Posted in Travel

What Is It Like Travelling To Costa Rica During A Pandemic?

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!

Posted in Life

Self Isolation Diaries: Day One

This certainly isn’t the return to blogging that I planned but here we go…

25.06.21

I no longer work Fridays, so today started like any other day off.

I got out of bed when Dale went off to work and I walked Reggie. Came home, had some breakfast. Did a bit of tidying up before getting ready to out for an appointment.

I went to my appointment with no hiccups, then met my mum in town for some lunch. We had a great catch up, actually sat inside Costa with actual coffee cups and were about to head to Boots. “How long do you have left for your parking?” She asked me… as I got my phone out to check the time, there it was. A notification from NHS test and trace.

Being rather an anxious person, my initial reaction was of course blind panic. Immediately I felt ill, as if I’d just been told I actually HAVE Covid-19. My mind raced and I realised I needed to head straight home. Mum helped me to switch my rational brain back on and reminded me that I’ve already had both my jabs and besides… I’ve not felt ill until right in that moment. So to go home, take a test for peace of mind and just make the most out of the situation. I’m always craving more time at home and here it is!

I was exposed on the 19th June and only just being notified on the 25th, so it’s 5 days at home.

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s being home with no plans, so 5 days is nothing! Although it does concern me that I’ve been going about my business for almost a full week, before being notified of the exposure… Luckily I’ve only been to work, wearing PPE, so actually it’s pretty ironic that on one of the rare occasions I’ve ventured out to anywhere else, I was “exposed”.

First things first was to let work know so I rang my boss whilst walking back to my car. Luckily I would only miss two days and can easily make up most of that time. So may as well enjoy the time off… there’s always plenty to do at home, Reggie loves the company and I can make plenty of candles and wax melts.

I calmed down and got home, tested and it was negative. Phew.

So time to get on with all this extra time at home…

I’ve been struggling to stick with any kind of blogging schedule for a little while and fell out of love with it all as a result. I’ve been trying to kick my butt in to gear and make a grand return, just not quite managed it yet. So I’ve decided to make a diary style blog series about how I fill my time. Plus of course, it means I can work on the many drafts I’ve started over the last few months! Stay tuned, I hope you’re all safe and well.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve had to isolate recently and how did you fill your time?

Posted in Life

What it’s like to get the COVID-19 vaccination

Well, here’s a post I could have never predicted that I’d write when I started blogging…

I will start by clarifying that this post is about my personal experience, my own opinions and my own understanding of the COVID vaccination. I welcome any questions but do also be aware that there are much more qualified people to direct any queries to!

I think we all know by now that the world as we knew it prior to 2020, has been flipped upside down… probably more than once. Life just hasn’t been the same since COVID-19 reared it’s ugly head and spread like wildfire, so it’s no surprise that the opinion of many people is that the only way out is with a vaccine.

I’m very much pro getting the jab, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. The vaccine is NOT compulsory, despite what some may seem to think. I can, however, completely understand why many people have reservations in that it came about so quickly… but really, seeing as this is a huge global issue, what else would you expect?! The research has been ongoing and the vaccine certainly wasn’t concocted overnight so personally, I trust the science.

Why I got the vaccine

I want to start by clarifying that I am by no means on the frontline and there are many people working more closely with the public and in a position of higher risk than me. However, I have worked throughout the pandemic in the healthcare sector so luckily for me I was in the second priority group for the vaccine.

In the UK, those currently receiving the vaccine are:

  • people aged 80 and over
  • some people aged 70 and over
  • some people who are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • people who live or work in care homes
  • health and social care workers

I actually feel slightly guilty in a way that I got mine so quickly, because it felt a little like jumping the queue. However, with all that is going on the world, this was not an opportunity to be missed.

What it was like getting the vaccine

On January 13th, 2021, I found myself queuing up outside a health centre, in the rain… buzzing with excitement, but also with slight terror, as I HATE needles. I’m not the kind of gal to get jabbed unless I need it, let me tell you that much!

The system in place was incredible. The queue outside moved quickly and was socially distanced, with everyone respecting the rules and wearing masks. Then at the front door, my temperature was taken and hands sanitised before checking in. I then joined another socially distanced queue, following the markings on the floor of what I assumed would have normally been the waiting room. Again, it moved quickly but there was still enough time to read over the vaccination leaflet and see the ingredients of the vaccine and what side effects I might expect later on. Once I was at the front of the queue, I could see there were a number of rooms in use, with many people gliding in and out, as they received their jab.

A friendly lady called me in, asked me if I was generally healthy and if I may be pregnant. Side note: current advice is to wait until you have given birth to receive your vaccine, and this is purely because they’re not able to trial a vaccine on pregnant women. The NHS website states that “There’s no evidence the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe if you’re pregnant. But more evidence is needed before you can routinely be offered it.” That being said, if you’re in a high risk group you can still get your jab, even if you’re pregnant.

I said that I was healthy, just very nervous… she made small talk to put me at ease and let me know that she was actually a phlebotomist, so very good with needles! Fun fact: many of those that work in medicine are training to deliver the jab so that it can be rolled out at quickly as it is.

The needle went in my arm quickly and painlessly. Just like that, I had my first dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. I said my thank yous and made my way out of the back door, greeted by some of my colleagues who also had their jab at the same time, and we all went back to work for the afternoon!

I was amazed at how efficient the whole process was.

Did I have any side effects?

Keep in mind here that everyone will react differently to any kind of vaccine and mild side effects are common. With the Oxford vaccine, the most common side effects include:

  • tenderness, pain, warmth, redness, itching, swelling or bruising where the injection is given
  • generally feeling unwell
  • feeling tired (fatigue)
  • chills or feeling feverish
  • headache
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • joint pain or muscle ache

You can read more about the less common side effects, as well as all the other information from the vaccine leaflet, here.

For me personally, I feel that I ticked off most of the above but let me be clear in that I did not feel extremely unwell in the slightest. A couple of colleagues felt a lot worse than me (many of us went the same day) but on the other hand, many didn’t feel anything afterwards at all. Like I said, everyone will react differently.

12 hours post vaccine – during the night

I woke up in a cold sweat, like… really sweaty. Plus, I ached all over. That being said, I didn’t actually think anything of this as I also had a really strange dream, which is not uncommon for me and I often wake up in the night, somewhat clammy and aching.

Day 1 post vaccine

After that fairly disturbed nights sleep, I got ready for work. Group chats on WhatsApp pinged away as we all discussed how we felt and then I realise that perhaps my night sweats were actually due to the vaccine. I still didn’t feel too bad so I didn’t mind. Lots of people were feeling much worse then me but as I said, about the same number of people also felt absolutely fine.

For the rest of the day, getting ever so gradually worse in the afternoon, I personally had a very fuzzy head and felt extremely tired, as well as having hot flushes. By the time I was home, I was utterly exhausted.

Some people had a completely dead arm or painful injection site but I personally had no pain at all in my arm.

Day 2 post vaccine

I had an early night and then felt fine the next day. All of my other colleagues also said they felt fine by now as well. I was still quite tired but seeing as the dog kept us up that second night and it’s not unusual for me not to sleep well, again I didn’t blame the vaccine!

My arm was a bit sore by this point but not bad at all, mainly just a little sting around the injection site.

Day 3 post vaccine

I felt completely normal with just a little sting in my arm every now and then. I didn’t even feel the sting by the fourth day and everything was completely back to how I felt pre-vaccine.

Overall thoughts

The whole experience was incredible and without sounding over the top, I feel honoured to be part of it all – let’s face it, this really is history in the making.

Don’t get me wrong though, I have my own doubts too… I can’t help but feel uneasy about the fact that the time between doses was increased from 3 weeks to up to 12 weeks. I understand why it was done and it’s meant that a much larger number of people were able to receive their first dose, however I do wonder how the gap could have been increased by such a significant amount of time. On the other hand, I’m very much one to trust the process so for now, I eagerly await an appointment for the second dose.

But what happens if you don’t receive the second jab?

My completely honest answer can only be that I don’t really know. My understanding is that the first dose only gives a certain amount of immunity, I believe around 60%, and then the second dose then boosts this up to over 90% and means that it will last longer. This is only what I gather from the information that’s been available to me, and I’m the furthest thing away from an expert on the matter! That being said, I’m keen to update you all once I do get the second dose or if I do get any more information.

I hope this post has been helpful and if you have any questions about getting the COVID-19 vaccination, then please feel free to ask away!