Holidays 2021: Berkhamsted travel agent shares her experience of travelling to Portugal
Jackie wanted to experience it for herself so she would be in a better position to help her customers
A travel agent in Berkhamsted is sharing her experience of flying to Portugal, which is on the Government's green travel list, to help put customers at ease as Covid restrictions across the country continue to relax.
The ‘Stay in the UK’ regulation was lifted on May 17, meaning leisure travel from England is no longer illegal.
The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, outlined how strict border control measures will remain in place as international travel gradually resumes. Different levels of restriction will be applied to individuals returning to England from countries based on the traffic light system set out by the Global Travel Taskforce.
Jackie Steadman owner of Traveltime World on Berkhamsted's High Street, organised a trip to the Algarve last week to put herself and her team in a better position to help and give advice to her clients.
She said: "With the introduction of the UK’s ‘traffic light’ system it was extremely important as a travel agent I fully understood the regulations and processes.
"With this knowledge I could expertly guide and advise my travelling clients and encourage others to book.
"There is no better way than gaining this knowledge first hand from the initial PCR through to the in-resort experience.
"Once you know the procedures it is relatively simple, it is mainly about ticking all the boxes.
"We wanted to understand all the procedures so that we could tell our clients and give them our own knowledge and experience.
"Once you understand what a country wants from you to get in, it is quite simple.
"I understood I needed a PCR certificate issued within 72 hours of arrival.
"It is critical timing and as I had limited time I used the services of my local chemist who had a walk-in 24-hour service, which cost £100.
"Cheaper postal/courier service which can reduce the cost down to as little as £20 with certain tour operators, when time isn’t critical.
"You also have to fill out a passenger locater form, and some of the wording can be confusing, like the flight number for Easyjet is the U2 Iata code, not the EZY we are all used to.
"The boarding of the plane was done in an orderly fashion loading from the rear and where possible keeping social distancing.
"It was the responsibility of the check in staff to validate the travel documents prior to boarding, but even this was done quickly and efficiently.
"The airport experience at Luton was as expected, mask wearing, hand sanitisers and lots of cleaners on site, it was a bit stressful as there were a few queues.
"Passport control in the Algarve was smooth and efficient, all the passport gates were open and manned with numerous Customer Services staff on hand to help.
"Passport and documentation checked, I was whizzed through in less than five minutes and walked out of the airport to an amazing welcome from the tourist board, who were meeting and greeting all the passengers and giving out free gift boxes. It made you see how important tourism is to Portugal."
Jackie spent the next few days touring the Algarve, checking the hotels, self-catering resorts and tourist attractions, she felt it was important to understand all the Covid protocols.
She said: "You do have to wear a mask in busy, crowded places, like you do here.
"On the beach you wear your mask when moving around to the beach bar or on or off the beach but there is no requirement to wear a mask while you are sunbathing, swimming or on an inflatable.
"There is a traffic light system operating on the beaches, green means lots of spaces, amber is limited and red means the beach is full to capacity.
"I'm sure it would be the same here if we had nice weather and Bournemouth beach was really busy. It is common sense really.
"Outside you need to wear the mask in crowded places where a social distance of two metres cannot be achieved.
"Portugal has worked hard to get case numbers down and they want to keep it that way."
When returning to England from a Green list country you must take a Covid-19 test on or before day two after you arrive, children aged four and under do not need to take this test.
You do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive. But you must quarantine if NHS Test & Trace informs you that you travelled to England with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
Jackie said: "I found a great company offering Lateral Flow Tests by video link which you can do from the comfort of your hotel or villa so I booked this and had the kit delivered to my home address.
"I took the test with me, and it's done on a video link. Someone talks you through what to do and you do the test in front of them and then you send a photo with the result and passport to get your certificate to fly.
"An alternative would be a PCR test in resort, which is now being offered in most of the hotels.
"There is also an option to do it at the airport, but I would say if you choose this option, make sure you plan to arrive at the airport at lease a couple of hours earlier than normal, to allow time for queues.
"The in-fight experience was as I expected, masks worn throughout the fight except when drinking and eating.
"A full trolley and duty free service, all done with huge smiles behind their masks as the crew were so happy to have passengers back on their flights and delighted to be back off furlough.
"I would recommend doing all the checks and uploading everything online so that it's quick and easy.
"When I came through in the UK, it was only about 10 minutes at border control as they could see it all on the government website.
"I think if you do it manually it will take a bit longer, so just bear that in mind.
"I would recommend booking the Day 2 test a few weeks before you go away so that you have it at home ready to do when you get back.
"It was a good experience and I'm glad we did it, so I can now offer support and advice to my clients.
"The need for a human Travel Agent has never been greater to expertly guide your clients through this process and not distract them for the enjoyment of their forthcoming holiday."