As we all know, can appreciate or imagine, travel is now even more stressful than ever. With rule changes, slogans, traffic light systems, red lists, checks and testing. I am not sure that in my lifetime the actual travel on, planes, boats, buses, cars, between home and destination has ever been a pleasure. I remember my first long haul flight in the late 1980’s with Air Garuda to Australia. It was a grueling, sleep deprived, thirty something hours. And, when I did eventually manage to get to sleep, I was woken by a member of the cabin crew to be presented with a sticker that simply read “I crossed the equator with Garuda” In my youth there was always an air of excitement, but now I just want to get to where I am going. I still get excited, but only on arrival.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have not been able to travel to South Africa to see my wife’s family. When the UK Govt announced the end of the red list for travel, which included South Africa, we gave it a week and then booked. We did this through our travel partner Kelly, who has as always, been brilliant. What we did not anticipate was a new variant and the red list coming back into play. We were forced to postpone and re-book. Sorry Kelly. Then the red list was done away with again. So, we again re-booked, and bought forward our booking. Sorry again, Kelly.

Now we have completed the journey back to South Africa and Melanie has been reunited with her family after nearly two years. Seeing her and her mum together made all the stresses vanish instantly. They have both been through a tough time, health wise, so their embrace was very special.

I want to take you through our journey, I want you to be encouraged to travel again. Tourism needs us all.

We made our booking with Kelly and her company Travel Counsellors, which meant we had all the financial assurances we needed. We then spoke to our travel insurers who explained, and greatly reassured us, about our cover which included various Covid related issues. Knowing we needed a RT PCR test we located a local laboratory who helped us through the process and delivered our results by email within twenty-four hours. We decided to then minimize our contacts between the test and flying. All we can do is use some common sense, be sensible, and try and avoid catching/spreading Covid. You will also need a health locator form. These are available on line or like us you may need to get one on the flight, if you missed that request.

Our flight was from Birmingham International Airport. The airport was generally quiet and there was none of the usual travel buzz in the air. It was sad to see shops, bars and restaurants closed, which I can only put down to a lack of travelers.

Over the years we have flown with several airlines. This trip was with German national carrier, Lufthansa. English fog delayed us by over three hours. Melanie had asked me to bring a packet of Tuc biscuits to snack on, but I opted to leave these at home. Now we were peckish.

Having never flown with Lufthansa I was not sure what to expect. No need for terrible stereotypes of cabin crew in lederhosen serving pork knuckle. Or the sounds of Nena and Kraftwerk over the intercom. Everything was calm and normal, vorsprung durch Technik,

Arriving late in Frankfurt, because of our fog, all that was on offer food wise were snacks which included Tuc biscuits.  I paid over the top in Euros for a packet of these cheese snacks. Note to self: Always bring the Tuc for travel when asked.

The stress that has built up over the period between booking and landing in South Africa has now come to a crescendo. What I will say at this point is that I have never seen the arrivals hall so quiet in Johannesburg, there were no queues. Again, like Birmingham, very sad to see as behind the low numbers are ultimately job losses. First, we were met by a gentleman who scanned us for our temperature. He then took our health locator form. Then a lady took our RT PCR certificate, read it, matched it with our passports, and let us through to passport control. Clearing here Melanie shed a few tears as we had arrived. Our bags had also arrived!

Summing up, yes there are added stresses. You will have to wear a mask at all times, other than when eating and drinking. And Germany requires a medical grade mask. You need to test and carry the paperwork for these. But please do not give up on travel. Tourism needs all of us. South Africa needs us.

Always check online for the latest travel information. Make sure you are aware of all pre-departure and entry requirements to and from relevant countries. These are fluid and subject to change.


About Author

People say that Africa has an effect on your soul and Mark Henson the ‘author’ of this site is no exception. He first travelled to South Africa and the province of KwaZulu-Natal in 1993 and has been coming and going every year since. Twice now most years!

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