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 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 of what it was like traveling to Tanzania during the pandemic.
Am I crazy for Traveling To Tanzania During the Pandemic?
“Why would you to Tanzania during the pandemic? Are you 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?
My five airport experiences weren’t bad at all.
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 of 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.
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.
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 of 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!
I was excited about arriving at Kilimanjaro Airport because that meant I had finally made it to what many refer to as Alkebulan, and I was in Tanzania, specifically. There was only one more short segment left. Any passengers headed to Dar es Salaam were not 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. After accepting the small squirt of hand sanitizer, I went to the visa queue. I answered a few questions, received the visa stamp, and headed to another line to pay for the visa. I exchanged some money. 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
Rewind: 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 had to replace it with a surgical mask. I had another mask, but it was too much of a hassle getting it out of my carry-on, so I just wore the surgical one. Holding my breath, and using my special mask application strategy, slipped it on. It was too loose, so I tweaked it to get it to fit. 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.
Fast forward: 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.
Final Thoughts On Traveling To Tanzania During the Pandemic
Overall, I had a pleasant experience traveling to Tanzania during the pandemic. 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?