I joined a travel chat #TTOT on Twitter for the first time this week and one of the questions was around travelling during COVID-19.
I agreed with all the advice re travelling respectfully, listening to local mandates re quarantine, social distancing, curfews and wearing masks. But as someone who has spent 5 months of last year on the road as I couldn’t get home – I also have some real world advice on what has helped me survive the various lockdowns (x2), quarantines (x2), self-isolations (x3) and curfews (x5) I’ve experienced over the past year.
Here are my 5 top tips for surviving quarantine or curfew without going insane.
- EDUCATE /PREPARE YOURSELF
Know the local laws and stick to them, ignorance will not be an acceptable excuse for not complying. Quarantine rules are real and places like Antigua are not playing. A guy was fined $5,000 this week for being in a bar and ‘forgetting’ about quarantine. I call bullshit on that excuse, after arriving in last week they are perfectly clear about your quarantine responsibilities – and you’re required to provide a twice daily temperature check to a local nurse twice and reminded of your responsibilities.
2. BOOK SOME PRIVATE OUTDOOR SPACE
In this day and age, the real luxury for accommodation is private outdoor space. Even if there are no restrictions where/when you plan to travel, you cannot count on that continuing. Rules can change within a day or two or overnight. Since last March, I’ve always tried to book somewhere with private outdoor space if I’m staying for any more than 2 days or I will crawl the walls. The times I’ve not been able to afford to and have been stuck in windowless rooms have been some of the lowest, most depressing points of my travels. I need outdoor space period to keep my spirits up, especially during any isolation.
Trust me, if you have to quarantine or self-isolate for two weeks, outdoor space will save your sanity. If there is a local curfew imposed (as has just happened here) and you can’t go out after dark, you’ll feel way better being able to stare at the stars at night and enjoy a glass of something than stuck inside looking at 4 walls all night.
3. PACK YOUR OWN MINI BAR
This ain’t my first rodeo and I usually travel with my own mini bar or some sort of liquor in my hold luggage.
If not checking in bags, grab a bottle of your spirit of choice in Duty Free on the way in. If the local bars unexpectedly shut (which they have just done here in Antigua for 21 days) you can still enjoy a good glass of something of an evening.
When my supply runs dry I’ll be ordering in a cocktail to go from Sheer Rocks (arguably making the best cocktails on the island), their pre-batched margaritas are awesome! Check out the to go /take out offerings where you are and support local businesses where you can.
4. EXERCISE GEAR/APPS
I love doing yoga outdoors, so I make sure I have a terrace big enough to practice. But I can’t be packing a yoga mat so some yoga socks (with some nice built in grip) are a good weight/space saving alternative – my kid brother bought me some for my birthday and they travel with me everywhere now.
I always prefer to run when I’m away – cheapest most effective exercise, but I can’t do that during a quarantine or self isolation, so I definitely need some other form of exercise to burn off energy and sort my head out. Running is my therapy.
5. READING MATERIAL
I went slightly insane without reading material in my first three month island isolation so I came prepared this time around.
Some people can read on a screen but after working all day, I like a physical book. Yes they take up space and weight but honestly for me it’s worth it. I pack my books in my carry on, where weight is less of an issue.
This time around I have a mix of fiction, non-fiction, study and pleasure books. It’ll keep me busy.
DAY 7 OF 14 SURVIVING QUARANTINE IN ANTIGUA
So how am I surviving quarantine? I have to say quarantine is not so difficult this time around. I’ve packed better and have planned better. I’m used to my own company a lot more and fairly self-sufficient after spending so much time on the road solo last year.
Being able to have a coffee in the morning and look at the ocean, do a bit of yoga outside, work with a breeze and stare at the stars at night is everything.
I’ve made a bunch of calls – daily chats with my husband obvs, finally called my Dad back (I’m a bad daughter!), spoke to my Gran for the first time in a while (bad Granddaughter!), and have spoken to almost all of my siblings and a few of my friends.
I have a ton of work to do and strong wifi so I can be fairly productive with no distractions.
I got real fit last time I was here, so I’m back to using my fitness apps and as I’m in the Caribbean I’ve felt the need to start my soca dancing again with Island Hop Worldwide, as soca is a proper mood fix. It feels more appropriate dancing here in the heat than in snowy Madrid.
I have a ton of reading material this time around which is great. I can’t quite get into watching movies after a full day in front of the computer but starting to explore some podcasts.
One thing that made my quarantine even better yesterday was hearing that the pool attached to my cottage is included in my quarantine space. Result! There is a gate between my cottage and my cousin’s pad and the pool is located in between. Apparently it is too cold for them to use the pool in winter (it’s 27°C!) so it’s all mine for the remainder of my quarantine.
The water is nippy but if I stand in the sun for 20 seconds to heat up it becomes a great cool down as long as I keep moving and do a few laps.
So quarantine is definitely not a chore this time around, I packed properly, have private outdoor space (and a pool!), have some good liquor, gorgeous views and randomly get some nice food dropped off by my fam, home marinated ribs, Jamaican goat curry and Trini roti have been the highlights to date.
Don’t get me wrong I am counting down the days until I’m free to see my family – the whole reason I’m here – and to be able to hit the road and run again, but I’m not quite crawling the walls.
Quarantine/curfew in Antigua – January 2021
Since I arrived the four routes that were open are closing one by one. BA is no longer flying to Antigua from the UK at the moment (as leisure travel is now illegal and pretty sure there is not that much work interests to justify a trip here otherwise), Canada is suspending flights to Mexico and the Caribbean and France has closed it’s borders to non EU travellers– not sure what that means for the St Maarten route, perhaps as it’s a French island it will remain but who knows. There is still a route out of Madrid via Amsterdam but the regulations are ever tighter now need an antigen test within 4 hours as well as a PCR test within 72 hours.
My husband has finally applied for his passport, let’s see what route is still viable by the time he is able to travel!
As of last Thursday Antigua has instigated an island-wide curfew. For the next 21 days, all bars are shut, people are confined to their homes between 8pm and 5am and no team sports like football are permitted.
Also, the word on the street is quarantine restrictions are about to get stricter here in Antigua. My auntie and cousin were laughing at my impeccable timing as always to avoid the worst of the restrictions. The Antiguan government has just commandeered Jolly Beach hotel – 800 rooms for govt mandated quarantine that will be ready within 2 weeks – so it’s likely all arrivals will have to quarantine at this new govt facility at a cost of $100USD a night, rather than go to approved accommodation. I got in just at the right time so it seems!