‘Jesus, it was relaxing to forget the hoo-hah’: Irish people on their holidays abroad in 2021

‘I was apprehensive about travel but I am reassured it is doable if you take precautions’

A passenger locator form is required in some EU countries. Photograph: Nuno Cruz/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A passenger locator form is required in some EU countries. Photograph: Nuno Cruz/NurPhoto via Getty Images

 

We asked Irish Times readers who have travelled abroad this summer to share their experiences: how restrictions compared at home and abroad, the airport process, and holidays in general. This is a selection of their responses.

Visiting France: ‘I was apprehensive about travelling but I am very glad we decided to go in the end’
Visiting France: ‘I was apprehensive about travelling but I am very glad we decided to go in the end’

Eimear Ní Cheallaigh

I spent a lovely long weekend in France. I didn’t get vaccinated in time to get the Covid Digital Certificate so I got an antigen test to fly out and a PCR test to fly back (a requirement to get back into Ireland as the cheaper antigen tests are not accepted). In total this cost me €80. On both the way in and the way out, neither of my tests were checked. While having the negative result was a relief, I would have bought a much cheaper self-administered test if I had known that security was going to be so lax.

Chris Prendergast

We went to Lanzarote for a week. Both fully vaccinated, we filled out the Spanish locator form in which you upload your Covid Digital Cert. Got through Dublin Airport and Lanzarote Airport handily enough, nobody really even looked at our passports and we just scanned our locator form in Lanzarote. Far fewer restrictions in Lanzarote; there is live music and no requirements in respect of vaccinations for indoor dining, etc.

Ironically, one night we went to an Irish bar with Irish music while – pathetically enough – that’s not even permitted here. We had an incredible time and feel prepared for winter after having such a great break. Ultimately there was no hassle and in fact aside from wearing masks indoors it was almost like being in a pre-covid world, which considering we’re vaccinated is exactly as it should be.

‘No one in Dublin Airport checked our Covid status.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
‘No one in Dublin Airport checked our Covid status.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Kate King

I am holidaying in Budapest for three weeks with my daughter, son and grandchildren. It was the best travel experience ever. No queues at the airport, half-empty planes. Hungary has no restrictions like Ireland. No face masks indoors. But it’s much quieter than normal.

We are all fully vaccinated, and we are comfortable moving around, but I know they have a high rate of Covid and deaths here. It appears that their government is putting the economy first.

I think Ireland is looking after its people well. We cannot do the outdoor eating due to our climate, but if we have a very high proportion of the population vaccinated, we should open up the indoor entertainment/dining end of things and trust people to look after themselves.

While Hungary is very open I feel that the natives are a bit blasé with their own health in not taking more precautions, such as wearing face masks indoors at least.

Emma Ward

I travelled out of Dublin on July 22nd. The adults had vaccine cards (digital certs not issued in time) and kids had negative PCR tests. No one in Dublin Airport checked our Covid status. At boarding, airline staff asked if we had certs/tests I said yes and as I started to get everything out she waved me off and said “that's grand”. Didn’t actually check either of the vaccine cards or test results. She was more concerned with checking we had paid to bring hand luggage onboard, and she did actually check that.

Onboard, airline staff didn’t always wear a mask and did not enforce it among passengers either. Lots people were moving around the cabin to chat to friends in other rows without masks. But there was no shortage of alcohol served. On arrival in Izmir no one checked our Covid info.

We are due to fly back to Dublin shortly and hope that safety measures on the flight are better enforced than on our outbound flight.

Fergal Megannety

My wife Sveta and I flew from Derry to Glasgow to visit our daughter. Both of us were armed with our Digital Covid Certs. We were never asked for them on the outbound or return journeys.

Sarah

It was straight forward enough to travel. The airport system is much the same with the exception of less people. The plane was almost full to capacity, the airline ask you not to queue for the toilets, and to only go when it’s free. When landing we left the plane to take an airport bus which had zero social distancing. Some people weren’t complying with mask wearing (this was the most uncomfortable section of all the travelling).

We got asked for the vaccine cert at security when showing our passports. They ask you to remove your mask, too to check the passport.

I did witness on the return journey people who didn’t have a negative PCR result or a vaccine cert being turned away from the airport by the airline. I will say hotels are strict enough on seeing the vaccine cert. Restaurants want to see it too, so have it to hand. Social distancing required for all tourist attractions.

‘Life is very normal on the Algarve. I’d highly recommend getting away for a break.’ Photograph: Getty
‘Life is very normal on the Algarve. I’d highly recommend getting away for a break.’ Photograph: Getty

Declan Donoghue

Just back from a great few days in the Algarve. Travel was very straight forward with our Digital Covid Certificates and Passenger Locator Forms checked prior to boarding. Felt very safe onboard the aircraft. Staff in Faro were very efficient at checking required documentation on arrival, so no delays at all. Life is very normal on the Algarve – masks worn indoors in shops, etc, except for when sitting down in restaurants. I’d highly recommend getting away for a break.

Sarah Cullington

We travelled as a family of four to France by ferry with our car. My husband and I both had our EU Covid Digital Certs, both the teens (19-year-old and 16-year-old) had one shot of vaccine each so they needed antigen tests for entry into France. From August 9th the 19-year-old needed a negative antigen test which remained valid for 72 hours, to have access to cafes, restaurants, museums, etc. The test was easily obtained and cost €25 each time.

France is similar to Ireland when it comes to the restrictions so everything felt relatively normal for us.

Irish Ferries on the way over felt very safe. Everyone wore masks when not sitting down and eating and of course the cabins provided a retreat when needed. The ferry was not full, though, so I don’t know how it would feel at capacity. Getting through customs and immigration at both sides was efficient, and it helped having all of the certs on the phones. It didn’t seem to take much longer than usual.

I was apprehensive about travelling but I am very glad we decided to go in the end. Both teens are now doubly vaccinated so next time we go we will hopefully have a more seamless experience.

The only slight difficulty was working out when exactly to get the PCR tests for the teens on the way back so that they would still be valid when we arrived in Ireland. We got them done in the morning of the day before we took the ferry and we had the results by that evening at 11pm. The French are very efficient.

Generally I am reassured that travel is doable as long as you take all the usual precautions with which we are all familiar.

A Greek cruise: ‘I had my digital certificate and locator form for Greece. Everything was seamless and hassle-free’
A Greek cruise: ‘I had my digital certificate and locator form for Greece. Everything was seamless and hassle-free’

Michael Doorley

We went on a three-night cruise from Athens on the NCL ship Jade, visiting Crete and Rhodes, followed by four nights on Poros and four on Aegena. We flew from Dublin with Ryanair – had my digital certificate and locator form for Greece – everything was seamless and hassle-free.

On arrival, we showed passport first and then Covid certificate and locator form – again, hassle-free. We shared a taxi to Piraeus port (one hour) for €20. A big number of staff to meet and greet guests; asked for my reservation confirmation, passport and digital certificate; all in order and then a PCR test – results in 25 minutes – all passengers had to have Covid certificates and undergo the test before being allowed to board; all staff are vaccinated; we had to wear masks except for restaurants/bars and outside; all guests seemed to comply; continuous cleaning carried out by staff; no problems in going ashore in Crete and Rhodes. Superb restaurants on board.

When the cruise returned to Piraeus all 900 guests had to have a further test before being allowed to disembark, and all were negative. Then there was a 30-minute walk to the ferry port for our ferry to Poros. The island was very busy, mainly with Athenians taking a break and boats/yachts visiting the island in flotillas and individually.

It was very busy. Staff in restaurants/bars/taxis wore masks. There’s not a lot to do on the island but chill out. The next four days on Aegena were the same.

We took a fast ferry back to Pireus and a taxi to Athens airport. The airport was very busy. Again, we had the Covid certificate and passenger locator form for Ireland, which was obligatory.

Our Ryanair flight back was not so full, but we were not asked for our passenger locator form at Dublin Airport.

My verdict: cruising is now very safe, and preparation with obligatory forms is the key to a hassle-free journey. Use a travel agent to avoid mistakes.

Peter Lee 

Flew to Poland for two weeks with the wife and kids.On the way out took an antigen test at Go Safe in Dundrum. There was no EU Green Covid Cert and no digital scanning – at Warsaw airport the border guard glanced at the emails on our phones while checking the passports. Coming back into Ireland we took PCR tests in Gdansk 48 hours before our flight. In Warsaw the LOT Airlines check-in clerk briefly looked at our email results. No one else ever asked anything about it. Here in Dublin on arrival there were no checks. Some airtight system, and some waste of money on tests.

In Poland, all bars and restaurants are open to all, there are no silly restrictions or individually wrapped plastic knifes and forks. You can sit where you want and eat what you like – and no one is asking to see any papers of certificates. Furthermore, nine out 10 people were not wearing masks.

Incredible as it may seem to people in Ireland, after two weeks of indoor dining with no social distancing and no wearing masks, big bad Covid never showed up to mow us down.

Jesus, it was relaxing to forget about the whole hoo-haah and panic that is pushed down out necks over here daily. Everyone had a great time. Flights booked for skiing in February.