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Tashia TRAVELS - Travelling abroad while the world grapples a plague

2020-10-28  Tashia Kalondo

Tashia TRAVELS - Travelling abroad while the world grapples a plague
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The biggest benefit of flying during this pandemic is the forced social distancing aboard an aircraft. No flights I’ve been on have been full, so everyone is spread out and allocated a glorious row of seats to themselves, where it’s possible. Flying Business Class is standard for some and a treat for others, I fall firmly into the latter department, because of bankrotness. Nonetheless, if it’s ever happened to you, you know how great it is to have an entire row to yourself. No sharing armrests or having to squeeze past a stranger to get to the loo. You can spread out as much as you like and for someone my size and height, this is tantamount to a king-sized bed. 

I flew to London via Addis Ababa and I found a completely different atmosphere compared when I was here in May. Everyone and everything is more relaxed. People were friendlier. The airport was busier. It was really pleasant. I don’t particularly like the in-flight catering of any airline so this time I did things differently. 

I took a bag full of goodness from Meat Point with me on my flight and I literally overate, it was so good. Meat Point is Namibia’s first authentic Middle Eastern restaurant offering wholesome foods such as shawarma, shakshuka, falafel and kebabs. Taking my food along with me made a big difference, it was a schlep to carry around until I boarded, but was totally worth it. I’d recommend this for anyone who is a picky eater and isn’t a fan of in-flight meals. 
 Visa requirements 
Now, in case you don’t know, Namibian citizens don’t need a visa for travelling to the United Kingdom as a tourist. Even though we are living through a plague, the country is open for travel and the maximum duration of stay is six months per year. However, the UK authorities can refuse visa-free entry to anyone who they believe is trying to enter for a purpose other than tourism. They can also randomly request additional information such as proof of accommodation and sufficiency maintenance funds (bank balance). This has never happened to me anywhere before but there’s a first time for everything as I learned upon my arrival to the UK this time around. According to UK Visa Blog (immigration specialists), normally, for a single person, the minimum cost of one week’s trip is approximately GBP 1,200-1,800/- (N$27 600 - N$41 400). 

This includes the cost of an airline ticket and therefore, an applicant needs to have more funds in their bank account than the estimated trip cost. This is something I didn’t even know and when I was asked to prove that I had sufficient maintenance funds, accommodation proof and sponsor documents - I had nothing to show. This earned me a little detention in waiting area at Heathrow where I was handed a “Notice for a Person Being Detained at the Border/Required to Submit to Further Examination”. The immigration official asked me a ton of questions and proceeded to call my boyfriend to verify what I’d told her. 

She was just doing her job but it was nerve-wracking and if you’ve ever watched an episode of Border Patrol, you know exactly what I went through. After she made her phone calls and received the necessary confirmation that I am indeed a tourist, she gave me my passport back and allowed me entry into the UK. It was a horrible experience and I urge anyone planning a trip to anywhere to comply with every single entry requirement. My arrival day was not my day because as soon as I went to get my luggage, my suitcase was nowhere to be found and I discovered it never left Ethiopia. 

I’m still waiting for it. I have to quarantine (self-isolate) for 14 days as that is required of anyone entering the UK which gives me more than enough time to plan a few trips around the UK before it goes into an imminent second-wave hard lockdown.

2020-10-28  Tashia Kalondo

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