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The Scramble to the UK and another border to cross

Oct 17th: As I am writing this, I am on a plane and we will be landing in London in about 30 minutes. We were, of course, supposed to travel to the United Kingdom, but not today. We were going to stay in Venice for five nights, and we spent one. Obviously things did not go as planned.

This next part is going to be a bit of a flashback…………….

Oct 16th: We have been watching the news about the COVID increase across Europe, but it is still nothing like the US. I had been checking UK.gov for travel restrictions updates almost every day. I even signed up for their alerts so that I would get an email if anything changed to the UK’s travel policy.

Even though we have been doing research on every country in Europe and their travel restrictions for months, everyone I talked to kept asking me,”is the UK going to let you in?” Like I had never thought of that! Everything I was looking at said yes, the UK would let us in. Italy is a corridor country and we only needed to spend 14 days there to meet the UK’s requirements and we have been in Italy around 25 days. We are planning to be in Venice for 5 more days for even 30 days. Twice the required amount.

On the train to Venice, I was still worried that something was going to go wrong. Our experience entering the Italy border had put some fear into me. Then I got an email from British Air saying that we had an upcoming flight and if we had spent 14 days in Italy we would not be required to quarantine upon arrival. This email just took a huge weight off me.

Being from the U.S. puts a bit of a target on us because the U.S. has done so poorly with COVID. However, this email just spelled out that no matter where you are from, if you spent 14 days in Italy you could come into the UK without having to quarantine. This was huge because now I had it in writing! We were gold!

Oct 17th: So we arrived in Venice yesterday and I woke up today at 5:56. I didn’t want to and I tried to go back to sleep, however nature kept calling, so I got up. I was planning on crawling back into bed but I started messing on my ipad and pulled up emails and other websites. I have been trying to stay on top of things and the UK.gov website has been one of my big information sources. I kept checking the site because our next border crossing would be to the UK after Venice. I clicked the usual pages, but then something new pops. “Italy will be removed from the UK corridor list effective 4am Oct 18”.

OH SHIT!!!! Our flight to the UK is on Oct. 21st and today is Oct. 17th. If we want to go to the UK, we need to leave today.

Now there are a lot of reasons that we chose to go to the UK that I'm not going to go into here (it had to do with the Schengen zone), but in short we needed to fly to the UK before the deadline. That gave us less than 24 hours, which meant we needed to change our flight.
Because I was up so early and saw this news in time, we were able to change our flight but at 4 times the cost of our original flight. Nevertheless, we booked it. The problem now was- would they let Americans into the UK that were coming from a country that was about to be taken off the approved list? We had to take our chances.

Our flight was at 8pm, so we spent the day in Venice but my stomach was in knots the whole day. Shelley was worried too and of course, Savannah picked up on our feelings and was concerned as well. Shelley and I reassured Savannah and put on our happy faces but we were both still nervous.

Finally we headed to the airport, checked our bags and headed to our gate. The hard part would be at the end of the flight, at passport control in London. Or so we thought!

As we headed to our gate, we had to go through a passport check. I thought this happened at the end of the flight but apparently it happens twice. Once to get out of the country you are currently in and once to get into the country that you are going to. However, I am thinking that getting out of Italy won't be hard. They don’t want us anyway! This will just be a stamp and move along. Well, I was wrong.

We got to the young woman in uniform at the checkpoint and handed her our passports. She smiled and seemed very nice.
“Americans?” Yes we are. “Are you military?” No we are not. She looked very confused. “Why are you here? How are you here?”
We explain that we are teachers and we are traveling for educational purposes, but this just Seems to confuse her more. “ You are not military?” No we are not. Next thing she starts yelling back and forth with a colleague in Italian. The only word I can make out is “Americano”.
Shelley understood a bit more that she told me about later; however, it is clear that this lady is trying to figure out how we got into her country. We play up the teacher thing and even throw in travel writing. She asks us more questions about teaching and then asks if we have any proof that we are teachers. Of course, we didn’t bring any teaching ID (which would have been handy for many reasons - teachers, bring your ID!).
I finally tell her that I can show her my school email, and she nods. I pull out my phone and scroll through several emails, and she takes the phone to flip through them herself. She seemed unconvinced until she got to one email that had nothing to do with my school but an online teaching website I use. Thankfully, that seemed to do the trick and stamp, stamp, stamp, off we go to the airplane.
Oh my God, if it's that hard to get out of a country, what are we going to run into when we try to get into the UK?

The flight was about 2.5 hours and I tried not to think of the UK border check, but that is what was on my mind the whole time. We land, head to the passport check and try to reassure each other - “the worst that could happen is they make us quarantine for 14 days in a hotel room in the most expensive city in the world”!

We go through the queue and are waved over to a British gentleman at passport control. We hand over our passports, and he smiles and welcomes us. He is very nice and asks for some additional paperwork that we had to fill out online. He looks everything over and says “Enjoy your stay in London” and hands over our passports.

OH MY GOD, we are in!!!!! That was so much easier then I thought it would be. We pick up our bags and start to walk by, when he says “Oh, and don’t forget to stay inside for 14 days.” My heart sinks! Just as I am about to say “what??????” He says “Oh I'm sorry... forget what I just said. You’re fine! I just see so many people I got mixed up.”

My heart starts to beat again and we start walking before he can change his mind. We get around the corner and breathe a sigh of relief. Part of me thinks, he did that on purpose! Let’s scare the hell out of the dumb-ass tourist. In the end, we made it to the UK and here we stay for, at least, the next two months.

Posted by tatehomberg 14:15 Archived in England

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