After a year of zero travelling, I hopped on a plane. A few people asked me about flying during the pandemic and what I had to do when I arrived in each country, so I’ll share that experience with you here.
I flew out of the UK in December when things were looking reasonably okay. November lockdown was starting to show results and covid cases were going down. However, that didn’t last long.
When I was going to fly back in January, travel to and from the UK was restricted (this it was before the new rules introduced on 18th January). Why would I want to go back to England right now? To people living in Finland, where the total number of covid cases is only a fraction of the UK cases, wanting to go to the heart to the disease seemed crazy.
Ordinary flights to Finland
I flew from England to Finland via Frankfurt with Lufthansa. At no point I was asked why I was travelling. I was not required to provide a negative covid test either. Both flights were busy, and nearly all seats were occupied.
The passengers entered the plane in groups – the window seats first, then the middle etc. Also exiting the plane was more organised: people were asked to wait on their seats until it was their row’s turn to get up. This made entering and exiting very smooth, much better than the usual hassle on the isle.
Apart from the mask rule, things were very ordinary on the plane. I sat in between two strangers, and we were served beverages as per usual.
Free testing at Helsinki Airport
I walked straight into a covid testing queue when I arrived at Helsinki Airport. It was not compulsory at the time, but it was offered for free. It was incredibly efficient and well organised. The results came the next day. Despite a negative test, I was advised to self-isolate for ten days. I was not legally obligated to do that – it was voluntary isolation. It was not a problem though as I stayed in the countryside and could go out every day.
Expecting flight cancellations
All the flights from the UK to Finland got cancelled in January because of the new covid strain. Most of the flights to the UK were cancelled as well. I expected to receive a cancellation message and nervously checked my email several times a day. But I was able to fly out as planned.
Empty flight to England
This time, I had to fill in a lengthy form giving details about my travels and the address where I was staying once in the country. If you travel now, you’ll have to have a proof of a negative test upon arrival.
At the time Finland was on the travel corridor list (now such list doesn’t exist), but because I flew through Frankfurt, I was required to self-isolate in England. This was because of the potential risk of catching the virus from a fellow passenger on the second flight.
England was not a popular destination: each passenger on that flight had a full row just for themselves. This was the only place where we actually adhered to the 2-meter rule. Yet, this was the “riskiest” part of my travel and the reason why I had to quarantine.
Quarantining in England
I was required to quarantine for ten days. Some documents said 14 days, so it was a bit confusing. There were no free tests available, but I could have opted in for a private test. It would have cut my isolation by two or three days, but it cost a few hundred pounds. It didn’t seem worth it.
In England, the isolation is stricter than in Finland. You are not allowed to leave the house at all. You can only exercise in your garden – you are not even allowed to walk your dog.
I live in a flat and don’t have a garden, so I didn’t leave the flat at all. I opened the window a few times. You probably should use common sense with rules like these, but at the same time, the rules don’t really leave room for common sense. If you break the quarantine, you can be fined up to £1000.
I self-isolated for 20 days because of my little visit to Finland. It’s a lot of trouble if you are going for a holiday. I was willing to do it because I wanted to see my family I had not seen for a year.
Even though only a few weeks has passed since my travels, travelling is already more complicated and measures much tighter. Rules and restrictions are changing fast.
I am now out of quarantine, but the national lockdown doesn’t allow much fun. At least I can go outside now.
Government’s guide: travelling to England