Coronavirus Travel Blog. Travelling During COVID

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We had flights booked for Bali in January 2020 and a plan to travel around Southeast Asia for a few months. We’d spotted a little bit of fuss about some virus in China in December 2019 and we were keeping an eye on it. A few days before we were due to depart Coronavirus suddenly became big news. Cases had been reported in Thailand, it was Chinese New Year and China was out there travelling. We were due to arrive in Bali during New Year and planned to move on to Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia once the seasonal flight price hike had played out. Those flights were booked and paid for too. This is how this Coronavirus travel blog accidentally came to be. We were out there, travelling, during COVID.

We were travelling with kids, so we did consider cancelling our trip. No parent would ever knowingly want to put their children at risk. Money wasn’t really an issue, we didn’t mind if we lost the cash, but we didn’t want to panic and cancel unnecessarily over nothing. It was still very early days.

Is it safe to visit Bali during Coronavirus Travel during coronavirus bali hike
Bali during the coronavirus outbreak. We climbed a volcano for dawn and honestly didn’t think about COVID-19 all morning.

Coronavirus Travel Blog

Of course, we didn’t cancel our travel plans, we went ahead. Everything we were reading was saying that death rates were low, this new bug, Novel Coronavirus, was reported as not particularly contagious, and strong measures were being taken to contain it. We went ahead and that put us in a position to report on conditions and precautions in this coronavirus travel blog.

We got on the plane wearing our masks and with hand sanitiser in our carry-on luggage. After years of full-time travel we know that hand sanitiser isn’t often necessary. Honestly, we’ve not bought it in years. But just in case, we bought some.

I used to work in hospital pathology, I was a senior biomedical scientist, so I was no stranger to masks. To me they seem sensible, so we used them until we chilled out a bit despite government propaganda advising against them.

Wearing mask during coronavirus epidemic
You will see a lot of people, travellers, tourists and locals, wearing masks during the Coronavirus epidemic ( pandemic maybe). We saw masks being given away in some hotels and weren’t aware of any shortages during our travel in Southeast Asia.

Nobody was coughing much on that first flight and on arrival in Bali we were met by a sea of mask-wearing travellers. The airport was still busy, Bali was busy and people were anxious.

Indians, Chinese, Southeast Asians, westerners, everyone, it seemed, was wearing masks. Pharmacies in Bali were busy, often with worried Chinese tourists stocking up on masks, sanitiser, vitamin C, anything that could help. before their flight home.

We avoided busy pharmacies as we figured some of the customers would be sick. I had an injured toe, we were visiting pharmacies for cleaning and dressing products and we turned away more than once from a busy shop. Paranoia or sensible? I don’t know but it seemed right at the time.

Travel in Malaysia During Coronavirus
We visited this beautiful Chinese temple in Malaysia during the coronavirus outbreak. I was checking information on Coronavirus cases in Malaysia daily, at this point there were around 20 reported cases and mostly in the south. This was the end of Chinese New Year and travel restrictions had already kicked in for China. This temple probably should have been far more crowded than it was.

After Chinese New Year crowds started thinning out as China’s travel bans kicked in and more and more people cancelled their holidays. 6 weeks later when we flew out of Bali we were seeing empty planes, empty hotels, low prices and a tourism industry on its knees. By that time airlines were starting to cancel flights and more and more countries had travel restrictions in place. The difference in tourist numbers was huge.

Kuala Lumpur during Coronavirus safety
We were travelling with another family. Good friends living in Malaysia. They would never do anything to put their kids at risk either.

We tend to get sick if we spend a lot of time in crowds, particularly crowds of kids. We all had terrible flu once after visiting Legoland Malaysia near Johor Baru. On this trip we had appointments at two water parks, Sunway Lagoon in KL and The Lost World of Tambun at Ipoh.

Both parks were practically deserted. We also visited an indoor climbing gym in KL, it was empty. This trip was about research for our Kuala Lumpur with Kids post and we visited a lot of attractions. Travel blogging is my job, as a travel blogger, I often have appointments like these.

We were meticulous about hand hygiene and weren’t particularly worried. We chatted to staff, their visitor numbers and cancelled bookings were like nothing they’d ever seen before. They were very anxious.

Airport Health Monitoring and Precautions

Airports had hand sanitiser everywhere. Most had bottles on the counters at immigration. Shops and restaurants likewise. All airport staff wore masks, some, not all, flight attendants wore masks.

At every airport we flew through in Southeast Asia the thermal imaging equipment was on, and manned. We travel Southeast Asia with kids often, we always see this gear and it always seems to be switched off. This time the cameras were very much on.

Every airport asked us if we’d been to China, Hong Kong or Taiwan in the last 14 days. Some gave us health questionnaires, others printed health advice sheets. Nobody out there is ignoring the potential COVID-19 pandemic.

We did set off a temperature scanner, I think it was Kuala Lumpur. An alarm went off and we freaked. It turned out my son’s insulated bottle of warm water had triggered it. I have no idea what they’d do if their scanners did show you had a fever.

Every airport, Bali, KL, Miri, Sarawak, Sabah, Kuching, had precautions in place.

Were There Shortages?

One airport, I think it was in Sabah, had no hand sanitiser to buy. Otherwise we’ve been able to buy everything, everywhere. We haven’t seen evidence of the panic buying that’s happened in Australia and the UK.

Did We Get Sick?

We have all had colds. My son had quite a nasty cough. Have we had it? I have no idea. There seemed to be significantly more people coughing and sneezing that usual.

On some planes and buses there have been individuals with seriously bad coughs. We’d pretty much expect to pick up colds or even flu at this time of year in crowded places, so nothing seemed out of the ordinary

coronavirus travel experiences in asia

Precautions We Have Taken

I’m a hand scrubber, always have been. Working in hospitals for 20 years you get used to scrubbing your hands a certain way and I’ve tried to get my husband and kids more enthusiastic about vigorous hand washing. We did, certainly wash our hands more often and that’s easy to do at any airport, restaurant, just about anywhere you go.

I’ve always told the kids not to touch anything unnecessarily, they’re pretty good at that. Planes can be filthy so when flying with kids that’s a golden rule, don’t touch anything if you can avoid it. We stayed out of crowds somewhat. We cancelled a dance performance and climbed a volcano instead. Again, we were researching for a post, Bali with Kids. Fresh air and exercise was probably a good idea.

We tried so hard to eat well but it proved impossible. Malaysia doesn’t seem to eat fresh fruit and veg and our diets have been utterly terrible. It’s got us down and we’ve had a tough time because of it. We resorted to fizzy vitamin C plus zinc tablets and multivitamins.

So was it OK, travelling during the Coronavirus scare? Yes, for us it was fine. We were more cautious than usual and we were lucky that none of our flights were affected. Plenty of flights are now being cancelled. A lot of the effects of this virus have worked in our favour, prices dropped for hotels and flights. Nowhere was busy. Did we enjoy our trip? Somewhat. This trip was mostly work but we try to have fun too. Sabah and much of Malaysia got us down. I’ll tell you about that some other time. Am I worried about my elderly relatives? Yes, very much so. Are you out there travelling right now or wondering if you should travel soon? How do you feel about this? Tell us in the comments. Stay safe out there.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

24 thoughts on “Coronavirus Travel Blog. Travelling During COVID”

  1. Hats off to you guys..Its really hard to survive even in our own country during corona virus.
    and you guys travel during this.

  2. Hi Alyson! Long time reader of your blog and liked your Vietnam post so much we are now in Hoi An at Dao’s house. Thank you for sharing that recommendation, we are very happy here.
    Hoi An has closed churches, gyms, massage places and the like but otherwise restaurants and coffee shops are open. The Vietnamese govt has been on top of quarantining infection and testing those at risk (per reports) so we are very careful but feel safer here than getting on a plane back home. Hopefully that doesn’t change anytime soon. Hope you all are safe and healthy! Seth

    • Gosh small world! I have another travelling family in Hoi An right now too, they’re sharing daily updates. So you’re in “our” house opposite the gym? Or one of her others? She has a few. Wish I was there.

      • Yes, small indeed. We are in one of the other houses near the bus station west of the Puppet Show theater. Not surprisingly, day by day there are fewer tourists and now they are shutting down restaurants and coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh City. Hopefully they continue to minimize transmission with social distancing.
        We are considering renewing our visas and staying longer than planned (set to leave early May) but its hard to know how this will play out.

          • Somebody offered to help us extend our visas, which is very kind. It would be expensive ($190 per person) for the six of us, but might be the best play. I guess we’ll see!

  3. I like this blog, Our condos are ideal for a couple, a small group of friends, or a family who desire a quiet getaway while remaining close to all local amenities, as we are located in a quiet, residential area but remain within walking distance to the beach.

  4. We had? Have plans to go travelling with a 4 year old all in place except for the darn virus which has now completely scuppered all chances of getting anywhere. Had been reading your posts Alyson (especially for Malaysia) with baited breath in the hope we could get at least to NZ but not now unless we want to stay in a hotel for 14 days (don’t think this is recommended with a 4 year old – in terms of cabin fever). We are just seeking what we can recover and will have to re plan for another time. Might even have to go back to work…pah! Hope your travels continue to go well and will keep in touch via your blog so thanks for that.

    • I’m sorry Natalie. Not only does this whole situation suck, so many people aren’t even able to get refunds. If you can get your money back or reschedule in a few months’ time, you’re doing well. Stay strong, ride it out. Hopefully it will be quick because we can’t last long on almost zero income and businesses are folding all around us.

  5. Alyson, thanks for posting all of this and it was great to read the replies as well. Our 20 year old daughter will be returning from Northern Thailand around the first week of April ( we hope ).

    Here in Northern California our whole house is getting over some sort of weird cold we all had for a couple of months. Other people have told me there is a long lasting cold all over California from the Bay Area North.

    There is one case of Covid-19 that is being reported here in Shasta County. Not sure what to make of all of this and how it will affect our travel plans for heading overseas this fall.

    Keep up all this great work you are doing and I hope we all make it through this pandemic of weirdness!

    • Thanks William. These weird bugs are pretty disconcerting. 80% asymptomatic or mild … of those they’ve tested. Fingers crossed a lot of people are already immune.

  6. We’ve had about 2 travels booked this year and the prices are incredulously low from NZ. I have quite a healthy family and lifestyle and reading the WHO and Ministry of Health advices seems our odds are quite low in getting it plus adding our extra precautions with my active 5 yr old not touching surfaces as if she was a mop and told her to scrub her hands when washing until it looks like a glove (with the soap) seem to make her do it properly. Also with a new baby in tow you’re right we don’t want to be putting kids at risk but right now we just have the islands and family to visit in Aussie with our travel plans for the year which doesn’t have big outbreaks.
    I guess for us I’m concerned about others not as equipped and healthy as we are like our parents and elderly relatives that we might catch it and have mild symptoms and recover completely without knowing we’ve had it and then passing it onto them.

    • The 3 people with terribly bad coughs we’ve encountered – none of them were wearing masks. One was a baby, it was really sick. I was certain the heat sensors would pick it up but the family breezed through just behind us. Maybe they’d given the child paracetamol to drop its temperature, don’t know. But yep, Murphy’s law, everyone is wearing masks except the 3 really sick people. I don’t even know if paracetamol is a viable way to get through those airport scanners if you have a fever, if so, a lot must be slipping through.

  7. I truly love to read your posts and hear about how or how not to go about things.
    Safe travels.

  8. Hi Alyson, thanks for the post, very interesting. We’re planning to leave Moscow mid April, first to Belgium and France for a couple of weeks, then to Thailand for a couple of weeks, then to Vietnam for a few months before heading to Australia (not permanently).

    Right now we don’t know if we’ll be able to do that, but we’re sticking to our plans until we’re forced to change them. We’re also considering the possibility of skipping Belgium and France completely, and going to Thailand directly from Moscow. Don’t want to be stuck in Europe where it’s expensive, and we’re ready to lose the money on the European flights if it means that we’ll be able to at least get to Thailand without any problems. but it’s still a month away and who knows what the world will be like then. Strange times. Take care. x

  9. Hi Alyson, wow, sounds like a strange experience. I guess you’re staying put for a while now then? The thought of being quarantined abroad isn’t a pleasant one.

    We were supposed to be working with Just Go motorhomes over Easter, driving a new motorhome back from their factory in Italy to the UK. We were all set to go as the factory isn’t in the quarantine zone and we were planning to just zip through to France but I’ve just woken up today and the FCO is advising against all but essential travel to Italy. So, I’m thinking that going would invalidate any travel insurance we get and I’m feeling conflicted about it. All we’ve had to pay for was cheap Easyjet flights to Pisa since Just Go are covering everything else, so I’m going to see what the refund policy is on those (we did book on credit card) and go from there.

    Like you, I don’t really want to give into what could be media hysteria though and after a bleak winter in the UK I really, really want to get out of here for a bit. I’m not worried about getting the virus myself but I am scared of bringing it back and passing it onto a more vulnerable person though.

    On another note, working in the travel industry right now isn’t great. I’m still writing remotely for a big UK travel company and they’ve extended my contract till mid-May but I know they are being pounded by the virus so I wouldn’t be surprised if that contract comes to end. I really hope things calm down soon but it looks like it’ll rage for most of the year. We have a big summer trip to Canada planned and I am not cancelling that one!

    • In other news … thank god we don’t have to go to work or school. I’d be shitting my pants right now if that were the case.

  10. We started travel in August last year and are now in Spain. Unwittingly, after about 45 days there, we left China on December 30th and flew to Istanbul. We visited Turkey, Greece and Morocco before arriving in Spain in the later half of January. I actually got sick with what I believe was low grade pneumonia, as the timeline did not match up with China exposure or where we were in China, but it did freak me out a bit. Spain is pretty chill about it presently. The metro and trains were still packed in Barcelona last week. We are planning more travel next month to the U.K. We’ll see. Thanks for your update and details. Be well.

    • Oh man, that doesn’t sound good. How many cases are there in Spain? I haven’t looked. Every day I check latest coronavirus news for Bali and Malaysia, just to see if we were in a hot spot or outbreak area. We went to that huge festival in February in Kuala Lumpur, I don’t think any cases came out of that crowd. One heck of a lot of retired people in Spain I guess

  11. We are about to embark on our first year trip. We are heading to Europe. This was a great insite, would love an update.


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