It’s the worst case scenario: You test positive for COVID-19 while you’re traveling in another country. You can’t fly home, regardless of citizenship status, and you don’t have a home where you’ll be quarantining. So what do you do? Hopefully this will never happen to you, but it’s always a good idea to have a plan.
I was inspired to write this post while preparing for our first international trip since the pendemic started. I was surprised at how little practical information was out there. So, hopefully this fills in the gaps for you. If you have questions, please comment below!
Know Your Options
You have to have a negative COVID test in order to board your commercial airplane to fly to the United States. Full stop. End of discussion. If you don’t have a negative test within the correct timeframe to show upon boarding, you won’t be allowed on the plane. You have two options:
Quarantine in place until you get a negative test.
This means you will have to stay in the country you’ve been visiting for a few more days or weeks until you get better. Sounds great right? Well, except you won’t be allowed to leave your room, you’ll have to pay for your room, you’ll have to pay for room service or food delivery, and oh, yeah, you might get really sick and have to go to that country’s hospitals, which will certainly be unnerving, no matter how much you like the country you’re visiting. Not my idea of an extended vacation, you know what I mean?
Fly home on a chartered flight.
I had no idea this was a viable, legal option until I started researching for this post. There is a company called Covac Global that will fly you home at the first sign of infection. They will fly you to a hospital (not to your home), but the catch is that you have to buy a membership with them, either short-term or long-term. Memberships for an individual start at $675, which is less expensive than spending 7-14 days or more in a hotel waiting to get better and receive a negative test result, but you can get all the details on their website. Think of it as an insurance plan.
More here: How to Handle the Stress of Quarantine
Find Out Where You Can Stay
Some hotels will allow you to quarantine there, should you test positive during your stay, but in 90% of circumstances, you will have to pay for this yourself. Some governments require COVID-positive individuals to quarantine at government-designated hotels only. Still other governments will pay for tourists to stay for free at designated accommodations. Find out which option or options are available to you, preferably before you leave for your trip.
Read on: What It’s Like Staying at a Hotel During the Pandemic
Find Out How You’ll Get Food
As mentioned above, you will most likely be ordering room service or food delivery. Uber Eats is available in several countries, as well as other food delivery services. Ask the concierge or front desk staff about what options are available. If you have a travel companion who tested negative for COVID, they will also be able to go out and get food for you. However, they may want or need to be staying in a different room so that you don’t infect them during your quarantine.
Keep reading: How to Practice Self-care on Travel
Do What You Need to Do to Get Well
Most importantly, do what you need to do to get well. Get chicken soup if available. Drink Emergency-C and hot teas. Drink plenty of liquids. Rest. Don’t dwell on what an expensive bummer it is to be sick in a foreign country; focus on getting well. Give the hotel staff some money and ask them to go to the pharmacy and pick up tissues or Vap-o-rub, and don’t forget to tip them when they come back with those things. They have probably dealt with this situation before and will know what to get and what to do. Also, call your mom via video chat or wi-fi calling.
Read next: What to Do If You Get Sick on Travel
Get Familiar with Testing Yourself
In order to fly home, you have to have a negative test. So, if you test positive, and have symptoms, you will have to quarantine until you get well, according to the CDC website. When you do recover, you could still test positive for up to three months, so you will also need to get a doctor’s note saying that you have recovered. The process to get that will vary by country, so the best thing to do is to ask the staff at your accommodation to point you in the right direction.
Note: You will need to keep your positive test and doctor’s note of recovery together, and show both instead of a negative test when boarding an international flight for the next three months.
If you test positive and have no symptoms, plan to test every day until you get a negative test. Alternatively, you can see a doctor and get a note of recovery from COVID-19 to show with your positive test when boarding an international flight. Again, seeing a doctor as a non-citizen in a foreign country could be complicated, and the process will vary by country.
More here: 5 Things to Do Before You Travel Abroad During the Pandemic
Be Prepared with Things to Do
Last, but most certainly not least, figure out how to pass the time with as little pain and suffering as possible. Did you bring your laptop? Can you work from where you are? Can you use your quarantine time to write that book you’ve been wanting to write for years and years? Did you bring a book? Can you read some books on your phone or tablet or Kindle? There’s always streaming. Maybe starting a bodyweight workout routine will help you get better faster, or at least work out some energy. You can figure something out!
All my travel reading lists are on my dedicated Shop Page!
Need more pandemic travel tips? You’ll find them all on my Health and Wellness Page.
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