Need a COVID test for an upcoming trip? Here are some tips so things go smoothly


If you need to take a COVID-19 test for your upcoming travels, you’ll find plenty of options — from spitting to swabbing, at-home to drive-through testing locations.

We needed COVID tests for our recent family trip to Hawaii, which requires proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of travel — by an approved testing partner — to avoid a mandatory 10-day quarantine upon arrival. As of May, all non-vaccinated transpacific travelers to Maui must also take a rapid coronavirus test upon landing, offered for free at Kahului Airport.

Since we needed our initial test results so quickly, we decided to try out two methods to determine (for us) which proved the most reliant and the easiest to use, and to make sure we wouldn’t miss our flights because of late test results or, worse, end up quarantined — not a fun way to spend vacation.

Hawaii and Puerto Rico require a negative COVID-19 test result to enter, and many other states still recommend visitors and returning residents get tested. Hawaii requires visitors to take a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) from a certified Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) lab, and although the list is long, not many were accessible to us.

You can get a nasal swab PCR test at a participating CVS pharmacy (www.cvs.com) for $139. About 10 Walgreens pharmacies in Greater Boston also offer free drive-through swab tests — make sure you choose the PCR test out of the three options (https://walgreens.com/covid19testing).

Some airports offer approved COVID-19 tests for travelers heading to Hawaii, including San Francisco International Airport.
Some airports offer approved COVID-19 tests for travelers heading to Hawaii, including San Francisco International Airport.Handout

We live in Washington state and chose the free nasal swab test at our local Walgreens (available to anyone 3 and older) and a mail-in Vault Health saliva test ($119 per person), which works nationwide (https://www.vaulthealth.com).

We scheduled our Walgreens test for 72 hours before flight time, filling out all our information online in advance so the paperwork was ready when we arrived. The entire test for four of us took less than five minutes. We drove up to the pharmacy window, verified our information, swabbed our own noses, and packaged up the samples on the spot. We had our negative results back 20 hours later — a total relief.

The same day as our Walgreens test, we performed Vault’s home test. We had ordered the Vault mail-in test kits a month in advance and bought a jar of pickles and a bottle of vinegar for the test — not necessary, but we had heard that sniffing pickles, vinegar, lemon, and other tart liquids can help people generate saliva (it works). We just had to make sure no one had eaten, had anything to drink, or chewed gum within 30 minutes of taking the test.

To complete the test, we initiated a video call through Zoom with a Vault test supervisor who guided us through the process, verifying our identities and test serial numbers, and then instructing us to spit into a tube up to a black marker. The spitting part proved to be a long process (even sniffing pickle juice): It took us each about 10 to 15 minutes to generate enough saliva to fill the tube.

Then we slipped each sample into a biohazard bag that went into a UPS pre-paid package — and missed the UPS air freight drop-off time by 20 minutes, pushing back our test results by 24 hours. We took the test on a Thursday afternoon, but we didn’t receive our results until Saturday night — just 14 hours before we left for the airport. Had we planned better and known about the drop-off times, we would have had our results back within 27 hours of taking the test (times vary, of course, but Vault says it will have results to you within 24 hours of receiving them).

The biggest benefits to the Vault test: It can be completed at home, at any time of day, and at a time that works for you. It’s a great option for those living in rural areas who may not have access to drive-through test sites and for those who need results for prescheduled events, such as a wedding. But make sure you allow enough time to complete the test (you can’t rush spit) and that you know the drop-off deadlines for UPS airmail so you can avoid added stress.

Finally, if you are headed to Hawaii, you’ll need to take part in the mandatory online Safe Travels Hawaii program, which aims to mitigate the spread of COVID on the islands. Make sure you create a Safe Travels account (kids can be added under an adult’s account) so you can upload your negative test results when you receive them and complete the mandatory health questionnaire 24 hours before flying.

Here’s the catch: You must receive the negative test results and upload those to the Safe Travels website before boarding the final leg of your flight to Hawaii. Otherwise, you’ll have to quarantine for 10 days or the duration of your trip, if shorter. That means you can’t get out of quarantine even if your negative results come in after landing.

Once you upload your results and complete the health questionnaire, the program generates a QR code that you’ll need to show at the airport and at hotels during check-in.

After landing in Maui, all nonvaccinated travelers 5 and older must also take a rapid COVID test. You are exempt from this second test if you have still not received your pre-trip test results or have opted to quarantine.

Even with testing requirements or recommendations, it’s still worth it for a chance to travel again.

Kari Bodnarchuk can be reached at travelwriter@karib.us.


Kari Bodnarchuk can be reached at travelwriter@karib.us.



Source link

Do you know how to tip a bellhop or housekeeping? Test your knowledge.


For a practice that’s roughly traced to the 17th century, tipping remains a surprisingly confusing practice in modern-day America. The practice — whether on a physical transaction or a digital one — still elicits stress in consumers who aren’t certain whom to give extra money to, and how much. Then there’s the pandemic and its impact on hospitality, which made the process even more complicated. Restaurants added service charges, hotel housekeeping morphed, and there were fewer personal interactions.

Maybe you’re comfortable on your home turf, knowing to tip your local barista or neighborhood bartender, but what happens when you’re out of your element?

We interviewed etiquette and hospitality experts to clear up some confusion about the custom in America — after all, we’re not born with this information.

“We look for rules, and we look for guidelines, and those are important,” says David Coggins, author of the New York Times best-selling book “Men and Manners.” “But if you already decide that you’re going to be generous or err on the side of generosity, then you’re always going to make a better decision than if you try to think, ‘How little can I get away with?’”

Do you know the rules? Test your tipping knowledge with our quiz below.

Question 1 of 11

Is it true that you’re never fully dressed without cash?

Correct! In “Men and Manners,” Coggins writes exactly that: You’re not fully dressed if you have no cash. As Americans appear to be moving toward a cashless future, tipping becomes more of a calculated effort.

“I’m obsessed with not being out of small bills, and I try to think about that ahead of time,” Coggins says.

You have to be mindful about having cash on you so you don’t stiff those deserving gratuity. If you can, stock up on small bills before your trip.

In a pinch, you can compensate for being cashless by asking the person helping you for their digital wallet information such as their Venmo or Cash App handle.

“Most people nowadays have Venmo, Paypal or Zelle,” says Ben Pundole, a hotel consultant and founder of A Hotel Life travel website. Such a request may not be normal or expected for all generations, but “it’s not abnormal” either, he said.

Question 2 of 11

You take a complimentary shuttle from the rental-car lot to your terminal, and the driver unloads your bag from the bus to the curb. Do you tip?

Correct! When someone touches your bag, you tip. Founder and chief executive of the Protocol School of Palm Beach Jacqueline Whitmore recommends $1 per bag, unless it’s extra heavy (then give $2 per bag). If the driver just drops you off, and you handle your bags, there isn’t a need for gratuity.

Question 3 of 11

You’re on an airplane, and the flight attendant serves you a drink. Do you tip?

Correct! Keep your singles to yourself on a flight. Most airline staff members are asked to decline tips.

“The best way our customers can recognize our team members is by sending a note to our customer relations team,” said Ross Feinstein, the former director of operations communications at American Airlines.

Question 4 of 11

You opt for curbside baggage check from a third-party vendor. Should you tip the attendant checking your bags?

Correct! Swann School of Protocol’s founder, Elaine Swann, recommends tipping according to how many bags are handled at curbside check-in.

“When they’re bringing your bags from your car and they’re checking them for you: $2 per bag,” she says.

Question 5 of 11

Should you tip only at the end of a hotel stay?

Correct! Tipping time is flexible here. It can be at the beginning or end of a stay. There is no hard-and-fast rule on when you should tip hotel staff, so make sure you have small bills to hand out when the situation arises.

Question 6 of 11

You arrive at your hotel by car and leave it with the valet. Do you tip the valet attendant?

Correct! You should absolutely tip your valet attendant, preferably when you hand them your keys. This is a great example of gratuity to ensure proper service — you want the valet on your side. Swann recommends tipping valet drivers $3 and up.

“Tip them in the beginning and they’ll always look after you,” Pundole says. “The more you look after them, the more they look after you.”

Question 7 of 11

The hotel manager upgrades your hotel room to a suite. Do you tip her?

Correct! A hotel manager tends to be a salaried employee who doesn’t require a tip. A clue for who to tip and who to skip is to look at how the hotel employee is dressed.

“I don’t tip someone in a suit from behind the counter,” Coggins says. “Generally, if a person is wearing a suit or their own clothes, I don’t. They’re a manager of some higher position and so you don’t need to tip them. But if it’s a person in a uniform, you generally do.”

Question 8 of 11

A bellhop greets you in the hotel lobby and takes your bag(s) upstairs to your room. Do you tip?

Correct! How much will depend on what kind of hotel you’re at, and what kind of service you’re getting. Did they drop your bags and go quickly? Did they help you unpack, or share helpful details about the room and hotel? Pundole recommends up to $10 for a tip at a luxury hotel.

Not everyone wants the help, and that’s okay, too. “I used to avoid the bellmen and want to do everything myself,” Pundole says. But ultimately, remember that they’re here to help. “They’re proud to be standing at the front of something great and being the first point of contact.”

Question 9 of 11

You’re staying at a hotel, and housekeeping cleans your room daily. Do you leave a tip?

Correct! Not everyone knows to tip the cleaning staff, or they choose not to for various reasons. But according to all of our experts, you absolutely tip housekeeping. It’s a thankless hotel job that often gets overlooked.

In his early traveling days, Coggins didn’t know to tip housekeeping, an error he’s still embarrassed about today. It’s now natural for him to tip housekeeping at every hotel.

“Some people avoid it because they think they’re doing it incorrectly, or they don’t know if it’s going to be appreciated, or they don’t even have the pleasure of handing it to someone,” Coggins says.

“They work really hard. They work long hours,” Pundole adds. “There’s a level of expectation that they do an exemplary job. They deserve it.”

Pundole recommends tipping $10 per day of your visit.

However, housekeeping as well as other hospitality elements have changed during the pandemic, and customers may notice a drop-off in services some cases. Pundole recognizes that while service should be rewarded, it’s not a given. People should tip what they can.

Question 10 of 11

Do the same rules of tipping apply to all-inclusive resorts and cruises?

Correct! All-inclusive properties and cruises can come with rules of their own.

“A lot of times the cruise line will give you a guideline on tipping,” Swann says. “They break it down day by day. Server by server. Follow the guidelines of the cruise line. As far as the rest of the waitstaff is concerned, you would tip the same way on land — if the cruise line allows it.”

Question 11 of 11

You’ve ordered food with your favorite delivery app to your Airbnb. A service charge is included. Do you still tip?

Correct! Stephanie Fisher, a certified travel associate for Huffman Travel, says she always adds gratuity, noting that the charges you pay on the app might not directly get to the driver. We’ve heard stories during the pandemic of delivery drivers receiving few tips even as demand and risks have increased.

For travel adviser Thomas Chongruk of Escape 2, an independent affiliate of Montecito Village Travel, the answer is yes. While he doesn’t think the gesture is mandatory, he feels that it is a courtesy to the person who delivered your meal.

Pundole finds some service charges to be exorbitant these days, but he tips a few bucks in-person irrespective of the digital transaction.





Source link

Cyprus travel restrictions: What travel list is Cyprus on and do I need a test? | Travel News | Travel









Cyprus travel restrictions: What travel list is Cyprus on and do I need a test? | Travel News | Travel – ToysMatrix


























Source link

Travel rule change delayed by lateral flow test shortage


“Travellers need a testing system they can rely on, meaning that tests are easy to access, affordable, and that they will receive a reliable service from their provider. The government must ensure that any changes to the system – including replacing PCR tests with lateral flow tests – ensure this”.



Source link

Six Royal Caribbean passengers test positive for covid on Bahamas cruise


All six passengers were quarantined right away, and their travel companions and close contacts tested negative. The passengers left the ship Friday with their travel groups in Freeport, Bahamas, and they were sent home on private flights, with transportation provided directly to their homes, according to the cruise line. USA Today’s Morgan Hines, who was on the ship, was the first to report the news.





Source link

Wales changes PCR test rules for tourists | Travel News | Travel


From September 21, Welsh tourists will have a choice of testing providers and will be able to choose based on price.

Wales Health Minister, Eluned Morgan, said: “We’ve been putting a lot of pressure on the UK Government to come in with measures that would give us a lot of confidence that if people were to use these private tests they would be of a particular standard.

“Given the new regulations and the impact on standards for private tests, we will make changes to the rules to enable people travelling to Wales to book tests with private sector providers, if they wish.”

The Health Minister said that NHS tests would still be available to book for those that preferred to use the service for their PCR test.





Source link

Covid travel test firms on UK government list refusing to give refunds | Healthcare industry


Companies included on the government’s approved Covid-19 travel test provider list appear to be flouting consumer law by refusing to refund customers for unfulfilled orders, according to dozens of travellers who have contacted the Guardian.

Boots is among the firms whose terms and conditions state that orders for tests are non-refundable even if they fail to materialise despite the Consumer Rights Act allowing customers to claim money back if an order or service is not as described or fit for purpose.

Another test provider has threatened legal action against customers who complain about missing tests.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said on Sunday that he wanted to scrap the costly PCR test requirement for double-jabbed people returning to the UK from some countries as soon as possible.

“The PCR test that is required upon your return to the UK from certain countries, look, I want to try to get rid of that as soon as I possibly can,” Javid told Sky News.

“I am not going to make that decision right now but I have already asked officials that at the moment we can, let’s get rid of these kind of intrusions, the costs that generates for families, particularly families just trying to go out and holiday.”

People arriving into the Uk from countries on the government’s green and amber list are required to pay for PCR tests on or before day two after they return. Those who have not received both vaccines also have to take a test on day eight from amber list countries and failure to comply can result in a fine of up to £2,000.

The government website directs travellers to an official list of test providers who have self-declared that they meet minimum standards.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, companies have been removed from the list for misleading price claims, but complaints from customers suggest that no action has been taken against firms that fail to fulfil orders and rely on unfair terms and conditions to evade refunds.

Richard Claughton and his wife, both NHS workers, paid Boots £150 for two day two tests after a trip to Spain to visit family in July. Only one test kit arrived, damaged beyond use, six days late.

Boots refused to refund them, claiming that, according to its terms and conditions: “The service is deemed to have been provided in full by Boots and ReCoVa-19 by providing the customer with their booking reference number.”

The company told the Guardian that, instead of a refund, missing or faulty kit would be replaced free of charge. A replacement in Claughton’s case would have meant his test results arriving after his official quarantine period had ended.

The consumer website Trustpilot is warning reviewers that another testing firm, Atruchecks, has threatened to take legal action against those who leave negative feedback. All reviews since June have rated it “bad”, citing the non-delivery of testing kits, misleading pricing and unresponsive customer service.

The company, which is owned by the 2015 Labour candidate for Surrey Heath, Laween Al-Atroshi, has also emailed customers warning that those frustrated by its lack of communication will be reported to the police if they “intimidate” staff.

One customer received the warning after her five emails of complaint went unanswered.

“My emails were perfectly polite but the company had the audacity to send out an email accusing clients of abuse and claiming that they had had to appeal to Scotland Yard,” she said.

Atruchecks’ terms and conditions also state that its service is non-refundable, and a message on its helpline directs all callers to its website or email address. It still appears near the top of the government list that ranks providers according to price. The company did not respond to requests for a comment.

The Horrid Henry author, Francesca Simon, paid the firm Rightangled £59 plus £35 postage for a day five test-to-release kit, which, if negative, allows travellers to leave 10-day quarantine early. She also bought a day eight test.

The kits arrived but the results did not, meaning she had to self-isolate for a further five days. She was eventually sent a replacement day five kit and received the results after her quarantine officially ended. The company told her she was not entitled to a refund as it was not liable for delays at its laboratory. “A replacement day five kit on day 10 is a bit like free tickets for a flight that departed last week,” she said.

Rightangled’s terms and conditions state that once a booking reference has been sent, the service is strictly non-refundable and it declines responsibility for delays, damage or missing deliveries. Under the Consumer Rights Act, traders are responsible for the safe delivery of an order. Rightangled refunded Simon after contact from the Guardian but failed to respond to a request for a comment.

Gary Rycroft, a partner at the legal firm Joseph A Jones & Co, said terms and conditions that rule out refunds for service failures might be unlawful, especially given the premium prices charged by testing companies.

“I am confident a court would find that a consumer would only enter into a contract for this service on the basis that it’s delivered according to the required timescale, so failure to perform the contract within the timeframe is a fundamental breach of it,” he said. “It’s also unlawful to try to shift responsibility on to third parties in the supply chain.”

The DHSC said it was introducing spot checks to ensure that listed companies comply with the rules.

“We are reviewing all private providers to ensure they meet our robust standards,” a spokesperson said. “We have already removed 57 providers from the approved list, and more than 80 private travel testing companies have been issued a warning for inaccurate pricing.”

On Friday, the Competition and Markets Authority advised the government that it should make checks on providers and remove those that did not meet basic standards from its list.

It had already threatened legal action against 19 unnamed companies over misleading prices.

It declined to comment on whether the 19 were still on the government list or whether it was investigating reports of customer service failures by Atrucheck.



Source link

Roundup: Rfider links COVID-19 test with digital health pass for travel, Vietnam’s tourism app features health declaration form and more briefs


New Zealand-based Rfider links COVID-19 test with digital health pass for travel

New Zealand software firm Rfider has enabled a COVID-19 test in Singapore to connect with a digital health pass for international travel.

In a statement, the company said it has been chosen by Invitrocue, a Singapore-based bioanalytic solutions provider, to empower its saliva-based antigen and PCR-based COVID-19 tests with a technology that allows tracking, tracing and verification. 

Through Rfider’s platform, the Invitrocue tests provide users with a unique ID that helps prevent counterfeiting and enables test results authentication. 

It is also able to securely send the test reports to their mobile devices to be used as a travel pass. 

Rfider says its technology has established compatibility with the Verity platform for such a purpose. Created by self-sovereign identity applications developer Evernym, the said platform is behind the digital health pass of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which is now being trialled at over 40 airlines globally, including the Australian flag carrier Qantas

“We are pleased to be working with Rfider to make this possible. With this partnership, individuals will be able to store their health data securely on their mobile device and privately share it with trusted providers and authorities with the tap of a button,” Evernym VP of Product James Monaghan said.

The Rfider technology, according to chief executive John Pennington, helps cut down the time to deliver test reports to workers at hospitality and tourism venues, which in turn, ushers in the recovery of in-person events around the world. 

Dr Stephen Fang, executive director of Invitrocue, said its partnership with Rfider enabled them to “scale the deployment” of their testing platform and deliver results to users and even to decision makers in “real-time”. “It is a step-change in not only the way testing is conducted but how we can get better data faster,” he added.


Health declaration form integrated in Vietnam’s tourism app 

Vietnam’s mobile tourism app called “Du lick Viet Nam an toan” now features a health declaration form.

According to a news report, the inclusion of the health declaration form, which connects to a system managed by the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control, is part of health authorities’ efforts to enhance their pandemic response. Adding the new feature also removes the need for users to switch to another platform just to fill out the form.

Launched last year in October by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, the mobile app contains a digital map that shows information on restaurants, hotels, apartments, entertainment places, transport providers, hospitals and pharmacies.

The tourism app also provides the most updated information about the COVID-19 situation in any destination, including details about infection cases and the number of recovered patients.

Developers are working to add other features, such as COVID-19 safety verification, COVID-19 vaccine certification, health records, travel insurance and e-tickets.

The news report noted that due to the prevailing travel restrictions and border closures, there were only about 105,000 international tourist arrivals recorded in the country in the first eight months of 2021, a 97% decline compared to the same period in 2020. 


Indian medical news portal goes mobile

Medical Dialogues, an online medical news portal in India, has launched its mobile app for Android and iOS devices. 

The Google news-registered portal provides medical news, guidelines, interesting cases and news about the healthcare industry. It claims to have over two million visits each month. The news site has a HONcode certification for bringing authentic health information on the internet.

Its development, according to the company, comes following demand from over 600,000 medical fraternities who are registered users of the portal.

Aiming to empower and update doctors with medical knowledge, the app contains new features such as video library, webinars for doctors and interactive modules like quizzes, surveys and polls.

“As the pioneer of risk management in the country, doctors have to be associated with the medical updates under the COVID-19 guidelines as the virus is taking a new shape every week. Doctors need to be updated with the latest information about COVID-19. With maintaining the dictum of offering the best service, Medical Dialogues has launched the app for healthcare and medical professionals,” Dr Prem Aggarwal, co-founder of Medical Dialogues, said.


Vietnamese-American charity group extends free teleconsultations to COVID-19 patients in Vietnam

Vietnamese-American charity organisation Good Samaritan Medical Dental Ministry has collaborated with the provinces of Dong Nai and Tien Giang in Vietnam to deliver free remote doctor consultations with COVID-19 patients at home.

According to a news report, a telemedicine system will be used to connect the patients with doctors in the US and Vietnam for virtual consultations. 

The report noted that Dong Nai and Tien Giang are among southern provinces in the country that reported high incidences of COVID-19 infections. In Dong Nai, for instance, around 23,000 citizens have contracted the disease with over 200 people already dead.

The charity group said they could accommodate between 200 and 300 COVID-19 patients for consultations “every four hours”. They also offered help to deliver blood oxygen monitoring devices and oxygen concentrators from the government to patients needing them.



Source link