Due to the emergence of the Coronavirus (COVID19) around the world, there are millions of people who are stranded outside of their home country right now. We have compiled a few ideas of what you could do if you are one of them. None of this is legal advice or should be used instead of your own government's suggestions. These are just our feelings and how we are going about the situation. You should not start travelling in the next few months, but if you are already away from home, here are some ideas. Again, we are not professionals who can consult you with your travel and safety needs, these are just suggestions.
Your first step should be to not book any more travel or hotels until you have analyzed the situation and understand your options. The worst thing you could do at this point is to continue to travel like normal as that puts yourself and others at risk. Even if you are young and healthy and can fight off the virus, you can easily spread it to others who can not and you'll end up putting more stress on your host country's medical facilities. Did you know that 80% of South Korea's 8,000 cases (as of March 19, 2020) can be traced to just one person who did not follow the instructed protocols? Don't be that one person!
*Tip- If you are worried about losing money from your planned trip, just email the hotel/tour agency/etc. and ask for a refund. If the answer is still that it is nonrefundable, it is still better to lose that money than put yourself and others at risk.
Call your embassy
Next step should be to give your country's embassy a call in the country you are in. They are a great source for up to date information on the situation inside the country and on any changes back home. They are also the first point of contact if the situation starts to deteriorate and you need to get home. If it comes to it, they will likely be the ones who can help to get you on a repatriation flight back home. There is almost always a toll free number that you can call so even if the office is physically closed, you can still reach someone who will have some extra information.
*Tip- Skype allows you to call toll free numbers. Just make sure you have a good WiFi connection.
Call your insurance
After you have spoken to the embassy or government organization, check out any restrictions or coverage changes to your insurance. Many insurance companies do not cover "acts of god" or pandemics so you may have limited or no coverage. In addition, if your government requests its citizens to return home, it may change the risk level of your current country and thus void your insurance. This is happening with many of the largest insurance companies in the world so ensure you are still protected.
Register for your home country's travel program
Many countries around the world have a program set up to help track their travelling citizens and inform them of any changes. It also gives the government something to start with if repatriation flights need to start happening so its important that you do this. If your country knows where you are, it is easier for them to help you out. If they have no clue, they can't do anything for you!
*Tip- Here is the link if you are Canadian - https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/registration
Try to get home
After checking any insurance and government restrictions, take a hard look at getting home. Don't just look at trying to fly from your nearest city. Take a deep look into understanding how airlines fly and where the largest hubs are. It may be cheaper and easier for you to get home from places like Hong Kong, Los Angeles, London, or Dubai then Hanoi, Phoenix, or Glasgow. If you do go this route, make sure to look at any visa entry restrictions as you may not be allowed into the country to try to make that connecting flight if you have certain travel history or if the country is limiting visa options. Lastly, ensure that you have lots of time between flights. If you select flights that are not part of the same ticket, it means you will have to clear customs in the airport, recheck your bags, and go through security all over again. With long lines and heightened security, this may take hours. Ideally try to see if you can give yourself 8 hours or even better overnight.
Call your host country's immigration to understand visa regulations
If you are on a limited visa, it is a good idea to give the country's immigration office a call to see if visa extensions are allowed or if they are waiving time limits. Knowing what may happen when/if your visa expires is super important to knowing how to proceed. If they are not extending any visas and detention is the answer, it is likely your best bet to leave ASAP to ensure you don't get stuck in a bad situation. Worst case is that the country closes all incoming or outgoing flights leaving you stranded and overstaying your visa.
Purchase a few necessities
Now that you have a better understanding of your situation, purchase a few things that you may need. If you are going to try to hunker down, buy some food that can be cooked with just boiling water like instant noodles or oatmeal in case restaurants close down or you get quarantined. If you can find some, get a few masks, gloves and lots of hand sanitizer. Do not put yourself at unnecessary risk in order to do this but if possible, give yourself a couple days supply of anything you may need in case of an emergency. Do not forget to buy bottled water or a water filter as tap water may become an issue depending on where in the world you are!
Evaluate any essentials you may need
Looking at the spread of the virus, you should be looking at staying put for 2+ months. It may turn out to be less then that and that is amazing but its always better to overestimate. If you take medication, see how much you have and act accordingly. Call your insurance and see if they cover emergency prescription refills. If you think you will run out, see about getting a prescription filled ASAP as who knows if pharmacies will start running out of stock. You should also be purchasing slightly more advanced first aid kit items like gauze, and an antiseptic because a hospital visit for something that can be treated at home should be avoided.
Stay put if that is the right option for you!
Once again, if you can not get a flight home and the government is advising you to stay put, find somewhere to do just that. Don't try to think this does not effect you because you will not die from it. That is the wrong way to think about this and will only cause issues for your host country.
Again, we are not professionals who can consult you with your travel and safety needs, these are just suggestions. Have any other recommendations? Let us know.
Stay healthy and safe,
The Roving Route