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I went on a tour and tested positive for COVID. Here’s what happened next

About 5 days into our tour I woke up feeling yucky, terrible headache, scratchy throat. I took some aspirin and as a precaution took a COVID test - negative.

Our group was touring a site that morning so I told my husband to go without me and I let our tour guide know I wouldn’t be joining. By afternoon. I felt ok, not great and joined my husband and our friends for lunch but went back to the hotel to rest afterwards.

The next morning I was all stuffed up and coughing so took another test and the dreaded double lines. Positive for COVID

I let our tour guide know and she immediately checked with the hotel (we were due to check out that morning) and arranged for us to stay for up to three more nights. The RS office was in contact with me within less than 2 hours (I was asleep) with information about what to do next, quarantine/isolation information for our country, contact information for Travel Guard (I haven’t contacted them yet) location to get a PCR test (might be needed for travel insurance) and directions to get there from our hotel. They also gave me a dedicated phone number and email address for tour members who have to drop out due to COVID

To give you an idea of how serious they are about this Andy Steves (Ricks son) was the one I was emailing with. We exchanged 3 emails, the longest I waited for a response was 20 minutes.

I notified them I was sick on 9/13. The pro rated refund for the unused portion of our tour was credited to my credit card today 9/21,

We missed a lot of the parts of the tour was looking forward to but being stuck in beautiful Grenada isn’t the worst thing that can happen. Spain has a very high vaccination rate so quarantine isn’t required. After three days I tested negative but I still wore a mask when I was out and when we went to a restaurant we sat outside and away from other patrons and I pulled on my mask whenever our waiter came to our table.

Please note our whole group was VERY compliant about wearing masks on the bus. No one ever had to be asked to put them on.

I put on a mask any time we were in close quarters like in a chapel etc and we flew Air Canada which requires masks the whole time you are on the plane. It was just bad luck that I somehow caught it. The only other member of our tour that caught it was a couple we were traveling with. The night before I got sick we had a bottle of wine together after dinner so no masks.

The good news is that RS made sure we didn’t put anyone else at risk — our guide said “I’m sorry but you have to leave the tour” as soon as I told her I tested positive.

They were supportive and helped me out as much as we needed.

They made good on their promise of a refund of the unused portion of our tour, they don’t have to do that and that speaks to the integrity of the company

Posted by
8507 posts

Gretchen, it is so kind of you to take the time to share your experience. I know it must have been disappointing to leave the tour, but I am glad things have worked out and you are feeling better.

Posted by
2454 posts

Thank you for sharing your experience. It will help others. I am glad you were so well taken care of by the RS company. And thank you for being honest with the guide that you had contracted covid. I suspect there are some on the tours are not and go on to infect others.

Posted by
1989 posts

Thanks for the report and hope you feel better.

Was "stuck" in Granada for a few days during a strike and I agree there are far worse places to be:)

Posted by
2479 posts

Thank you Gretchen.
I'm a few days away from flying to Europe and will join a RS tour Oct. 2.
Your report eases my mind that things will work out even if the worst happens.

Posted by
138 posts

Gretchen, it’s so thoughtful of you to share this information with others. I hope that you are getting over Covid quickly as I know it can definitely linger. My husband and I were still testing positive 15 days later, thankfully we had postponed our trip before we got sick. I’m so glad that Rick Steve has put this Covid protocol in place, it’s so necessary for our new “normal”. Take care:)

Posted by
2252 posts

Thank you for posting your first hand account of what will happen if testing positive while on a tour. While I’m sorry this happened to you, it is good to know what protocols are in place for those of us with upcoming tours and that you were in a place you could enjoy.

Posted by
1317 posts

Add me to the list of people who very much appreciate you sharing your experience. We've been contingency planning for just about every scenario, including this one, and it's very reassuring to hear that it was a supportive and relatively smooth process. Hope you are feeling better!

Posted by
6362 posts

Thank you, Gretchen. It's reassuring to know RSE has managed to smooth the path of Covid patients. I do know that earlier there were some bumpy moments for Covid suffers, so kudos to RSE for pulling together a great crew and great aid.

Posted by
2094 posts

So sorry to hear you tested positive. I’m in Porto right now and feel like a sitting duck. It is very crowded. One couple had to leave the tour early on. Four got food poisoning and weee sick about 24 hours. Fingers are crossed that we won’t need the help of RS office. Heading to Spain tomorrow.

Posted by
242 posts

It is reassuring to hear that RS is helping those who are removed from tours due to Covid, but I hope these protocols are not the “new normal” for 2023 and thereafter. I can say from personal experience on a South of France tour in May that while these protocols are well intended they also cause despair for lost tour members and stress over who will go next. I am hopeful that in 2023 we can all return to “traveling like a temporary local” as Rick promotes.

Posted by
318 posts

Gretchen, I too applaud your honesty and responsible response to your contracting Covid while on tour. This scenario would have much less favorably. While I'm sorry that your trip was cut short, your compassion for others possibly saved them from the same fate. Also traveling with a tour company that takes its commitment to its family of travelers makes the decision to do the right thing easier. Have only traveled with one other company (went to another company only because RS doesn't travel to Asia) and while they showed concern, there wasn't the same commitment. Hats off to Rick Steves and his business model!

Posted by
232 posts

A couple of things I was glad I had at my finger tips:

Rome 2 Rio app — helped me figure out how we were going to get from Grenada to Madrid. I’m sure the RS office would have helped me with that but it was reassuring when I was in panic mode to see there were lots options to get where I needed to eventually be.

Google Translate — easier to hold up my phone to the pharmacist or someone in a store than try to use my High School Spanish from behind a mask. They could also type in their response. I loved speaking Spanish at restaurants and in shops. Asking for cough drops when you have a fever and want to sleep is easier left to technology.

The Spanish Rail Renfe app to buy train tickets. Quite easily the worst website in the world but the app is slightly better.

See if the country you are visiting has a similar app for their rail service. Download it now and enter any information to set up an account like passport numbers etc. while you are on your stable home WiFi. If you have to buy a ticket it saves you time and frustration when you are feeling yucky.

Posted by
882 posts

I am hopeful that in 2023 we can all return to “traveling like a temporary local” as Rick promotes.

Just speculating, but my guess is that this business model of kicking people off of tours and making full refunds of the unused days is not financially sustainable. Thus I imagine the idea of going back to a "pre covid" model of "living with covid" similar to living with flu, etc., is at least on the table for 2023 not just for RS tours but all tours and cruises.

Posted by
14157 posts

Gretchen, I join with the others in thanking you for your factual post. I hope you are on the mend now and I'm so happy the RS staff was helpful. And hope your husband is too if he tested positive.

I'm headed on a tour next week and one of the reasons I booked it was because I wanted to support Rick for the ethical way he handled communication and refunds during the pandemic. The way they responded to your situation makes me even happier to support the business.

Your suggestions for what to have at your fingertips is also helpful. I do not have the Rome2Rio app but I will download that this afternoon. I do have one of the Italian train apps which I was going to use anyway. I've mentally got a back up plan if I test positive before or early in the tour and another back up plan if I test positive later in the tour.

May I ask a couple of questions? It sounds like you had Covid tests with you? How many did you take? Did your husband go out for food for you or did you order delivery? Or since quarantine wasn't required did you just go out to pick stuff up? (And if this is too nosy don't feel obligated to answer, lol!)

Posted by
232 posts

@Pam

It sounds like you had Covid tests with you? How many did you take? I took 10. I took them out of their boxes and put the components in a zip lock bag with one set of directions. I didn’t put the liquids in my 3-1-1 bag. Had no problems going through TSA

Did your husband go out for food for you or did you order delivery? Here is the saddest sentence I will ever write about our trip: there was a Burger King at the end of our street. My husband picked up food from there one night.

Or since quarantine wasn't required did you just go out to pick stuff up? (And if this is too nosy don't feel obligated to answer, lol!). The rest of the time we ate outside and chose tables away from other diners.

Posted by
118 posts

Gretchen, thank you for sharing your experience – so sad it happened – any specific thoughts as to how?

It is hard not be feeling very unsure about traveling now though I have heard our German plane requires mask

And our big Ace is that we had Moderna Bivalent Vaccine on September 9th

My husband & I leave for Munich October 7th

The restaurants seems like a hotspot

We are nervously excited

Posted by
14157 posts

"Here is the saddest sentence I will ever write"

Oh my...I actually burst out laughing at that. Sometimes you have to do things to get yourself fed whether it is normally food you would choose or not. I'm not sure whether I hope it tasted good or if your senses of taste and smell were gone and you couldn't taste a thing!

And thanks for the extra information!

Posted by
3289 posts

Glad to hear that the RS covid response has improved. There was no support when my husband tested positive prior to our April tour in France. Travel guard was no help either. Count us in the camp of we will not be taking another RS tour till masking and testing is done away with.

Posted by
399 posts

I have always thought that the true test of how worthy a business is to have me as a customer is how they handle situations when things go wrong.

Posted by
232 posts

If "ready to move on" means exposing other people to COVID, which for me was an inconvenience but for someone else might be life threatening, I guess we can agree to disagree.

I was not required to take a COVID test, I did so because I didn't want to expose anyone if I was sick.

We all make our own choices.

Posted by
5258 posts

Gretchen,
Thank you for sharing your experience with this forum.
I hope you and your husband have recovered.

I was not required to take a COVID test, I did so because I didn't want to expose anyone if I was sick.
We all make our own choices.

I commend you for being responsible and considerate of others.

Posted by
472 posts

Same for me. As much as I would love to not to have to test or mask, I would never want to cause anyone else to be infected. We lost at least 10 people we knew to Covid, for me at least 2 former students and have several who's life has changed because of it. Thank you Gretchen and others, who even though it may have changed your holiday plans, for putting others first.

Posted by
1989 posts

There are some people that are immune compromised or elderly. On behalf of them, thank you OP for being safe and taking the Covid test to protect others. Don't feel bad about it. I still take the tests before and after I travel on a plane.

I hope you will be able to join another tour next year.

On another note, I hope you/your husband got to try the gelato/helado at Los Italianos.

Posted by
43 posts

thank you for you detailed recap of your experience. A few weeks ago I booked an open spot on a trip to Portugal next month. I booked my first group tour with Rick Steves primarily because of the protocol and follow up the company takes with tour members in situations like this. As someone traveling to a country I have never been to alone, it is important to know I will be able to get through any situation that might come up.

Posted by
848 posts

Thank you for the recap of your experience and thank you for respecting others and the fact that not all react to this virus with minimal symptoms.

Posted by
241 posts

Gretchen, sorry this happened to you.
I too recently tested positive on a RS tour. I was the sixth positive—nearly made it through the whole tour. Mask wearing was well adhered to though most meals were indoors due to weather.
I had a scratchy throat and congestion but tested negative in the evening. Overnight I may have had a fever (the room was stuffy and bedcovers were thick). I retested in the morning and was positive. We were in a small town and the hotel’s computer was down so they wouldn’t guarantee a room that night, so we bailed and moved to a different city. RS office did contact me but several hours later. We also had to cancel our second trip as it would only be 6 days until I would need to test negative—plus my husband. That cancellation was smooth as was the refund for the last 3 days of our tour.
My symptoms were mild and honestly I felt better the day I tested positive than the night before. I retested as I felt committed to minimizing the risk to my tour mates.

I was in Ireland where their official stance is that Covid is endemic so masking and restrictions not needed unless feeling ill. If traveling, enjoy your trip but be prepared for minimal masking