With Phase 2 Underway, Here’s What It’s Like Traveling to AXA
After having left the island for nearly a two-month break overseas, we were booked and ready to return to Anguilla. We are permanent residents of the island but with policies everchanging at the time, we were arriving on Anguilla during a transition period when residents were not yet allowed to quarantine at home but rather at a ‘government-approved isolation facility’ much like guests will be doing over the course of the coming months. So, what is it like to travel to Anguilla now? Here’s a rundown of our experience for anyone looking to visit the island, from the pre-departure process to the arrival and quarantine experience.
At the moment, entering the island requires an approval process through the government. That process looked slightly different for repatriating residents but ended up fundamentally being a similar experience to that of incoming visitors. The first step is to apply online, where you’ll submit your personal travel details, date of arrival, flight information, etc. From there, it ends up being a dialogue with a tourism representative who helps process your application. In most cases, your travel will be approved pending submission of a negative PCR test 3 – 5 days prior to arrival.
We were flying in from Tanzania and had our test done at a local hospital 3 days prior to our departure which allowed us enough time to have a valid test upon arrival. Upon receipt of our negative test, we forwarded this proof along to our liaison to process the information and officially approve us for entry. This process took about 24 hours before we received a ‘certificate’ that we were to show upon arrival.
Our choice was to fly to St. Maarten (SXM) as the flights were more readily available going that route. From there, we chartered a flight with Anguilla Air Services (AAS) to Anguilla. The private ferries will be running from SXM to Anguilla beginning November 1st, but during our arrival this wasn’t an option. Keep in mind that Anguilla Air Services cannot officially book your flight until you get your certificate for entry which shows them that you’ve officially been okayed by the government. This felt a bit stressful at the time but wasn’t an issue – the team was there, ready and waiting when we arrived at SXM and we provided payment details before heading on to Anguilla. We were whisked through and boarded the flight to AXA within about 20 minutes of landing in St. Maarten. For anyone curious about St. Maarten itself, our experience was smooth and the airport was calm and organized. That all said, we were arriving in October and we were in transit (with AAS) which pushed us through in a much straightforward way.
For anyone generally concerned about international travel during COVID, please read my article on our experience for a bit of insight!
With a quick 7-minute flight, we were back in Anguilla. We waited on the tarmac for a few minutes until the nurse was suited up and ready to receive us. Have your certificate ready to show the nurse upon arrival as they’ll likely look at this rather than your negative PCR test. If you’ve made it to Anguilla then you’ve already experienced the nasal swab test before. It’s not the most pleasant experience in the world but the male nurse that did ours was actually the most gentle person we had (we’ve had a handful due to travel requirements). You’ll be done in a few moments’ time, can collect your bags and will head out the door. Now, the key is that you’ll need to have your transport to your government-approved facility pre-arranged. Talk with your hotel or villa about assisting to ensure that you have a driver ready and waiting when you arrive. And, of course, have your mask at the ready as you’ll need it while you’re transiting.
You’ll likely hear from your nurse within 24 hours about the result of your test upon arrival.
If you’ve really been digging into coming into Anguilla right now, you probably already know that Phase 2’s approach to quarantine is more of a stay in place model than a true isolation model, which means you have a fair bit of flexibility and freedom. At Frangipani Beach Resort, that meant we had access to the pools, the beach in front of the hotel, the fitness center, and the tennis court. In the coming weeks after the resort officially reopens, that’ll also mean access to Straw Hat Restaurant, water sports, and boat trips. Needless to say, it’s hardly a hardship. For me, this meant hammering out weeks’ worth of work that I needed to accomplish and getting in daily workouts to reset after being away for a couple of months. If you’re visiting Anguilla, I’m hopeful your quarantine involves more lazy pool days than mine!
Now, what does this mean for movement around the property? You need to wear a mask when you’re going from Point A to Point B. For example, when we went to the fitness center I had a mask on while walking to the gym. Once I was in the gym, I was able to take the mask off and work out. When we were done, masks went back on to walk back to the room. No masks are required when you’re lounging at the pool or on the beach, but when you’re walking around you’ll want to have your mask on. And, of course, social distancing is in effect which meant we had to keep our distance from friends, family, and staff members during quarantine. As a guest, this’ll more practically mean that you’ll see some distance between chairs on the pool deck and beach and will see a bit more distance at restaurants while dining.
You’ll notice that your fee covers two tests plus monitoring during your stay. What does that mean exactly? Well, for us (again, we were under a slightly different protocol) that meant visits from our nurse every other day (temperature checks and notes on how we were feeling), plus calls from her on the days that she didn’t visit. Part of this is for health monitoring and part is probably for generally being sure that people are where they’re meant to be. Either way, I found it reassuring that they were on the ball with checking in. For incoming guests, this may be slightly different in terms of the number of nurse visits you’ll have, but you will have a nurse or quarantine official that will be in touch with you to check in regularly and physically monitor you. Honestly, our nurse was wonderful, engaging, and super friendly which wasn’t necessarily what I expected. You’ll likely have your nurse’s contact details so you can be in touch as well. They’ve done a nice job of making this feel more like a dialogue than monitoring.
Then there comes the final test. Your quarantine period depends on where you’re coming from. I hold Maltese and American passports and am a permanent resident of Anguilla but the only thing that mattered when looking at my quarantine period was my destination of origin. The period is a minimum of 10 days (low-risk countries) and a max of 14 days for higher-risk countries. Anyone coming from the US should expect a 14-day quarantine period. If you’re staying for an extended period, this means you’ll receive your final PCR test on the morning of Day 14. The nurse intentionally got to us very early (7:30AM) to get our tests in early and allow us to get out earlier (we were free by noon). And remember Mr. Nice Nurse I mentioned on arrival? He did our final test too which we were super thankful for.
So, what happens if you’re only coming for 5 or 10 days? You can come for as long as you’d like so don’t let this ‘quarantine’ period make you think that’s a minimum stay requirement. You will be required to get a test upon departure though and that timing depends on your flight time. If you’re here for 7 days with a late afternoon departure, you’ll probably get your test on the morning of Day 7. If your departure is early, you’ll likely get your test on the afternoon of Day 6. For many people, having this negative test will be peace of mind anyway and possibly help with entering into your country of residence as well.
All in all, our experience was a breeze! Besides wearing a mask while roaming the property and not being able to drive anywhere, we didn’t really feel isolated in any way and once we arrived the process was pretty straightforward. The island is learning – we all are – but I think we’re off to a good start.
Are you planning on coming to Anguilla? Please feel free to leave questions or comments below! I’m happy to share more about our experience. And, if you missed my Anguilla Quizzes, pop over and play to get in the spirit!