Travelling in times of Covid-19

I had to fly to Austria for family reasons and just got back to Tahiti. My greatest worry was that French Poly would close the borders again while I was away, so I only dared to stay for ten days in Austria. I was a bit shocked, how careless the majority of people act there: masks only in supermarkets, waiters wear them half-heartedly underneath their chins and I was frowned upon when I did my disinfecting rituals after touching surfaces…

The journey itself was surprisingly pleasant: The Air France flight via Vancouver (they don’t land in the US at the moment, but divert flights via Canada so I was spared the security hassle in L.A.) was almost empty, the few passengers each had a row for themselves and we could leisurly stretch out in the economy class… Boarding was done in small groups (each part of the airplane a separate zone) and people queued with large distances.
Two weeks later on the way back things had already changed: boarding in a big queue, no more social distancing, but still obligatory masks. It’s amazing how quickly the novelty factor wears off and people fall back into old habits–unfortunately our general motto ‘better safe than sorry’ doesn’t seem to be a wide-spread approach…

Before I flew to Austria I asked the Austrian embassy whether I’d need a covid test and they claimed that it was necessary because of the transit stop in Canada (ridiculous, as I did the test in covid-free Tahiti before flying) and I dutifully got one for 250 Euros–nobody ever asked for it. Passengers were not checked in Paris and in Vienna I simply walked out of the airport without finding anyone I could interest in my pretty Covid-test.

I knew I’d need a negative Covid test in order to make it back to Tahiti, but I was almost impossible to find a lab in Austria willing to perform one: I called ten labs and hospitals, was told that they were only testing on certain days (not suitable for my flight) or not at all in August… Finally I found one in Steyr (Upper Austria), where I then had to queue with 30 other people who needed a test–if you planned on spreading a virus that would be the way to go…
In the end I had a negative test in hand, on top of that I needed a French traveller form, an Etis application (online platform for travellers to French Polynesia) and an insurance certificate, all of them were checked in Vienna, Paris and Tahiti again. Additionally I got a self-test kit which I’ll have to hand in in 4 days. I was veeery nervous about my paperwork, but all worked out nicely and I made it safely back to Pitufa, Christian and Leeloo. Home sweet home!

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