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How To Travel During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Tips from someone who’s been doing it from the start.

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One needs to have a certain amount of tenacity to travel.

Now, this is even more apparent.

I hit the road in early January when Corona was supposedly still in Wuhan.

Covid aside, it’s still been quite a journey.

I travelled down through France in the middle of the longest transport strike ever.

I crossed to Tunisia by ferry and then flew to Senegal, backpacked across the country to Mali where my options were limited to staying in Bamako, due to the escalation in insurgency attacks, and on to Côte d’Ivoire, where I ate some tainted food. It didn’t stop me though. I just went to the pharmacy and explained in my bad French that I was shitting blood, popped a few pills, et voila.

Having had my fill of West Africa for a few more years, I flew to Kenya. Two weeks after I arrived, he airport closed and the land borders were shut down. I was Trevor’ed!

I was ‘stuck’ in the small town of Naivasha.

Every day I contemplated about how long I was prepared to wait it out (After a while there were evac flights; about 1 every 10 days). I gave it more than 100 days and then took a flight to Amsterdam and onto Belgrade.

To travel now, almost all countries require you to take a Covid test within 72 hours before arrival and/or quarantine on arrival.

This is where you can come unstuck. You might be asymptomatic. You might be a non-believer, but a test will still return a +ve result. You will then be required by law to isolate. It is not like visiting a private clinic for an AIDS test where you are anonymous.

In most countries, people who come back +ve are told to isolate at home. You only need to be hospitalised if you are in a bad way.

But for those who are not in their own country you are likely going to be in a whole heap of shit. You will most likely get sent to a state organised quarantine hotel at great expense to yourself.

I’ve just spent two weeks in isolation in a small room with a private bathroom, having unwittingly shared a dorm room with someone who tested +ve. Guilty by association.

This guy ended up in a hotel and I am not sure how he managed to organise that. I mean, what hotel open for business wants to accept a known +ve case? They must have known, as his location must be shared with the health department.

And me, having ended up needing to isolate, I was also in much the same situation, but I was lucky in that the hostel had private rooms available and were also willing to get my food for me.

So the moral of the story is, avoid the need to be tested, be very careful where you take a test if you need to, and steer clear of anyone who is going to take a test.

Time to adapt:

Dorm rooms, where they exist, are much cheaper than hotel rooms, hence their attraction. They also provide the backpacker with somewhere to cook your meals, meet up, swap stories with other travellers.

But hotel rooms reduce the likelihood of being guilty by association.

A buddy of mine, a non-believer, just spent a night in an 8-bed dorm in Sofia. 8 beds, 8 people. It’s getting cold now. I bet the window was shut all night.

In Albania, I survived as mostly I had the dorm to myself and, if I had to share, I made sure the window was wide open. It was always hot enough.

So my buddy is a non-believer but he can still contract Covid and still be ok. But if he needs to take a test within the next weeks, he will become unstuck.

Eight occupied beds in an unventilated room are just too many. Seven others who may be positive, seven others who may go and take a test and find out that their luck ran out and my buddy suddenly becomes guilty by association.

Land borders are less strict on the need to provide a -ve test result. But you will most likely be temperature zapped.

If your temperature is running high and/or you are showing any symptoms you will be forced to take a test and wait it out in an expensive medical facility or hotel.

Tests when needed before travel range from 30$ in Istanbul to 60€ in Serbia or up to 100€ in Tirana. This is a major expense, and there is nothing you can do to avoid this if you want to go anywhere.

So being on the road as I am, as I have nowhere to go back to, requires a lot more research to avoid possible extensive costs.

Even though I had contact with a known Covid+, I was not required to take a test, just to isolate. In my case, had I developed symptoms, a test would have been free, as would hospitalisation, if it had been needed. But not every country is like North Macedonia.

So the things you need to consider when travelling:

• Do you need to take a test to get into the next country and how much will that cost?

• Are you prepared to deal with it if the test comes back +ve?

• What are you going to do if you get sick in a country that is not your own?

• Do you know what will happen if you are temperature zapped on arrival? (This is possible even if you go to a mall). I’ll tell you. You are reported to the authorities.

• You may find yourself having been in contact with someone who later tests +ve. You will have to isolate.

• Going somewhere that requires you to quarantine upon arrival is best avoided, especially if they put you in a state organised hotel.

Dealing with it:

Being stuck in Kenya was nerve-wracking. How long was lockdown going to last?

Having just been freed from isolation, I can tell you, that the situation for me in Kenya was harder, as it dragged on for so long.

In Skopje I knew it was for only two weeks but there was always that fear hanging over me, having been in contact with someone who had tested positive. Was I going to end up sick?

I have always been healthy but did I have an undiagnosed condition lurking inside me which would render me less strong? You never know.

Every sneeze, cough or tightness in the chest (caused by the pollution and anxiety) sends you into panic mode.

The cases in Macedonia were crazy high. The English language online newspaper suggested that the sudden onset of massive pollution levels in Skopje were responsible for the high number of cases. Indirectly, I disagree.

A large number of people who suddenly felt unable to breathe due to the toxic fumes wafting through the city were going to the hospital and thus getting tested. Hence the high number of +ve results. Had there been no pollution the majority of these people would have been untested, as they would have been feeling fine.

The number of people there with breathing issues is probably high anyway, as they suffer terrible pollution every winter and, man, they still smoke inside cafes.

But what do I know? I’m just a backpacker.

And while I was in isolation there was the worry that Skopje might lockdown again before I was free and I would become stuck in that city with horrendous pollution for six months.

Thankfully, that never happened. But add it to the list! It could happen. Countries are going back into lockdown, and not all give you time to organise a flight out! Lockdown in a foreign country ain’t fun.

The days of isolation in Skopje passed slowly but it wasn’t too traumatic. I am grateful for the moral support given by a small number of friends.

This is not questioning the severity of Covid-19, and I know many have different opinions, it’s about avoiding the need to be tested by choosing where you travel to and what’s going to happen if you do get tested in a country that is not your own … or simply being guilty by association. And if any of that happens, how to deal with it. This is what’s required now. If you cannot deal with it, best stay at home.

And it’s getting to the stage now of not wanting to deal with it any more.

Read more on Trevor’s blog.

Filed under: Epidemics, Macedonia

About the Author:

World Traveller – Global Nomad. Former electronic technician, racing cyclist, barman, mountain runner and mailman. Now perpetual vagabond. Blogs at Nomadic Backpacker. has written 10 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support Trevor Warman’s writing on this blog:

Trevor Warman is currently in: CDMX Mexico

11 comments… add one

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  • Sarah BB November 4, 2020, 7:55 pm

    Great post Trevor – sums up some of the challenges of life on the road well. I’ve been surfing the green list so have avoided testing on arrival to date but understand the concern given what you’ve gone through. The two times I’ve took a test for my own peace of mind I’ve checked in somewhere first just in case as hard to move with a +ve result and would rather choose where to quarantine if needed, they usually let you stay put if in a private room – depending on where you are in the world. Worth investigating before you travel for sure. Interesting what you say about pollution and the surge in confirmed cases, makes a lot of sense. Hadn’t thought about that. Safe travels wherever you end up next.

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    • Trevor Warman November 4, 2020, 9:41 pm

      Cheers Sarah.
      Makes you think twice about going for a quick test.

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      • Sarah BB November 4, 2020, 10:07 pm

        Yeah for sure, definitely more conscious of the ramifications

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  • Trevor Warman November 6, 2020, 7:13 am

    And this is Turkey’s rule on those who test +ve if tested on arrival due to you showing symptoms:

    Foreign passengers who test positive for COVID-19 on landing flights will be referred to a private hospital by the Ministry of Health – Border Health Unit, whereas Turkish passengers will be referred to a state hospital.

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  • Jeffrey November 13, 2020, 8:07 pm


    Thanks for that checklist of what to c0nsider when jumping to the next country. I’ll be using it. Here in China, I got a student visa that’s valid until March 31, 2021. And then I’ll have to see where to go next. I’m definitely looking at Turkey.

    A couple months ago, I bought that online visa for Turkey when I thought I’d have to leave China quickly. I’ll have to buy a new one next year.

    Are you in Istanbul? If so, where are you staying? Can you get something like a serviced apartment there?

    Here in China I’m living in a very odd bubble. It’s like the coronavirus had never happened. No social distancing. All businesses thriving. Restaurants full. A few people wear masks, but it’s just like in pre-Covid days. A few here and there. When I look at news from other countries, it makes no sense to me.

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    • Trevor Warman November 15, 2020, 10:57 am

      Hi Jefffrey, thanks for reaching out and reading my post on VBJ.

      Brits now get 3 months for free here. I stayed a week in Istanbul, a few days in Ankara and am now in Cappadocia. It’s getting cooler in the inland regions. But today was lovely and sunny. Here’s a short video clip from today: https://youtu.be/ZIo008Gt1dw

      You can get anything here. And as the Lira is worth peanuts, you’ll get an awesome deal. Even in a hostel, it’s 5€ a night, no-frills. No idea about serviced apartments. I’ve never done that.

      Will be heading south and east after some days. So much to see and blog about from here… And am thinking of staying in someplace for a month. A small city, with cafes and wifi, but I always say this and then get restless.

      Plenty of new posts on my blog… And a few videos.

      Regards. Trevor

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    • Trevor Warman November 22, 2020, 7:50 am

      Also, another point, to leave countries you maybe required to take a test.

      Met people from Pakistan who had to test prior to leaving, to come to Turkey, who dont require it to enter..

      Test needed to get on the plane!!

      Partial curfew in Turkey now……. not restrictive for me, just another thing to worry about

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  • Ask The Dutch Guy January 27, 2021, 1:52 am

    It’s really hard to travel now because of this pandemic. You need to be tested and get quarantined first. Hope it will be better soon so we can travel wherever and whenever we want.

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    • VBJ January 27, 2021, 8:16 am

      Yes, it really takes a big part of the enjoyment out of it. As for me, this is basically a death blow. My work relies on fast movement and being able to be in certain places at certain times. Testing before entering countries or possible quarantine destroys my ability to do this. So I’ve been taking on stories in the USA and traveling around here. It’s a big country … although not the same. However, nowhere in the world is the same right now.

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      • Jack January 28, 2021, 6:00 pm

        And now the CDC requires all travelers, even US citizens to get tested within 3 days of flying to the US. You have to go it both going and coming back.

        Of course none of it applies to crossing the land border from Mexico…..yet….

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        • VBJ February 1, 2021, 4:35 pm

          Yeah … that’s totally what I’m thinking. I can’t see how they can deny US citizens entry to their own country … well, I guess technically they are not preventing them from entering but of boarding flights. I think this will be the main reason why land borders won’t have this restriction. Also, millions travel back and forth daily for work and it would be completely pointless to make them get tested everyday.

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