Please enjoy this guest blog post from TierOne Travel Consultant, Tara Sparshu, who recently traveled to Switzerland with Air Canada, as part of their “Air Canada Race”.
In this blog post, Tara shares with us the experience of traveling internationally from Canada during the Covid pandemic, as well as her best ways to be prepared to ensure and smooth and easy experience.
TARA: On August 27, 2021, I had the opportunity to depart on my first trip since the pandemic began! I was one of a select group of agents that participated in the Air Canada Race. If you’ve seen the show “The Amazing Race”, it’s a similar concept, except rather than jetting off all around the world, we raced through the city of Basel. It was an amazing event hosted by Air Canada, Switzerland Tourism Board and Basel Tourism.
I feel like one of the reasons people book with a travel consultant is because of the knowledge and guidance we can provide. Nothing gives an agent knowledge like first-hand experience, which is why I felt that this trip was such a perfect and important opportunity for me to participate in. It provided me with first-hand experience of what it is like to travel as we come out of the pandemic and as travel restarts so that with this knowledge, I can offer the best service to my clients.
Traveling Internationally During Covid – Documents and Preparation
I think the most challenging part of the experience for me was definitely the preparation, and getting the documents ready that are required for travel.
Every country has different entry requirements. For instance, Switzerland requires travelers to be double-vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination, have a QR code from the Switzerland health department, as well as have a contact tracing form completed for arrival. I was advised that proof of vaccine must be government-issued, which caused difficulty since at the time, neither the federal Canadian government or the Alberta government had provided us with such proof. After many phone calls and multiple printouts later, I was told that the printout from the “myAlbertahealth” should be adequate.
From stories I had seen online, I was prepared for a lengthy process at the airport. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the process at the Edmonton airport and how smooth the process was! From getting off the shuttle, check-in, security, and getting to my gate, all done in 30 mins! This may not always be the case, but I was definitely impressed with the process on this trip.
One thing worth noting is that at check-in, the airlines check your documentation. They confirm that you have all the documents required for entry into the country of your final destination. I had all my papers in a folder ready to present at check-in. This made my process very quick and efficient and I was thanked by the check-in agent for being so prepared.
Masks were mandatory throughout the airport and on the aircraft. The only exception was when you were actively eating or drinking. For the most part, people followed this protocol.
TravelING in Switzerland Right Now
Travel in Switzerland felt like travel pre-pandemic, except for the fact that masks were required while indoors. Many of us also wore them outdoors when distance could not be maintained.
Switzerland had been open for tourists for about a month prior to our arrival. Most things were open and operating like what I would have expected prior to Covid.
During my stay in Switzerland, we arrived at the Zurich airport. We then took the train to Basel, which is the most common mode of transportation throughout Switzerland. We stayed at the beautiful brand new Movenpick; we were actually the hotel’s first guests!
The city of Basel is a beautiful city, with lots to see and do. It was very easy to get around. We did most of our touring on foot, however the public transit is quite easy and efficient.
After our stay in Basel, I headed off to Gstaad, a beautiful town in the Swiss Alps. From Basel to Gstaad, we traveled by train again, which is an amazing way to view the beauty of Switzerland. There we were able to do a cycling trip through the Alps and a trip to Glacier 3000.
Glacier 3000 is an area on top of the Swiss Alps that has the world’s only suspension bridge between two mountaintops, a roller coaster (where you control the speed and the breaks), a glacier experience and mountaintop restaurant. It was an experience I highly recommend!
Returning Home to Canada
Returning home, we had our mandatory PCR test done. We were fortunate enough to be part of a pilot test project with Air Canada and SwitchHealth to test out their Covid testing kits. We were able to do our PCR testing right in the hotel over a Zoom call with a trained nurse! A document with our results was emailed to us in under an hour, which we needed to provide to the airline and upload to the ArriveCan app prior to our flight departure.
Protocols and procedures are constantly changing, so it’s always important to double-check and reconfirm…this was something on our return that we learned the hard way. Prior to Covid, when you had a connecting flight, most airports no longer required passengers to collect your luggage. You picked up your luggage at your final destination. Apparently, the Canadian government has changed the process, and now passengers are required to collect luggage and recheck it when they have a connecting flight. This information was unfortunately not passed through to the check-in staff in Zurich. So, unfortunately, we did not know we were to pick up our luggage in Toronto, and upon arrival in Edmonton, I did not receive my baggage. We were able to locate my luggage and it arrived at my doorstep a few days later. But, my recommendation is to always double-check in your connecting airport. Ask airport staff in your connecting airport if collecting your baggage is required.
My Travel Summary
Overall, my trip was such a fantastic experience! During my travel to and throughout Switzerland, I felt very safe, and it felt so amazing to be traveling again. It was great to see people traveling and experiencing first-hand that travel can be done safely. Yes there are extra steps that need to be taken right now while traveling, but to be back traveling and exploring again, I say it’s absolutely worth it!
When you’re ready to plan your own exciting adventure, Our TierOne Travel Consultants are here and ready to help you plan. Give us a call to plan your dream getaway at the best possible price – we’ll make sure you don’t miss any bucket list item for that destination!
One call; endless experiences!
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” – Anonymous