Our Amazing Race experience of traveling back to The Philippines during this pandemic

Micah and I made it to The Philippines! We have been here since December 1 and it honestly seems like a small miracle that it actually happened. If you have been wondering about our inactivity, this was mainly why. What follows is a recounting of our experience; if you are looking for official guidelines on how to travel to The Philippines during the pandemic you can find up-to-date advisories here.

After months of anxiety-inducing preparation that included almost not finding any more (remotely affordable) flights, not knowing if Micah’s new passport would arrive on time, uncertainty about even being able to travel to The Philippines from Germany after the emergence of the Omicron-Variant and countless smaller issues, it was almost time for us to fly out.

As our flight was scheduled for a Tuesday morning, we planned to take our required RT-PCR-tests Sunday afternoon. When we got to the test center, we were glad to see no queue waiting for us. Unfortunately, we didn’t know was that Micah had to present her municipal registration slip to get the test done. So, we had to turn around again to collect it from our apartment. When we got back, the queue had grown considerably. Oh well, what can you do. After finally getting swabbed after an hour, we learned that payment was only possible in cash. Nobody had told us, so I rushed to get the cash, hoping that we had finally taken care of everything. Then, Monday rolled around.

When our test results arrived, they were both negative. Great! However, Micah’s birth date was wrong on the test certificate. So, I called the place and they said they would fix it. And fix it they did, but while the new certificate had the correct birthdate, all the other information was now wrong. I called again and, threatening to stay in the line until it was done, things got sorted out.

Wonderful, I thought, finally all that’s left is getting to the airport on time. To make sure we would arrive on time we decided to take the earlier of two available trains. We wanted things to be easy now, so I went ahead with the online check-in. We flew via Switzerland, which worried us a bit since it had just been added to the list of red countries by The Philippines. But transiting was OK – phew. However, we also transited through Bangkok, Thailand for our last leg. As it turned out, Thailand requires even transit passengers to present health insurance that covers expenses of at least $50,000, or transit is not possible. Since there is no such requirement, we had no such insurance.

Now fully back in stress-mode I bought health insurance for abroad from my insurance provider online. The terms confirmed “unlimited” coverage of necessary healthcare expenses abroad. To make sure everything went through correctly I called the provider – and it was good I did, because apparently having “unlimited” coverage is not enough to fulfill the coverage requirements. Instead, it must explicitly state that at least $50,000 in expenses are covered. So, the provider had to issue us with custom confirmations to meet this requirement, all the while emphasizing that we were lucky to have called on time because otherwise issuing the confirmation within a single day would not have been possible.

What followed was a mainly sleepless night and an early rise at 3am. Then, the cab driver didn’t know the way to the train station. Fortunately, I did. When we arrived at the station, we saw that the later one of the two available trains was cancelled – got lucky this time.

Despite arriving at the airport early, there was already a queue at the counter. Once it was our turn, we took out our pile of documents and hoped everything would go through. First, the lady said we cannot fly because I have no visa. Then she said we cannot fly because we are going via Switzerland. After that she checked our insurance for Thailand. To be fair, it must be hard to be a flight attendant in these times, with rules constantly changing all over the world. But we were really rather on edge by then.

In Switzerland, the whole spiel started over again. We had to change terminals, which included going past counters, where Micah’s paperwork got thoroughly controlled. At the gate we found makeshift counters, where all of our paperwork, and the paperwork of all other passengers, got controlled once again. Finally, we left for Bangkok, with a hefty delay.

Bangkok. Almost there. Things mostly went smoothly. We arrived, they ticked us off a list, done. Our layover was for about 8 hours, and since neither of us had slept on the plane we spent an hour looking for an airport hotel in the terminal and then paid a fortune for four hours of rest. It was worth it.

The flight to Manila was delayed. I started talking with a US Army vet who wanted to go to The Philippines for fishing. Finally, boarding started. My army friend got through no problem. Of course, my paperwork held up the entire queue again. He looked back, confused, I signaled everything was fine. Eventually, Micah and I got through, too.

Once we arrived in The Philippines, everything was suddenly easy. Everything from arrival, getting our documents checked by full-PPE personnel, collecting our pasalubong and getting picked up by our quarantine hotel went super smooth and seemed extremely well organized. Then we arrived at the hotel, checked in and fell into our bed. We couldn’t sleep. But at least we were finally there.

31 thoughts on “Our Amazing Race experience of traveling back to The Philippines during this pandemic

  1. What a story to tell! I admire your perseverance and understand your anxiety. I am not sure I could have handled your travel with as much grace as you did.
    [I realized that somehow I was no longer getting your blog in my feed, but I found you again. I’ve missed reading what you have to say.]

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  2. Oh man! What a heart-stopping journey back!!! If all you experienced had happened in SEAsia, I would ha e nodded and said, well, that’s how things are. But since they happened all in Europe, I am reading with mouth gaping!

    Glad you both got back safely!

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  3. So glad both of you are back home safely! I can’t imagine how incredibly stressful all the hangups and delays were for both of you. Looking forward to reading about more tiny house adventures in the Philippines 😀

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  4. What a crazy trip you had! All I can think about is how easy meditation can sometimes seem when you’re sitting on a quiet cushion in the woods. Airport-things-going-wrong-meditation is where the rubber meets the road! It would have been challenging for me!

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  5. Oh wow. What an adventure. Much as I miss travelling, I am not in a big hurry to go anywhere right now. I was supposed to go on a short trip to Chicago at the end of January but, with omicron running rampant and complicated testing requirements that are different for Canada and the USA, I don’t see that happening.

    Glad you arrived back in The Phillippines safely! Merry Christmas to you both!

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    1. Yes, it’s the smart thing to do. In our situation there just wasn’t much of a choice. At the same time, though, The Philippines seems to be doing much better with Covid than Germany right now, so we may actually be safer here than there at this time.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. With the constantly changing rules it must be extremely difficult for everyone concerned. Well done for being so personally organised! Hope you have a great Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.

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    1. Yes, including the flight attendants etc. I am proud of ourselves for having made it, although there was a bit of luck involved as always (such as learning of the health insurance requirement for Thailand just in time).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh my what a performance
    I hope you enjoy your stay
    We are off to the UK soon amid all the new viruses
    My dad is ill and we need to be with him. Sincerely hope my trip is not as fraught as yours
    While you are lazing on the beach think of us freezing in the UK 😂

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