Traveling will not be the same again, at least until the foreseeable future. With the ongoing threats of the pandemic, albeit COVID-19 cases going down as of this writing, traveling for leisure nowadays comes with more restrictions and requirements than normal.
I recently visited Boracay Island and it has given me an idea on how future trips to domestic destinations would be like in the coming months. Given how fluid the current situation is, protocols might change without prior notice, as both national and local governments find the right balance between safety and the need for people to travel.
If you’re planning to take a vacation soon, read on to pick up a few tips on how to travel as safely and as responsibly as possible in the new normal.
A sample of a negative RT-PCR result
Boracay is one of the few travel destinations in the Philippines that currently welcomes domestic tourists. Before traveling, tourists are now required by the Department of Tourism (DOT) to present a negative SARS-COV-2 result from the RT-PCR test, within 48 to 72 hours before the date of their arrival on the island.
Upon receiving your swab test results, you have to submit an online health declaration form to the local government unit of Aklan for them to issue you a tourist QR code that you will need to enter and access facilities on the island. You need to keep a copy of this QR code on your phone or have it printed since you have to bring it wherever you go.
Boracay’s Tourist QR code which you will need to access the Boracay Island
Upon arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), you have to present your health declaration form, flight ticket and valid identification card. Wearing of face mask and face shield, and physical distancing are strictly observed as you move onward.
I took an AirAsia flight to Boracay. According to the cabin crew, each aircraft uses a cleaning technology that circulates within the cabin, which does away with the requirement of leaving adjacent seats empty.
When I arrived at the Caticlan airport, I immediately sanitized my hands using the airport’s rubbing alcohol before lining up to have my QR code scanned. You need to go through and pass this verification process to gain accreditation and access to accommodations. Depending on the number of people in the queue, this process takes between 15 to 30 minutes.
After this, you have to line up again to get your seat number on the bus or van, which depends on the hotel you’re booked at.
When I arrived at Henann Crystal Sands, I had to go through the same standard protocols of hand sanitizing, thermal scanning and physical distancing. The wearing of face masks was also strictly being implemented.
Upon checking in, a staff member accompanied us to our room. But unlike before the pandemic, he isn’t allowed to step inside to help us with our luggages, as the housecleaning staff had already sanitized the room. Doorknobs and the TV remote were all covered with cling wrap.
The same protocol is strictly observed for in-room food services. Hotel staff will deliver your food and leave it by the door.
Boracay in daytime
When going to the beach, you don’t need to wear a face shield anymore. However, you are required to wear a face mask at all times while walking along Boracay’s picturesque beach. You can only take off your mask if you’re going to take a dip.
The author doing yoga by the beach /Photo by Maica Frances Maglipon
During my visit in early November with my best friend Maica, it’s good to see that tourism is slowly getting back to the old normal. More visitors to tourist destinations means more job opportunities for our local tourism workers. Although most of the restaurants and boutiques in Boracay are still closed, I believe that it will eventually gain back its momentum in due time.
Boracay during sunset
These new standard travel rules tend to eat up more of your precious vacation time than before. It can be taxing and tedious, but, as travelers these days, you need to be patient. Having experienced the new travel rules first hand–including the discomfort of wearing a face mask and face shield while lining up–I would advise people not to lose their cool.
Ending our short stay in Boracay with pizza, gambas, and churros at Feliz Hotel
At the end of the day, I would much rather choose to follow these protocols than to unwittingly expose myself and further spread COVID-19. Being a responsible tourist in the new normal not only protects you from the virus, but also the people around you.
Starting on Nov. 16, Boracay will waive the RT-PCR requirement for fully vaccinated tourists. However, there is no official statement for protocols for unvaccinated tourists who wish to go to Boracay.
If you’re planning to visit Boracay soon, always check the latest changes in the requirements so you can safely travel and enjoy your vacation.