What It’s Like Traveling Abroad In 2022
What It’s Like Traveling Abroad In 2022
Published April 18, 2022
Are you curious what crossing international borders looks like right now? If you are, this post is specifically for you! After a full year of remaining within the continental US, I finally took an international vacation last week. It was so exciting to have my passport stamped after twelve months of collecting dust!
We’ve obviously come a long way in terms of reopening. It feels like the world is 80% or 90% of the way back to “normal.” But that remaining 10% or 20% can manifest in unpredictable ways, especially when it comes to international excursions. In this post, I want to share some thoughts on the current state of travel.
Where did I go?
For my first journey outside the US in 2022, I went on a ten-day trip to the Caribbean island of Anguilla with my friend Ismael. This involved flying into and out of neighboring Sint Maarten and taking a ferry across the water.
If you’re curious about either destination, don’t worry: I’ll be writing blog posts about them soon! Suffice it to say that Anguilla blew us away, especially its beaches!
Benefits of an International Getaway in 2022
As you might expect, going abroad this year is one of the most rewarding things you can do. From experiencing new cultures to seeing natural beauty in a different part of the world, all of the pre-pandemic joys of traveling feel amplified now. Visiting Anguilla in 2022 was truly rejuvenating in a way that no other trip has been!
Struggles of Traveling in 2022
Now is the easiest and safest time to go abroad since the beginning of 2020, and things are continuing to get better. With that said, there are still lots of hoops to jump through if you want to make it to another country and back. Here are some of the challenges I experienced on my trip to Sint Maarten and Anguilla.
An Overnight Flight Delay
Right off the bat, this trip had a rocky start. My initial flight out of Chicago was delayed almost six hours, which caused me to miss my connection from Atlanta to Princess Juliana International Airport in Sint Maarten.
Delta only has one flight from Atlanta to Sint Maarten per day, which meant that I was stuck in Atlanta overnight. Luckily, I received a hotel voucher and made the most of it by spending a few hours checking out downtown Atlanta (including the famous Georgia Aquarium).
Flight delays existed before COVID, didn’t they? Yes, they did. However, lingering effects of the pandemic on airlines are still affecting travel. For example, my first delay was caused by a lack of available crew. Airlines are still pretty desperate to hire flight attendants. Furthermore, it feels like the number of available flights has not fully rebounded to pre-pandemic numbers. When I first learned about my Chicago to Atlanta delay, I looked online for alternative routes; there were none. Between two of the busiest air travel hubs in the world, that was a little shocking.
Flying has always been unpredictable. But it feels like delays and cancellations are more frequent now than in the 2010s. It’s just something to keep in mind as you embark on your international getaways moving forward.
Terribly Designed COVID-19 Online Portals
Many countries still require travelers to fill out an online health form prior to departure, in addition to various vaccination and testing requirements. This isn’t necessarily a problem, and it’s probably not going away in the near future. But what really annoyed me on this trip is the fact that the Sint Maarten Electronic Health Authorization System (EHAS) is one of the most poorly designed online forms I’ve had the displeasure of filling out in recent memory.
Many of the questions on the form were vaguely worded. For example, it asks for your most recent date of vaccination, but doesn’t specify whether any booster shots should be counted. It also doesn’t take into account all of the various ways travelers might enter or leave the island (i.e. by air and by sea).
In addition, the island of Sint Maarten/Saint-Martin is divided into a Dutch part and a French part. This adds to the confusion, and the FAQ page on their portal didn’t answer any questions about this. (It turns out the border between the French and Dutch sides is a fully open border with no checkpoints, COVID-related or otherwise. No additional health form is required to cross from the airport into the French side of the island.)
Long story short, the portal added to my stress and I didn’t have confidence that I’d be approved when I submitted it. And to make matters worse, the QR code they sent along with approval was never even scanned at the airport. It felt like we went through all the work of trying to fill the form out correctly but no one even looked at it.
Constantly Changing Requirements
So after lots of confusion, I managed to stumble my way through the Sint Maarten EHAS portal and received approval. What about the requirements for Anguilla? Well, originally we were expecting to fill out a similar document for the British Overseas Territory. For better or worse, that requirement was dropped about a week before our trip. We still had to obtain a negative COVID test result within three days of arrival to Anguilla.
Changing immigration requirements are annoying to stay on top of, and they can change at any moment. Luckily, most changes seem to be moving in the right direction (i.e. a reduction of bureaucracy). Sint Maarten did not require us to show a negative test though, so a multi-country trip like this one is almost sure to involve a hodgepodge of tasks to complete.
Negative COVID-19 Test Required To Return To The US
The final thing I’ll mention is that the US is currently requiring everyone to obtain a negative COVID test one day before arrival, no exceptions! The turnaround time is pretty strict; many countries allow test results that are up to three days old. Fortunately, this didn’t present any problems for us. We visited a quick and easy testing site in Marigot on Saint-Martin.
It’s clear that a positive COVID test the day before you’re scheduled to return to the US would be a massive inconvenience. It would probably mean being stuck for a week or more wherever you received the positive result. You’d presumably have to pay for lodging during that period and would also only be able to order meal delivery or hotel room service during quarantine.
We were lucky on this trip that almost all of our time in Anguilla was spent outdoors, and the vast majority of restaurants on the island have either fully or partially open air dining rooms. The risk of contracting COVID on Anguilla was low, but not necessarily zero. Receiving that negative result on the final day of our vacation was a massive relief.
Furthermore, be careful not to overpay for a test. We were charged €25 per person for antigen results that were certified within ten minutes. However, we saw testing closer to the airport in Sint Maarten that cost $65, and testing at the airport itself could’ve been even more. Ask your Airbnb host or hotel for their recommended test site.
International Travel Moving Forward
Going to the Caribbean in the spring of 2022 was the most exciting thing I’ve done in a while! Especially if you haven’t been abroad since 2020 or earlier, I’d highly recommend it! However, know that there are COVID-related issues you could run into if you venture abroad right now and have bad luck.
I could’ve managed my pre-trip anxiety better than I did. I was honestly not that excited to go abroad because I was worried something would go wrong. But in the end, the worst that happened was my unexpected night in Atlanta, which really wasn’t so bad.
Hopefully as we move into summer and fall, traveling internationally becomes increasingly seamless. I’m planning on spending the month of July in Europe, and I’m a little more confident that by that time, things will be even easier than they are now.
Have you traveled abroad this year? Did you face similar frustrations and issues that I did? Leave a comment below and let me know! I’d love to hear what other travelers have to say about vacationing abroad right now!
This post was published on Apr 18, 2022