Wednesday 9 June 2021

The Albufeira Adventure | travelling to a green list country in 2021

Today's blog post comes to you courtesy of my dad, who wrote this upon returning from Portugal. When they travelled out and when they returned, this was on the green list. It now isn't, so this experience and advice is somewhat obsolete - but there will come a time when green list travel is a-go again, so I thought I would post it anyway! Here is my dad's experience travelling to a green list country...

So, every year, 6 of us (3 couples) head off to a part of Greece during Whit Holidays. I have to say that it is one of the highlights of the year for all of us. Great food, a pint or 2 of Mythos and a cheeky ouzo or 3. But most of all, great times with great friends.

Of course we missed out last year because of some health scare or other so we were determined to get away this year. Unfortunately not to Greece though as it was a funny colour or something. So, Portugal was tipped to be green (must have been a lot of rain) so we took a chance and booked for Albufeira. We purposely opted for an Easyjet package as it came in at under £600pp (before the traffic lights changed colour) and we knew we had to factor in the cost of tests. The price shot up to £960pp the next day – greedy!

Our experience travelling to a green list country was great

We booked pre-departure and 2-day return PCR tests with Randox, Easyjet’s test partner, at a cost of £60 per test per person. We had been reliably informed that the required LFT ones required for the return flight would cost about £30 in Portugal. So, in total, £750pp, slightly more than we paid for the previous year’s abandoned trip to Parga (Greek mainland).

The PCR tests arrived in good time and we duly registered them, swabbed throat and nostrils and arranged for them to be dropped off in Liverpool the next day. They were then apparently flown to Ireland that evening and we were all emailed to advise they had arrived safely the next morning. At about 3pm on the day before we were due to fly, 5 of us received our negative result email. We had been promised that all would be sent by midnight but they cut it quite fine – the final test result came in at 11.57pm! At least it was negative, although that didn’t calm the anxiety!

We also completed Portuguese Passenger Locator Forms and armed with print out of everything (can’t be too careful with technology) headed for the airport in a chauffeured minibus (get us!). We were ready to see what it would be like, travelling to a green list country...

Flying out to Portugal

Manchester airport was quiet with plenty of room in the few bars/restaurants open in Terminal 1. It seems we had just missed the football fans heading out for some cup final or other so check in and security were very quick also.

Boarding was smooth (especially as Easyjet staff seemed to think we had Speedy Boarding – we didn’t!) and the flight itself pretty non-eventful. Unfortunately, that changed when we arrived at Faro Airport. It was bedlam! OK, a lot of people have been through that day with the football but even so 2 hours was excessive to get everyone through passport control! It meant that we got to our hotel at about 9.30pm and, although the staff said that restaurants were open an hour later until 11pm because of the football, we ended up with take away pizza sitting in the middle of a large crowd of football fans – not quite a quiet Greek Island!

Landing at Faro Airport

So we got back to the hotel without incident (apart from a near heart attack for one of us due to the 96 steps from the square!) and enjoyed a fairly quiet night’s sleep.

The next day we found a lovely hotel round the corner and had a fantastic breakfast – our routine then for the week. We headed down the 96 steps to the square and found our way to the Tunnel Beach, one of the nicest beaches we had ever seen. 2 very nice bar/restaurants were on hand for mid-morning drinks and lunch and a good day was had by all!

Our 'lock in' bar

Back up the 96 steps (harder each time) to get showered and changed to head back down them for evening meal and drinks. At the bottom of the steps in the main square we were greeted by a wall of sound as 3 or 4 bars tried to drown each other out. Luckily we had found some quieter spots on the cliffs above the beach so we headed off there. We even found a nice little bar that had a lock-in each night to enable us to carry on drinking until the grand hour of 11.30! And that was generally the routine for the week, except for having to organise and have the Lateral Flow Tests for the return trip!

Organising lateral flow tests to return to the UK

So Monday morning we spoke to the hotel manager and he made contact with a local clinic who could do the tests for £70 each. We thought that was expensive and he told us the Town Hall were doing them for £20. So, after breakfast, we trudged across town to find the tents where these tests were taking place, to try to book them. There was a massive queue when we got there and we were told that there was no availability until a week after we were due to fly home! However, we were pointed in the direction of a different clinic who were doing the tests for £30. After another walk through Town we joined a queue outside Aqualab (not a Marvel thing, apparently) to book and pay for appointments. Despite not having our passports (Duh!) we managed to convince them of our identities and booked for the Friday morning, a day before we were due to fly home.

Off then to the beach and to continue the sunbathing, eating and drinking that we had flown out for.

All continued well (apart from a night when a group of girls thought that our pool area would make a great party place at 2am) and on the Friday morning we headed back to Aqualab to have our tests. We arrived at 9.30am for an 11am appointment, thinking we would be seen fairly quickly as the queues for the tests on Monday had been small. If only! When we got there, there were police outside stopping the staff going in and yellow tape around the entrance. Apparently, they had been burgled overnight and the police needed to finish off their work before opening.

Queueing for a return test

So we all queued up the hill with the hundred or so other people and waited. And waited.

Eventually a clinician came out and said that they would be calling names out in time order. Unfortunately, she had a quiet voice and an accent that had difficulty with British surnames so chaos ensued as people crowded round her trying to hear their names. After an hour of her repeating a dozen names over and over we realised that she didn’t actually have ours, despite having booked them on the Monday. We eventually found another clinician who was able to print our appointment and relevant barcodes for the test tubes for us. Back to the back of the queue which seemed to move at a snail’s pace! Eventually, after 3 hours in the hot sun, we had our tests and headed back to the beach for lunch.

Flying back to the UK

The results all came through (negative) fairly quickly and we enjoyed our last night without needing to worry, at least not about that. However, Portugal was suddenly on the Naughty List so we thought the airport may be a nightmare once again as people tried to get home before needing to quarantine!

However, back at the airport the next day and what a difference it was. Very smooth and efficient, although it helped that we had asked the hotel to print our test results and the UK passenger Locator Forms that we also needed to do 2 days before flying. Obviously we just missed the chaos that followed the next day!

The flight home and the airport were all non-eventful and the minibus was waiting outside as we arrived in the lovely Manchester sun.

We had a great time!

The next day we all completed our Day 2 tests and sent them off. A slight delay on one of them again but all were negative so everyone could go back to work relaxed and refreshed. Time to start worrying about next year now though! Parga is booked and in the calendar already so fingers crossed the Greeks behave themselves and are allowed off the naughty step before next Whit!

And that's that - my parents' trip to Portugal and their experience travelling to a green list country. If you are planning to travel abroad this summer, then hopefully this post has given you an insight into what that might be like. Thanks to my dad for sharing!

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