Hello Folks ! Welcome back...
I am glad that you are still on my blog, although it's been a while since the last publication.
It's all because of my European holiday, which happened to me after 11 months of waiting. I hope you will accept this time gap in the publication of my articles.
I greet you from Saigon, to which I happily returned just at the threshold of the Lunar New Year.
Since traveling in such a special time as a global pandemic is not a common event, I decided to share with you my impressions from this trip. I hope you will find something useful for yourself.
But before I go to the essence of this article, let me offer you the best New Year's wishes on the Lunar New Year 2022. This is the year of the tiger, so strength, energy, bravery, wisdom - Happy Birthday! Do not let your health leave you and let happiness foster you. Everything else can be figured out somehow, especially money.
I have already described the tradition of celebrating the new year in two articles which I will link to you here.
After almost two years of the pandemic in Viet Nam, we are back to normal.
Flower streets have been prepared again, the city is functioning normally, everything is open, but the so-called "Covid passports" or a certificate of full vaccination and masks are the order of the day here. Nobody is against it, the Vietnamese were willing to vaccinate themselves, and today vaccination of the society is at the level of 88% with two doses. The third dose is slowly entering the immunization schedule.
After seven weeks in Europe, most of which in Poland, I can only say that Viet Nam has returned to normal. Everything works and smiling people celebrate the second day of the new year.
Many of you probably would like to know how to travel in these times and what you can count on or what to expect when we travel intercontinental.
You must know that I have been a resident of Viet Nam for four years and have had a resident card, so my case is a bit specific when it comes to entering Viet Nam. The other aspects of traveling are the same as for all travelers.
So far, the borders of Viet Nam are closed to tourists. The average tourist from any country, there are no exceptions, he will not enter Viet Nam to take advantage of the beautiful weather and wonderful places that Viet Nam offers.
The only groups that can enter the country, and on special conditions, are diplomats, investors with companies here, members of business delegations with the permission of the immigration office and the local party committee, and people who are specialists or experts, with a work permit and a Vietnamese resident card.
If you are leaving Viet Nam and are not going to come back, the matter is basically simple. Several weekly flights are available - in December 2021, while I was getting ready to depart, the flight offer was based on four carriers. At that time, Turkish Airlines, Qatar, Korean Air and Emirates had open slots to Saigon.
As a rule, their planes come to Viet Nam with the people I mentioned above. All tickets are booked through the local travel agency Viet Travel, which has a contract with the government to handle the travel of travelers. These flights are treated as charters - tickets cannot be purchased on the open market. Departures are therefore available, but not every day and you have to check well in advance whether you can buy such a ticket.
Anyway, these planes come to Viet Nam mainly with cargo, as there are usually 20 to 80 passengers on board. Haven't come across more… it's a bit sad.
The exit procedure is not particularly difficult. First, you must have a ticket. It requires more effort these days - it's not easy to buy tickets. In addition, their prices have increased. In economy class, even before the pandemic, I managed to buy a flight to Europe for about 700-800 $, I'm talking about a return ticket. Today it is difficult to find such a ticket for less than $ 1,100… what's more, it's a one-way ticket - nobody will sell you a return ticket to Viet Nam because… the entrance to the country is closed. First, you have to go through the entire procedure to get permission to enter, which will allow you to buy a return ticket - but this, after about 6 weeks, because this is how long the procedures related to obtaining permits to enter.
In order to check in for the flight, I had to perform a PCR test in advance.
Viet Nam tests are performed in almost every hospital, but also in a local laboratory. The price of such a test varies between 500,000 VND and even 2,400,000 VND, it all depends on when and where you do such a test.
For example, if you test in a local lab without any referral, you will pay 550,000 VND. However, if you go to an international hospital during the weekend or on a holiday, the price in such hospitals oscillates around 1,600,000 VND, immediately jumps to 2,400,000 VND. I strongly recommend doing the tests in the lab.
You don't have to wait long for the test. I did the test around 8.30 am and around 3.30 pm I got a text message saying that the result and the certificate are now available. Interestingly, already in English and in a format accepted all over the world. The PDF format proved to be sufficient. The test date cannot be older than 48 hours before departure.
Now I can go to the airport.
The airport check-in itself went smoothly. During the check-in and baggage check-in, my departure documents were meticulously checked - the date of my last entry into Viet Nam, the resident card and the RT-PCR test certificate - of course, must be negative.
The departure hall made a depressing impression on me ... it's not the same airport as two years ago.
Most of the lamps are off. Only the ceiling lamps above the check-in counters of the airline currently checking in for the flight are on. In my case, it was Turkish Airlines. As recommended, I arrived 3 hours before departure. It turned out to be unnecessary.
Check-in went smoothly, there were few passengers. Let me just say that I checked in in less than 15 minutes. On the other hand, this is of course a cool thing compared to the 45 minutes queuing for check-in.
Time for passport and security checks. No queues. Individuals approach one passport control desk and two security controls.
A sight, in my opinion, a massacre. Whoever has traveled knows how the airport can be crowded. It was completely empty today.
I have another note here - if you travel from Saigon, but also from other smaller airports, I exclude transit ports in Singapore, Bangkok, Doha or Istanbul, then you can find the entire airport completely excluded from passenger service before bording.
Everything is closed. There are no duty-free shops, no cafes, no outlets to buy anything shortly before departure. In my case, after an hour of waiting at the gate, a lady came with a trolley with water and beer. The problem is that the payment is only in cash - even if you are leaving Viet Nam, take at least 200,000 VND in cash.
Transfer airports are doing much better.
Istanbul, Berlin, Paris, Seoul and as far as I know from others, Singapore, Bangkok, Moscow, Doha and Dubai are functioning normally. Most shops and bars are open and you can of course pay by card.
Another duty of travelers is the obligation to use a mask.
There are no exceptions here. The mask can only be removed with a meal and it is carefully looked after.
Bording ran smoothly - I was finally able to sit down and have a drink. These 2 hours at an empty airport, with no possibility to buy anything, made me a bit tired.
And another shock. The plane that can take up to 280 passengers takes 80 ...
Whole rows of empty seats.
Crew dressed in protective coveralls, glasses and masks. I received a nice protective kit, that is: a nice bag with antiviral gel, gloves, two masks, a brush and toothpaste.
You can see that everything is well prepared so I felt very comfortable on board.
We reached Istanbul on time. Standard on board service as before pandemic. Main meal after take-off, light breakfast before landing, in the meantime water, juices and unlimited wine. The entire 12-hour journey was really comfortable.
After a good night's sleep, I landed in Istanbul, where I had 2.5 hours to check in for my next flight - this time to Berlin.
Istanbul airport surprised me because it operated like it did before the pandemic.
All shops open, lines to bars, restaurants and cafes.
This, of course, causes the reflection that this is one of the risks involved in traveling. It is true that there is an obligation to use masks, but as I have noticed, for 2.5 hours it is not strictly enforced. Some people did not wear masks and the airport staff somehow reacted to it. However, it's better to avoid the crowds.
It took a few minutes to go through security, no queues again. I have already gone to the departure hall, found my gate and waiting for my flight to Berlin.
The flight to Berlin was already full. Again, the protection kit, this time more modest and we go to Berlin.
Standard entry procedure to Europe. Union residents have automatic gates or a dedicated passport check-in counter. Nothing has changed here.
However, at the automatic gates, you still have to approach the police officer who will individually check the documents related to local restrictions. This has to do with the fact that in order to enter Germany you need to have a few things with you.
First, you must report your entry to Germany on the website of the immigration office. It is very important and this is what they ask first of all. It is enough to show an e-mail confirming such application. There are exceptions, such as the 24-hour transit, but if you enter Germany and plan to stay there, you will of course be in quarantine. Therefore, in such a report, you should provide the address where you will be quarantined.
The second document that is required is one of three: a negative PCR test result, a recovery certificate, or a two-dose immunization certificate - which is convenient for you.
Passport control was not particularly burdensome, it lasts literally a minute and it is also important that PDFs of these documents are honored. If you have them in electronic version in the application, it's even better.
Non-EU citizens additionally need a Schengen visa plus negative PCR test result.
After picking up my luggage, I went to the arrivals hall and outside, where a car was waiting for me, and the family picked me up happy after a 17-hour journey from Asia to Europe.
Let`s move on to the second leg of my journey to return to Asia.
The first steps begin here.
Firstly, from at least mid-December to the end of January, there is no network of connections between Asia, especially Southeast Asia, and Europe.
All airlines stopped flying to Viet Nam. Korean Air is the only airline that has maintained connections with Viet Nam.
The entire procedure for returning to Asia begins the moment you fly out.
Right after departure, when the passport has a stamp that it has flown out, the return procedure begins. This is only possible through the tourist office.
Let me remind you - permission must be obtained from the Vietnamese immigration office and from the local party committee. Still only for selected groups of passengers.
The good news is that from mid-January, Vietnamese residents, like me, with a resident card have been exempted from the first two documents, so if you have a blue residence card, you can easily leave. Moreover, we have the right to be quarantined at home.
With these documents in hand, we can begin to prepare for a trip to Viet Nam.
The problem is that there are no scheduled flights to Saigon today. There are only charter flights.
I was offered a ticket which was really strange.
My return route is set as a Berlin - Paris - Seoul - Saigon.
But to make it more interesting, the two segments are separated into two reservations, i.e. I have one ticket for the Seoul route and the other one for the Seoul-Saigon flight.
For this reason, the first problem arose - when checking in in Berlin, Air France was unable to check in my baggage to Saigon. They can only go to Seoul. And what now? I'm supposed to pick up my luggage and check in again in Seoul. Nightmare.
There was one more stress.
The Viet Nam requires a negative PCR test at the earliest 72 hours before arrival. Remember, however, that we have a 6-hour time difference, so this reduces this time to 66 hours.
Wanting to do a test according to this hourly variant, departure on Wednesday at 3 p.m. I could not do the test on Monday because the last possible test was to be done at 4 p.m. This, in the event of a plane delay, may have resulted in the certificate being rejected at Saigon Airport. I had to do the test the next day, which is Tuesday. The problem is that at my place in Bydgoszcz, samples begin to be collected at 10 am. The results in Poland, I do not know why, you get it only after 24 hours. In addition, the lady taking the smear said that there may be a two-hour delay ...
If I take my ticket and look at it, an interesting scenario is drawn. Departure from Berlin at 15.00, the result should be at 10.00 but it could be at 12.00. The check-in for which the test is required begins at 1.00 p.m. I was traveling from Szczecin to Berlin with my soul on my shoulder.
A bit like a blast into space with the promise of a supply ship waiting for me on my way. There was no end to the nerves. It was only at 11.45 a text message that I had the test result to download and, of course, the risk that this one could also be positive.
Everything ended well.
I managed to check in, in Paris I was supposed to approach the Korean Air service to receive boarding passes and work on checking in my luggage to Saigon. Phew ...
The plane between Berlin and Paris is full. Everyone is wearing masks.
In Paris, I had 4 hours to change and that was good.
After landing, I went to the Transfer Desk - unfortunately there is no Koran Air line in the protected area. Information from Berlin to approach the Transfer Desk in Paris, unfortunately, turned out to be false.
In fact, I can only handle both matters at the service desk of Korean Air.
Only that it is located in the departure hall, where standard flight check-in takes place.
I had to get out of the airport security area into the open area by going through passport control.
I went to the check-in counter and the Korean service there help me print my boarding passes and redirect my luggage to Saigon.
They had to work on that baggage a little. I was not informed about the success of the whole operation until the bording.
And in fact, while boarding, the lady picked me up from the crowd and informed me that my luggage is on board and in Seoul it will be automatically transferred to Saigon, which actually happened.
After a rather pleasant eleven-hour flight, I reached Seoul.
On-board service is exceptional. Tasty dinner and a very good breakfast.
The exceptional concern of the on-board service for travel comfort is the hallmark of Korean Air. With a whole row of armchairs at my disposal, I got to Asia well rested.
The impression during the flight was amazing - 120 passengers of the world's largest passenger plane, the Boeing 777-300, were almost invisible. Everyone had a row of seats to use. Strange at night, because it's empty. Glow of screens, empty rows of seats, few people.
A bit like in a horror movie ...
The staff did everything to make this flight safe and satisfied. In Seoul, I had two hours to transfer to Saigon.
Again, masks are compulsory throughout the airport, but bars, restaurants and duty-free shops remain open. You could have a cup of coffee, eat a cake or do some shopping.
The plane to Saigon is full. Korea maintains a fairly close business relationship with Vietnam, and especially with the south of Viet Nam. Here in the south there are many factories that are a Korean investment. Anyway, District 7, in which I lived for three years, is called the Korean District because that's where Korean investors with their families live.
The flight took five hours. Perfect service on board the plane. Again a hot meal, drinks etc.
We landed in Saigon at 21:30 which is on time.
And here's another surprise. Entry procedure to Viet Nam.
After the whole, at this point, almost 29-hour journey, tired, I can see through the eyes of my imagination a group of 200 passengers of the plane, who are about to hatch at the airport and there will be things going on.
And here is a positive surprise.
The airport is well prepared for such a circumstance.
We were lined up in two lines. Documents were checked, especially the health declaration to be made online before entering Viet Nam. I listed my current health status for covid symptoms, uploaded a PDF of the PCR test result, and provided the quarantine address. After filling it in, I received a QR code.
At the airport, this code is scanned and immediately printed out by the document confirming arrival in Viet Nam.
This document is then stamped successively after each step of the entry procedure. First, the negative PCR test is checked, then the inoculation certificate is checked, and after passing these two steps, it goes to rapid antigen testing. In Viet Nam, they adopted a simple method. They use antigen tests to scan visitors for infection. 15 minutes of waiting in the isolated area for the test result and if negative - another stamp for the entry document and you can go to passport control and baggage.
This is for resident card holders. If you are an arriving businessman, expert, etc., there is still a line to get the visa.
The luggage arrived and was waiting to be picked up. By the way, it turned out how my suitcases were redirected to Saigon. Someone in Paris found them and taped them bright yellow cards with the ticket number and the destination port.
I ended the three-day quarantine with another PCR test on the fourth day in the morning.
I am free - ideally, on Lunar New Years Eve.
As you can see, my entire Asia - Europe - Asia journey was not easy.
Many restrictions, no connections, continuous testing, being in a mask for several hours, etc. etc.
Nevertheless, if someone really has to travel, there is of course the way to go.
You just have to take care of yourself during these trips so that it does not end up like my last year's trip with a visit to a field hospital for 14 days of isolation after catching the virus somewhere during the trip.
That's all about my journey between continents.
I hope you will find some of this information useful.
I wish myself and you that, as promised by the government, Viet Nam will open its borders to tourism around May.
There are no details about the visa procedure yet, but there is a will to admit tourists in May 2022. We'll see.
Anyway, beautiful sun outside, outside 30 ° C, we have entered the year of the Tiger.
Viet Nam celebrated 5 days. Everything is closed, the residents go to visit their hometowns, so I go to the swimming pool and then to rest.
Keep warm and the handrail!
The next articles will be published according to the previous schedule.
Every week something new from Asia ...