I’ve never been abroad. So naturally, what is a better way to begin my international journey than at the tail-end of an international pandemic to one of the strictest countries in regard to travelers and quarantine? As I stare out the window at beautiful Tamsui, feeling a longing to explore while I am trapped at my mother-in-law’s house for the next three days, I am amazed that I actually made it here. It has been a harrowing journey, and a true test to my marriage, but here I am.
The week before
As we prepare to embark on our journey, we began to pack our clothes and write down a checklist. A visa was not on that list. I had asked if this was needed, but I was assured that no, our marriage certificate served as adequate proof and we could use that. Then five days prior to our flight, his mom calls: have we filed for our visa yet? No. Well, apply for the e-visa, you can get it in a few days. Not eligible.
Suddenly, the world felt like it was collapsing around me, and I realized there was a real possibility that, if I were to be able to go to Taiwan as planned, I may be doing it alone. Not only that, but processing times were at 3-4 weeks, and with our wedding coming up on August 6 there was a real possibility I would not make it on time.
We booked my husband a flight the next day to plead with the cultural office for expedited processing. We were fortunate that they were extremely accommodating and, after pleas from both my husband and mother-in-law, they were able to grant us a visa quickly (Thank you Miami Consulate!).
Double, triple, and quadruple check the restrictions when travelling, especially when there is a global pandemic. Last minute visa-applications: 0/10, do not recommend.
Our flight consisted of 2 layovers: we fly out of Orlando to San Francisco with a 5 hour layover, then out to Tokyo Haneda with another 5 hour layover before finally making it to Taiwan. Plenty of time between fights for anything to go wrong right? Well, unless you are a couple that Murphy’s Laws clings to like glue.
I highly recommend doing your own research when flying internationally – know the rules and regulations for your trip, and plan accordingly. When we arrived, there was a lot of confusion about what paperwork was needed. Airlines deal with regulations from many different countries, and in our case this left the attendant assisting us with check-in confused about what documents we did and did not need to provide. We fortunately had enough information that we ended up walking her through what we needed and we able to be on our way after a few minutes.
The trouble started in Orlando, with Florida doing what it does best: Raining. Rain and thunderstorms hit just as our plane touched down. Passengers were unloaded, they began preparing to unload the flight’s bags, and then the alarm sounded. The ramp was closed. For 2 hours. There was a lot of back and forth after those two hours – The ramp would open for 5 minutes, close down for 10, open for 5 again… until 3 hours passed and finally all other flights had taken off to their destinations. Except ours.
They attempted to board the flight, but halfway through group 2, staff vanished and people were left in the dark for another 30 minutes. Turns out, due to the storm our crew were now over hours and could not legally work the flight. So, we had to wait for the new crew to arrive from Chicago at 10. Reminder: Our flight was at 6 with a 5 hour layover, and we are now at a 4 hours delay.
The crew were a bit later than expected, and take-off did not happen until 10:47 PM, giving us a very short window to make our next flight. As we rushed through San Francisco Airport, we wondered if we would make it on time. We arrived as they were calling my name to verify my documents, but when all was said and done, we had a slight delay on that flight as well.
When we got into Taipei, we had to enter the conveyer belt of quarantine. First step: SIM card. The police call to check in on you daily during quarantine and your number also serves as a way to track your location while you are meant to be isolating. Then we had to ensure we had our declaration certificate filled out correctly. Then COVID Testing, and finally we had to go through the normal routes of entry. Like customs.
That is where the final problem arose. I had requested my psychiatrist write me a letter in regards to my medication prior to my flight, and he did. But I did not think to confirm that the medication was written down correctly, and he has written the brand name rather than the clinical name for my meds. After a bit of confusion, my husband was able to explain that Americans don’t know the difference between the names of medicines and their brand names. They let me through, but I know now that next time I try to bring in medication, I must make sure they know that brand names are not accepted vernacular in other countries.
It’s now the end of day 2 of quarantine, and I’m so happy to be through with the whole experience. I’m glad that I was able to make it here on time, but it was a long, exhausting journey. Although I haven’t gotten to step outside, so far, we’ve had some pretty spectacular delivery, teas, and breads. I am so excited to get out the apartment and explore, but until then I’ll just relax and enjoy some great food with my husband.
If you plan on visiting Taiwan once they open for tourism, here are a few recommended guides: