A friend whose passport had long since expired, with no need to renew it owing to Covid restrictions, was also planning to visit family overseas. She had the same trouble navigating the online application, but, with the benefit of my experience, she knew, for example, to ignore the email that says you must bring a barcoded confirmation letter (it doesn’t exist). Once through that, she was also a happy home affairs customer with a shiny new passport in her hands a couple of days later.
One thing that is noticeable in this (hopefully) post-Covid world is that direct flights to the UK are a lot more expensive than I remember. After two years of disruptions and the closure of busy routes, the airlines have to catch up with their revenue, and, judging by how full the mid-week flight was, customers aren’t protesting.
The travel experience itself was rather strange, but for good reasons this time. It was barely three months since my previous trip to the UK, an unpleasant experience that required PCR tests and a hotel quarantine on the other side. That had become normal, so it felt a bit strange when I checked in for the flight and there was no request to see Covid test results. Vaccine certificate? No need. I told the person checking passports how strange it was that the British authorities, who had imposed two travel bans on South Africa in 2021, now didn’t have any requirements at all. “They are done,” he said.
Until I was seated on the plane, I had this nagging feeling that wouldn’t go away that, along the way, someone would come and say, “Gotcha, you do need that Covid test result after all.” It indeed is a world of extremes, and the red listing of just five months ago feels like a distant nightmare. I’m definitely glad they are done, and long may it last.