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Trip Report: SFO-Porto-Heathrow (09/10/21)


Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Past OR future Camino
Prior to walking the Norte in two weeks, I am visiting my daughter in London. Hopefully this info is useful for all who may be traveling soon.

Both TAP Airline flights were about 2/3rds full, so room to stretch a bit. I was happy to see several first-time pilgrims on the first flight. Since I was transiting through Portugal, I had to fill out a Passenger Locator Form for both Portugal and my final destination in the UK. Both were available online to complete once the flight was 48 hours away. All paperwork was thoroughly reviewed in both SF and Porto, with several passengers at each airport scrambling on their phones to complete the needed paperwork. TAP allowed passengers to fill out the Portuguese one with pen and paper if they didn’t have a smart phone.

For fully-vaccinated Americans, the UK requires that your COVID test be within 72 hours of the flight into their country, so that was at the start of my second leg. Not an easy task to take a test early enough to get the results in time for the first leg while leaving enough time after that international flight to still have it qualify for the next flight. At this point, direct flights certainly relieve that concern. It took less than 15 minutes to clear both immigration and customs, plus another five minutes for the Day 2 COVID test.

My test was completed at the free testing site located at the Sacramento Airport parking lot which is open to all people, not just travelers. Results were returned within 12 hours as compared to my daughter’s test at Kaiser Hospital the previous week which took about 50 hours.

Finally, the UK requires a 10 day quarantine and two follow-up tests for unvaccinated visitors, while vaccinated travelers from Amber list countries simply have to take one Covid test within two days of arriving. You must register and pay for this test prior to filling out your PLF. Heathrow has on-site testing that you can do as you arrive, but reservations are required. It’s not that much more than tests elsewhere so we opted for it to simplify the process. My daughter forgot to take that prepaid test when she arrived and she had to scramble to find an in-person test with availability in London. A very stressful and ultimately expensive lesson!

Overall it was an uneventful journey after A LOT of preplanning of tests and forms. I will fly from the UK to France on 9/20 and the walk into Spain shortly thereafter, so I’ll provide that update later.
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Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Past OR future Camino
I’m not a fan of the Airbus plane they use, but the staff was extremely nice and competent! And unbelievably given it’s proximity to the 9/11 anniversary, it was the first time in over 20 years that I was served a hot airline meal for dinner that included a metal knife as one of the utensils.

Please note that while you may be able to seemingly fully sign-in online, definitely stop by the “online check-in / bag drop” queue prior to TSA checks to have all of your Covid/PLF paperwork verified. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck in a very long line at the actual gate having to go
through that step.

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