Shelley Blower went to the airport with a backup plan.
If she and her husband Jamie couldn’t fly directly from Toronto to Lisbon, Portugal, where they had planned to meet up with friends for two weeks, they would fly to Madrid, Spain, where they would rent a car. and return to Portugal through the land border.
Canadians traveling to Portugal are facing confusion and cancellations after the latter country quietly removed Canada from its list of countries approved for non-essential travel on February 8.
The move follows a January 17 recommendation from the European Union to reinstate travel restrictions to Argentina, Australia and Canada amid rising COVID-19 infections. The EU Council’s recommendations aren’t legally binding – that’s up to each country to decide – but Canadian travelers can’t seem to get a straight answer on Portugal’s new rules.
While some say they had to cancel trips at the last minute because of the new restrictions, losing hundreds of dollars, others say they got there anyway.
Blower never made it to Plan B. When she and Jamie arrived at Toronto airport on Wednesday, TAP Portugal airline employees checked their vaccination certificates and COVID-19 test results and left them leave, no more questions. Their plane was almost full, she said.
Before her flight on Wednesday, she had called the airline to see what was going on.
“So one person was like, ‘No, you can’t come,’ the next person was like, ‘I don’t know. We never heard anything.
“Yeah, so we just went there.”
Blower spoke to the star via video chat on Thursday from Lisbon, where she is spending a few days before heading to the Algarve, Portugal’s sunny southern coast.
The Canadian Embassy in Lisbon said Thursday that Canadians cannot currently travel to Portugal, but directed the Star to Global Affairs Canada for an official comment.
Sabrina Williams, spokesperson for Global Affairs, said “Canadian officials are in contact with their Portuguese counterparts as part of our concerted efforts to work together to ease travel restrictions in a timely manner, as directed by officials. of health”.
The federal government has advised against non-essential travel outside the country since December 15, 2021, due to the risk of the Omicron variant.
Williams did not say whether Portugal is allowing the Canadians to come; she told the Star to contact the Portuguese government for more information. The country’s embassy in Ottawa directed the Star to the Portuguese Foreign Ministry, which did not respond to questions emailed by the Star.
Portugal is still allowing non-essential travelers from the United States, where the incidence of COVID-19 is almost double what it is in Canada, and where only 64% of the population is fully vaccinated, against 82% in Canada. Portugal is one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, with 90% of its population fully immunized against COVID-19.
Canadians shared their frustrations and advice in the “Journey to Portugal” Facebook group. Some travelers say airlines or travel agents told them to reschedule or reroute. Others say they are in “limbo” with trips planned in the coming weeks that they don’t know if they will be able to take.
(Air Transat and TAP are among the airlines operating flights from Canada to Portugal; Transat said it is up to travelers to see what restrictions apply to them.)
Although there were no reports in the Facebook group of people trying to fly and being turned away at the airport, some Canadians say it’s not worth the risk.
Jim, who did not want to give his last name, traveled last Friday from his hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Toronto, where he planned to catch a flight to Lisbon the next day, starting a tour two months in Portugal.
But before he could board, he got wind of the new restrictions on Facebook. Worried about being stuck there, he decided to cancel and go home.
“I thought that if I got there and it turned out to be true, I would be stuck in an airport with no ticket to anywhere and I would have to somehow buy a return ticket to the Canada or elsewhere from the air side of Lisbon airport. ”
Now rid of the cost of a round trip from St. John’s to Toronto, Jim diverts his trip to France. He plans to spend a few days in Paris and then hopes to head south to Portugal when cleared.
Canadians expect Portugal to change its rules soon. An official at the country’s consulate in Toronto told a traveler that the rules are reviewed every two weeks. A European Union official said the EU would revise its travel recommendations next week.
Rachel Solomon, a member of the Travel Portugal group, hopes to be able to travel with her family to Portugal in mid-March. For her children, it is “the first trip outside of North America, our first big family trip,” she writes.
“If nothing changes, we will cancel our trip the next day and lose a lot of money. So disappointed that this layer of stress was added to something we were all so excited for.
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