What it was like travelling abroad during Covid

Reporter Andra Maciuca wearing a cat face mask

In Romania, Andra had to wear a face mask on the street to comply with national legislation - so she went for a reusable one she liked. - Credit: Andra Maciuca

2020 was a strange year. I never thought that I would be flying in a pandemic, wearing a mask and socially distancing in the airport.

I started 2020 very homesick, despite the fact that I had been to my home in Bucharest in November the year before. The pandemic came, my Easter and summer plans were cancelled, and for months I refused to even go for a walk.

In July, I booked all my annual leave for December to January, hoping the pandemic situation would improve. 

Andra Maciuca wearing a Christmas cracker paper crown

Andra brought a bit of the UK and Saffron Walden to Romania, through Christmas crackers and a Saffron Walden Christmas pudding. - Credit: Andra Maciuca

When the November lockdown came, I thought my flight would be cancelled. I had only met about one person throughout the whole pandemic, and out of everyone I knew I seemed to have left the house the least. I was longing for social interaction and to see my family.

I got very lucky and the restrictions lifted on the day of my flight to Romania. With my mask on, a suitcase in each hand and a heavy bag hanging from my neck, I got the earliest train I could find from Audley End to Stansted Mountfitchet - at just after 5.30am. The train was empty. On my second train journey to Stansted Airport, there were only a few people.

The airport was well-organised. A bar code reader machine scanned my ticket. There were floor markings to ensure social distancing when queueing to go through security, and there were clear plastic screens separating passengers who were putting their belongings on security trays.

I got on the plane praying it would not be full, as, in normal times, not a single seat is free, especially in the run-up to Christmas. To my surprise, both the flight to Romania and the flight back were only about half full, and I did not have to sit next to a stranger.

Reporter Andra Maciuca by Christmas tree on Christmas Day in Bucharest, Romania.

Reporter Andra Maciuca on Christmas Day in Bucharest, Romania. - Credit: Andra Maciuca

Ahead of my return to Stansted, I had to fill out a form to give an address for my 10-day self-isolation. I am at home now, so that process is ongoing.

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In my six years of travelling by plane, my suitcases have never arrived quicker. It was however a big trade-off with how hot you can feel carrying suitcases while wearing a mask.

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