It’s no secret that travel is unnecessarily complicated right now. What does seem to be a secret, however, is reliable and accurate data on restrictions, as I recently learned on a trip from Noumea (New Caledonia) to Dublin (Ireland). Thanks to SafeScore, confusing restrictions and expensive quarantine costs didn’t get the better of me.
Rule Number One: Be Prepared
My route takes 37 hours to travel, with stops in Tokyo and Paris and relies on 2 airlines. Current restrictions mean the flight is only available once per week, meaning any slip-up on documents along the way could mean another week away from home. Being prepared is key, and armed with my negative PCR test I knew I was ready to go.
The first issue I faced on this route was checking in at Noumea Airport. The staff advised me that without a vaccine, I would need proof of a hotel booking in Dublin for the 14 days’ quarantine. This advice didn’t match what I read in SafeScore only 2 days earlier. I challenged this assumption and even asked the check-in staff which platform they were using to advise their passengers and was shocked to be told it was IATA Timatic.
I quickly opened my SafeScore account on my laptop, clicked ‘Ireland’ and was redirected to the citizens info page which clearly showed that no vaccine is required, but a negative PCR test and home quarantine is sufficient.
I showed them the site, and the wording. They called their manager. We’re now 20 minutes at the desk, and I’ve got my credit card ready in case I’m wrong. The manager arrived and she reviewed the data. She reviewed their platform and with a couple more phone calls she typed something into their computer and gave me the ‘nod’. I was clear to go. SafeScore – 1 confusing restrictions – 0.
I arrived in the lounge and breathed a deep sigh of relief and drank a deep sip of champagne. But I wasn’t out of the woods yet.
Confusing Restrictions are an International Problem
8 hours and a deep sleep later I arrived fresh in the land of the 2020 Olympics.
I knew from SafeScore that Tokyo airport was allowing transfers (great!) for certain routes and that a negative PCR was required (check!). I also knew transfers may take longer than expected due to the upcoming Olympic games and resigned myself to long queues and delays.
The airport was empty, the queues were short and disembarking was easy. Getting from immigration to the transfer area, not so much.
After transfer security, all the passengers from our flight were greeted by Airport staff holding whiteboards with 3 names on them. Mine was one of them. Here we go again!
I presented myself to the team and they asked me to show proof of a hotel booking for quarantine in Dublin, proof of negative PCR results and my passport. I explained, as I did in Noumea, that unvaccinated travellers do not need hotel quarantine when arriving from non-designated countries, but was met with blank stares, clearly confusing restrictions are international. Again, I got the credit card ready and the laptop.
My case was escalated to the duty manager, and I was asked to wait until called to the desk. Luckily my transfer time was 4 hours, because I spent 45 minutes at the transfer desk, with my laptop and SafeScore challenging the restrictions.
I shared the URLs, screenshots and even showed them SafeScore. Eventually I was allowed to board (credit card still holstered) and breathed another deep sigh of relief and took another deep sip of champagne as we took off.
Paris Charles de Gaulle was throbbing and I was thrilled to see so many people travelling, transferring and shopping in the duty free areas again. This would be my 12th international flight during the pandemic and for the first time things started to look promising again. 6 hours in a lounge, and a 1 hour hop to Dublin later, I touched down and was met with Ireland’s friendly and welcoming immigration team.
“Do you have a negative PCR test?” She asked?
“Yes”, I said.