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STUCK ABROAD: CORONAVIRUS & TRAVEL INSURANCE

STUCK ABROAD: CORONAVIRUS & TRAVEL INSURANCE

I initially started to write this blog post when people started cancelling trips because of the coronavirus and travel bloggers' traffic (like mine) started plummeting as a direct result of it. It seemed that coronavirus and pandemics in general were on everyone's mind, so I thought I'd tell you about that one time I got quarantined in China. You know, to take my mind of it. (Slash in a transparent effort to get some traffic...) The travel blogger in me can offer practical advice: I can tell you what it's like out there, as I travelled at the beginning of March, and I'm now stuck in Hungary. I will add my own personal quarantine story because it always seems to entertain people for some reason. And to end I'll answer the practical questions you keep messaging me about on Facebook and Instagram like "Will travel insurance companies cover coronavirus" and "if so which travel insurance companies cover coronavirus?". (You ask, I deliver, I live to please you, sir ;)) So, without further ado, let's begin: 

corona virus anxiety

1. CORONAVIRUS & TRAVEL

So I flew from Gatwick to Budapest. The airport looked like it normally did, a couple of people were wearing masks and one couple wouldn't stfu up about it, and there was a sign in the toilet to wash your hands. But other than that, everything was the same. On the plane, everything was also the same, except there was a significantly lower number of people flying. In Budapest, they barely glanced at my passport. And that was it. But my friend just flew from India to Budapest and he said they checked his passport thoroughly to see where he'd been. And, three days later, Hungary is now shutting its borders.

Update: I don't really know much about what's going on in Hungary other than what I see with my own eyes: the supermarkets are pretty devoid of humans but fully stocked with groceries, in Aldi they've installed plastic screens around the cashiers (they look bullet proof but I guess they're just spit proof); and their are lines to tell you how far you should keep away from the person in front. Almost everyone wears masks, some wear gloves. All the pubs are closed, and actually everything is closed apart from the supermarkets, pharmacies and the odd restaurant. As far as I can see, people are treating it like a national holiday - lots of families in their backyards with their kids. I saw one homeless guy the other day, I couldn't ask him how he's doing because my Hungarian is not good. (But it is good enough to understand when he shouted sz├ęp baba at me which translates to pretty baby. Good to see Hungary's sexism isn't dying out!)

As to the UK and Ireland, I know more about what's going on as I have friends who are nurses/politicians/doctors etc there. Let me know if you want me to bug them into added something here.

Should you travel with the coronavirus hanging around? It's up to you. I did, I figured I'd be more likely of dying in a plane (my secret fantasy) than dying of coronavirus. But now I'm here I'm probably not going to move for a while. Partly because I work from home and I have a lot of space (and resources) here. Like, I always thought this place would be a good place to wait out the apocalypse.. and partly because I don't want to get quarantined somewhere again. Should you do it? It's up to you. But on that quarantine note, I'll tell you my quarantine story.


Update: as of now people are mostly not allowed to travel abroad from most countries. I for one was amazed by how quickly this freedom was taken away from us. Sure you can travel in some places, but not like before. Sure, it's for the good of the people, but according to who? The government? Call me suspicious (cause I am), but like, does the government always have our best interests at heart? And please note I say 'the' government, not 'a' or 'my' or 'yours' or any country in particular. In my experience, governments in general don't always have the best interests of people at heart. Hence why there are still wars. And poverty. Just saying.


2. QUARANTINED IN CHINA: MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

quarantine china

Next, here is my story about my trip to China in 2009 where I got quarantined: I spent my first week in China doing all the usual China trip type things. Eating Chinese food (there it's just called food), thinking I was eating mouse, finding out it was chicken; bartering at the markets, being rude to people (this was back when I was the epitome of white privilege). We went to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Beijing Zoo (I was surprisingly upset about the sorry state of the pandas, considering how much I was enjoying eating chicken/mouse, hello cognitive dissonance), we rode on a rickshaw, and, the highlight of course, we saw the great wall of China. At the end of the week in Beijing, there was a party and a friendly competition between the schools, England put on an awful show of half-hearted-pulled-together-at-the-last-minute-rubbish, China went all out - there were spinning plates, there were dragons, it was fantastic.

quarantine china

But unknown to us at the time, a boy from another school who'd been sharing a bus with us got a nose bleed from a broken glow stick. After the party, we said goodbye to the friends we'd made that week and packed out bags. We waited for the bus to pick us up and take us to the airport where we'd be flying to Shanghai. But the bus never came. After a few hours, where the electricity and water got turned off in the school we'd been staying in, we started to worry. That's when word started to spread about the boy with the nose bleed, and the fear of foreigners having swine flu.

beijing trip

Finally our bus arrived, we were reassured to see our tour guide from the week step out, but that reassurance burst like a bubble when we realised he was drunk. It then switched quickly into panic when he gave us beer and said "don't worry, if we die I'll die first". Yey. This freaked me out a lot. We were taken to a hotel and were greeted by people in masks, hats, coats:


coronavirus travel to china


QUARANTINED IN CHINA

They took our temperatures, and because we'd all been crying and freaking out we all had high temperatures, we had no idea what was going to happen to us, and because I obviously but unfortunately don't speak Chinese there was a big language gap. I'll level with you: I was scared.

What did happen was we were put into hotel rooms and had to have our temperatures taken twice a day. We weren't allowed to leave the hotel for a week. At first we weren't allowed to leave our rooms either, meals were brought to us there. But when our temperatures calmed down, we were allowed to leave the rooms to go and collect our meals. We had to wear face masks too.


beijing trip


But apart from the first awful night where I thought I was going to die, it was fine really, we just sat around watching repeats of "The Mummy 3" (best movie ever). 

Other notable things, imo: one day people came around and asked us who absolutely definitely needed a laptop, couldn't live without one, really really needed one? We all put up our hands (lol). Another day America stepped in and provided us with (cold) McDonalds (cheers). And the Daily Mail got hold of our story leading to a bit of hate mail from people saying it served us right for being 'posh kids' or something (lmao).

It was only when we left, that we realised that the staff who were working in the hotels and the people who were there to take our temperatures were the real prisoners, they weren't allowed to go home, like ever, and they'd been assigned to be in contact with possible swine flu over and over again.


coronavirus travel to china


Which was my first wake up call to how spoilt I was and how lucky I had/have it. To China's credit, they then put us up in a five-star hotel and we spent the last two days seeing the sights and doing Tai Chi in the park. And of course immediately stopped contemplating my white privilege for the next 6 years or so. 

beijing trip


3. CORONAVIRUS & TRAVEL INSURANCE

Okay, back to the present, back to corona. So you've either decided to travel or you're already out travelling. Let's get to the important question:


Will travel insurance companies cover coronavirus?

I am a long term user of the travel insurance company known as SafetyWing, because that's their name.. Why do I like them and why are they relevant here? SafetyWing are one of the only travel insurance companies that cover you if you are already abroad when you realise/need insurance. So, if you're already abroad and you have insurance that's not covering coronavirus, hop over to SafetyWing. Actually wait, before you do, let's check that they cover coronavirus...



Does SafetyWing cover coronavirus?

First I looked it up on Reddit and found this:

"Our coverage for coronavirus follows the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) travel warnings.
It works like this:
When a location (typically country or a city) reaches a level 3 (or higher) travel warning because of the virus:
  • If you ARRIVE there after the warning has been published (or within 6 months after it has been withdrawn), you are not covered for treatment of coronavirus contracted while there.
  • If you are already in a location that receives a travel warning, you have 10 days to evacuate (and you are covered during this time). In a lot of cases, we cover the evacuation itself (typically safe neighboring country, or home country). To be covered for evacuation, you need to call +1 800 605 2282 (free from Skype) within 10 days of a government issued travel warning level 3 or higher. If you choose to remain there beyond the 10 days, you are no longer covered for treatment of coronavirus.
Note that even if your coronavirus coverage lapses because you choose to stay in a country with a CDC level travel warning, you are still covered as normal by the rest of the policy for other eligible expenses, just not treatment of the virus." Source: reddit


And then, an update! This morning, as a customer and affiliate of SafetyWing I received this message:


coronavirus travel insurance


Will travel insurance companies cover coronavirus


So to put it simply if you're not in China, South Korea or the EU and you either don't have travel insurance or your travel insurance doesn't cover coronavirus, hop over to SafetyWing and get covered. For more information on SafetyWing, here's my full review of them: SafetyWing: Is It a World Nomads Alternative? (spoiler alert: yes).

4. Wrap Up: So... Should I Be Worried about Coronavirus?

Should is a bad word according to my therapist. There are many things you could be worried about. But to quote Mary Schmich "Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday." 

So, perhaps instead of worrying, spreading the word about other mass-killer 'epidemics' like poverty, racism and the developing antibiotics resistance due to the meat and dairy industry:



P.S.: Once again, if you're not in China, South Korea or the EU and you either don't have travel insurance or your travel insurance doesn't cover coronavirus and you want to be insured bc our above infogram on maganing coronavirus anxiety hasn't worked for you... well, hop over to SafetyWing and get covered (yepp, we're affilitates with those guys... can vouch for them too, have been using their insurance for a while now) 

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