How to Travel Safely During the COVID-19 Pandemic
It's been a while since most of us have traveled by air and now that regional/provincial borders are opening up and restrictions are slowly being lifted, the lakwatsero and lakwatsera in us can no longer be tied down. Yung totoo, you've started searching for cheap flight, looking for discounts in that resort you've been eyeing since forever and researching about the travel requirements but you are also worried about your safety. You've been asking yourself is this trip really worth the risk? Can't I just wait a little longer when it's safer? Basically, how can I ensure my safety and my family's?
I've been asking myself the same questions. Since the pandemic began, my family and I have rarely gone outside of our home, not even to do our groceries. Everything has been done online. We haven't even met with relatives and close friends. But now that the cases are going down, we have decided to grab this window of opportunity to travel again. We've discussed between ourselves how we can ensure our safety and I would like to share them with you. Promise, I'll try to be detailed but concise.
GET VACCINATED FIRST!
This is the most basic requirement before even thinking of traveling. It's not just for your own safety but for others as well, and not just for whoever you're traveling with but also for those people that you'll be getting in contact with such as hotel staff, airline staff, etc. I sort of understand why others are hesitant to get vaccinated but unfortunately, you also won't be able to travel without the jab.
GET TESTED BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT
I know this is no longer a requirement in some provinces among those who have been fully vaccinated. I know you're thinking why will I waste money when it's no longer needed? Vaccination doesn't automatically mean you won't get infected. You still can and as a safety precaution, especially if you're traveling with others, it's just wise to get tested. And wouldn't you have more fun traveling when you have peace of mind that when you take off that mask when you enter your personal spaces or when you dine out, that you won't be infecting others? If you have enough budget for this, you can go with RT-PCR. Philippine Red Cross' Saliva RT-PCR is the cheapest and least invasive test there is. You can book yours here: PRC Saliva RT-PCR Test. If you don't have enough budget, you can also opt to choose antigen swab test although make sure that this is accepted in the LGU, hotel or resort that you will be going/staying.
PLEASE FOLLOW PROTOCOLS
I've seen lots of travelers not following instructions, no matter how loud or how repetitive airport, airline and hotel staff say them. Wear your face masks and face shields properly and observe social distancing, it's not that hard. Even if you're vaccinated and you got yourself tested before your flight, you still don't know what you're going to get during your flight or while you're traveling.
SUBMIT ALL REQUIRED DOCUMENTS
I guess this one is not something that you can dodge. Before flying, the airline check-in staff will need to see these requirements before they even let you board the plane. When you arrive at your destination, all these documents will need to be shown before you leave the airport or check-in at your hotel/resort.
Now, answering the most important questions amidst this COVID-19 lockdowns and travel bans.
Am I able to refund a non-refundable Agoda booking due to travel bans?
Most definitely yes. Since you are unable to travel to the destination country or leave your home country due to government restrictions, your hotel or Agoda has to refund your money.
But what if the destination country or my home country is not on lockdown but I have decided not to push through with the trip?
Now, this highly depends on your hotel. Our trip to Vietnam was supposed to happen 2nd week of February and at that time, there was no lockdown in Vietnam or the Philippines but we decided not to push through. Here are the steps that we took to be able to get a refund even without the government restrictions. Note that these steps can be taken for non-refundable bookings which have already been paid (whether Pay Now or Pay Later bookings):
If my booking is non-refundable but says Pay at the hotel, do I need to take the same steps?
Just to be sure, yes. Since it is non-refundable, my apprehension is that Agoda might charge this to your credit card if you are unable to pay at the hotel. It will be the same process as the previous one.
What do I do if the hotel does not agree to free cancellation?
I actually experienced this with one of the hotels that I booked in Laguna and to make things worse, this happened during the lockdown. Obviously, we are unable to push through with the trip even if we want to since we are no longer able to leave Metro Manila. The booking was on a Pay Now basis and was non-refundable. Instead of cancelling the trip and forfeiting , we opted to request to rebook our 2-night stay to August 2020. At least this way, you don’t lose your money entirely. Here are the steps that we took:
How many days before the trip should I be contacting the hotel?
Just to be on the safe side and if possible at all, do this a few weeks before your trip so these changes are made before the date of your stay in the hotel.
How do I apply for refund if I am still within the free cancellation period?
If you have already paid for your hotel booking but have decided to cancel within the free cancellation period, you can just go straight to your Agoda app and cancel the booking from there. This process is much more straightforward and you don’t have to contact your hotel for any confirmation. Here is the process:
How do I contact my hotel to request for a refund?
There are several ways to contact your hotel, depending on where they are available:
How do I contact Agoda to request for this refund?
Once your hotel has agreed to refund or rebook, then you can try contacting Agoda through these ways:
If my Agoda booking is refundable or says free cancellation, how do I cancel?
If this is the case, then you can proceed to cancel through the app’s self-service option without the need to contact Agoda’s customer service or the hotel.
How long will my refund take?
To be honest, I still haven’t received my refunds until now. It would really depend on how quick it will be processed by the hotel and by your bank. But based on their responses, the processing time takes about 2-3 banking cycles which means 2-3 months from the day it has been processed.