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Planning international travel to the US soon? Are you allowed to travel internationally now? Wondering if is it safe to fly right now? I will be sharing what you need to travel internationally and what air travel during the coronavirus pandemic is like when I travelled from Manila to San Francisco via a direct flight with Philippine Airlines (PAL).
Despite being married for more than a year, the process to get my spouse visa is taking forever. Since I am using my tourist visa, my trip was tagged as a nonessential travel to the US.
Below are the requirements for nonessential travel departing from Manila and arriving in San Francisco.
International travel requirements
Departing in Manila
1. Philippine Passport
Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months beyond your intended period of stay in the US
2. Valid US Tourist Visa
3. Confirmed return flight ticket
4. Travel and health insurance
This is required to cover any travel disruptions or hospitalization in case you get sick or get infected with COVID-19 during your trip. If I were to purchase a travel and health insurance that will cover my 6 month trip in the US, it will cost a little over $300.
I know what you are thinking. Expensive, right? The cost of my roundtrip economy flight with PAL including travel tax is already at $ 1,299.80. Adding $300+ is a pain!
I took a risk and told myself that I will just buy the PAL travel insurance and if at the airport, they will insist for me to show a travel and health insurance for my entire trip, that’s when I will purchase one! The good thing with World Nomads Travel Insurance is that it can be purchased online and anytime even during your trip.
In my case, I only purchased the PAL travel insurance for 1 day to cover for my flight going to the US since I will be with my husband during my entire stay abroad and in any case that I get sick and get hospitalized, he will cover the expenses. The one day travel insurance with PAL costs only $17.
I think I just got lucky that I passed all inspections using the PAL travel insurance and they did not ask anything else with my insurance. The trick was when they asked for my travel and health insurance, I immediately showed it and would not say anything else that will make me sound defensive. Now, it’s up to you if you want to do what I did.
5. Accomplished Bureau of Immigration (BOI) Declaration
This is to acknowledge the risks involved in your travel. Click to download the BOI Declaration form so you can print and fill it out before going to the airport to avoid hassle in filling out forms while handling your luggage. Don’t worry in case you arrived at the airport without this form because they are giving this out before you get in line for check-in.
Other requirements by Philippine Airlines
1. Medical certificate from local health center
I called the barangay first to ask the requirements to get a medical certificate. I was told to only bring a valid ID.
When I went to the barangay health center, they required me to take a rapid test. There was a clinic nearby that performs a rapid test for PhP 1,200 with results to be released within an hour. Using a little charm with the nurse whom I recognized as a High schoolmate, I got mine in 15 minutes!
After I submitting my rapid test result, the health center asked me to photocopy my ID. The store where I can have my ID photocopied is in a market. I just really hoped they said that earlier because I really wanted to minimize my contact with other people! The barangay is already crowded and I felt that I might catch the virus just by getting this document.
After I had my ID photocopied, a guy chime in saying I should take a swab test and not a rapid test. Oh great! So I was asked to return the following morning to talk to the doctor who was already off that day for the requirements.
The following day, the doctor said that medical certification is not required for international travel and is only required for local travel in the Philippines. I told her that PAL insisted that it is required so they issued me a medical certificate in less than 10 minutes.
Processing time in our barangay was supposed to be 3 days but it will depend on your Local Government Unit (LGU) so better check the requirements ahead of time. Also make sure to go early to your barangay center and bring ballpen to minimize contact by borrowing from others.
2. Travel permit
After getting a medical certificate from your barangay health center, proceed to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Headquarters in your city to secure a travel permit. The medical certificate is required to get a travel permit.
Processing time in our city was supposed to be 3 days but it will depend on your Local Government Unit (LGU) so better check the requirements ahead of time.
3. PAL Passenger Profile and Health Declaration form
I did not do this as this was not in the requirements before my trip. Make sure to register online as early as 5 days before your departure.
Note: The medical certificate and travel permit were required by PAL but was never asked in all inspections at the airport. Click here to check the travel requirements for all types of international travel departing from Manila.
Arriving in San Francisco
Swab test result is not required upon arrival in San Francisco International Airport. Quarantine is recommended but not mandatory.
Arriving in NAIA for your flight
Take note of the following tips and requirements before going to the airport.
1. Face mask and face shield
You are required to wear a face mask and a face shield that is covering the whole face upon entering the airport.
To set your expectation, below is the time I was wearing a mask and a face shield during my trip:
- MNL Airport: 4 hours
- Flight: 12+ hours
- SFO Airport: 2 hours (read further to know why)
- TOTAL: 18+ hours
You cannot remove your face mask and face shield except when eating meals during the flight. You will be asked to pull down your face mask only when checking your face against your passport photo.
2. Early arrival
Before the pandemic, the requirement was to arrive 3 hours prior to your departure. In the new normal, you will be required to arrive at the airport for 4 hours before your flight.
3. Health screening
My temperature was only checked once. No other health screening was done. Swab test was also not required.
3. Unlock luggages
Make sure that your luggages are not locked as it will be inspected prior to check-in.
It is your responsiblity to bring alcohol, disinfecting wipes and the likes.
All electronics should be in your handcarry. Your electronics will be screened after immigration check and before going to the boarding gate.
6. Social distancing
This is mandatory inside the airport. When in line, make sure to observe social distancing. At the boarding gate lounge, one seat apart is being implemented.
7. Less contact
Bring ballpen to avoid contact to other people by borrowing their pen when you need to fill out forms. Always sanitize your hands and prevent touching your face and any surface if not necessary.
8. Be ready
Prepare yourself for the trip because it’s a big risk to travel right now. Get your flu and pneumonia shots. Take 1000mg of Vitamin C daily, get enough sleep, workout, hydrate, and eat healthy.
The flight experience
I thought that social distancing is mandatory in the new normal but I was surprised as I enter the economy section of the cabin. I booked my flight 2 weeks before my intended travel date and when I selected my seat, I have no seatmates.
Everyone in economy was surprised that we were seated right beside each other! No social distancing!
Then PAL was announcing that if we wished to have no seatmates, we can upgrade our seats. What? Even if I booked an economy seat, my flight cost $ 1,299.80! And now PAL wants me to pay for social distancing?! No bueno.
What was the point of all the social distancing protocols at the airport if we will be stuck close to each other for 12+ hours! We were totally rolling our eyes every time PAL will announce on speaker to remind us about social distancing.
There were several vacant seats and my seatmate was willing to transfer to a vacant seat but he said he was told that it was not allowed. Transferring to vacant seats used to be allowed but PAL wants more money.
I have read online that air travel is safe due to the High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters in the cabin but being this close to someone during my flight made me question if it is safe to fly right now.
Since we have no choice, we always sanitize our hands, our seats and cabin trays and wear our face mask and face shield all the time.
After the flight
After 12 hours, we arrived earlier than the expected arrival time in San Francisco. Like in NAIA, there was not much people in SFO. Wait time for immigration check and baggage claim was quick. I just got lucky to be selected for an additional inspection so stayed longer in SFO.
If you want to watch my air travel during pandemic experience, watch my travel vlog below so you can judge for yourself if it is safe to fly right now.
So is it safe to fly right now? If Mike and I were not separated for more than 10 months, I will not take this trip. COVID-19 should be taken seriously and waiting for the vaccine is recommended.
Are you planning to travel soon? Do you think it is safe to fly right now?
What to pack
Reusable Water Bottle: Nalgene
Immune Support Supplement: Airborne Chewables
Waterproof Action Camera: GoPro Hero 7 White
Travel Planning Resources
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