What It Was Like Traveling To Tanzania During The Pandemic

I’m putting it out there: I’ve been lazy. I should have gotten this post out weeks ago. I started right after arrival but kept putting it off for one reason or another. I’ve made my end of year resolution to get this out before the 2020 closes.

As of November 17th, I’ve been chilling in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. You probably know that already if you’ve read my other post. I’ve been asked several times to describe my airport to destination experience. Well, here’s a detailed description.

Am I crazy?

I’ve gotten this question several times. I can’t say for sure. There’s always the possibility. Crazy people don’t know they’re crazy. Right?

What was it like at the airports?

Raleigh-Durham International Airport

My flight was at 3:45 PM, Monday afternoon. So, that gave me ample time to print out my ticket to Tanzania and the return flight that I bought just in case it was needed for visa purposes. My flight consisted of 4 stops: Atlanta, Amsterdam, Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam.

My mom dropped me off at RDU International Airport at around 1 PM. Check-in was pretty easy. One of my bags was overweight by a couple pounds, but since I had 4 bags, I just moved a few things to another bag and all was well. In normal times, RDU would be teeming with eager travelers. However, this time, it was pretty dead. There were two people at the Delta Airlines kiosks– myself and an older gentleman. Eventually, three more people showed up and waited behind me (like 10 feet away from me). Check-in took no more than 5 minutes (including the overweight bag issue).

The security check was quick. I was shocked when no one asked to check further into my carry-on filled with teaching equipment. That has never happened before. From there, I went on to my gate, sat down, and waited to board the plane.

On the plane, all middle seats were left empty in order to create distance between passengers. I had a window seat and enjoyed not having anyone all up in my personal space.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

The stop was only 41 minutes. By the time I got to my gate, it was time to start boarding the plane. The airport was somewhat busy, but nowhere near as busy as usual. On the way to the international terminal, there were less than 10 people on the Plane Train. I got to my gate. There were actually a lot of people waiting to board. I’m not sure how many. I guess, maybe 50? Aboard the plane, I once again had a window seat and no one next to me. Since the flight was long, I welcomed the opportunity to pull out my blanket and pillow, prop my head against the window and stretch my legs across the empty seat. I slept pretty well.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

My stop was short. After disembarking, I made a beeline towards my gate, being cautious not to get too close to anyone. Since there were few travelers, distancing was no issue. Most people were masked. One guy was wearing a full hazmat suit. I used the restroom near my gate, which was so clean I had to take photos. I was quite impressed. Once at the gate, I sat down for about 20 minutes, snapped a couple pictures, and then came the boarding call.

The KLM plane was huge. My seat was in the middle section. I had 3 seats all to myself. Shortly into the flight, I got tired. I pulled out my trusty pillow and blanket and stretched out across all three seats. Now, that was some great sleep!

Kilimanjaro & Julius Nyerere International Airports

I was excited about arriving at Kilimanjaro Airport because that meant I had finally made it to Alkebulan, and I was in Tanzania. There was only one more short segment left. Passengers headed to Dar es Salaam weren’t allowed to disembark at Kilimanjaro airport.

As the announcement came that we were 20 minutes from landing in Dar es Salaam, I was all giddy. It was about 10:30 PM. After disembarking, we were asked to form a line. We passed through one by one. I handed over the health declaration forms we were asked to fill out on the plane and had my temperature taken. No fever. I was given a squirt of hand sanitizer and sent to the next line for obtaining a visa. I was asked a few questions, given the stamp, and sent to another line to pay for the visa. I exchanged some money, at the same kiosk, after paying for the visa. After that, I was sent over to an immigration agent who checked my receipt and made sure my passport and visa were good to go. I was released.

I found my bags at the baggage claim, went through the security check, and was finally free to begin my adventure in Tanzania. There was a small group of people waiting to greet their arriving friends and family. My friend Raphael and my driver were waiting for me. We greeted one another and headed off to my hostel so I could get some rest before heading to my nonexistent hotel the next morning (a subject for another post).

Masks and Eating

I arrived at RDU sporting a stylish white cloth mask with a valve. At the Delta check-in desk, I was told that that type of mask (valved) wasn’t allowed on the plane. I was given a surgical mask to replace it with. I had another mask, but it was going to be a bit of a hassle to get it out of my carry-on at that moment, so I just complied for the time being. I held my breath and using my special mask application strategy, slipped it on. It was a bit too loose, so I had to tweak it to get it to fit more tightly. Once at my gate, I rummaged through my carry-on, pulled out my cute starry night cloth mask, and slipped it under my surgical mask. I wore that for the first couple of flights, but eventually got rid of the surgical mask when it felt like breathing was becoming more of a task than an involuntary bodily function.

Passengers were only allowed to remove the masks when actively eating or drinking. When meals were served, I used a super special technique I developed. I simply picked up a spoonful, lifted the bottom portion of my mask just enough to unveil my mouth, halted my breathing for a split second, and shoveled the food into my mouth. I probably looked funny, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t trying to inhale anybody’s cooties.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I had a pleasant experience. It was different. Different isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I really enjoyed having the extra space for stretching out and getting the best sleep I’ve ever had in main cabin seating.

Have you traveled during the pandemic? How would you describe your experience?

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