots of these), extra RAT tests so you can keep on top of your testing and some eucalyptus oil – I put some drops in a boiling cup of water next to my bed and inhale it like a diffuser.

While the hotel will have a TV, be prepared to be bored! Pack a book or two to keep your mind occupied for the long hours in a confined space. Luckily most hotels have included wifi, so there is plenty of time to get online and do some work or browse the internet (just don’t google COVID19 and go down the rabbit hole of conspiracies).

Travel Insurance

Make sure you have insurance with COVID19 cover. Call your insurance company and find out what you need to do to be covered. You don’t want to rack up a hotel bill with room service charges if you won’t be reimbursed because you didn’t do the right thing.

Know the rules

Every country and even state within that country has different rules when it comes to COVID19. Find out what rules apply to you as soon as possible. This will help with the future planning of your travel arrangements. If you are going to miss a flight because of these rules, you are best to notify the airline as soon as possible to help with rearranging travel plans.

Changing travel plans

Once you have fulfilled the requirements for your insurance policy and know the rules of your location, you may need to change travel plans. Contact the operator direct (airline, tour company etc) and discuss the options with them. The sooner you do this, the better as prices normally become more expensive the shorter the notice.

Mental wellbeing

Be kind to yourself during this time. Chances are you are feeling pretty rotten enough from the symptoms, let alone the disappointment of missing out on your holiday plans. It is ok to feel a bit down and out. Call family and friends to chat and for a pick me up. Take a nice hot bath (if available) or long shower and rest. Your body is fighting a disease and needs as much rest as possible to do this.