Vanessa and her husband have been traveling for the past two years and went to Ireland for one week to celebrate St.Patrick’s Day. One week turned into one month and then four in the Emerald Isle. Teacher and Premier TEFL alumnus Vanessa was locked down in Ireland when the Coronavirus pandemic hit, canceling all her travel plans. After multiple flight cancellations (and broken hearts), Vanessa made it to Italy! Read in below to learn about Vanessa’s experience with travel during COVID-19.
Hi Vanessa! You’ve been traveling for over two years now, spent the COVID-19 lockdown in Ireland and now you’re in Italy! How do you feel now you’ve been able to travel again for the first time in over 4 months?
I feel very excited to travel again and resume a somewhat normal life. You may or may not already know that for the past 2 years I have been traveling monthly around the world. I have not been to my home country since then.
In Ireland, there is still social distancing, and not as many things open. However in Naples, and when I was quickly in Rome there was not much social distancing if any. Masks are worn inside but other than that its business as usual. I would say that is the hardest thing to get used to. With this, you also wonder if there will be a second wave; that is stressful to think about. However, the Campania region only had under 5,000 of the total cases in Italy. From what I can gather.
Talk to us about your preparations to move from Ireland to Italy. Were there additional challenges for travel during COVID-19, as a US passport holder?
This is quite a challenge, we really did not know where we were going next. A friend who works in Italy said Italy was open. From there, we contacted embassies asking if entry was based on where we were coming from or residency. Lots of countries in the EU are basing entry off the residency. My residency is in the United States. This is currently a huge issue. After emailing the Italian Embassy in Dublin many times, we thought we would be allowed to enter. We just needed all the necessary documents and extra proof, just in case we had to prove we have not been in the USA in two years.
What was your airport experience like while traveling during the Coronavirus pandemic?
The airport in Dublin was pretty empty. They had a huge security area for people coming from and going back home to the United States. Ireland never restricted people from entering – although this may have changed now. Dublin airport had sanitizer everywhere but that was already in place when we arrived in March. No one checked our documents until we were ready to board. Then we had a fly document that everyone had to fill out. Easy, we were on. I did see a woman with her Italian boyfriend; she came directly from the USA, he was an Italian resident. They were eventually let on board, though I didn’t see her at the immigration counter.
When Vanessa got to Rome
When arriving at the Rome airport, it was also simple. Go to passport control (non-EU as usual). It went fast. My husband was let in with just a few questions. For me, it took a bit longer. They just scanned and flipped my passport a thousand times. Asked a few questions. Didn’t look at any provided paperwork, expect something from the Ministry (department) of Health; an email saying it was based on where you were coming from. Overall they were really nice and just wanted to make sure they were doing the correct steps.
I would like to restate that the only reason we were let into Italy with an American passport is because we had not lived in the USA for the past two years. Also, Italy’s rules at the time were allowing people based on where they were for the last two weeks. Most countries in the EU will not allow anyone that does not have EU citizenship or residency. Each country has its own entry rule even though they’re part of the EU or Schengen. It is very confusing. It is known that Americans are not allowed in Europe unless they have citizenship or residency.
Is there anything you wish you knew about travel during COVID-19, previous to setting out on your own travels?
In my case, I have been moving monthly around the world for the past 2 years. Back in March, we came to Ireland for St.Patrick’s day on a one week vacation. We were supposed to go onto Serbia, but then Serbia closed its borders. Instead of struggling and looking where to go next, we decided to stay in Ireland and went up to a smaller city of Cork.
We were at looking forward to Serbia. We came from the UK and Serbia was going to be less expensive. However, that didn’t happen. We wish we would have taken a flight to a cheaper place like Taiwan that auto extended visas for a very long time. My husband and I really wanted to travel there after Serbia but they are not letting tourists in for who knows how long. We wish we would have gone from Scotland to Taiwan. However, Ireland was a great place and I felt very safe to be there. They did an auto-extend of our visas one time. We didn’t hear about another one so we made the decision to leave. Unless you are in a situation like myself where you need to leave the country you are in, I wouldn’t recommend traveling outside of your country. However, if you have EU residency or citizenship then it will be easy to get to most places in Europe.
What to do if you’re in Vanessa’s position
If you are in my position, I would suggest you contact the embassies you wish to travel to. I would have email print outs stating you’re allowed to enter. Along with all paperwork to enter and fly. However, right now it is very unpredictable. Things change by the second so I would save yourself the stress and just travel within your own country.
I wish I had some insider information or an easier explanation of how to travel during COVID-19, but it’s all a case by case situation. You have to make sure you check one of the random boxes depending on the country you wish to enter, where you are coming from and where you are a resident of. Even then it’s all up to the border security that day. When considering travel during COVID-19, things change country by country. There are so many different factors and you could get locked down in a country if there is another wave.
What were the quarantine measures when you arrived in Italy?
For us arriving from an EU country, we had no quarantine measures. We were able to take the train from Rome to Naples without any issues. The Rome train station was packed and very confusing. It was like there was never a virus. Although they did check some people’s temperatures randomly as they entered the trains. Masks are required while in transit and inside. We can also be stopped at any time and asked to show documents as I am a non-EU resident with an American passport. (If you want to read more about living abroad during the coronavirus pandemic, check out our interview with Abeo Lewis. She’s from Trinidad and Tobago and has been living in Shanghai, China throughout the whole pandemic).
As an online English teacher, was it easy to find accommodation that suited your job requirements?
I always find my accommodations through Airbnb which meets all my needs. I have strict questions I ask before. However, the owner did not tell the truth about his internet speeds. Something that never happened since I started traveling two years ago. I taught on an average ping of 18 downloads of 17 uploads of .70 for 2/4 classes. I canceled two days of classes, without trying to teach based on speeds. Which thinking about it now, I should have tried it as it was ok connected to the router.
What are your favorite things about being based in Italy as a freelance English teacher?
Well after being in Ireland for the past four months where it is cold and rainy, being in Naples is warm. I tend to not settle in touristy places, which is one of the reasons I chose Naples, Italy. It is a lot cheaper and you get a real local experience. It’s not what some may think of when they think of Italy, but I like it a lot. I also had family here in the 1910s. So that is also a reason I chose the South.
When people hear an American accent, they will toss on their masks, even though they’re already in large groups… However, most are very kind once you explain the situation. We have not met a lot of people knowing English, but a mix of Spanish gets us by. Overall, Naples may be off the beaten path for some, but it is a great place with a vibe like no other. Motor scooters, laundry hanging, people chatting from balcony to balcony, yes there is a lot of yelling all the time, but they aren’t mad. The food is fantastic and the prices are quite nice. It is great to see a place that is keeping its culture and not selling out to tourism. (If you’re considering teaching online, check out some of the perks Vanessa and other online teachers enjoy).
How long do you plan to stay in Italy and where are you off to next?
For now, the plan is to spend two months in Naples and one month in Palermo. Then heading to Albania for two months. Anything can change with travel during COVID. We’re really depending on Albania letting us in with an American passport, but only time will tell these things. For now, enjoying the beach, late-night dinners, way too many Aperol spritzes, digestives, and grappa. Tons of seafood, pasta, and pizzas. Oh yes, don’t forget all the history.
Vanessa is an online teacher and takes over our Instagram stories every Tuesday to give advice and insight into the life of an online English teacher on the move! To learn more about Vanessa’s story, check out our interview with her earlier in the year. Vanessa also has her own blog. Check out her tips for finding the best Airbnb when teaching English online!