IF you are thinking of flying out for a vacation during the festive season or you just need a break and want to visit family and friends, there are a few changes you should prepare for.
After you have bought your plane ticket and secured your booking, you should bear in mind that you might end up not travelling.
This is because most countries, if not all, now require travellers to produce a negative Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test certificate. For South Africa, used by many local travellers to catch connecting flights, the test should not be older than 72 hours from the time of departure from the country of origin.
Zimbabwean authorities require that you produce your test results before being allowed to check-in.
You are required to produce your test results before completing immigration formalities when you reach South Africa.
When coming back home, the Zimbabwean authorities require a test that is not older than 48 hours.
Swab tests make many people very uncomfortable, but you should be ready to have your nose poked. It is a nasty, but essential requirement in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, which has wreaked havoc worldwide.
When you get to the airport, it is not going to be the simple walk-in that you were used to.
The days of hugs and kisses in the check-in hall are long gone.
Before walking in at most airports, including Robert Mugabe International in Harare, travellers go through the walk-through sanitising booth. Your luggage is also sprayed. Only travellers are allowed beyond the sanitising booth. You have to present evidence that you are travelling by producing your air ticket. From there, you will be expected to present a negative Covid-19 PCR certificate for you to have access to the check-in hall.
After this, you then go through the usual processes to the departure lounge. Some airlines now offer hand sanitisers to passengers on entry, a reminder that there is a new routine or the “new normal” as people like to call it. Passengers are required to wear face masks the entire journey, except when eating or drinking.
When you arrive at your destination, the first document you will have to produce is the Covid-19 certificate, before you even get to immigration. The Covid-19 results have assumed such importance. When travelling outside the country, the Covid-19 certificate has assumed the same importance as the passport, but in some cases, one gets the idea that the certificate is more important. Now if you love shopping at airports, be prepared for disappointment as some of the shops are closed.
The traffic at the airport has also dramatically decreased because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pick-up points have also changed, but there is someone who will be ready to help and show you the right direction, so do ask for help if you are not sure.
The Robert Mugabe International Airport is now even more deserted, and the shops are almost empty. For some, who have been accustomed to claiming back their value-added tax at the airport when returning to Zimbabwe, there is bad news for you as South Africa has made it cumbersome by moving the customs desk to the domestic terminal.
The tax authorities have stopped processing the claims at the airport.
You get a form, which you need to complete upon arrival in Zimbabwe and send by post. You are, however, required to produce the receipts, which are stamped by the tax authorities.
You only get a tax refund when you produce evidence that you declared the goods to the tax authorities in your destination country.
There are certain things that you should keep in mind while travelling or waiting to catch a flight at the airport: carry a sanitiser and avoid touching surfaces.
Wear your mask at all times except, of course, when eating.
At some more advanced airports, travellers are required to scan their own boarding pass to avoid that exchange.