Is it still possible to fly home? If yes, do it as soon as possible. Like now.
I’m serious. For about a week before I actually ended up flying home, it was like a game of Will I? Won’t I? I was so indecisive that I was driving myself crazy. I kept weighing my options without actually making any decisions on the matter. Things weren’t too crazy yet, so maybe I’ll keep waiting it out, right? Well, when things finally did get crazy, I found myself as part of a horde of travelers trying to get home. All of us were trying to get on the same overbooked flight two days before Argentina was planning a nationwide shutdown of public transportation and national flights.
If things aren’t crazy where you are, then don’t wait for them to get crazy. If you can still somehow fly home with no restrictions, then take advantage of it. Now. I know that your trip might be completely ruined but it will be completely ruined once the lockdowns hit. Is it really worth it to just be stuck in a building all day just because you’re in a foreign country? Answer: it is not. Like I said, I was indecisive as hell until my back was against the ropes and the answer became obvious that I needed to go home.
If the country that you are in isn’t currently offering flights back to your home country, see if there is another country that does.
For example, when I was in Argentina, they cancelled all direct flights to and from the United States. However, Panama was still open for layovers. Mexico and Sao Paulo were open, as well. I ended up flying to Chicago from Buenos Aires through Panama City. See if there is a route that can get you home.
If not, call your embassy and see if they are doing any measures to get their citizens home.
For example, I heard that the Israeli government is preparing planes to rescue stranded citizens in some parts of the world, such as Peru. As far as I know, this isn’t a widespread thing just yet but if the crisis continues to grow, then it might be an option. One of the very first things you should do during a time like this is to see what your embassy has to say about it. This is a hectic time so you might not be able to get a personalized response if they are swamped with thousands of travelers trying to get home.
For my fellow Americans, here is the latest on what to do for Americans traveling abroad in case of a Coronavirus-related emergency.
If it seems like you are stuck in that foreign country for the long-term, find a reliable home base as soon as possible.
Hostels and hotels are closing down. Ask yours if they plan on staying open during any upcoming lockdowns and quarantines. If they are unsure, then try to find an Airbnb or some other form of private housing. In Argentina, every hostel I asked was unsure what their fate would be. Even if they planned on staying open, any government mandates might change things completely. My hostel in El Chalten shut down shortly after the lockdowns began. A hostel that I had booked in El Calafate had to go under a mandatory 14-day quarantine because one of their guests had arrived from Europe in the past week.
Each individual property might have a different approach so be sure to ask them for as much information as you need to make the best decision for you. If you have to move to different type of housing, make sure it has a kitchen, internet, and anything else you might need to potentially survive weeks without leaving. In times like these, having a bed, food, and a roof over your head should be your first priority. For a few hours, I thought I would be stranded and starving in an Argentina airport for a couple of weeks. Getting this out of the way gives you peace of mind right away that at the very least, you won’t be sleeping on the streets.
Stock up on groceries, especially food items that will last a long time without expiring.
This is why having a kitchen is important, and oftentimes, hotels and hostels do not offer that. If you were staying in a hostel or hotel without a kitchen, you might be at the mercy of having to pay for every meal. For example, I heard the Selina in Lima was forced to close its kitchen due to the influx in long-term guests. Guests staying could not leave the hostel because of lockdowns, and therefore had to pay around $20 a day for a mediocre hostel-provided meal.
I was in Argentina and stocked up on rice, vegetables, fruits, meat, and other things and it cost me less than $20 for what might have lasted me two weeks had I ended up not being able to leave. Financially, this lockdown can be really straining if you have to pay for both private accommodation and takeout meals. No one really knows how long this will last, but it is better to have enough food to last for a month or so in case the lockdowns end up lasting much longer than expected.
Keep an eye on the news, but don’t let it control your life.
It can be mentally exhausting and a big-time downer trying to keep up with everything. The week of uncertainty that I faced while trying to get home from Patagonia to the U.S. might have been one of the most mentally draining weeks of my life. With everything changing every hour, it felt like I had to be glued to my phone just to make sure I knew what was going on. The uncertainty made it impossible to relax. There was no peace of mind whatsoever.
However, if you already know what your fate is going to be for at least the next couple of weeks, then the best thing you can do is to try and make the most of your situation. If you know that you can’t leave the house or apartment for the next two weeks, then there’s no point stressing about what you can’t control. Just accept it and try to find a way to look on the bright side. Have a plan for when those two weeks are up but don’t let it consume you.
Find out what to do about potentially extending or overstaying your visa
Visas can range anywhere from 30 days to six months or longer. Throughout South America, I would usually get about 90 days. I was only about halfway through with my 90-day Argentina visa but knowing that there was no end in sight, it was a concern of mine were the international lockdowns to last longer than just a few weeks.
Although I would assume that the rules would change a little during a global pandemic with international border lockdowns, it is better to be safe and know what to do. Get in touch with your current country’s immigration services as well as your embassy in the country. I’m sure this is a problem that most countries are still trying to figure out but it might help your case to be proactive about your situation.
Keep in touch with your friends and family.
If you are traveling alone, it might drive you absolutely crazy having no one to talk to for weeks at a time. This is a scary time for everyone but you are not alone. None of us are alone and we are all in this together. Check in on your relatives and your friends back home. If anything, this might be an opportunity for us to reopen relationships and friendships that we might have neglected during our travels and growing up.
This is an incredibly stressful time to be away from home. I am immensely grateful to have made it back home when I did. If you are still contemplating whether or not you should go home, I am begging you to do so. This is sadly not a good time to be traveling right now, for a number of reasons. The pandemic has reached nearly every country in the world, and if things haven’t gone haywire where you are yet, they will soon. And when it does, you might end up regretting not going home when you had the chance.
There is a lot of resentment across the globe for travelers right now, especially Europeans and other Westerners who some countries might feel are the ones that brought the virus to their country. It isn’t fair, but it is just how some people will feel. Traveling at a time like this isn’t even fun. You would simply be just attempting to survive in a foreign country where your presence isn’t a priority for the government and country trying to deal with a global pandemic. Seriously, if you still can, go home.
I feel for all of my fellow travelers that have found themselves stranded across the world. This is such a scary time to be away from home. Stay safe, and if there is any way whatsoever that I can help, please reach out to me.