I made this brief Instagram post after settling in to our first hotel in San Jose, not quite doing justice to the amount of stress and anxiety endured to get to that point.
Booking a holiday pre-covid only revolved around excitement, maybe a little bit of nerves for flying, but generally there was nothing to worry about.
However now, post-2020, things aren’t so simple. The rules are ever changing and differ depending on where you’re coming from and going to – don’t even get me started on adding in a transit! Even in the time I’ve been home (7 days and counting, thanks covid) the rules have changed again. Therefore, this post isn’t perhaps as informative as it is about the experience, however I’m here to share anyway. The biggest lesson I can offer, straight off the bat, is 100% do your research if travelling anywhere now… do it and then do it again. If you’re in the UK, the government website has everything you need to know but it also a little confusing. The website I found most helpful was Sherpa and I believe that can be used by anyone, anywhere in the world.
My personal experience involved travelling from London, to Miami, then on to Costa Rica and of course back again.
A connection always worries me but I couldn’t find direct flights, although it does transpire some run from Gatwick. So if you’re planning a trip, try to get a direct flight and save yourself the add stress of a transit. Factoring in the rules for another country, just to be in the airport, was a tad frustrating.
Also check your baggage allowance, rather than assuming that all long flights include checked bags like I did, as it turns out they don’t. I booked flights months in advance and didn’t even think twice to check. Only when it came to prepping everything did I then re-read the flight details and realise it was hand luggage only. Perhaps some people can pack lighter than I can, but in my opinion you can’t fit enough for 10 days in Costa Rica in hand luggage! Turns out I was right, as we did so many different kinds of activities in different places, lots of layers and outfit choices were much needed.
So, you’d think we could add on baggage online right? Wrong! No such luck… then upon contacting the airline to do it instead via multiple calls and emails, being passed from pillar to post… they tell us that due to our connecting flight being with a different airline (operating under the same company, but still different), it has to be done at the airport. More expensive and more time consuming, fantastic.
Travelling to Costa Rica from the UK didn’t require a test or any quarantine, so that was a relief. However, transitting through the USA required either a PCR or an observed LFT, no more than 24 hours before – for both directions. When we first started planning, we also needed a pre-departure and day 2 test for returning home. Pre-departure was scrapped before we went and the day 2 has also since been scrapped – so like I say, it’s ever-changing!
Also required to travel was proof of vaccination, a pase de salud, an ESTA, attestation form, confirmation of contact details and a passenger locator form before returning. So lots of paperwork to complete and QR codes to scan. Then there’s another curveball if you’ve had Covid in the last 90 days… you don’t need to do the tests but have to show more proof. The friend I was travelling with had to pay extra to obtain this, only for us to then find out it can’t be uploaded online for an early check-in. Talk about a palava!
All of these hiccups made me pretty nervous. Our flight was leaving around 9.30am, so we’d need to be at the airport pretty early… what if we couldn’t check in or sort out our luggage? We’d opted to stay overnight at a nearby airport hotel and my boyfriend was dropping us off. He was kind enough to take us to the airport first so any issues could be ironed out, leaving us with less to worry about early morning.
What a saving grace that was. Whilst there, we paid for luggage (£85 each, ouch!), checked all our documentation was correct, checked in and printed boarding passes. It finally felt like we could be excited.
The night at the hotel was pretty surreal after that, knowing it was REALLY happening now… leaving my boyfriend behind for the biggest chunk of time ever in our 4 year relationship. We had a couple of drinks to settle our nerves and then tried to get some sleep.
It didn’t feel like many hours later and we were on the way to the airport, the nerves were real by this point but everything went off without a hitch.
The only issue I had was having to throw some liquids away, after mistakenly having a bag that was too big… under the liquid limit but still a problem apparently! I’m still a little bitter about the expensive moisturiser but it’s a lesson learnt, and I’m just thankful there were no further issues.
We attempted breakfast at Giraffe but nerves got the better of us and both plates went unfinished, despite being delicious.
Before we knew it, it was time to head to our gate.
The flight was a little bumpy but we made it to Miami with plenty of time for our connection. Just as well as the line for passport control was CRAZY.
By the time we were at our next gate, our energy was starting to flag. I was so tired that I wasn’t even bothered about boarding another flight, I just wanted to sleep.
Luckily, it didn’t take too long to get going and before we knew it… we finally landed in San Jose, safe and well. I’ll be honest, I don’t think it ever sunk it, even now that I’m home. It was just so surreal.
I had wanted to avoid any room for error so booked a taxi ahead of time to get us to the airport. We landed around 9pm local time and I knew we’d want to just get to bed, not deal with sorting transportation in a foreign country.
Foreign being the key word here, my Spanish is incredibly limited. I learnt a minimal amount but certainly not enough to hold a conversation – a big regret if I’m honest! The lack of Spanish very nearly meant we went with the wrong person for our taxi and would have no doubt been overcharged, but to my own pleasant surprise, I stood my ground.
A much nicer man than the first helped us find the correct taxi driver. I think he’d waiting a while, as his friend waiting with him cheered my name when we arrived… I remember grinning, soaking in the late night heat and thinking wow… welcome to Costa Rica!
The drive was short and mostly silent, purely from exhaustion by this point. The universe must have known we needed some extra comfort though, as upon checking in we were upgraded to a suite – we weren’t even going to be there for 12 hours but oh it was bliss!
We made it.
I hope you’ll read on and relive the journey with me… stay tuned.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve have any travel experiences during Covid!