International Travel in Covid Times

Over two years ago, everyone’s lives changed with Covid. Vacations and trips were cancelled; even just meeting family and friends was impossible. Over time, we got a vaccine (and now the removal of Covid mandates) and have hoped things will return to normal. But, in reality, this was the new kind of normal, especially when it came to travelling. Just like after September 11, 2001, when the changes to liquids started (now commonplace when you travel on airplanes), Covid is another one that will change what we include in our everyday lives.

After all our trips got cancelled, it was incredibly difficult, for me, as this was defining a part of me. Travelling abroad and visiting countries (and two years without that) was difficult for me. However, we finally booked our first international trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, this past January. 

As we approached the time for the trip, the anxiety of whether or not we could actually travel was becoming more ominous with Omicron and the increased and frequent changes to travelling.

We were both vaccinated, with booster shots, and ready to go.

Day 1 Trying to make it to Mexico

It was 6:10 a.m. and our flight was with Air Canada. It was -41C outside and we were dressed for Mexico. We got up at 4 a.m. and made our way to our flight. Sitting in the chairs, we noted that it was 6:10 a.m. and there had been no update. Our connecting flight was an hour, once we arrived in Vancouver, and on the previous three days, the 6:10 a.m. flight had been cancelled. My optimism of getting to Mexico was nil.

Flight delayed.

At this stage, we were definitely not making our flight to Mexico, with only one flight from Vancouver, but our goal was to try and get to Vancouver.

While we waited to hear if our flight was cancelled, I was on the phone getting our hotel reservation changed in Mexico.

Flight cancelled.

Great. Luckily Air Canada put all passengers on the 10:30 a.m. flight, with Air North, and we made it to Vancouver at lunchtime.

Our trip was for my husband Ryan’s thirtieth birthday, and also for our honeymoon (from getting married in August 2021), so I had planned a return stop in Vancouver, in a fancy hotel. So I changed it and we stayed at the five-star Fairmont Hotel at the airport. It was great. Ryan loved watching all the planes, and we got very drunk until our changed 8:30 a.m. flight to Mexico, on Sunday.

Day 2 Mexico!

We made it to Mexico! At the time of our trip, there were no requirements for checking vaccination status in Mexico, but masks were required.

We had a number of documents that were “required,” from Air Canada’s Travel Ready Hub, but none asked about Covid vaccinations. We needed our certificates uploaded, but none of the other documents were required other than Customs declarations.

Once we made it to Mexico, we enjoyed the change in weather from -41C to 27C!

We got to our hotel and immediately went to get some drinks, as we had arrived in Mexico! Right outside our hotel was a bar/restaurant called Cerveceria Chapultepec, so we decided to stop in there. Everything was 26 pesos ($1.60 Canadian!).

We got margaritas and some tacos, with shots of tequila, and got sufficiently intoxicated. So, of course, it was time to go get some food and we went to La Vaca Argentina, a high-end steak restaurant. This is where we had the best steak we have ever eaten. It came out on a sizzling stone, as they cooked it to our liking, and melted in our mouths.

Day 3 Happy Thirtieth Birthday!

Ryan’s 30th birthday started with us being extremely hungover and up at 6:00 a.m. for our first activity, parasailing. Since we had lost a day in Mexico, due to our cancelled flight, there was no adapting to the time change, weather, or excessive drinking of cheap tequila.

Our hotel was right across from the marina, which was handy as this is where most of our activities started. Entering Puerto Magico, they required masks and checked our temperatures but had no requirements for vaccination credentials. 

Our tour operator was Vallarta Adventures, where we checked in for the parasailing journey.

On the jet boat, we all wore masks (yes, even in the open air). You could feel that people were very aware of Covid and people being from all over the world. The other couples on the parasailing were all from America.

We were first up on the parasailing activity and, as we sat harnessed to the kite, I noted Ryan’s terrified face. Then we started lifting off and it was like a surreal elevation that was really comfortable and steady. Being in the air was actually more comfortable than being on the boat because you weren’t being knocked around by the waves.

The view was spectacular, as we could see the town and mountains surrounding us as we went around the water.

Eventually, we had to come back in and we watched the remaining people on their adventures before we returned to the marina.

It was 10 a.m. and we were no longer hungover. I’m pretty sure the adrenaline from parasailing helped. So we decided to walk downtown and explore.

It was about an hour-and-15-minute walk to downtown, and it was a pleasant 21C. However, as we continued in the heat, and with a lack of sleep, we desperately needed food. Googling, we found a restaurant off the main road, called Birriería El Tío Toño. 

We sat down and our waiter came over and asked, “¿Habla español?” (Translation:  “Do you speak Spanish?”)

I said, “Muy malo y un poquito. ¿Hablas inglés?” (meaning “very bad and a little,” and “Do you speak English?”). He said no, so this turned out to be a fun experience.

We got two beers (because we’re masochists) and asked for a grande Mixto Plate for the two of us. We had no idea what we had ordered, but eventually it worked out. It was a bowl of meat-chunk soup, with tortillas. It was delicious. If I had seen a picture, I probably wouldn’t have ordered it, but we were glad we got to eat it. We were still hungry and asked to order some more food. He looked at us like we were “fat animals” and it was too much food to order, and then said (translated), “Only one!”

He brought a Quesabirria. We had no idea what that was, either, but it was a meat-filled, cheesy tortilla that was rather large and split in two. We understood why the waiter deterred us from multiple dishes of food.

After we ate, we sluggishly continued our walk downtown. Once at the beach, the crashing waves and salty air reminded me of being back home in Australia. I immediately went to the water and realized how much I missed the ocean.

We decided to stop for some mango margaritas at an on-beach bar called the Sea Monkey. It was great just people-watching.

It was rather busy along the beach area, so we wore our masks when walking, as did many others. We decided to go visit the breweries that Puerto Vallarta had to offer.

The first stop was Monzon Brewing, a craft brewery. Their entrance was blockaded by a chain, and a waiter came to take our temperatures before we entered.

We ordered all the beers as tasting flights. I only liked two, and Ryan liked most of them as they were more his flavour—tropical and sour.

As we were about to go, Ryan said, “I’m drunk.” (It was 3 p.m.)

We headed to the next brewery, Los Muertos (meaning, “the dead”), a rather trendy place with an upstairs balcony. We had a pint of beer and I much preferred their style, for my taste, and Ryan ordered a slice of pizza to combat the drunkenness.

In the early evening, we headed to the restaurant our taxi driver had recommended—Casa de Tradicional. Immediately I was in love with the restaurant. The outside was hot pink, with outrageous Mexicana decor, and the inside was just as crazy. 

The staff were super welcoming as we got guacamole, which was made right in front of us, and a delicious meal.

At the end, the staff brought Ryan out a birthday cake and sang “Happy Birthday” … and he was extremely embarrassed!

We eventually stumbled home, way too late, extremely drunk, again, and ill-prepared for our next day.

Check out Kylie’s Mexico Part 2 in the Dec 21 issue of What’s Up Yukon

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