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4.5.2020

Upon confirmation of my flight tickets, I called the AMPATH offices in my hometown Hoedspruit and booked a Covid test. The reason for my test, they asked?: TRAVEL! 

Christi Patterson

Santorini Mozambique Reservations Manager

Personal Blog post on my travels to and from Mozambique, Vilanculos

24 November – 1 December 2020

SOUTH AFRICA COVID TESTING, FACILITIES AND COST

Upon confirmation of my flight tickets, I called the AMPATH offices in my hometown Hoedspruit and booked a Covid test. The reason for my test, they asked?: TRAVEL! I was so excited to be able to use that word again and travel to our little piece of paradise, in Vilanculos Mozambique, after several months of not being able to cross regional borders.

I did a throat swab 1 day prior to my departure at Hoedspruit Ampath Laboratory. I was informed that some laboratories and testing stations offer a nose test as an alternative to the throat swab. Having done both, in my opinion neither is better or worse, but the experience is painless and done before it becomes too uncomfortable. The cost of the test was R850 (USD 57).

The results were received the next morning around 06H00 via the Ampath APP. (AMPATH and LANCETT now have mobile APP’s that can be downloaded from the Google APP STORE, and are then used to return your results directly to your Android device). Test results from Ampath or Lancet laboratories are generally received within 24 hours. Covid tests can now also be done at a mobile Covid-19 Test Unit at O.R. Tambo International Airport and results are then normally available within 6 hours.

Before I knew it, I was on my way to Johannesburg, still a bit anxious of the process to come but excited nonetheless.

DEPARTURE FROM OR TAMBO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT -JOHANNESBURG

Upon my arrival at the airport I had the devastating realisation of how Covid has truly effected travelling in general. The airport was disturbingly quiet and almost empty with few open shops. There goes my last-minute shopping spree! Nonetheless, geared with 5 important items: my negative Covid test, flight reservation (although online check- in is preferred), my “dusty” passport, “clean” face mask, and last but not the least, a pen, I entered a quiet O R Tambo airport.

I got sanitised and a temperature check was done on arrival at the domestic departure doors. Arriving 2 hours prior to departure it is still recommended to complete the formalities and to ensure that you are not rushed. Floor markers indicate distancing and plastic screens have been installed at all check-in and ticketing counters. The Airlink concierge at OR TAMBO was kind enough to print my digital test results before going through to the regional check -in counter. Having printed copies ready saves time!  If you have checked in online and have checked baggage, proceed to the bag drop-off counter. (The self check-in kiosk and the bag drop-off counter is still available.) I displayed my negative PCR Covid test together with my passport and flight reservation and the check- in was seamless and quick.

A sanitising station and temperature check point is encountered before going through the international departure gate. Here I was given a Health and Safety/ Covid tracing form to complete. After completing the form, I was required to self-scan the boarding pass to clear through security. My negative Covid test needed to be displayed here again as well as the completed COVID tracing/ Health Questionnaire form.I was pleasantly surprised to see that the search- area had been made contactless with a revolving conveyer belt for personal goods which needed to be placed in baskets. A full body, high tech scanning machine, is now used for metal detection. Boarding passes still need to be displayed and I then got my passport stamped as per normal practice. I was getting closer and closer to take-off to paradise. My negative Covid test was again requested at the boarding gate together with my passport and ticket. We had to remove our masks for face recognition. The transfer to the aircraft was done with the normal bus service but we all had to sanitise our hands before getting on. The airplane was boarded from the back row to the front. A gel sanitiser pack is provided to each passenger upon entry.

We were informed that the aircraft interior is sanitised between flights and the plane looked sparkling clean upon entry. We were required to keep our face masks on during the flight but could remove it when eating and drinking. I was pleasantly surprised that the normal food and beverage service was available.  Complimentary gourmet sandwiches and a choice of beverages made the flight to Vilanculos so much more enjoyable and quicker.

Before long we were informed that passengers needed to disembark from the front to the back to adhere to social distancing requirements. This makes the world of difference as the airplane seems to empty so much quicker if everyone awaits their turn. Who would have thought it possible?


ARRIVAL IN VILANCULOS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT -MOZAMBIQUE

Upon arrival at Vilanculos airport terminal, we were disinfected from head to toe with a spray before being temperature checked and allowed entry into the airport building. (I recommend keeping your sunglasses and mask on for the spraying process to avoid disinfectant in your face and eyes). This was the most unpleasant part of the entire process, although perhaps required.
Once more we also had to display our negative Covid test at the door.

Upon entry I completed and presented the normal Immigration entry form to the officials. My passport was then stamped. I FINALLY ARRIVED IN PARADISE!

All my bags were x-rayed at customs through their scanning machine. My luggage was searched upon arrival. The BIG box of Bakers Cookies, that I bought for the Villa staff, looked a little weird on the screen. It’s quite common for all baggage, including hand baggage, to be scanned and searched.
Our loveable Tatenda, Santorini‘s driver, was waiting for me at the arrival terminal. I was welcomed with a big Mozambican smile, which I have gotten used to over the years. We walked to the vehicle, where refreshments, sanitizer and cool cloths were provided for the journey “home”.
Our vehicles are sanitized prior to each transfer and my luggage was disinfected on arrival at the Villa.

More smiling faces awaited me when I arrived at the Villa’s Bali doors and my wait was finally over. The words “Welcome Maquirizane” (which means young lady) – that has become my nickname at the Villa since I started working at Santorini several years ago when I was still young, was being heard everywhere.

We have implemented a pre-arrival form to help tailor make our Guests travel experience and visit expectations and covers everything from luggage handling, housekeeping services in our suites and our guest interaction expectations. This form together with our standard indemnity and health questionnaire is completed on arrival.


MOZAMBIQUE COVID TESTING, FACILITIES AND COST

A Covid test, required to return to SA (no older than 72 hours prior to the date of air travel) was conducted at the AMS private hospital in Vilanculos, situated 5 km from our Villa (a 10 minute drive). The Villa managers booked my test in advance.

I again had 4 important items to remember:  My passport, cash to pay for the test, a face mask and a pen as a form is required to be completed on arrival at the hospital. The test costs MZN 8900 (USD 120).  I made a cash payment. (Payment can be made with cash or cards, Mozambique Meticais, American Dollars or South African Rands).

My test was done 4 days prior to my departure from the Villa and the results were emailed to me on the morning of my departure. The Villa printed the results. Documentary test results and the proof of test payment is required at the Vilanculos airport upon check in.

After 7 glorious days at the Villa, I was on my way back to South Africa.

DEPARTURE FROM VILANCULOS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT -MOZAMBIQUE

With a very heavy heart, I waved goodbye to my Mozambican family and left for the airport.

I arrived and after sanitising again at the airport entrance, went through to the check- in counters and completed the check- in process as per normal. The flights back to South Africa are International and a 2hr check- in time is required. A cup of coffee and the Wi Fi facilities at our new and comfortable private Santorini airport lounge, made the wait so much quicker. I went through customs and again completed the departure form as per normal regulations. After a short wait in the departure terminal we boarded the flight, received our sanitiser gel pack and was seated in the, yet again, noticeable clean airplane.

On arrival at OR Tambo we disembarked in the same regulated manner and I got on the bus after receiving a quick sanitising spray. The international arrival queue was sadly (because of Covid) relatively short and after being temperature checked and after submitting my negative Covid test results, I got my passport stamped. I was grateful for such a pleasant experience from start to finish.

NOTE: My passport was also sanitised a few times as I constantly had it in hand when I was being sprayed with sanitiser at the various points. It unfortunately is a little worse for wear because of this. Keeping your passport safe from all the sanitisers will be my first tip for our prospective guests.

NOTES: It is mandatory for all foreign passport holders to download the South African COVID Alert SA app, preferably prior to arrival in South Africa. Below is a link to Ailrink’s website for more travel information:

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