Foreign tourists across the world are finding their dream vacations have turned into travel nightmares as airlines cancel flights and countries close their borders in the fight against the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
For many foreigners in Vietnam, they feel luckier as the Government has asked relevant ministries to gather information about all foreigners stuck here, and work closely with the embassies and consulates to arrange their safe passage home.
Yesterday, a total 100 British stranded in Vietnam returned home via a special Vietnam Airlines flight, which has been approved by the government of Vietnam and the U.K.
Here is a different story of a New Zealand family of five, who stranded in Vietnam due to coronavirus, but they feel very grateful to be here during this time:
We are a New Zealand family of five and last year in October we decided we would sell everything and leave our rental home in Australia so we could travel the world to write books, make music and hopefully build an online income.
In February this year we left Australia and returned to New Zealand to say goodbye to everyone and set off on our world adventure. Our flight to Vietnam left NZ on 5th of March, after 20 or so hours (with a transit in Manila), we arrived in Saigon. The first week here was amazing, we got to do all the touristy things and on the 10th March we set off to Da Nang. Fortunately I hadn’t read the news, or perhaps we wouldn’t have taken that flight. On arrival to Da Nang we learned how drastically the world was changing.
Our 3 year old son came down with a high fever hours after checking into our hotel, which was ridiculously scary. We had to make a choice of whether we would all go to the hospital together or split up. We didn’t know what would happen if he had somehow picked up Covid-19 on our travels. My greatest fear would be that he would be isolated in a hospital and we might all be in some quarantine. It was scary not knowing what would happen or how to prepare. We tried calling the hotline, but with no Vietnamese we didn’t get far!
My husband and Elijah set off to the hospital the following morning, and blood tests were taken, they didn’t test for Covid-19 at that time as we hadn’t been on any flight with known Covid-19 patients, and we had travelled from New Zealand with no cases. We just had to be careful. We kept our distance from people and purchased our masks. We spent most of our remaining time in our hotel in Da Nang with the occasional walk to the beach (only a few meters from our hotel).
It was a tough few days between the 12th and 18th of March, where things were quickly escalating around the world. At that time we were still hopeful we could continue traveling the coast and back to Saigon (where we’d left a suitcase with our accommodation there), and head over land into Cambodia, then on to Malaysia, then Singapore to catch our flight to Turkey (which was scheduled for the 13th April). We received emails from our New Zealand government advising us that we may no longer be able to travel home with all the border restrictions rapidly being applied. We thought on this for a little while, contemplated our options. We could try to buy flights home (which were sky-rocketing in price) and hope that our flights weren’t cancelled, which many were being cancelled daily. Doing this would risk a large portion of our savings, and we didn’t have a home to return to and no job, this option wasn’t too appealing. We made the decision to stay based on the fact we had planned to be abroad for about a year anyway, and although we had only planned to have one month in Vietnam, at least it was a good restart point when travel was safe again.
On the 19th we travelled down to Hoi An, and decided it was probably a good idea to throw out all our short term travel plans and pick a place to stay for at least a month. We chose Hoi An because it was so beautiful. And here we have remained. We have been so grateful to be here during this uncertain time. The most difficult thing here has been the Visa situation as we travelled in on an Evisa, with very firm plans to be gone within the month. In hindsight, I wish we’d done a three month visa on arrival. But apart from that, we have had a smooth time here. The people are fantastic, so kind and generous. We have started to get into the life of Vietnam. We love it here. And I’m so grateful we are unexpectedly here for much longer.
We haven’t had the opportunity to see a lot these past two weeks, and we even are one of the lucky (or maybe unlucky) ones who had a mandatory Covid-19 test, which thankfully, all family members tested negative for. Since being in Hoi An the last few weeks we have learned there are so many more places to explore. With all our other plans out the window for now, we truly believe there is no other country we would rather be in during this time. Our country of citizenship, New Zealand has been on a four week full lockdown. In Australia, numbers are climbing and even in the small area we resided there are still many cases. We feel so safe here. We have such huge respect for the way Vietnam has responded in these difficult times. We have so much appreciation for the people, the people here are the kindest and most thoughtful people, I am so grateful to all the kindness shown to us as foreigners here (I’ve heard stories of different experiences, but thankfully we have only met amazing people) and I’m so happy we have experienced the places we’ve had the opportunity to visit.
We will hope and pray we can continue to extend our visas throughout this really uncertain time. Perhaps we will be lucky to say we have lived a few months in Vietnam while this catastrophe unfolded. And I hope that when things settle down, we will have an opportunity to see more of this amazing country.
I hope you receive lots of other feedback similar to ours. I’m truly grateful that we are here!
By Melissa Wiringi | The opinions expressed here are her own.