A week or so before Christmas as we watch the Covid19 case numbers continue to rise in the UK, we thought we have to escape now. Fortunately an upside of the rising case numbers and challenges of Covid19 travel paperwork is that hardly anyone else was escaping. So we managed to book ourselves on a flight on New Year’s Day and find a slot at a pre travel Covid19 test centre. We decided to take a ‘belt and braces’ approach to the test and booked a PCR rather than lateral flow. We didn’t want to be caught out at the last minute if the rules changed, and also felt more confident the PCR would be accepted by the Portuguese authorities. Self-administered tests are a no-no in Europe for travel and we didn’t want to risk getting a certificate that didn’t meet the minimum data set – more here on the Covid19 paperwork.
The company we used – TAC – had good reviews and were based at our local airport, so we felt confident it would go okay. It did; the day of test it was a slick process and whilst we had paid for results to be returned within 24 hours they were with us in less than 12.
Our airline caused us a minor panic when they emailed us to say our test certificate also had to state what type of swab had been taken, but after contacting TAC they reassured us there was no need for that information for Portugal. They did though confirm in writing for us the type of swab so I could print that off on the back of our certificate just in case!
We printed everything off after we had checked in online and completed the Passenger Locator Form for the Portuguese authorities. I even sorted them into a folder so they could easily be shown. You can use your phone to show digital versions, but I wouldn’t recommend it having watched airport staff and passengers struggle to find and check everything that way.
On day of travel we had a bag to drop off and so all our paperwork was checked at that point. The 30 minutes spent in the queue before hand was probably the most stressful queue wait ever. We had already overheard a passenger on their phone telling a friend how they had been refused travel because they did not have the right Covid19 paperwork, and we observed another couple being turned away shortly after. A family also had problems, although we later saw them on the flight so they must have got their paperwork sorted out just in time. Our belt and braces approach worked, and all looked good for the flight.
And the flight was just fine, we had an exit row to ourselves – MrB was one side of the aisle and me the other – there was a sunset view and we arrived ahead of schedule. Now we just need to get through the Covid19 checks and immigration.
That went fine too. Our PCR test certificate was checked against passport and accepted, and then we just had to show our residency permits and passports to immigration. Both queues moved quickly and the staff were lovely.
We had arrived!
It was with a huge sigh of relief we got into the taxi for the apartment, and it was less than 25 minutes later we were making ourselves a cup of tea. Would have been 20 minutes but our keys needed to be updated by the hotel!
We could finally relax we were back . . . . . . . . . or could we?
Yup a 4.4 earthquake occurred, and its shallow depth and close proximity meant we felt it. No damage occurred, just a very weird sensation. Also a relief we were not in the lift at that time!
After a day full of anxiety and stress, no wonder we got the giggles.
Our unusual welcome didn’t stop there though. I woke early this morning, and couldn’t wait to get out for my first sunrise walk. Instead I found myself enjoying a second cup of tea and pondering whether someone somewhere was trying to tell us something.
This was the view from the back of the apartments just before sunrise. What a welcome, you have to laugh!