Bulletin – Gambia, Sri Lanka, Grenada plus Covid travel test tips

It feels like we are in the departure lounge at the moment waiting to see where we will be able to travel to from May.  We should know in a couple of weeks which seems very short notice for the airlines who will need to reconfigure their routes to maximise the Green destinations.  In the meantime, I have been looking at the various tests travellers will need to take, familiarising myself with the different types available and when they can be used.  I’ve included some top tips for Covid testing.  

When international travel is allowed once more on return to the UK all travellers will be taking at least two and possibly more than two Covid tests. Click here to view my last bulletin where I summarised when you will need to take tests.  The Government’s approved supplier list contains a huge list of providers, all of whom are approved but they do have different service levels and price points. Pricing is changing all the time so it is worth shopping around. The government is apparently mulling over the idea of removing VAT from the tests which, if passed on to the customer, would decrease the price.  

Top tips:
  • The cheaper tests often involve home testing kits. However, unless you are familiar with administering these somewhat uncomfortable tests you run the risk of not inserting the swab far enough and having a void test. Given the time critical nature of the entry requirements of some destinations, this is not something I would want to risk. Far better to make an appointment at a test centre or at the very least do a home test which is supervised online by a clinician.  
  • There have also been stories of the cheaper providers running out of home test kits and not sending them out to customers on time. This will be of particular concern if you are doing a day 5/day 8 test  and cannot leave isolation until you have done the test and received the result. Again, using an appointment based testing package may avoid this.  
  • Most PCR tests take a minimum of 24 hours to turn around. But the OptiGene RT-LAMP test, which can be used for the day 5 test to release, takes only a few hours.  Time your test well and you could actually be out of isolation on day 5 instead of day 6 or 7.  
The Gambia
Last night I watched a Channel 4 documentary telling the extraordinary story of Janis Carter who travelled to The Gambia in the 70s to help rehabilitate a chimpanzee called Lucy back into her natural habitat. She stayed for over six years living with a group of chimpanzees in the wild. Janis still runs the chimpanzee rehabilitation and conservation project in the River Gambia National Park and if you travel there you can stay and spend time watching the chimpanzees and viewing lots of other wildlife. Your stay also helps support the work of the conservation project. Accommodation is pretty simple so you may want to partner a trip here with some time at one of the boutique hotels either on the coast or inland. Or perhaps combine with some time in Senegal.  Gambia’s Covid infection rate is very low but it relies on the Covax programme for vaccination so it is likely to be on the Amber list for travel. Nevertheless it is fabulous winter sun destination.  Please get in touch if you’d like further information.  
Sri Lanka
Great news for vaccinated travellers keen to visit this gorgeous country.  Until now any tourist entering the country has had to quarantine for 14 days in an approved hotel.  Visiting some of the main tourists sights has been possible but things have been very restricted.  Not your ideal holiday in a country with so much to see and do. Now, travellers who are fully vaccinated can enter the country without quarantine.You will still need to take a PCR test on arrival and isolate in your hotel until the negative result comes through but after that you are free to see everything Sri Lanka has to offer. Sublime beaches, fascinating culture, incredible wildlife, beautiful temples, fascinating history and a great standard of accommodation from luxury boutique hotels to gorgeous villas with your own staff. Whilst infection rates are low, like The Gambia, Sri Lanka is relying on the Covax programme for vaccination so progress has been pretty slow so far. It is likely to be an Amber country for the time being. Click here to read more about Sri Lanka. 
With a rolling seven day average infection rate of 0/100,000 I really hope that Grenada will make it onto the Green List in May. It is one of the quieter less developed Caribbean islands with some fabulous beaches and plenty to keep you occupied if you like be more active. There are some luxurious boutique hotels as well as gorgeous villas. It has a volcanic lush interior with lovely hiking trails of different levels in the Grand Etang National Park. It has over 50 dive sites including the Bianca C, the largest diveable wreck in the region.  There is fabulous snorkelling including on day trips to smaller islands. Click here to read more about Grenada.  
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