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Travelling During Covid Times – A Personal Experience

During these uncertain times with ever changing rules & regulations on what you can and can’t do, it’s natural that you may feel pretty uncertain about travelling abroad right now.

As you may be aware, the My Gibraltar team recently travelled to Gibraltar (our first post Covid flight) & we can honestly say it was the most enjoyable & safest trips we’ve had from start to finish.

From the hand sanitizing units & complimentary face masks & pocket size sanitizers which met us upon arrival at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 to the automated check in desks & luggage belts to the hassle free, no queue immigration (despite Fast Track being closed to the public) and the leisurely stroll around the pretty vacant duty free shops before boarding the inter-terminal shuttle train to our gate for our 2.5 hour British Airways flight to Gibraltar. Less people travelling definitely makes this an excellent time to travel!

Gibraltar routes are always pretty busy and our flight was no exception. However, as we were seated in the front Club Europe section of the aircraft, it was perfect for social distancing as it features fewer seats in a dedicated cabin and there is an empty middle seat in each row. The masked crew handed us sealed sanitizing wipes (instead of cold towels) before take-off. There were no menu cards and no in-flight magazines but we could access all of this online with the free WiFi. There was also a chargeable WiFi service if you wished to browse the net (other than BA material) at a cost of some £2.99 for an hour.

In-flight, we were asked to wear our face masks at all times except when eating or drinking. The crew wore face masks as they first served us our choice of drinks and mixed nuts. They then served us our delicious meals in a sealed box...a bit like a picnic 38,000ft in the sky! When you fly Club Europe, a meal and complimentary drinks (including premium wines, beers & champagne) are included in the price of your airfare. Usually the meal is served plated on china with real cutlery and drinks are served in glasses and you are served a time-appropriate meal. So, for example, a morning flight’s breakfast service would typically include an omelette, sausages, bacon, mushrooms and baked beans along with a choice of breads, rolls, preservatives, fruit salad and yoghurt. On this morning flight, there was a choice between a ham and cheese or a cheese & cucumber croissant. Both options came with a strawberry yoghurt, fruit salad and a bottle of water. It arrived in a smart, sealed, British Airways logo’d box with plastic cutlery. We opted for their champagne and drank it out of paper cups. The current choice on board is Nicholas Feuillate. All perfectly acceptable, thank you very much!

Upon arrival at Gibraltar Airport, we walked the very short distance from the aircraft to the terminal and breezed through immigration, collected our luggage and onto our pre-booked airport coach transfer (a must as taxis are few & far between) within 9 minutes of arrival. We were booked to stay at the Sunborn Yacht Hotel in Ocean Village and, at the glass sliding doors to reception, newly installed sanitizer units met us at the entrance as well as outside the elevators. Signs remind us that face masks must be worn in all public areas of the hotels except in the restaurants, gym and when in the pool, of course! Face masks are not compulsory when walking around in outdoor public places.

We were staying on the 6th floor in the Superyacht Superior King Room with a large, sit-out balcony with direct views of the Marina and Runway. The room was immaculate and it was evident that the floors had been freshly mopped. Everything was spic & span, shiny and new. The mini-bar had been emptied except for a large bottle of water and there is no kettle in the room. However, one phone call to reception and a kettle along with teabags, coffee and milk was provided (some British habits are just too hard to leave behind!). There are no room service menus nor magazines in the rooms. However, you may scan a QR code from the in-room welcome letter and this will give you access to all the menus and hotel services. Vacuum packed dressing robes and slippers are still available in the rooms.

The top decks are available to hotel guests only for sun lounging and only one person at a time is permitted to use the infinity pool (it is quite small in size as it is). The Barbary Restaurant and the Aqua Pool Bar on the top deck are both open. Again, no menus so you need to scan QR codes to access the menus. The casino on board the Sunborn is open for slot machines and not the tables. The Sunborn’s famous champagne buffet breakfast has been put on ice for now. Instead, you will again access online menus for an a la carte service which arrives beautifully plated and presented. The choices are the same (full English or American breakfasts, fruit platters, yoghurts, bread baskets, waffles and more) and champagne (or rather, sparkling wine) is still available along with fresh juices, smoothies and hot beverages. In fact, we must say how much we preferred this style of table service – most civilized.

Getting around Gibraltar was generally on foot as the town centre is within easy reach of the Sunborn. Besides wearing face masks to enter shops, it all felt like a ‘normal’ holiday and we felt safe and protected at all times. There was never any point where we felt that our safety was being compromised. When entering restaurants and bars, much like in the UK, you must wear a face mask. When seated, you remove the face mask and then wear it again if you are using the restroom. One of our absolute favourite places was Little Bay which is just a few steps from the Sunborn. Here you will find the most delicious, authentic, North Indian food (the curried lobster, achari sizzling chicken and tawa lamb are unmissable) in a gorgeous, contemporary setting by the Marina with sanitizers at the ready and friendly & knowledgeable waiting and bar staff. Another favourite was Bianca’s (just behind the Sunborn) which serves the best beef medallions au poivre and BBQ ribs. They also serve the fattest, fluffiest, triple fried chips ever!

During our stay at the Sunborn, the Glasgow Rangers checked in so the hotel was pretty busy for a couple of days. Other than that, Gibraltar is not over-crowded but nor, on any accounts, is it a ghost town. It is pleasantly buzzing with locals and expats from across the border filling up on their English wares along Main Street during the day whilst nightlife was most enjoyable especially in the Ocean Village and Chatham Counterguard vicinities.

The border queues were not at all as horrific as claimed and you can still walk or drive across with little drama. Do remember, however, that if you visit Spain, you will need to self-isolate upon your return to the UK.

Our return flight only had 36 persons on board (we don’t think anyone is in a hurry to return from Gibraltar and we can’t say we blame them!). At the check-in desk, we were asked to complete a digital form (declaration of countries visited in the last 14 days) and this was shown to the immigration officer upon arrival at Heathrow. We then made our way to the Calpe Lounge with its stupendous views of the runway and where you may indulge in some complimentary drinks and snacks. Once on board , for this late afternoon flight, the boxed meal options included a coronation chicken or cheese & salad sandwich. Both options were accompanied by a mixed salad, a chocolate mousse and a bottle of water. Special mention must be made of the coronation chicken which was out of this world (well done BA!).

Upon arrival at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, we had a bit of a long walk to the shuttle train service (work off that chocolate mousse) and then onto immigration where there were no queues as almost all the counters were open. Claiming baggage was uneventful (priority baggage when you fly up front). Another advantage of flying business is that you are permitted to check in 2 x 32kg cases per person along with a very generous 23kg hand luggage allowance. Very handy for all that duty-free shopping down Main Street!

Again, it’s a great time to fly for both the price, the value (hotels are offering free night offers & room upgrades) and not to mention the extra space on board aircrafts. Also, check out flight upgrade offers as this is a very good time to experience business class for far less than you would usually pay (www.mygibraltar.co.uk/upgrade.aspx )

We can honestly say that we felt completely 100% safe throughout our 9 day trip to this Mediterranean beauty. Gibraltar is one of the few destinations on the ‘safe list’ which means for those persons arriving from the United Kingdom, there is no quarantine upon arrival nor any quarantine upon your return.

So if you’re considering taking a break in the sun (30C there right now) then do it now. Take a look at our best value, free night offers at www.mygibraltar.co.uk or call 020 8518 4181 to speak with us.

A personal experience by Kay Kumar
#cantwait2fly #gibraltar #Mygibraltar

Why Visit Gibraltar

Gibraltar is an Overseas British Territory nestled at the southernmost tip of Spain, not far from Malaga, just a short hop across from Morocco in North Africa and a 2.5 hour flight from the UK. It is a beautifully scenic, coastal drive from Marbella to Gibraltar which takes less than 45 minutes and passes the picturesque, whitewashed seaside villages of Benalmadena, Fuengirola, Mijas, Estepona, Sabinallas and Casares to name but a few.

When you holiday in Gibraltar, you’re not confined to one country or even one continent. You can drink sherry in nearby Jerez, visit the Alhambra in Granada, watch flamenco dancing in Seville, go windsurfing in Tarifa, bargain in the souks of Tangiers in magical Morocco or go that bit further and indulge in some piri-piri chicken whilst browsing for some Azulejos tiles in Portugal.

As you can see, Gibraltar truly enjoys an excellent geographical location and is extremely well positioned for a two or three centre break.

So back to Gibraltar. What does one do when there?

Well, for starters, you could take the Rock City Tour to familiarize yourselves with the country. Or you could take an aerial flight over the Rock of Gibraltar and the city if you’re really after those exclusive selfies. Then you could take the cable car up the Rock of Gibraltar to visit the most famous residents of Gibraltar, the Barbary Apes (legend has it that if the Apes were to ever leave Gibraltar, the country would cease to be British). Do not feed these little charmers though, they will distract you and then snatch any loose possessions from you in a jiffy.

Now, move on to the Upper Nature Reserve where you can visit St Michael’s Cave, a mesmerizing grotto of apparently bottomless, limestone caves and caverns 980ft above sea level with a spectacular display of stalactites and stalagmites which is simply breathtaking. It is thought that these caverns were the Gates to Hades or Hell, an entrance to the Underworld where the dead rested. This story was further given kudos when around 1840, two British officers got lost in the caves and simply vanished into thin air. Extensive explorations of the caves took place over a number of years but the two men were never recovered. It was believed that either the men had slipped through crevices in the caves through which they either slipped to their untimely demise or escaped via secret tunnels to North Africa or that they entered the gates of the Underworld. Strange and spooky!

Move on (not too quickly as you may slip on the soft, dewy moss) to visit the Great Siege Tunnels, the Moorish Castle, Military Heritage Centre, O’Hara’s Battery, 100 Ton Gun and the latest additions to Gibraltar’s many attractions, the Skywalk and the Windsor Suspension Bridge, both of which extend over a deep ridge where, if you dare, you may suspend yourselves over nothingness.

So let's get you moving. Here are some answers to common questions you may have about travelling abroad:

Watch the twinkling lights of the Moroccan city of Tangiers come to life as the sun sets over Europa Point. Gaze at the stunning six metre high, brass minaret atop the Ibrahim-Al-Ibrahim Mosque, a five-million pound gift from the late King Fahd Al-Saud of Saudia Arabia and then at the shining beam of light from the working lighthouse which guides sailors on their way.

Following a day of history coming to life, excitement and adventure, unwind with a cool refreshment at one of Gibraltar’s popular bars (none better than those available at Little Bay Bar & Restaurant) and follow with a delicious meal (your choice of British, Mediterranean, Indian, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese or Mexican) ending with a flutter at one of the two casinos in the entertainment hub that is Ocean Village.

That was your first day.

So in answer to our own question at the start of this blog, why visit Gibraltar….well, why ever not?!