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Traveling During Pandemic : Here’s What You Need to Know Before You Travel

When I am writing this blog, it is the last day of my quarantine at my home after the trip to Turkey last Aug 2021. It has been almost 2 years that we have not travelled out of Japan since Feb 2020 after Taiwan Trip. We were quite excited about this trip and anxious at the same time because a lot of preparations were required and there were a lot of uncertain things and risks. We got finally vaccinated with Pfizer 3 months ago and the summer holidays also finally came. So, we decided to travel to Turkey to meet with our parents since they also got vaccinated too.

We needed to go through a lot of processes and have done a lot of mistakes. By the way, my husband is still now in quarantine in Turkey because he got positive in the PCR test. I like to share all our experiences, do and don't things for you if you are thinking to travel now.

This blog will cover the following what you should prepare for traveling during a pandemic.

  1. Schedule in Advance at least one and a half months

  2. Keep checking the updated information

  3. PCR Test

  4. How to apply for Vaccine Passport and Why it is Important

  5. Recommend buying Flexible Flight Ticket

  6. Visa applications can take longer than you expect

  7. Recommend buying Travel Health Insurance

  8. Make a plan that you might not be able to return back as your schedule

  9. Boarding Day Experiences

  10. Turkey Travel Restrictions and My Experiences Sharing

  11. Japan Travel Restrictions and My Experiences Sharing

  12. My Thoughts on Travelling During Pandemic

Note :In this blog, I am writing focusing on my experiences in Japan since I am currently living in Japan and travel from Japan. All information and situation can be changed based on time. The following information's are going to be based on the information and my travel experiences from Japan ⇔ Turkey during Aug 2021 to Sep 2021.

1.Schedule in Advance at least one and a half months

Everything is unpredictable to travel during the pandemic for everything. Anything can happen at any time and a lot of procedures and preparations are required than other normal time traveling. I will share details in later each session. Hope this blog will help you to make the plan easier.

2.Keep checking the updated information

Travel restrictions, procedures and required documents of destination countries are changing by time. You can check out from the following website based on your travel destination country and date for more details.

I also tried to call to Tokyo and Turkey immigrant office to make sure not to miss any preparation.

3.PCR Test

PCR test is generally required for traveling out of your country nowadays. Sometimes it is required even you already have a vaccine passport. For travel reasons, you need to make PCR test at the private PCR test center in most countries and the government test center is generally allowed you to test only when you have symptoms. Price can be varied based on how quickly you want the test result. In Japan, the price is above 100 USD and it is around 25 USD in Turkey.

Please keep in mind the followings before you take PCR Test

  1. PCR test results still can be positive even though you got already vaccinated

  2. PCR test results can be changed after a couple of days based on your immune system

  3. Make sure your immune system is good enough by simply sleep, eat and rest well

  4. Recommend you to be in a place that you can test PCR test multiple times whenever you need it.

I can say No 4 is quite important. My husband tested the PCR test in a town that does not have a private service that allows him to test PCR tests whenever he wants by paying. After he got the test result positive, there was no choice that he quarantined for 14 days. If we made test in bigger city that we can test multiple tests, he might not need longer quarantine. I wish we knew this from the beginning.

4. How to apply for Vaccine Passport and Why it is Important

A vaccine passport works as an approved document that you have already been vaccinated. I highly recommend you apply it first because it will save a lot of time and reduce the risk of unexpected things. For some case, you might not able to travel to certain areas and countries without it. This is how vaccine passport format looks like

Application process might differ based on country. I will explain to you how to apply the one in Japan.

1. Where to Apply it

You need to apply for the vaccine passport in the city or ward that you are currently living

and which provides you vaccine ticket. If you cannot figure it out by yourself, simply call your city office. They are quite helpful

Here is the Japanese government link for more details to apply

2. Requirements

  • Application Form (Check on your city or ward website)

  • A passport that has still valid date

  • Vaccine Ticket which has evidence that you already got vaccinated

  • Have a plan to travel ( you need to provide an estimated travel plan and destination country but does not necessary to provide an air ticket)

This is how Vaccination Ticket with evidence that you already vaccinated look like

3. How Long does it take

It will take around one hour when yo go to the office directly, If you apply by mailing, it will take around 1 week.

4.How much does it cost

It is Free.

5. Is there any Due Date

Yes, due date is the same as your passport due date

5.Recommend buying Flexible Flight Ticket

The flexible ticket was never an option for me before the pandemic because they are generally more expensive than non-flexible. But I think a flexible flight ticket is the only option because tons of unexpected things can happen at any time and you need to change flight schedule multiple time.

If you are an economic and budget person like me, there are flights that are flexible and affordable luckily. From Tokyo to Turkey, I use QARTAR Airline for the first time which allows me to change schedule and cancel anytime without any cancellation fees. The service quality is also quite good in terms of price-wise. QARTAR Airlines is promoting so good by adjusting with pandemic traveler situation and demands. So it is always full. Make sure you book very earlier and adjust the schedule as early as possible when you need to .

From Turkey to Japan, we used Turkish Airline even though it is more expensive than QARTAR Airline because it is a direct flight, allows more weighs for my check-in bag and the terminal is in Haneda which is closer to my place. I will explain in later "Japan travel restrictions" later section details why I needed to choose a closer airport to my house.

6. Visa applications can take longer than you expect

Based on your destination country, where are you locating, and which citizenship you are holding, all requirements can be changed. I will introduce about Turkey Visa Application in the next Turkey blog. Please just keep in mind that it can take longer than you expected such as they only allow for applying by mailing and delay because of Corona etc.

7. Recommend buying Travel Health Insurance

I highly recommend you to buy travel insurance even you are vaccinated or you do not need them for a visa application. If you can effort, recommend you to buy the insurance which can cover everything including accommodations just in case if you got corona in a travel destination and extend your trip there. My husband got Corona Positive and he needed to extend his schedule to stay in Turkey. I cannot imagine that how it might be expensive to do quarantine in another country if it is not Turkey ( We can stay in our parent's house for turkey case).

8. Make a plan that you might not be able to return back as your schedule

Based on your home country and travel destination country travel policies, you might need to extend your stay in the travel destination country. By expecting this risk, prepare the followings

1.Communicate well with your work and customer

It is better if you can work remotely in travel destination country in case if you need to extend your stay in there.

2. Leave Your House in Good Shape

We cannot know that when you can return back to your house. Communicate well with your tenant owner or friends to be able to take care of your house just in case if something happens. Follow the advices of the tenant owner about electricity, gas, and water. Also, recommend keeping your spare key in your trusted friend or relatives house too.

3. Prepare the budget for extended schedule

Your budget should include for an unexpected stay in the destination country especially if you do have family or friends who can help you.

9. Boarding Day Experiences

The time you should arrive to airport before departure during pandemic becomes double than normal time. It used to be enough if you arrive 2 hours before departure time. Now it becomes 4 hours. Even though we researched and prepared enough, there are still documents that we needed to filled up which we were not aware. We saw so many peoples are panic and negotiating with airline officers in both Japan and Turkey Airports. We also saw some were not allowed to board because of not having required documents according to travel procedure.

After boarding to the airplane, most seats are arranged not to sit side by side if you are not family members or buying together. They provided travel kits which includes hand gel and mask than normal travel travelling time. You also had to wear mask all the time even except eating time. Sleeping with mask was the biggest challenge for me. If you can effort, I highly recommend to take the direct flights especially if your need to flight very long distance.

10. Turkey Travel Restrictions and My Experiences Sharing

When We arrived to Istanbul Airport, it made us shock that there were so many travelers regardless of pandemics. The custom was also so easy and did not take longer than normal traveling time as long as you prepare enough require documents.

Istanbul Airport is very big and beautiful. It may be the biggest airport I have ever seen in my life. Everywhere is setting up with amenities for traveler safety. I think Turkey is doing good in terms of traveling promotion even during pandemics. Most of the Turkish citizens more than 80% have already finished vaccinated. Their healthcare system is also well prepared for travelers by promoting like travel insurances that can also cover COVID recovering including accommodations. Those insurance packages are also quite affordable. Please check out here. . Turkey was not on the banning list for entering United States while UK was at that time (I am not sure now). So most traveler who wants to enter the United States, they use Turkey as transit location and do quarantine in Turkey before entering United States.

Here are the Turkey travel restrictions information for my case (Japan to Turkey)

  • If you are vaccinated and have a vaccine passport, you do not need to provide a PCR test and does not require to do quarantine

  • You cannot take public transportation except Taxi unless you register the transportation IC card called istanbul kart with HES code from Life Fits to Home Apps (I will explain more details of how to apply in the next blog "Travel Experiences in Turkey during pandemic")

  • For some places, your body temperature measurement and HES code-providing corporations are necessary.

  • Somehow your HES code tracking shows that you are getting in touch with COVID positive person, you might not able to travel around anymore and enter certain places.

Again, restrictions are changing over time. Please make sure you check the latest in here

11. Japan Travel Restrictions and My Experiences Sharing

I used Narita Airport to go to Turkey and use Haneda Airport for entering back to Japan. Both airports are quite empty in comparison to QARTAR and ISTANBUL airports. It is all about Country Leader Strategy. Japan's strategy is "NO RISK TAKING". The vaccination to the public is quite late in comparison to other developed countries and restriction is too high to travel and enter to Japan for any reason. As consequence, the travel industry is hurting so badly in Japan in comparison to Turkey as a benchmark. I am impressed that how Tukey is taking strategy well and making action by adjusting with the current conditions such as speeding up the vaccination to the public, Travel Protocol inside the country for locals and foreigners.

Anyway, I respect the Japan Government decision because Japan is one of the leading countries which is under control during a pandemic and there is no right and wrong decision based on country priority.

Here are the Japan travel restrictions information for my case (Turkey to Japan)

  • Regardless of having a vaccinated or a vaccine passport, you have to provide PCR test results with negative.

  • You must quarantine in government-designated hotels. Quarantine days vary based on the country where you come from. For my case, it was 3 days.

  • There are no Quarantine Fees. All accommodation and meals are covered by the Japanese Government. They do not allow you to smoke or drink inside quarantine locations.

  • After arriving at the airport, it took 3 hours for me before I arrive at customs. A lot of documents and forms are needed to apply. I recommend you not to fill in advance the forms which the Airline staff might provide you in advance on an airplane because there is a lot of confusion about filling documents. There are tons of staff are waiting to help you to fill out the documents one to one at the airport.

  • They also take PCR tests again during the above 3 hours before customs after arriving at the airport. Based on your test result, the quarantine location, no of quarantine days, and procedure might be different. For my case of PCR test negative, they brought to quarantine location with private BUS.

  • You cannot use any public transportations train, bus, and taxi before your quarantine days finished. Getting picked up by your family's or friend's car at the airport or a rental car driving by yourself or hiring a private car.

  • For Private car hiring (In Japanese they called ハイヤー), there are so many companies. I use VIPVIP ハイヤー配車 because I can communicate from line apps easily and get quotations in advance at a fixed price. It cost me around 200 USD from Haneda to my home. So make sure you make a wise choice of the airport which is closer to your home.

  • After arriving home, you still need to do quarantine at your home. For my case, it was another 11 days. They allowed me to go around inside my city but still could use public transportation. During quarantine, you still need to report your location, health conditions and getting called by video call to make sure that I am not violating the laws or not.

Again, restrictions are changing by time. Please make sure you check the latest in here

12. My Thoughts on Travelling During Pandemic

Travel experiences will never be the same until a certain time. Friends and relatives might scare to meet with you. Please understand them for this case. Most of the travel areas are not working fully functioning then it used to be such as there might be no bar, alcohol allowing time can be earlier, flight and bus can be less frequent than it used to be. Everything is about risk and reward. If you can tolerate the risks that I mentioned above, it is worth doing it. Otherwise, it is not time yet for you.

For us, we take it all difficulties as experiences. We are really happy that we are possible to have this incredible travel experience during this kind of under situation regardless of the risk and problems that we are still carrying now. (We cannot know when my husband can come back to Japan yet at the very moment). Most importantly, we were possible to meet with our family after such a long time.

Hope this blog is helpful to you if you need to travel to foreign countries during the pandemic and possible to make an easier plan than us. If you have any questions, feel free to comment here. I will try to answer my best.


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