As much as I love travel, the constantly changing requirements and forms relating to Covid-19 vaccines and testing – different for each country – can be mind-boggling, to say the least. I am not even talking about the fear of testing positive for Covid-19 in a foreign country – that’s a whole other nervous breakdown in and of itself.
Dave and I are both fully vaccinated and boosted against Covid-19.
Last week, we traveled from the United States to Budapest, Hungary (changing planes in Paris, France). After two days in Budapest, we took a train from Budapest to Vienna, Austria. We spent three nights in Vienna. We flew home from Vienna to the United States (changing planes in London, United Kingdom). Suffice it to say, I had to be concerned with the Covid-19 requirements in five countries!
DOCTORS’ NOTES INDICATING RECOVERY FROM COVID-19
In mid-December, Dave and I came down with Covid-19. We had symptoms, and quarantined at home for approximately 10 days. We were told that we might not get a negative PCR test for up to 90 days. Instead, in accordance with CDC guidelines, we obtained letters from our doctors attesting to the fact that we had had Covid-19, that we recovered from the virus, and that we were cleared to travel (see, CDC: Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Documentation of Recovery from COVID-19).
I grimaced at the thought of traveling through four countries showing this letter to officials (I mean, what could go wrong?). I decided, for the heck of it, to get a PCR test, knowing that in all likelihood, the result would still show that I was positive for Covid-19. Much to my surprise, the PCR test came out negative. Dave also got a negative PCR. We were ecstatic.
We showed our proof of vaccination and negative PCR test results to the Delta agent at check in at JFK. Transiting through France was not very difficult from a Covid-19 perspective, but the lines were crazy long at passport control and many people were complaining that they were missing their connecting flights. Thankfully, we had a few hours before our Air France flight to Budapest.
Showing Proof of Vaccination Around Budapest and Vienna
In Budapest, we were often asked to show our vaccination documents. In Vienna, without fail, we were always, always asked for proof of vaccination – whether at a restaurant, a store, or even at our hotels. It was absolutely mandatory in Austria. I have an EU issued Covid-19 Health Pass (France), which made life incredibly easy. Dave, on the other hand, had to present his Pfizer vaccination card and ID everywhere we went. He was not a happy camper.
Lesson: If you can get a EU issued Covid-19 pass, DO IT! It’s accepted throughout most countries in Europe and really makes life easier, in these difficult times.
A United Kingdom Passenger Locator Form must be completed 48 hours before arrival in the UK showing, among other things, a negative antigen or PCR test result (note: I believe the testing requirement for fully vaccinated travelers may have been recently dropped). Using the Verifly app is helpful (Verifly is used on many One World Flights). However, Verifly was only available for our London – JFK flight (not the VIE-London flight). If nothing else, Verifly helps you organize what you need, in forms and testing, for each trip.
Previously, for three prior trips to foreign countries in the fall of 2021, Egypt (September), Hungary (October) and Chile (November), we brought Abbott Binax Now proctored antigen tests with us, purchased from eMed, and those worked like a charm. If you are planning to travel internationally, I highly recommend them. We weren’t as prepared for this trip, and initially thought we might just rely on our doctors’ notes for reentry to the United States.
VIENNA HAS FREE TESTING!!
I did some research, and learned that the city of Vienna has Covid-19 antigen testing, set up in container structures. It is efficient, professional and organized – AND FREE – even for foreigners! We got tested there twice – the first time, two days before our departure (as UK requires testing within 48 hours) and the second time, one day before our departure (as USA requires testing within 24 hours). Both times, we received a professional print out of the results – which included all of the pertinent information and a QR code. Thank you Vienna!
They said results would be ready in 20 minutes, so we took a walk around the nearby Stadtpark in the interim, which I recommend, even if you aren’t waiting for test results.
In conclusion, travel during the pandemic is still possible. The key with Covid-19 requirements, is to be very careful, thorough and organized. Oh, I forgot to mention – different countries prefer different types of masks. France, prefers surgical masks. Austria, KN95 type masks.
Be well and stay healthy!