As global borders re-open and the world adjusts to ‘living with Covid’, the demand for safe international travel is steadily increasing and so are supplier protocols for the provision of safe travel experiences within the global travel industry. We are active members of CATO (Council of Australian Tour Operators) – a leading travel association which works closely with the Australian Government and worldwide travel associations in setting the standards for reputable tour operators – and we look forward to continuing to adopt these standards in the development and delivery of our Italian Cycling Tours.
Now with these standards in place and Italy in a strong position with its management of Covid, 2022 is starting to feel very exciting. We say this from a place of having recently travelled from Australia to Italy in September 2021 and our experience having been only positive – from all pre-flight arrangements with the airline, to the flight itself, our transit through the UAE, and to arriving into Italy and now living here, we have felt safe and comfortable at every point.
We thought we’d share our experience with you through our ‘Top 10 Tips’ as with so many media articles being published on the topic of international travel, some of which are good and some quite inaccurate or irrelevant to many of us, the thought of travel can feel overwhelming. We hope that by sharing our personal experience, you are inspired to start planning your trip to Italy with us in 2022, as you join us in recognising that these new requirements for travel are all just steps in a process, which we will help guide you through.
1. Your flight and selection of airline is critical.
Your selection of airline can be the difference between having to quarantine in your destination country or not. This is due to some airlines operating ‘covid tested’ flights, which then are exempt from some of the rules and restrictions in your destination country, and some airlines not operating such flights.
Currently, the Italian government has a ‘covid tested’ arrangement with Etihad Airways, Emirates, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines – making for a very easy flight experience and arrival into Italy. Because of this, we highly recommend choosing one of these airlines to fly to Italy in 2022. We flew Etihad Airways and they were fantastic – because they had operated ‘covid tested’ flights in and out of Australia throughout the entire 18 month Covid period, when other airlines withdrew, their experience in operating such flights, was telling.
The in-flight experience was superb with great attention to detail by all staff regarding hygiene, mask wearing and distancing. Etihad also had staff members who were 100% dedicated to attending to any guest concerns relating to covid and/or other guests on the flight, creating a very safe and comfortable flight experience.
2. Secure a seamless transit experience.
Some airlines and airports are offering a paid service to skip the queues at the security check point when you arrive at your stopover port, and are transiting from one terminal to the next. We understand Etihad provides this service and others do also, so if you are concerned about your stopover experience, this would be a worthwhile service to enquire about when you are booking your flight.
3. Know how to best navigate pre-flight covid tests and flight times.
While the new international travel requirements for pre-flight tests and forms has been talked up in the media as quite complex, it is actually quite simple – and made easier by the airline you choose.
To enter Italy, you need to present a covid-19 vaccination certificate and a negative covid test result, taken in the 72 hours before arrival. So, the timing in which you have your test prior to your departure, and prior to your last departure if there are multiple legs, will determine whether you need an additional test in transit and/or on arrival into Italy.
As an example, when we departed, we were expecting to have a PCR test in Melbourne prior to departure, then a rapid test in Abu Dhabi and a final rapid test in Rome. What happened was quite different and provided for an absolutely seamless experience – so it is worth knowing how best to navigate this element of your travel, specifically for Italy.
We had our PCR test in Melbourne the day before our departure. Once we received the negative test result (which arrived within approx.16 hours), we uploaded it to Etihad’s ‘Verified to Fly’ portal. When we arrived into Abu Dhabi, our transit location, we went to have our rapid test, however Etihad staff advised that we were not required to have the rapid test – this was because our first test was taken with 72 hours of when we would land in Rome. The airline had all of this information regarding our test timing on hand and made our transit experience very easy. We also learnt that if we did require the 2nd test, the airline would have sent notification of this, with a specific code for us to use. When we arrived into Italy, we again did not need the rapid antigen test because we had taken the original PCR test and received the negative result within 72 hours of arriving, and we were vaccinated and had arrived on a “covid tested” flight.
So, the key tip here is to have your first pre-departure test as close to departing as possible and book a flight with minimal stopover time so that your initial test and negative result is within 72 hours of your arrival into Rome. As an additional tip, we had our pre departure PCR test taken by Healius because they were an approved provider of Etihad and we also went one step further and drove to the location in Heidelberg where the laboratory is so that the time was reduced for receipt of our results.
4. Know which forms are required to enter Italy.
The Italian government requires you to complete the EU Passenger Locator Form online, prior to departure. This form outlines where you have been, how you arrived, which seats you were in on your flight and where you will be staying upon arrival to Italy. This form was also provided to us by Etihad and managed as part of their overall ‘Verified to Fly’ portal for which we received very clear communications on how to navigate each step.
This is what the Passenger Locator Form looks like: https://app.euplf.eu/#/
5. Understand if you need to renew your passport.
The Australian Passport office recently announced that there are over 2 million expired passports in circulation in Australia, which will take over 12 months to renew all.
If you have less than 6 months on your passport, they are recommending that you start the renewal process now so that you are assured of your passport renewal in time for your departure.
6. Obtain your Vaccination Certificate / Green Pass
An International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC) has recently been created by the Australian government to be used at the time of airport check-in. You can access this through your Australian Medicare online account in myGov, or the Express Plus Medicare app.
When you arrive in Italy, the Green Pass (which is Italy’s covid-19 vaccination certificate) is required if you are wanting to attend museums, galleries, sporting events, take internal train and plane trips, and sit inside cafes, bars or restaurants. In short, it’s essential to be able to enjoy a true Italian experience and will absolutely be a requirement to enjoy your Italian cycling holiday with us.
The requirements of where a vaccination certificate/green pass is required, is expanding and evolving all the time, as is the development of an international travel pass for seamless recognition of vaccination across countries. As more information comes to hand, we will share here and we will certainly be providing clear advice on this for all guests joining us on tour. We have an Australian vaccination certificate and an Italian/European green pass, and will be assisting all clients through this process as it continues to evolve.
7. Find the best travel insurance for you.
Travel insurance has always been a requirement of international travel and for participation in our Italian cycling tours. When selecting your travel insurance provider, ensure that they have a provision that includes covid-19 in their cover.
One insurer who does have a travel policy that includes this cover “with exclusions” is Cover-More. We took out a policy with Cover-More as it suited our needs, however this is just a suggested starting point for your research and for working out what is best for you, as we do not in any way recommend or endorse this or any other insurance provider for guests joining us on tour.
8. Remain up to date with the current covid-safe requirements in Italy.
Currently, the requirements in Italy are for 1.5m distancing and for masks to be worn indoors; this is in galleries, museums, transport, shops and in restaurants, until you are seated.
The Green Pass, which we have already mentioned is required for access to all levels of sporting events, galleries, museums, concerts and all indoor hospitality venues. This is a directive that is adhered to and that business owners take seriously as the fines for non-compliance, are considerable.
We will provide comprehensive updates to all tour guests travelling with us right up until the time of your tour through our pre tour guest communications.
9. Enjoy your tour – with mandatory vaccination & hygiene
It will be a requirement that every participant on our tour is vaccinated. This is firstly about providing the safest possible environment for all guests and staff and secondly, for ensuring guests’ ability to obtain the Green Pass. Without access to the Green Pass and then to the Osteria, Trattoria, Gelateria, Pasticceria or Braceria, we would not be able to deliver the full immersive Italian experience to you.
There are also a range of hygiene and safety protocols that will be implemented for our 2022 tours. These will be shared with guests via our tour communications, upon booking in to one of our cycling holidays.
10. Take our new private transfer option for your tour start and finish
Would you prefer to avoid the potential congestion of train stations and our tour start collection points and end points? Then take up a new service which we will be offering in 2022 of a private transfer to and from your tour start and finish locations. The price of this service will depend on the distance of travel and whether you are travelling with a bike or not. Enquire further when you book.