Ten things you don’t know until you’re asked to quarantine on arrival

Quarantine-on-arrival sounds simple enough, but what are the things they don’t tell you? Emma Cooke explains what to expect…

1. If you aren’t Covid positive, the transfer bus will probably fix that for you

If you’re frustrated over the thought of being quarantined while Covid-free, don’t worry – here in the UK, the Cabinet is deliberating bussing arrivals to their quarantine hotel. Stuck in close quarters with fellow travellers may well optimise your chances of catching the virus. Mariella Frostrup has already had experience of one of these joyful transports, after being unexpectedly put into quarantine in Jamaica last month: “Finally a fleet of yellow buses pulled up onto which we were herded. Once on board it seemed obvious that, on a bus crammed with passengers, hot and sweaty from hours on the ground, we were more in danger of catching Covid than we had been during any of our cautious preceding months.”

2. There may be some unexpected guests in your room

Pro tennis players currently quarantining in hotels ahead of the Australian Open have discovered they’re sharing their rooms with unusual roommates: mice. Kazak player Yulia Putintseva complained she couldn’t sleep because of the scurrying sounds and uploaded video footage of one of the critters frolicking around her room. To add insult to injury, you may then be subtly accused of encouraging your unwelcome guests: Victoria state police minister Lisa Neville suggested there “might be more to the story” in response to the infestation reports.

“As I understand there may have been some feeding going on,” she said to reporters, before encouraging players to “minimise” their interaction with the mice. To be fair to the players, quarantine can be lonely, you have to make friends where you can.

3. Your overseas trip will feel more like lockdown than lockdown did

Once in your hotel room, you’ll quickly miss those heady days of lockdown. Remember when you could go outside for exercise? When you had a whole house to wander around instead of a single hotel room? Or even when you were allowed to shop for your own groceries. “There are worse places in the world to quarantine” is a frequent refrain of those locked up in hotels overseas, which is no doubt true, but quarantine abroad is still no walk in the park – quite literally, because any kind of park walking is banned. 

4. You’ll have to wave goodbye to your year’s holiday allocation 

So, lockdown is over (we’ve yet to be told when this might happen), you’ve weighed up the risks and decided you just can’t go without a holiday abroad. Fair enough, but be sure to hand over the majority of your year’s holiday allowance in exchange (unless you are among the lucky people who are able to work remotely). No trying to be clever with your dates – I learnt this the hard way on a recent trip, booking a shorter holiday with test dates planned down to the wire and inadvertently ended up in quarantine for the vast majority of it. Willingly subjecting yourself to a 10-day quarantine is only worth it if you get at least two weeks in the sun, if not three, in exchange.

5. You’ll become adept in imagining escape routes

Could you sneak out by tying some bedsheets together and climbing over the balcony? Where are all the security cameras and what kind of gymnastics would you need to do to avoid them? Obviously, you won’t try to leave, but oh, how you will want to. In more exotic locations, the temptation can prove particularly strong: imagine the joyful squeals of tourists on the beach wafting up to your room. Even the temptation of Christ couldn’t be as bad; maybe Jesus’ time in the desert was longer, but at least he got to be outside and had the devil for company. All you have is a TV that plays hotel ads on an endless loop.

Just be sure not to succumb. Dodging quarantine never ends well. 

6. You’ll spend more on a Best Western than you ever have in your life

“Quarantine on arrival” is also code for “get your wallet out” – who knew? In Cambodia, you will need to hand over a £1,500 deposit when you arrive at the airport, to cover “Covid-19 service charges” before you head to your quarantine accommodation. Quarantine hotels are similarly pricey. The cost of 14 days in a quarantine hotel for an adult is £1,692 in Australia, £1,630 in New Zealand and £642 in Thailand – the three countries that have introduced the measure so far. 

Here in the UK, Best Western has announced that it could open its hotels as quarantine facilities within two days. Guests can look forward to “quite a sterile experience” and a bill of £1,500 for 10 days. But at least all your in-room meals will be supervised by private security guards, so there is a whiff of the VIP about the experience.

7. You’ll have to clean your own room

The horror. Those £1,500-plus room fees, unsurprisingly due to social distancing rules, don’t include housekeeping. That major joy of hotel rooms – reverting back to your messiest teenage self – is no more, and instead you’ll find yourself requesting washing up liquid and laundry powder for a jolly old clean up of clothes and dishes in your bathtub. 

8. You’ll get closer to your partner, but it will also be stressful

They say times of crisis and stress are what really make a couple and this is undoubtedly true in quarantine. Having completed a period in self-isolation with my other half, I can confirm that you’ll grow closer as you stare yearningly out the window together and take turns to slip money under the door for your evening food delivery. But there will also be at least one time you seriously reconsider your love for them – possibly after they loudly stir their drink just that bit too long, or you wake up to discover half the rum punch is gone, again. Expect a baptism of fire for your relationship one way or the other.

9. Anyone who brings you food will become your favourite person

Little becomes more thrilling under quarantine than what you will eat – whether it’s sad boiled eggs or gloriously good local takeout. Regardless, the people who deliver said food will become elevated to god-like status in your eyes and you’ll likely leave with lasting relationships. During a recent quarantine in Barbados, I discovered Mike, who delivers groceries and, more importantly, rum punch to those in quarantine. His Whatsapp is saved in my phone. Travel writer Karen Edwards, currently quarantining in Australia, also speaks fondly of her ‘food angel’ and friend Schalk, who delivers a daily fresh fruit and snack package to her hotel room. 

10. You’ll never take freedom for granted again

When you are eventually allowed out, the sunlight will be brighter, the air will be fresher and you’ll feel lighter. Visions of Morgan Freeman on that beach at the end of Shawshank Redemption will pop into your head, angels will sing and you’ll vow never to take your newly restored freedom for granted… as you likely head back into the UK’s continued restrictions. 

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