From Travel Insurance to Flight Hygiene: 5 Questions About Post-COVID-19 Travel

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It’s unfortunate the travel bug has caught the actual bug. As you use the excess time now to sketch your dream holiday, answering these 5 questions should help you navigate the tricky terrain of a post-pandemic travel.

With the circuit breaker extended and global travel restrictions at a historic all-time high, going on holiday is probably the last thing on your mind. 

Or is it? There’s nothing like being grounded at home to make you desperate to, well, just get out there (at least to a hotel room). 

Perhaps there’s no better time than now to think about where to go when lockdown measures are finally eased and travel restrictions lifted. In the next four lifetimes — I mean, four weeks of the circuit breaker extension, it really doesn’t hurt to fantasise about stepping foot into parts of the continent you were planning on. The money saved from staying home should set you up for a pretty decent trip.

But here’s something to consider: the world is likely to be a different place, even after the coronavirus situation becomes stable. Other than ‘when can I finally travel again’, here are 5 questions to be addressed.

1) How quickly can I get out?

Don’t be like the couple that went all the way to the Galapagos for a trip of the lifetime and then were stuck there at the tail end due to border closures. Or this couple that had to spend part of the downpayment of their marital home paying for a three week extension they didn’t ask for at a luxury Maldives resort.

While both the Galapagos and Maldives have long been considered dream destinations, being there can quickly turn into a nightmare if there are no emergency measures in place to zip you back home. In the first place, both places are hard to reach from the mainland where the international airport is located. Similar places for you to note would be those that require a lot of domestic transfers, especially by boats and ferries that can be cancelled at a moment’s notice due to inclement weather.

It used to be the case that the more isolated a location, the more appeal it has to the traveller. Now that appeal has to be tempered by common sense for most of us, who at the end of the day, need to get back to home base as quickly as possible.

2) Will I have access to quality medical assistance?

If living in a time of pandemic has taught us anything, it would be how important it is to gain fast and easy access to quality healthcare services. Singapore has shown up to be the gold standard in terms of our aggressive testing, contact tracing and medical response to the pandemic, not only for our locals but foreign cases as well, from visiting tourists to our foreign workers.

Even when the pandemic is over, travellers would do well to have their emergency healthcare needs on the top of their minds when considering and planning destinations to visit. 

3) Are there stricter standards for sanitation and general hygiene?

If you had been flying right before the global travel lockdown came into place, you’d quickly realise that the whole shebang at the airport, from the check-in to the security screening to passing through immigrations, had taken a longer time than what you’re used to. Aircrafts were hosed down (figuratively speaking) and cabin crew had to contend with face masks being part of their uniform. 

Those who have a habit of cutting it too close to boarding time may want to take the recommended two-hour (or more) buffer more seriously when travel restrictions eventually ease up. You can do no wrong by assuming that the longer clearance time and stiffer hygiene protocols would turn out to be the new norm of travelling  

As for your choice of holiday destination, while the likes of Japan and Scandinavian cities are known for their fastidiousness with regard to hygiene practices, some others may be lacking in this area.

For instance, village markets selling wild game and exotic species of animals used to be novel curiosities before the novel coronavirus. In fact, they were frequently exposed by travel documentaries and personalities like Antony Bourdain. Now they are considered politically incorrect and may not quite be an ideal post-pandemic location to ‘add to the ‘Gram’.

4) What is the political climate and civil society like?

While travel advisories are nothing new, it has never been regarded as seriously as it is now. In the past few years, I remember twice brushing off travel advisories to South Korea: once during a time when North Korea had threatened missile launches and another when there was a local MERS epidemic.

It’s safe to say that travel advisories would not only be more closely observed going forward, they would also act as guidelines for local travellers to make better informed choices to visit places that will protect their interests.

Asian and other minority travellers should pay extra care to racial tensions on the ground to avoid situations where their personal safety is threatened.

5) What is not covered by my travel insurance? 

Those whose travel plans have been curtailed by COVID-19 would now know all too well about the worst that could happen.

Not only is the paperwork a hassle, but consider the sheer number of people in the same boat as you calling airlines, hotels and travel sites. Some might have received timely responses or a refund on their purchases but many have had to make do with a credit voucher or write off their expenses, especially with budget airlines.

Speaking of writing things off, this COVID-19 episode poses for a great lesson in the importance of travel insurance, especially for those who are still shockingly forgoing it for the sake of saving a few bucks. 

In case you are wondering, for most insurers, general exceptions apply to travel policies. But since late January, COVID-19 is included as one of them. Insurers such as Aviva and FWD have scaled back their coverage to exclude the pandemic from their coverage for new policyholders. This means that any loss or injury incurred as a result of the virus cannot be claimed. 

Going forward, taking a closer look at what is not covered by your travel insurance (clearly stated on the product page or in your policy documents) would be SOP before embarking on any trip. Buying the essential riders necessary for your specific ski trip, wedding destination or golf getaway should also be par for the course.

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By Ana Ow
Ana has been a travel writer for various news outlets since 2007 and has a passion for crossing things off her bucket list (tiger safari in India, checked; meeting with the Dalai Lama in Ladakh, checked; Northern Lights sighting in Norway, checked thrice). She loves collecting visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites (preferably with her husband and two children) and is obsessed with Disney parks and cruises.