Show me your papers

One thing putting people off travelling during the pandemic is the bureaucracy of crossing borders including the speed with which regulations change and anxiety about getting it wrong. Rake and I decided to leave it as late as possible before checking out what we needed to do for each country we’d be passing through, in case things changed.

A week before we were due to leave, I researched what we needed to cross each border and put it on our master spreadsheet. Rake loves spreadsheets so of course we had one for our trip! We’d both had our second Covid jabs some months before and had our NHS Covid passes on our mobiles.

Here’s what we needed for the outward journey and how it worked out:

UK to France

Rules: Covid Pass and Passenger Locator form. Recommended to download the TousAntiCovid app and upload the PLF to it but we had problems uploading it so took paper copies.

Reality: Covid Pass was checked at the French border but we weren’t asked for the PLFs.

France to Italy

Rules: Covid Pass and negative rapid antigen test taken within 48 hours of crossing. Telephone regional authority of Lombardy within 48 hours of arrival to notify them of our presence.France to Italy

Reality: We passed through the Mont Blanc tunnel into Italy without being stopped or showing any documentation at all. We didn’t phone the regional authority and the world didn’t end.

Italy to Greece

Rules: Covid Pass and Passenger Locator Form, completed online in the official Visit Greece app. Much more detailed form than the one for entering France.

Reality: Covid Pass and PLF were checked before embarkation to Corfu. During the ferry crossing Rake’s mobile ran out of power so he couldn’t show his documents on arrival in Corfu. The border control officer shrugged and waved us on.

Being away from home for 10 weeks, some things needed sorting out before we left. What should I do with my cat, Karma? We’d already arranged for each of us to work remotely, and because we want to travel as much as possible, I came to the hard decision that I had to find a new home for Karma. It was the fair thing to do for her. My brother and his family in Cornwall agreed to become her new adopted family. I drove halfway with Karma and her worldly possessions and handed her over to my brother.

Other things to sort out included house insurance (I had to take out a new policy to cover the 10 weeks the house would be empty), arranging for someone to mow the lawn and pick up the post, arranging for a neighbour to put the final bins out to be collected, making sure I had enough medication for the whole trip and getting the bike MOTd including new brake pads and new tyres.

Mid-morning on 18 September 2021 we climbed into our bike gear, started the engine and headed for the Tunnel.

On the Eurotunnel train – sharing our ‘carriage’ with just 3 other bikes

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