Safety Tips for Your Post-Pandemic Travel

Safety Tips for Your Post-Pandemic Travel

Risk begins as you step out of your home because we are in the third phase of the pandemic, with cases multiplying rapidly. Safety is all about avoiding exposure, closeness, and touch.

People's confidence will restore completely only when a vaccine is developed against corona, or we achieve herd immunity. Herd masking is okay, but herd immunity seems to be a distant possibility in India in the foreseeable future. Till then, we must take the utmost care to save ourselves and the people around us.

Here are some actionable and specific safety tips for traveling responsibly because neither our country nor the world can afford further spread of COVID-19 disease. We all have already paid a high price for it.

Day to Day Local Travel

Day to Day Local Travel
Same City Travel

The golden rule for daily commutation is complete avoidance of public transport and exposure to others.

  • Do not use shared taxi, cabs, or rickshaws,
  • Avoid traveling in a local train, metro, or city bus.
  • Do not carpool to work or market.
  • Use your two-wheeler or four-wheeler.
  • For small distances, you can walk to your destination because now nature wants to teach us that walking is the best exercise.

Tier 1 Cities

Yes, it is challenging to travel in personal vehicles in metropolitan and other tier 1 cities. Still, people can use their cars and bikes to travel in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata, and Delhi. In Mumbai, it is difficult because distances and traffic do not allow you to travel from one end to the other end of the city every day. Still, people within the close radius use personal vehicles.

It should be no surprise that eight tier-1 cities account for over 40% COVID-19 cases in India.

Tier 2 Cities

You can easily reach from one end to the other end within 30 to 45 minutes using personal vehicles in tier 2 cities like Dehradun, Amritsar, Vadodara, Warangal, Ujjain, Faridabad, Nagpur, Noida, etc.

Tier 3 Cities, Towns, Districts and Villages

People should not face any difficulty in using their vehicles for local travel in small towns, cities, villages, districts, and divisions.
Although it is a paradox that some of us can not afford personal vehicles, especially in big cities, this is a limitation.

Travel to nearby places
  • Use personal vehicles instead of buses or shared cab/taxi.

Official Travels
As per experts, business travel would be the first to pick up in the post-pandemic period because they do so by necessity.
  • Avoid all official travels where you can do with video conferencing or phone for hiring, training, client meeting, product promotions, sales, and corporate communications, etc.

Long-Distance and Interstate Travel

Long-Distance and Interstate Travel

Try to avoid public transport, be it air, train, buses, shared taxis, metro, or local train. Traveling in a crowded flight, bus, or train for a prolonged period can put you at risk of getting COVID-19.

Transportation
  • Road trips in personal or hired vehicles and no use of public transport like metro, local train, buses, shared taxi or carpooling for destinations in the city, the same state or adjacent states.
  • Seating arrangement with social distancing.
  • Avoid big cities, crowded restaurants, shops in a mall or market, religious places, and monuments in the short run.

Hotels and Restaurants
  • Get your food, beverages, or drinks served in the hotel room itself. Do not visit restaurants and bars in a hotel to avoid people contact.
  • Avoid eating in roadside restaurants. Reach your destination and order food in the room.
  • Distant parking with nobody touching vehicles
  • Online booking and payments at the hotel to limit contact with others.
  • Avoid shared accommodation (dormitory or hostel), even when you are a backpacker.
  • Use matchstick or toothpick for hotel lift buttons. Avoid direct touch to surfaces.
  • Check to see the hotel's safety practices like disinfecting high-touch surfaces, face covering, and ventilation.

Compulsory Public Transport
In the following cases, you may have to take public transport in case of far-off destinations
  • This exception is for Iceland destinations in India and abroad like Lakshadweep, Andaman Nicobar Islands, Elephanta caves, Gangasagar, Majuli Island, and Sundarban Delta. You have to board a plane, steamer, or ship to reach these places unless you can afford to hire a personal yacht, helicopter, or charter plane.
  • Travel from one end to the other end in a country. For example, travel from north to south India, north-eastern states, and other places far away from your base location. Of course, you can take a road trip in the personal vehicle, but it would a very time-consuming, inconvenient, and exhausting experience. Moreover, time is the biggest constraint for the working class in India or even Asia, unlike Europe or America, where people get life-style breaks, sabbaticals, unemployment allowance, and high paying contract jobs.
  • A road trip is not possible for Ladakh throughout the year. You have to board a plane when land routes are closed.
  • Travel outside India except for Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan (Kartarpur corridor), where you can take a road trip. For Bangladesh and Pakistan, you have to take a train, ship, or bus. Myanmar allows road trip for limited time and area. For all other countries, you have to take an airplane

Safety Tips for Using Public Transport

Safety Tips for Using Public Transport

Now, you have to take public transport. Here are the safety tips to minimize the risk:

Thermal Screening
  • Every passenger has to undergo thermal screening at departure, and only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board the flight, train, or bus.
  • Symptomatic Patients will be isolated and taken to centers for quarantine.

Quarantine Period
  • The quarantine period varies from state to state. It ranges from 14 days, 21 days to 28 days.

Health Undertaking Form
  • Every passenger coming to India has to fill this self-declaration form and submit its copy to the Health and Immigration Officials at the airport/seaport/land port. This undertaking states that passengers are not coming from containment zones or showing symptoms of the coronavirus. They agree to undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days, including 7 days paid quarantine, followed by 7 days of isolation at home with self-monitoring of health.

Air Travel

Here are some actionable tips when you have decided to take the air route:

Plane
Passenger Safety Tips
  • Passengers should avoid layover and connecting flights as it exposes you to multiple contact points with people in domestic as well as international flights.
  • Get to the airport early to opt for a window seat.
  • Check-in online without using a kiosk or check-in counter to avoid the crowd and touching of objects.
  • Sanitize your seat, tray, armrests, seatbelts, headrest, and wipe out the entire area when you sit down. Carry ample wipes.
  • Carry online ticket for entry gate at the airport and do not stand in a queue to get paper tickets from the ticket counter.
  • Maintain a distance with people in aerobridge, bus, and airport passage.
  • Hire a taxi instead of taking the metro, bus, or shared taxis. Some of the airports like Bangaluru, Mumbai you can get a bus or even shared taxi/auto-rickshaws. At Guwahati, Raipur, Indore, and many other places, you can avail of shared cabs.
  • If you are sitting close to someone who is coughing, ask crew members to change his or her seat, or have him or her tilt face in other direction to avoid droplets.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
  • Wear gloves.
  • Sanitize your luggage after check-out.
  • Avoid indulgence in shopping, food, or alcohol at airports to avoid many people's contact.
  • While disembarking, let other people deplane first.
  • For short-haul flights, avoid the use of the toilet.

Airlines Measures

Several airlines have come up with the following safety measures:

  • Blocking some or all middle seats. The plane may fly 60 to 70% full, with many seats empty.
  • First, the passengers will sit in the rear seats and then move forward in that order to sit in the rest of the seats to minimize people's contact.
  • New sitting arrangements with partition and distance between co-passengers
  • Wiping of surfaces in the cabin after each flight
  • Availability of sanitizer onboard for hands and armrest
  • Packed food(Sealed Grab and go meals bag)
  • Minimum touching of surfaces.
  • Use online check-in and no kiosk check-in to avoid touching surfaces in public.
  • Compulsory mask(Face covering for all passengers)
  • Cabin crew may come round with sanitizer every half an hour.

Helicopter

Public helicopter services are available at affordable prices in the following places, and people have been availing of them more frequently.

  • Katra to Sanjhichatt at Vaishno Devi
  • Phata to Kedarnath in Uttrakhand
  • Bagdogra(WB) to Gangtok(Sikkim) and Joy rides
  • Guwahati(Assam) to Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh)
  • Joy rides in Goa, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Udaipur, Jaipur, Pune, and Vishakhapatnam.

Safety Tips
  • No physical separation exists even between the cabin and cockpit, let alone within the cabin itself for most helicopters. So, it is difficult to contain a virus. Thus, a helicopter journey is not safe due to space constraints.
  • Off late, many operators have denied transporting corona positive patients even in abroad due to high risk for crews.
  • Joy rides in various locations can be avoided because you are not using them for transportation.
  • For Vaishno Devi and Kedarnath, you can walk to the destinations or take the services of ponies, palkies, or Pithoos.
  • For Tawang and Gangtok, other convenient means of road transport are available.
  • However, charter flight in a helicopter is relatively safe, but few of us can afford it.

Trains
Interstate Trains
  • Try to book upper birth unless you are a senior citizen or you have medical conditions (preferences are asked while booking tickets). Most of the time, try to be on the upper birth. This way, you can maintain distance with fellow passengers.
  • Always avoid traveling in the general compartment of a local or express train because it is overcrowded. Make reservations in advance and travel in reserved coaches.
  • If you can afford it, try to be in AC coaches because daily commuters (daily-up downers) typically do not board them without reservations. Even passengers with the first-class season tickets are not allowed to travel in AC coaches as per Railways.
  • During travel in the sleeper class, we have sometimes been sharing our seats with other unreserved passengers on humanitarian ground. Now, it is a clear no-no.
  • Do not move much closer to socializing with fellow passengers or better avoid mixing altogether.
  • Sanitize your hands after touching objects like toilet doors, latch, and coach doors.
  • Carry homely food and drinking water. Have your breakfast, lunch, and dinner on your berth only.
  • Carry your paper, soap, sanitizer, and bedsheet.
  • Except for natural calls, do not stroll in train with no good reasons.
  • Reach railway station before time to avoid scrimmage in boarding your coach and locating berth or seat. It would also prevent close people's contact.
  • Avoid using connecting trains as people's exposure would be more at the station and at the time of boarding and getting off.
  • Do not travel by train if you have a cough, cold, or fever. Stay at home till you get recovered, or it may create panic, or you may be quarantined at any station.
  • Do not buy loose and cold food items. Get hot and packed ones.

Railway Safety Measures
  • Railways have stopped giving blankets and giving napkins and bedsheets in sealed envelopes.
  • The railway is disinfecting all open objects regularly.
  • Curtains in AC coaches have been removed.
  • Temperature is maintained at 25°C in AC compartments so that passengers do not require blankets, and corona survives longer in low temperatures.

Metro and Local Train
  • Sanitize your hands immediately after getting off the train because you might have touched various objects during your commute.
  • For local trains, make MST (Monthly Season Ticket) pass or use UTS (Unreserved Ticketing System) online to avoid queues. Avoid even ATVM (Automatic Ticket Vending Machine) for the local train because there are queues, and you have to tap the screen (touch the object).

Bus
  • Maintain a distance from fellow passengers.
  • On the bus, you have to hold straps, hand rest, door handle. So sanitize hands now and then.

Cruise Ships
  • No use of cruise ships till the situation normalizes completely because cruise ships are floating incubators of coronavirus with very high risk as per health experts. After the crisis is over, people will not gain the confidence to travel in a cruise liner among 2000 people for ten days.

International Travel Tips

  • Check current status about the countries or places you are traveling to avoid possible quarantine, getting stranded at the airport, or visa overstay because corona has rebounded in many countries like Singapore, Japan, South Korea, and China. Cases drop in one country, and then we see a spike in the number of cases in other countries.
  • The Visa regime may change, and the Schengen visa might not be enough to travel to different countries in the European Union. Tourists may require a health certificate, corona card, and other vaccinations.
  • In other developments, Newzealand and Australia are contemplating to keep their borders closed for 12 months for foreigners to avoid any rebound of the corona. Other countries may also follow suit.
  • Even after the international travel begins, it would not be as it used to be because now countries would tend to be stringent on foreigners' entry into their countries. There can be an overhaul in the visa and other regulations. Health would be governing every aspect of travel.
  • In the post-pandemic situation, if you are traveling for more than a week, you should buy health insurance.
  • As a backup plan, you must have an emergency fund to counter unforeseen events for a few more days' accommodation and meal expenses.
  • Biometrics, iris, and face recognition may replace physical fingerprint and hand scanner for identity verification as they are touch less options.

Destination wise Safety Tips

  • Avoid visiting prominent religious places. Almost all major religious places are overcrowded. Tirupati Balaji, Shirdi, Vaishno Devi Shrine, Ajmer Shariff, all major Gurudwaras, Amarnath, Nathdwara,  and Srinath, remain crowded throughout the year.
  • Avoid visiting big public street markets or shopping malls.

Travel Plan Safety Tips

  • Update yourself about multiple locations concerning corona status, border situation because statistics keep changing for locations. For example, Uttrakhand had the least cases; now, there is a spike. In some places, there is a drop in the number of cases. Initially, Kerala was on the top, and Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh had no cases. Now, Gujarat ranks higher. After taking stock of the current situation, decide on the destination.
  • Plan for natural places, national parks, and less crowded areas.
  • Book your trip with possible cancellation options for hotels and flights to eliminate high cancellation charges. Do not go for non-refundable air tickets.
  • Plan short trips so that you can easily get back to your home.