Flight Centre’s David Nguyen of Toronto recently travelled to the Netherlands, Germany, and the Czech Republic to experience firsthand what it’s really like to travel in Europe these days. Here’s what he found!
Planning for My Trip to Europe
An important part of my trip planning phase was monitoring when Europe would be open for Canadians. I had a couple of destinations I was considering flying into (for me, my decision was based on a combination of the best flight prices, and of course, which places would allow Canadians to enter without going into quarantine or going through the logistics of submitting a COVID test).
I used a combination of Flight Centre’s COVID-19 travel map and government websites to keep track. Ultimately, I settled on the Netherlands as the best option. I planned to fly there and the move around based on what I saw on the ground (and any potential changes for border rules).
When it came to booking my flights, I wanted to make sure that I booked a flight that would allow free changes should COVID-19 require that my plans change. Fortunately, there were some great deals to be had!
At the Airport
The vibe at Pearson Airport definitely felt different before. It seemed a lot quieter, and it looked like much less of the airport was used. Non-travellers could not enter. However, it was reassuring to see that while less busy than before, there was still a fairly good number of travellers.
Check-in took a bit longer than normal (but not too much). Before entering the security check, travellers all had to get a temperature check – which was almost instantaneous. The security process was exactly as before and was really quick.
Once we got to the gates, there were signs to assist travellers with social distancing everywhere. Water fountains were taped off, and there was only one restaurant open (protective glass was put in front of cashier).
On the other hand, both Zurich and Amsterdam’s airports were very busy — it actually felt like normal times (except that everybody was wearing a mask). All the shops and restaurants were open. I found that transferring and exiting the airport was quick and a similar experience as before COVID-19.
On The Plane
I flew with Air Canada, with a connecting flight from Zurich to Amsterdam via Swiss Airlines. The Air Canada flight included a great deal of COVID-19 health and safety precautions:
- Socially distanced seating (it seemed only half of the flight was full, with most individuals getting their own)
- Everybody wore masks
- Flight attendants all had protective masks and in addition to robes
- Sanitation packs were provided to all customers: including hand sanitizer, gloves, wipes, water, some snacks, earbuds, and water
- Meals were limited to items that could be served in individualized boxes versus the standard trays (in this case it was a salad and eggplant parmesan for dinner, and a ham and cheese croissant for breakfast)
- Declaration card was provided before landing in Zurich.
For my connecting flight with Swiss Air, the experience was pretty normal. Everyone wore masks, but each seat was sold out, as usual.
At the Hotel
My trip included two hotel stays, one in Münster, Germany, and the other in Prague, Czech Republic. Both were great experiences, except for the fact that they felt pretty quiet. Talking to the staff, I found out that the visitor levels are very much lower than in previous years.
The rooms themselves were both lovely, but I noticed that the health and safety policies in common areas were slightly different at each hotel.
My experience at the Münster hotel included:
- Hand sanitizer readily available
- Protective plexi-glass
- Bar was closed
- Masks in public spaces
- Requirements that guests be socially distanced
Whereas, at the Prague hotel:
- Hand sanitizer readily available
- Masks weren’t required in public spaces
- No plexi-glass at reception
- Restaurant was open
Out and About in Europe
The countries in Europe all have different levels of social distancing rules. However, none of the countries I have been to have rules that are so strict that they have hindered enjoyment!
Before travelling, I was concerned that it would be hard to transit to and around Europe, and also worried that there would not be many things to do here, but I was very thrilled to find out that transiting was easy, and there are lots going on. Turns out, this is a great opportunity to visit places that are normally overcrowded (and a great time to take that selfie in front of a famous landmark without having to wait for a huge crowd).
- I found Amsterdam to be extremely relaxed. Masks must be worn on public transit, in public buildings, and the red light district. Bars close a bit earlier than usual, but otherwise, everything is open. If you sit down at a restaurant, they must take your contact info for tracing purposes.
- In Germany, masks are required indoors and everything is open. Sit-down guests at restaurants have to provide contact info.
- In my opinion, the Czech Republic had the least rules about COVID-19. I saw very few people wearing masks, even in public buildings. Clubs are open, but they have reduced hours.