By Phyllis Stoller, NABBW’s Group Travel Associate

You might be safer overseas than in the US or Canada. I just returned from 3 trips: one to Paris, one to Tuscany and London and an October one to Dubai/Abu Dhabi and Oman. Here is what I witnessed and what made me relax about Covid. And I am ready to take more groups to Europe beginning in May and to Mexico in a few weeks.

Overseas masking is mandatory. In airports, on flights and in most places you as a tourist will visit.  Masking on a flight also means you no longer catch the cold of the guy in row whatever. Nor do you get snored on or sneezed on. In US airports agents are strict; it is the same perhaps even stricter overseas. In Mexico City, uniformed staff walk around checking faces; and when you exit the plane in Mexico City, staff takes your temperature.

Showing official evidence of full vaccination is minimally required in the US. Even in New York City, home of us “blue state people”, you do not need a mask for outdoor events or outside dining. There are plenty of pedestrians without masks; there are also what I call the ‘nose’ people who do not cover noses.

Europeans have a digital pass called the Green Pass. The Green Pass works in most European countries, EU or not.  It keeps a record of your vaccinations, recovery from Covid, test status and will include more in future. Easy peasy. My experience in Paris was simple: no CDC card or Green Pass, no dining. Our CDC card was readily accepted.

My simple hotel in Pisa was firm. Enter the lobby, put on a mask. Check in: show your CDC card or Green Pass. My fancy hotel in Paris was exactly the same; but I also had temperature taken each day on returning from sightseeing. When is the last time your temperature was taken here? In New York, the only time I had temperature taken was to visit someone in the hospital.

Politics and fighting. We read about these pandemic conflicts; at this point, most of us have witnessed at least one argument even seen a physical flight. In Mexico I asked a fellow guest to cover her nose. Result: she screamed at me, stormed away and then covered her nose. Grade school right? In other countries, there is no question about obeying. You do it- period.

Location services are common overseas. Here if you were near someone who got sick, you probably did not know (unless this was a friend). Here we continue to argue about privacy rights and connecting via cell phone tracking. Overseas,travelers fill out a form which connects to their phone blue tooth locator. If you are exposed to Covid, the government notifies you by text message. I filled a locator form to enter the UK, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman. Privacy rights versus illness? If you are a senior, you have to vote against privacy rights. To get a boarding pass to fly to England, I had to first fill out a locator form.

In Paris and London, I found the stores were pretty empty. Distancing was easy. The lack of shoppers was due to a few factors: off season being the main one. But a big factor granting you space in Harrods or Galeries Lafayette is lack of Chinese and Indian tourism. In normal times, boutiques in these department stores have restrictive barriers to control the thousands of overseas shoppers. Go now is my suggestion.

Finally, here is what happens when you show your CDC card. You are  first asked for your Green Pass. You then pull out the CDC card. The gatekeeper looks at it. There is a split second silence.  Then in French, Italian, Arabic or the Queen’s English, they say: “Welcome back. America.”

Phyllis Stoller, President The Women’s Travel Group

Anne Holmes Boomer-in-Chief of NABBW
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