Connie Santos

Being stranded in a foreign land due to global lockdowns is clearly far from ideal. But for Connie, who was visiting her sister in Kaiserslautern in March 2020, it sure had a silver lining. “I was lucky that the German government understood the situation, especially for tourist visa holders like me. We were initially allowed to stay until June, but they later extended it till September,” she shared. 

This gave her the opportunity to see Paris, where she was really supposed to go in April, had the pandemic not happened. So when inter-Europe travel restarted in time for the summer season, Connie immediately booked that long overdue vacation. After all, who could say no to experiencing the City of Lights minus the crowds? She especially enjoyed seeing the CatacombsPalais Garnier, and of course — the Louvre Museum. “And not just for the Mona Lisa!” she added. Another perk was that there were no additional travel requirements, aside from her still-valid visa. 

southeast asian travellers

Nonetheless, she acknowledges that the process wouldn’t be as seamless for other Southeast Asian travellers, especially those flying in from their home countries. In fact, the 33-year-old Filipina runs her own travel agency. Even now, she still continues to travel during the pandemic, so she could have firsthand experience of the rules and regulations that she would share with her clients. 

Advice for Southeast Asian travellers planning their first pandemic trip:

Always double-check the restrictions and requirements of the country you’re visiting three to five days before departure, as it changes from time to time. Book directly with the airlines, or your trusted travel agent, since cancellation or schedule changes happen often. It’s easier to call the airlines for help if you book directly with them, or let your travel agent do the leg work for you.”

On exploring a nearly crowd-free Europe:

“Even in 2020, you only had to wear face masks in public transport and enclosed establishments. Most people there really try to observe social distancing, despite the lenient rules. Their government also announced updates on protocols every two weeks. 

When I arrived in Paris, the first thing I did was go to the nearest bakery for some French macarons. Most tourist spots were only allowed to operate at 50% capacity, so visitors had to book a schedule online in advance. It felt really great being able to travel during this time. The fewer people, even in world-famous attractions, made the trip more fun and enjoyable. Imagine, no long queues in Disneyland and the Louvre being pretty much empty!” 


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